In anticipation of the impending 3D content that’s sure to hit our smart phones, cameras and web browsers in the coming years, the clever minds at the Boston-based start-up, Lumii, have developed a way to print 3D photos on films using a standard aqueous wide-format printer.
“When we look at the next generation of content, we believe it’s going to be 3D content,” says Lumii CEO and founder Tom Baran. “When we talk to printers about it, they get very excited about the prospect of using the equipment they’ve already invested in.”
Baran, along with Matt Hirsch, Lumii CTO and founder, collaborated while pursuing their Ph.D.s at MIT to develop the technology that makes the 3D prints possible. Using light field technology, Lumii creates unique patterns from 3D scans or photos and then prints those patterns on two films — one clear and one translucent — to create the 3D effect once the layers are joined. When those prints are lit from behind, the 3D image pops out even more.
The key, Hirsch and Baran say, is using very high-resolution printers and the right materials. When searching for their translucent film for the rear layer of the 3D prints, they inquired at a local print shop, which is where they discovered LexJet 8 Mil Absolute Backlit film.
“We did a very unconventional analysis in that we looked at [the backlit film] under a microscope,” Hirsh says. “We looked at: How well does it hold ink; does it have the right opacity; did it bleed, etc. We tried a variety of things, and we really like the way this backlit performs.”
Although Lumii is still in its early stages, the plan is to offer their 3D prints to customers who upload their own 3D files to an ecommerce site. Lumii will then manage the fulfillment of those orders by working with print shops that have the right type of printer and use Absolute Backlit and other qualified products.
Possible applications for the technology could be endless — bus stop signage, movie theater posters and promotional graphics, to name a few. Hirsch and Baran certainly see digital décor, interior design and art installations as big potential, as well.
“It’s interesting how there’s a lot of room to add value in the print world that’s yet to be tapped,” Baran says. “Especially when you couple that with this massive 3D content that’s going to grow exponentially over the next five years.”
Check out another recent example in this video: