Printed Optics

Printed Optics is a new approach to creating custom optical elements for interactive devices using 3D printing. Printed Optics enable sensing, display, and illumination elements to be directly embedded in the body of an interactive device. Using these elements, unique display surfaces, novel illumination techniques, custom optical sensors, and robust embedded components can be digitally fabricated for rapid, high fidelity, customized interactive devices.

Printed Optics is part of our long term vision for the production of interactive devices that are 3D printed in their entirety. 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.

Created by: Karl D.D. Willis, Eric Brockmeyer, Scott E. Hudson, & Ivan Poupyrev.

Research Paper: Printed Optics: 3D Printing of Embedded Optical Elements for Interactive Devices

Awards: UIST 2012 "Best Paper Nominee", UIST 2012 "Best Demo"

Selected Press: BBC News, Core77, Engadget, The Verge, Creative Applications, Gizmodo, NOTCOT

A 3D printed mobile projector accessory with embedded light pipes to map a projected image onto a character's eyes. The character’s eyes respond to user interaction such as sound or physical movement.

A grid of 3D printed light pipes are embedded inside a character, guiding light between it's feet and eyes.

Chess pieces with embedded light pipes display content piped from an interactive tabletop. Contextual information, such as chess piece location and suggested moves, can be displayed on each individual piece.

3D printed light pipes can create display areas on physical objects, by guiding light from regular screens.

3D printed light bulbs enable many exciting new form factors.

Internal bubbles can be accurately placed for unique light bulb designs.

Complex light bulb shapes can be designed and used with energy efficient LED light sources.

Light pipes inside the bulbs can direct light and create internal patterns.

A toy character has an embedded heart shape made from a series of internal bubbles. When illuminated the embedded heart shape glows with a heartbeat-like rhythm.

A mobile 3D display created by projecting on internal bubbles within a 3D printed model.

Physical interface elements such as buttons, dials, sliders, and accelerometers can be 3D printed.

A four-way button with sensors embedded inside the 3D print.

Touch can be sensed with components entirely embedded in a 3D printed enclosure.

An LED embedded in a 3D printed lens to focus light.