3D Print Your Own Universe

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Researchers have created a way for people to 3D print their own tiny universes using physics and modern technology. Researchers have compiled a series of files that document cosmic microwave background, which allows a 3D image to be printed of the images.

What are Cosmic Microwaves?

Cosmic microwaves are the oldest light images in the universe and give a highly detailed picture of what the universe looks like. The cosmic microwave background, or CMB, was imprinted in the fabric of the universe when space became transparent. Before this stage of the universe, plasma and radiation would have made up the majority of space that we can detect. CMB waves were formed approximately 380,000 years into the existence of the universe, which has been estimated to be approximately 13.8 billion years old.

Translating Cosmic Microwaves into 3D Maps

Detecting cosmic microwave background gives researchers an indication of what the early universe looked like. Researchers have depicted these ancient cosmic microwaves as bumps and dips in a spherical surface, which can be translated into a 3D image. Of course, this technology can only be used to print a small part of space, but technology could soon render larger images.

The final ZPrinter printed CMB model. From Clements, Sato and Fonseca, 2016.
The final ZPrinter printed CMB model. From Clements, Sato and Fonseca, 2016.

The CMB downloads were created using the Planck satellite, which is used to detect cosmic microwaves that existed in the galaxies of the early universe. To further the technology behind CMB detection and mapping, Dr. Dave Clements and two final year undergraduate physic students from the Department of Physics at Imperial have begun to map the CMB. Their research has been published in a journal article in the European Journal of Physics.

Clements and his research partners hope that by creating a 3D universe they will be able to impact the way space and the history of the universe is studied and taught. Being able to depict the origins of the universe could impact how physics is taught and help bring the universe to a wider audience.


Clements, D. L., Sato, S., & Fonseca, A. P. (2016). Cosmic sculpture: a new way to visualise the cosmic microwave background. European Journal of Physics, 38(1), 015601.

Physicists make it possible to 3D print your own baby universe.  Imperial College London.