Disney Research developing 3D printed optics
Researchers from Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University are using novel internal illumination techniques, custom optical sensors and embedded optoelectronics to develop 3D printed optics.
Utilising a combination of UV cured resin and a special completely clear resin, the team has created many applications, including an LED embedded in a 3D printed lens to focus light and a 3D printed toy that has an embedded heart made from tubes of enclosed air and illuminated with an LED.
"Printed optics is part of our long term vision for the production of interactive devices that are 3D printed in their entirety," said Disney in a statement. "Future devices will be fabricated on demand with user-specific form and functionality. Printed optics explores the possibilities for this vision afforded by today's 3D printing technology."
One of the more interesting concepts developed by the researchers is an interactive chess board that senses the location of the chess pieces automatically and displays this information on the screen. The technology relies on so-called light pipes - 3D printed optical elements similar to optical fibre that can be used to guide light from point to point.
Unlike conventional optical fibre, 3D printed light pipes allow arbitrary geometries to be created in software and then fabricated in a single 3D print. Simply by changing software parameters, the researchers were able to create variable widths, rounded cap and joints with other light pipes.
"We foresee future 3D printers with a diverse range of optical printing functionality," Disney continued. "The ability to dynamically control optical properties such as the refractive index, reflectivity, transmittance, absorption and diffusion will enable an even richer design space for sensing, display, and illumination. Although that time is not upon us yet, printed optics demonstrates what is possible today."
You can see the technology in action in the video below.
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