Effective laboratory and classroom demonstration of microbiome size and shape, diversity, and ecological relationships is hampered by a lack of high-resolution, easy-to-use, readily accessible physical or digital models for use in teaching. Three-dimensional (3D) representations are, overall, more effective in communicating visuospatial information, allowing for a better understanding of concepts not directly observable with the unaided eye. Published morphology descriptions and microscopy images were used as the basis for designing 3D digital models, scaled at 20,000×, using computer-aided design software (CAD) and generating printed models of bacteria on mass-market 3D printers. Sixteen models are presented, including rod-shaped, spiral, flask-like, vibroid, and filamentous bacteria as well as different arrangements of cocci. Identical model scaling enables direct comparison as well as design of a wide range of educational plans.
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Vol. 83 • No. 3