Aug 8, 2016 | By Alec

It’s a question that has haunted the sleepless nights of many 3D printer developers: how do you convince home users to purchase a 3D printer? As it turns out, more people already have a 3D printer at their fingertips without even knowing it. MIT-backed startup Lumii has developed a new optics algorithm that lets users print full color 3D holographic photos, with perfect 3D parallax movement, on regular 2D inkjet printers. 3D is appearing everywhere, even in the second dimension.

This remarkable new 3D printing opportunity was shown off at Siggraph 2016, a computer graphics and interactive techniques conference that was held in Anaheim, California in late July. While packed with more innovations than you can count, the Lumii booth as particularly popular thanks to a cool interactive feature. Visitors could let themselves be 3D scanned, after which the data was immediately reworked by Lumii’s hologram algorithm and printed on a regular Epson color printer, the type you can find in any office. The results blew everyone out of the water, as the full-color holographic cards displayed a perfect 3D portraits.

This is especially remarkable because the holographic effect is usually only created with special lenses or with materials that are placed on top of the photo. But Lumii does so with nothing else than an inkjet printer and a custom algorithm. The resulting ‘light field prints’ even future true 3D parallax movement in all directions (unlike those crappy 3D cards we had as kids), meaning you can view a 3D image from every single angle.

This remarkable achievement has been realized by co-founders Tom Baran, Matthew Hirsch, and Daniel Leithinger, all MIT graduates. And as they explain, it’s far more than just a gimmick. “A long-standing vision of the display research community has been to create display surfaces with fidelity that is indistinguishable from reality. Our research is aimed at making progress toward this goal, in particular by creating high-resolution automultiscopic light field displays capable of full horizontal and vertical parallax,” they explained in a research paper.

While other researchers have achieved some success in that field already, every 3D image will quickly cost several hundred times more than a regular color print. What’s more, they are also very limited when it comes to resolution. “The way that we do it is instead of using specialized optics like lenses, we use algorithms to take a 3D model — the kind of model that you might use in a program like AutoCAD or a CAD package — and we turn that into a special patterns,” Baran explained at Siggraph. “And when you print the patterns and lay them on top of one another, you get a 3D effect.”

To make a holographic photo with these stacked layers, all they need is an off-the-shelf 3D scanning setup, such as Microsoft Kinect One, Intel Realsense F200, or Structure Sensor. “The output will be processed by Lumii’s light field engine, and printed as a hologram-like 3D film,” they say. Many commercially available photo printers can be used ,with a high resolution photo completed in as little as 15 minutes. Understandably, it was a huge hit at Siggraph, where hundreds of people let themselves be 3D scanned.

While it looks like just a cool printing toy, Lumii is actually serious about commercializing their algorithm as well. “Optimized light field displays that put inexpensive, high-quality, print and digital displays in the hands of users will create exciting opportunities in human computer interaction, 3D printing and manufacturing, medical diagnostics, media and advertisement, augmented reality, artistic expression, and beyond,” they argue. Especially the fact that little specialized equipment is necessary makes this a very potent technology.

What’s more, they have received plenty of interest from various industries already, including from advertising and healthcare specialists. “You know all those lightboxes in airports and malls, we’re rolling out a print service in the coming months where you can take one of our Lumii prints, which is a rigid insert, insert it in one of those lightboxes, and you get what amounts to a full color holographic advertisement,” Baran said. To make this a reality, they are currently working on a web interface where people can upload 3D data to be processed for local printing. If you’re interested, you can sign up for their alpha phase here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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