New printer creates colorful, more realistic 3D digital holograms

3d digital hologram printer ao 372858 chimera 1
The new printer uses low-power continuous-wave lasers to create holograms on a highly sensitive photomaterial developed by the researchers. C Yves GENTET

A French company has come up with a new technique for printing holograms — 2D images which appear to be 3D. The Chimera printer can print brighter, more detailed holograms than previous hologram printing technologies.

“Our 15-year research project aimed to build a hologram printer with all the advantages of previous technologies while eliminating known drawbacks such as expensive lasers, slow printing speed, limited field of view and unsaturated colors,” research team leader Yves Gentet from Ultimate Holography in France said in a statement. “We accomplished this by creating the Chimera printer, which uses low-cost commercial lasers and high-speed printing to produce holograms with high-quality color that spans a large dynamic range.”

Previous holographic printing technology has used rigid materials and had limited color range and saturation. The new printer uses a specially developed highly sensitive photomaterial which has a very fine grain and can print holograms of up to 60 by 80 centimeters. The printed holograms are more brightly colored and also have improved clarity.

“The new system offers a much wider field of view, higher resolution, and noticeably better color rendition and dynamic range than previous systems,” Gentet said. “The full-color holographic material we developed provides improved brightness and clarity while the low-power, continuous-wave lasers make the system easy to use.”

To achieve this better color accuracy and clarity, the printer uses lasers in red, green, and blue which have shutters that allow the exposure of each color to be adjusted in millisecond intervals. The lasers are pointed each in turn at holographic elements called hogels, which are similar to a 3D version of a pixel. Hogel by hogel, the image is printed.

At the end of the printing process, you are left with a hologram with a 120-degree field of view, which means the flat image appears three dimensional when viewed from any angle within the 120-degree radius.

“The new system offers a much wider field of view, higher resolution and noticeably better color rendition and dynamic range than previous systems,” said Gentet. “The full-color holographic material we developed provides improved brightness and clarity while the low-power, continuous-wave lasers make the system easy to use.”

The new printing method is described in a paper in the journal Applied Optics.

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