We have bought a Makerbot 3D printer and would greatly appreciate it if someone send me a protocol on how to print 3D protein structures (e.g. from Molecular Modeling Database/Structure, Protein Databank, etc.)
MakerBot is not ideal for printing protein models unless they are very simple, so I'll recommend using coarse molecular surfaces and then finding an orientation that minimizes the number of concavities/overhangs along the vertical axis.
For more general printing advice, I've pasted some discussion we recently had on the Chimera group list serve at the bottom (not specific to maker bot).
First a very general recommendation about 3D printing for people without a printer:
If you want to do full color models, you can hire a service to do it for you, e.g., the lab where I got my PhD: http://models.scripps.edu (they will take care of all of the support and struts etc.) or you can export a VRML file (I've not tried Chimera's VRML files, but I'm sure it would work fine), and upload that to an online service to print in a huge variety of materials, including metal, such as http://www.shapeways.com. The website will give you instant feedback about the printability of your model, followed a couple days later by some human input.
NIH plans to support 3D printing very soon. Here is a placeholder for their future website (nothing clickable for the public yet, but the movie will inspire) and you can request to join the beta testers group to gain full access to the website: http://3dprint.nih.gov
FROM A CHIMERA GROUP LISTSERVE DISCUSSION- a Discussion about this topic:
Here's a link to the 3-D models we make using Chimera and our uPrint
There are some things to consider, such as structural integrity and whether the exported triangles are well-behaved. The link Tom sent has some discussion of these issues. Also, there is a relatively new "struts" command (not in 1.8, you need a daily build) to add reinforcing bars to a structure for 3D printing:
Proteins are the main molecules of life. Understanding their structures, functions, mutual interactions, activity in cellular reactions, interactions with drugs, and expression in body cells is a key to efficient medical diagnosis, drug production, and treatment of patients. This chapter shows how proteins can be represented in processes performed...