Mar 7, 2017 | By Benedict

Swiss design duo Drzach and Suchy have used 3D printing to create some spectacular “shadow clouds,” 3D objects that cast different shadows depending on the direction of light.

These wonderful “shadow clouds” from Drzach and Suchy might not be the most practical examples of 3D printing technology you’ll see this week, but they might just be the most visually spectacular.

According to the designers, shadow clouds are 3D objects consisting of multiple shadow-casting elements that, depending on where light is coming from, are capable of casting different shadows. Up to four images can be “encoded” within the shadow clouds, displaying each of them under the right lighting conditions without distortion.

Drzach and Suchy explain the concept of shadow clouds in the following way: “the shadow cast by flat, thin elements depends on their relation to the direction of illumination: elements perpendicular to illumination cast clear shadows, while the shadows of elements parallel to illumination are practically invisible."

“Moreover, the elements perpendicular to the illumination can be [arbitrarily] shifted along the illumination without changing the overall shadow cast by all the elements. This allows for a random, cloud-like placement of elements in space.”

There are several different ways of turning the shadow cloud concept into a reality. While digital or conceptual shadow clouds can have “floating” elements, physical ones cannot. Solid transparent materials like plexiglas are therefore possible solutions, as is scaffolding, which can be used to create gigantic installations.

Another option is 3D printing: using a polyamide 3D printing materials, the Swiss designers were able to create a spectacular piece called TIME, which has a diameter of 36.7 centimeters and shows three different images depending on the direction of light.

3D printing is an ideal tool for creating shadow clouds, because it removes some of the need for manual assembly, as is required with the scaffolding approach. With a 3D printer, Drzach and Suchy have been able to fabricate large sections of the shadow clouds in one piece, with thousands of threadlike connections keeping the structure together.

While we stand by our initial statement that shadow clouds aren’t the most practical use of 3D printing you’ll see this week, they can actually serve a useful function, namely as animated signs and displays. By rotating a shadow cloud (or moving its light source), one can create a sign with up to four sequential images—an interesting and unusual replacement for an LED sign, perhaps.

Drzach and Suchy have recently applied the principles of shadow clouds into a “shadow fence,” an ordinary-looking metal barrier that casts two completely different shadows depending on the position of the sun.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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