Artist Irene Rogan approached Nottingham Trent University to see if it was possible to make a macro-sized model of microscopic algae. Such a model could be used for both artistic purposes and a teaching aid.
NTU worked with artist Irene Rogan to help her explore the capabilities of 3D printing and computer aided design.
Irene Rogan is an established artist whose work is has been exhibited internationally. Her work encompasses conceptual art, sculpture, installations, painting and film. Her work explores the experience of living and often has a focus and concern for sustainability.
Irene’s interest in sustainability led to her undertaking a residency in Finland. She has collaborated with both Dr Richard Gordon, Theoretical Biologist at Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida, and with Dr Mary Ann Tiffany, a Marine Biologist based in the USA, on the modelling of diatoms.
Diatoms are a major group of microscopic algae used by environmentalists to indicate environmental conditions. They are also being investigated as a potential source of nanotech-biofuels. Irene wanted help to create a macro-scale 3D model of an example diatom, to be used as a teaching aid.
NTU lecturer Jason Marks, who is a designer and ceramic artist, created Computer Aided Design (CAD) models of diatoms using Rhino software.
NTU produced 3D print of a diatom at a size that enables people to understand the beautiful nature of microscopic diatoms. The CAD models were given to Irene so she can use them in her art, and make further 3D prints to reproduce the models as teaching aids.
This project has enabled Irene to understand the current trends of technology in 3D printing, plus the potential scope of computer aided design. Irene works collaboratively and internationally with scientists and the production of macro-models of diatoms is of wide interest across academic institutions across the world.