We were contacted by Karl D. D. WIllis of the Disney Research Institute, who wished to show us the work they've been doing on 3D printing optical mechanisms.
This past June we speculated on the importance of clear materials, but we had no idea how far along researchers have taken the concept. The work by Disney is indeed impressive. We strongly encourage you to watch the video, which demonstrates a number of highly unusual applications of 3D printing.
It seems that transparent material can be used in a multitude of ways. Disney demonstrates applications in Displays, Sensors, Illumination and even Lenses. By ingeniously devising structures with optical channels, reflectors, emitters and embedded electronics, Disney can produce startling mechanisms.
One can imagine Disney using such optical devices not only in their amusement parks, but also in toys and other items sold in their stores.
Researcher Willis says:
The project involves 3D printing optical elements for everything from fiber-optic-style displays inside figurines, to 3D printed touch sensors embedded inside mobile devices, to re-imagining the Edison bulb with futuristic 3D printed light bulbs. Very excited about the range of possibilities we can explore with this approach and 3D printing technology in general.
Via Disney Research