Dynamic 3D print appearance through embedded active illumination


In appearance-critical design processes it is common to use 3D printers for rapid prototyping. The recent multi-material 3D printers can achieve full-color reproduction, relying on light scattering to mix the colors of base printing materials locally. The surface appearance thus depends on the volumetric distribution of base print materials underneath. Given these constraints, previous work on Computational Fabrication focused on passive reflectance of environmental lighting: making the surface appear opaque or controlling the translucency. Instead, we aim to expand the horizon of full-color 3D printing by reproducing light-emitting and dynamically changing surfaces, such as those found in nature on a firefly or chameleon.

We propose to incorporate active sources of illumination on the inside of the 3D printout, that will be guided through the volume towards the surface. Control over the light source would enable us to transform static 3D prints into dynamic “surface displays”. As an example, one can imagine a 2.5D printout of a landscape picture that can appear as if taken during daylight or sunset depending on the background illumination. The technical challenge lies in the structured placement of absorbing or transparent base print materials (“inks”) to control light volumetrically so that it resembles a target surface pattern. We propose to study this space using a virtual simulation that will also serve as a tool in designing a light-guiding structure automatically.


This project is funded by the Grant Agency of Charles University (GAUK) under project number 1164820. The project runtime is set to 2020-2021.