3D printing is transforming the manufacturing and personal customization. But, you may be surprised to know that photos can be 3D printed!? Pictures above show a 3D printed photo of a portrait which has been backlit by a color changing LED light. The related art to this technique is called lithophane which was developed in 17th century in Europe. Lithophanes may have been belonged to rich people in the past but now it’s available to everyone thanks to democratization of 3D printing technology.
How is a 3D printed photo made?
The answer to this question boils down to image processing. A digital (black and white) image consists of pixels with colors varying from white to black and between. These pixels are assigned numbers from 0 to 255 based on their brightness. Now, we have a matrix of numbers in which all mathematical operations can be performed. An image processing software takes this matrix and assign a thickness based on the pixel brightness. That is, darker and brighter pixels become thicker and thinner respectively. The result is a 3D object that 3D printer can print. When it’s back lit by a light source, a picture is revealed by the difference in the amount of light passage. Picture below shows a progression of a 2D photo to a 3D printed photo from left to right.
From left to right: Photo of husky dog, its 3D model obtained from image processing, and its 3D printed photo backlit by light
What’s the big deal about photo 3D printing?
The significance of photo 3D printing is that it opens new avenues for personalized gifts for various occasions like Christmas, birthday, anniversary to name a few. 3D printed photos can be placed on a window and the picture characteristics can change by sun light. A color changing LED light even gives more stunning effect to a 3D printed photo as shown in picture below. Also, a lamp shade can be found in most of homes and its shade can be converted to a 3D printed photo making it more interesting! Photo 3D printing provides unprecedented choices for personalization around home and it’s time to take advantage of it. To order a 3D printed photo backlit by a light source, click on this link.
3D printed photo backlit by a color changing LED light