3D-Printed Models for Explaining Organic Chemistry Concepts
3D printed models have long been used to teach difficult chemistry concepts. This project explored the use of 3D printing to create new 3D models to explain molecular symmetry and the reactivity of a steric alkyl halide in a SN2 reaction. Molecular modeling software (Spartan ‘16) and various 3D computer-aided design programs were used to design the molecule, convert the model to a stereolithography (.stl) file that the 3D printer can understand, and alter the model to show a specific aspect of the molecule. The model was then printed using a Makerbot Replicator 2 printer and post-processed, with sanding tools and paint, to prepare it for classroom use. The models that explained an internal plane of symmetry were designed, printed, painted, and attached to magnets and a mirror to show how the molecule is not chiral. Space-filling models of the SN2 molecules were printed and painted to simulate how the molecules actually interact and show why a sterically hindered alkyl halide will not work in the reaction. This project provided an understanding of how 3D printing works, how to design and print a 3D object from scratch, and how to develop new solutions to problems faced during the process. The 3D models printed could be useful teaching tools in organic chemistry education.