Dec 17, 2015 | By Kira

Volumetrics, a three-member startup out of Berlin, has developed an open-source volumetric display design that utilizes a large 3D printed helix and other affordable tools to project full-resolution, full-color three-dimensional objects. In order to contribute to the development and mainstream of use of volumetric displays for educational, research, or design purposes, the company is inviting makers to either 3D print their open-source helix at home, or buy one online to build their very own volumetric displays.

Volumetric displays are graphic devices that form visual representations of three-dimensional objects. Unlike screen-based 3D imagery, which relies on various visual/computer effects, volumetric displays utilize the emission and/or scattering of light, allowing us to see 3D imagery without using glasses or screens as an intermediary. The devices themselves have been around for decades and are very useful for illustrating concepts that are better understood in 3D, such as anatomy, modeling, animation, or architecture. However, they don’t come cheap, and are rarely used in conventional classrooms or everyday settings.

In order to let more users take advantage of 3D projection displays, Michel David, Raphael Fischer-Dieskau and Timotheus Maranta of the company Volumetrics have developed a new type of volumetric display that uses a new set of geometrical assumptions, open source building methods, and 3D printing technology.

Essentially, their method consists of 3D printing a large and accurate double helix using the German RepRap X400 3D printer—a large-format industrial machine with a generous build volume of 390 x 400 x 320mm. Measuring 125mm x 125 mm and made out of a semi-translucent white PLA material, this helix acts as a projection surface when placed on a rotating stand (in this case, a simply Dremel rotary tool) at a specific angle in relation to a projector and a mirror.

The projector is used to emit a geographic, light-based image onto the mirror and helix. Then, once the helix beings to rotate fast enough, what is known as “persistence of vision” kicks in—the optical illusion whereby multiple discrete images blend into a single image. The brain-eye system begins to see a full-resolution, full color 3D representation of an object, which, thanks to the spinning double helix, appears to be floating in midair.

Creator Michel David explains the 3D printing process and projection setup

Though other companies have attempted to make volumetric displays more widespread, Volumetrics may be the first to really achieve that by making their device open source and relatively affordable. The 3D model for the double helix projection surface can be downloaded via Sketchfab, or purchased on their website for €50. Also quite impressive is the high resolution and full color of the 3D projected imagery, which is far more accurate and high quality than volumetric displays of the past. Applications could therefore include anatomical, engineering, architectural or other models that require 3D visualization.

“Our goal is to contribute to the development and widespread of volumetric displays for everyday use. We believe it is important for our future interface with computers and the 3D virtual world,” said the team of self-described inventors, geeks, and thinkers. “Share with us your results and join the effort to make volumetric displays an everyday reality.”

Down the line, 3D displays of almost any still image or even videos could be a possibility, but that will require further development and most likely further contributions from the tech-maker community. For now, let yourself be hypnotized by these colourful 3D geometric displays:



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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