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3D printing the world: developing geophysical teaching materials and outreach packages
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  • Paula Koelemeijer,
  • Jeffrey Winterbourne,
  • Renaud Toussaint,
  • Christophe Zaroli
Paula Koelemeijer
Royal Holloway University of London

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jeffrey Winterbourne
Independent Researcher
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Renaud Toussaint
University of Oslo,University of Strasbourg / CNRS
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Christophe Zaroli
University of Strasbourg / CNRS
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3D-printing techniques allow us to visualise geophysical concepts that are difficult to grasp, making them perfect for incorporation into teaching and outreach packages. Abstract models, often represented as 2D coloured maps, become more tactile when represented as 3D physical objects. In addition, new questions tend to be asked and different features noticed when handling such objects, while they also make outreach and education more inclusive to the visually impaired. Some of our most effective models are simply exaggerated planetary topography in 3D, including Earth, Mars and the Moon. The resulting globes provide a powerful way to explain the importance of plate tectonics in shaping a planet and linking surface features to deeper dynamic processes. In addition, we have developed a simple method for portraying abstract global models by 3D printing modified globes of surface topography, representing the parameter of interest as additional, exaggerated long-wavelength topography. This workflow has been applied to models of dynamic topography, the geoid and seismic tomography. In analogy to Russian nesting dolls, the resulting “seismic matryoshkas” have multiple layers that can be removed by the audience to explore the structures present deep within our planet and learn about the ongoing dynamic processes. While these 3D objects are easily printed on a cheap (<300 GBP, 400USD) desktop 3D-printer, the printing times still prohibit large-scale production. To ensure that there is sufficient material in a teaching setting, we have therefore also developed complementary paper equivalents. By projecting the coloured maps onto a dodecahedron, we developed cut-out-and-fold models to be handed out in a classroom setting to complement the 3D printed globes used for demonstration purposes. Together with animations, suggested questions and instructor “cheat-sheets”, these materials form a complete teaching and outreach package that is both interactive and inclusive.