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VR Specialists DAQRI Present a Device for Layer-less Holographic 3D Printing

VR specialists DAQRI created a concept called Software Defined Light that could make holograms a lot more real. So real, in fact, that they could be used to make physical objects in a photopolymerization based 3D printing process.  The best part is that, since a hologram is in fact a three-dimensional light field, photocuring a resin using a holographic projection would make the 3D print effectively layer-less and much faster.

As MIT Tech Review, which first broke the news, reports, the company says that its technology is possible thanks to a chip which can create holograms without the need for complex optics. On a silicon wafer, a tiny grid of tunable crystals is used to control the magnitude and time delay, or phase, of reflected light shined at the surface of the chip from a laser. Software adjusts the crystals to create patterns of interference in the light, resulting in a three-dimensional light field.

In experiments, the DAQRI team has used the chip to create solid objects by projecting holograms into containers of various light-activated monomers. It can currently make small objects, such as a paper clip, in about five seconds—a process that could take a normal 3-D printer several minutes.This concept was recently demonstrated by DAQRI in a video

How DAQRI’s Holograms Work

Light generally moves at one speed — aptly called “the speed of light.” Albert Einstein made the discovery, and defined it as 300,000 km per second. But the phrase “the speed of light” can be deceptive. That’s how fast light travels in a vacuum, like it does in outer space, but light can, in the right conditions, move slower than that as well.

A couple of elements eluded those hoping to accomplish this. First off, the math is complex — incredibly complex — so much so that without the proper algorithm, it would be impossible to make those computations in a timely manner. Secondly, you need the correct, adjustable physical element for the light to pass through. Having successfully cracked the algorithm and created a bi-phasic crystal phase element which can precisely generate an electric field using software, DAQRI were able to move into Software Defined Light. This is when a light’s speed is manipulated by a program. By using technology to control how fast light travels, the company is able to create more powerful, more functional, and more interesting holograms.

What Software Defined Light does is produce not one hologram, or two, but millions. Projecting one single, still hologram in full colour requires about 150 million computations per second. A movie that you watch in theatres is projected at 24 frames, or 24 distinct images, per second. That means to project a full colour hologram at a cinema-quality frame rate requires an incredible amount of computations in an incredibly short amount of time.The first consumer products to take advantage of Software Defined Light will be in market in late 2017, but it’s already making a subtle introduction. Right now, DAQRI has “head-up displays” (or HUDs) on the road projecting useful information for drivers on the windshields of their vehicles. This means they don’t have to take their eyes off the road to access important information, like the speed they’re driving. The next iteration of the DAQRI Smart HUD™, using Software Defined Light, will have windshield projections at varying depths, so some information will appear to be right in front of you and farther down the road, at the same time.

This is just the beginning. With the help of five or six different depths, windshield holograms may be able to project 3D holograms that have a complete range of movement through space. For example, a 3D arrow appearing in real space on the road that shows you, physically, which street to turn on for turn-by-turn navigation — an arrow that gets closer as the street does.

Other potential applications include: improved navigation tools for self-driving cars, instantaneous 3D printing, high-resolution 3D medical imaging, more technologically advanced car headlamps, and holographic displays for everything from your TV to your smartwatch.

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