DNA Playset

by emmett, published

DNA Playset by emmett Feb 10, 2012

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43259Views 9087Downloads Found in Biology


For this Valentine's Day: a DNA playset. This'll probably only go over well if your significant other is a biologist. But, hey, reproduction is sexy, right?

Thanks to Wikipedia and the hard work of many scientists to measure tiny molecules, this is an accurate 35,000,000:1 scale model of DNA. It's a playset because you print out copies of the four nucleotides (A, T, G, and C) and snap them together into whatever sequence you like.


The nucleotides are intended to be printed out as perimeters only, so turn off the fill plugin. Use Multiply to print more pieces at once: on a TOM I can print eight at a time (2x2 of the STL pair). I also recommend upgrading to SF44, which does filament retraction better than the default Skeinforge 35. Look up directions for upgrading online, as there are a couple of minor tricks involved.

The pieces have their letter embossed on their outer edges, but I still prefer to print them in different colors to make the sequence obvious. Remember: A's link across to T's and G's link across to C's. The snap shapes enforce this pairing. You may also notice that the A-T link is less secure than the G-C link: this is intentional, to model the fact that G-C pairs link by three bonds while A-T pairs link by only two.

There are some odd angles involved in creating a helix out of flat pieces, so the snap links along the helix backbone are only meant to line up along the outer edge. The letters are oriented such that if you read an assembled sequence from left to right, you'll be reading from the 5' end to the 3' end of the strand, which is the convention for reporting DNA sequences.

The OpenSCAD file is included in case you want to see how I modeled this or make changes. It also has an assembly function that allows you to specify a sequence and it will display the corresponding single helix. You'll have to make a complementary sequence as well to see the full double-helix.

These pieces print out so quickly that it doesn't take long to make a good strand (I can do about 30 base pairs in an hour and a half). However, be prepared to wait awhile if you want to print out all 2.9 billion base pairs of the human genome.

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Flagged you 4 times. Why the negativity?

Worked great using slic3r:
Top/Bottom solid layers both at 0, perimeters at 1, and infill at 0%.

Emmett, I know this is an old upload, but are you thinking about creating a base or stand for this? :D

Hello- I love this concept and would like to print some. However, I printed a set of A's and tried to connect the backbone but the perimeter seems to thick to fit together. Can someone help me? I'm printing on a Lulzbot Mini using Cura software and ABS filament. I turned the fill off and am just printing the perimeter. Is there another setting that I'm missing?

Great job!

For the Makerbot, the new software settings allow you to make the floor and ceiling thicknesses 0. You can set the infill to 0% as well and this will just print the perimeter. I'm running a set right now and it looks great!

It is amazing. I love it, DNA playset!

Kinda new to all of this but i wanted to start printing some of these for my classroom. I have a replicator 2. Would anyone be able to help me out with the settings? Ideally I'd want to use makerware, but I have slic3r installed and am trying to figure our the correct settings. Thanks!

More Specifically, when I export the file as an stl, makerware says the file is too large. When i export it as a gcode, makerware fails to convert it to x3g. I must be doing something wrong... but I don't know what. I have set perimeters to 1, solid layers to 0 and fill density to 0.

Layer height .2 mm, Filament 1.75, temperature 230, bed size 153 x 155, print center 76.5 x 77.5, firmware makerware (makerbot), nozzle diameter .4 mm, retraction length 1 mm, lift z 0.

If you read the other comments here, you'll find some info. However, the real answer is this is probably not going to work with Makerware. Really I should just redesign this sometime based on the modern slicers. I haven't printed any of these in a very long time.

Thanks! I was a little unclear. I read through all the comments and I was actually using Slic3r with the settings above. I then imported the gcode into ReplicatorG and converted it into a x3g for my replicator2. What happens is when I select the file to start printing, the extruder doesn't move and just sits there and keeps spitting out plastic. I can't seem to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

Not sure why but my Makerbot Replicator 2 always fills the whole thing. Can you tell me what exactly the setting should be.
I have those three parameters in Makerware: Infill, Number of Shells, Layer Height.

Sorry, Makeware can't do this because you can't turn off the top and bottom layers. You'll need a more configurable slicer like Skeinforge or Slic3r. It should be possible with Makerware, using a custom profile and then manually editing their json file, but I have yet to make that actually work. This design was from long before Makerware existed.

Do you know how much of the top and bottom layer need to be sliced off in order to make the middle holllow for a MakerBot Replicator? I'm using Slic3r.

Now it makes sense. Thanks a lot. I try your advice. cheers from NZ

If you add U to the set, you can also model RNA. And adding N would allow for unknown bases (should be in both strands).

Great work! You could also suggest printing in the somewhat standard colors for each base: Green (A), Red (T and U), Blue (C), Black (G) and magenta (N and other degenerate bases). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electropherogramhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... as just an example.

Great idea!

But I'm about confused about the infill-thing. I'm using Slic3r, can someone help me out with what setting I have to use?

I belive you can just set perimeters to 1, solid layers to 0 and fill density to 0.

Tried it and...you're right, those are the correct settings for slicing! Can't wait till I get to my printer tomorrow.


Hi, im new to the thing o matic and i was wondering how i turn off the fill plug in. Any help will be apriciated!! :)

If you're using ReplicatorG, click Gcode -
gt; Edit Slicing Profiles. Then select your profile (I usually make a new one specifically for perimeter-only models) and click Edit. That opens Skeinforge, so click on Fill and then uncheck Activate Fill. Then Save All and use that profile when you generate your Gcode.

Hi Emmett: Can you give me any advice about printing this on a replicator 2 using Makerware? Should I learn ReplicatorG? If so. detailed info would be appreciated.

I made this before Makerware came out, so I've not tried it yet. It should be possible to make a custom perimeter profile though. Experiment and let us know what works.

Hey, thanks so much!


Apparently no takers on making me some for my classes

Well, one obvious solution is to get a Makerbot for your school. They're interested: http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2011/11/14/makerbot-tv-season-1-episode-11/http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2...

I'd write them a nice letter and see if they can help you out. You might also look up your local hackerspace. I'm sure wherever you are, there's bound to be someone with a 3D printer not too far away.

If all that fails, send me another message. I'm working on getting my automated build platf
orm working again, and once that's up I'll be able to print these a lot faster. I may be able to send you a box of nucleotides if you can cover my costs.

saw this first time at your apartment :) ! This thing was awesome I can't wait to get a 3d printer and make some of my own!

I'm a biology teacher and I want a set of 15!!!

[email protected]

I'm not in the business of selling my designs, but a couple of my other works have made it onto people's Etsy pages. Anyone interested is satisfying this demand?

Fantastic addition to Thingiverse! Can't wait to try it out. 8-)

This Thing is ridiculously cool! Great work!!

so inspiring! thanks for doing this!

This is awesome! Such a great way to learn/visualize DNA. Printing on my thing-o-matic works best if you set object first layer infill multiplier to 1, perimerter multiplier to .8 and flow rate multiplier to 1 (keeps the base layer from getting "fat"). Comes right off and snaps together. Really fun. Thanks!

I'm trying to find these options in Skienforge and I must be blind. Where are they?

I'm trying to print with PLA and I have fill turned off, it's looking OK so far but the bottom layer is very fat and makes it difficult to snap together.

You can find the first layer settings under Speed or Raft (depending on the version of Skeinforge you're using). If the first layer is too fat, it's usually because the build platform is too close to the nozzle.

Thanks for the tips. I also often print the first layer slower to help with adhesion on these thin parts (changing the feed and flow rates together). Nice print, by the way.

love it, printed some yesterday but 1.75 times bigger... I'll show it to my biology teacher that has been wondering for a bit what's a 3D printer, i bet she'll love it...

Yeah, that was my first idea too :) Will tell my little sister to take it to class ^^

Awesome, it'd be great if these managed to work their way into a classroom as a teaching tool.

Liking this a lot!