3D Printed Optics Inspired by Disney Research


Inspired by Disney’s Research & Development team for their 3D printed optics, we’ve designed a 3D printed light pipe block to experiment on light travelling across by using VeroClear from Objet500 Connex3. This light pipe block uses the light travelling theory such as the deflection theory, theory of light intensity and the optics theory. Here is what we did:

#1 Developing A Technical Drawing

Upon reviewing the optical test made by Disney’s Research & Development team, we made several adjustments to our design. The block was designed to have an approximation base of 7.4cm, 7.3cm for its width and 1.9cm for its height(actual finish part). This gives us a clearer view of the light intensity and the travelling limits that light can pass thru.

Block Dimension

  • Height : 20mm
  • Base   : 80 mm
  • Width : 80 mm
Ring Dimension

  • Outer ring: 2.5R
  • Inner ring: 2.45R
  • Tolerance: 0.025R

Once the favorable dimensions has been determined, curved tubes were drawn which were designed to embed within the block. We tested 8 curved tubes which were designed from one face and swept to the other rectangular face of the block, leaving a few centimeter gap from the tail of the tube, whilst the head touches the first rectangular face of the block.

3D Printed Light Pipe - Technical Drawing

The trick that allows the light travel through the ring in the block actually is the tolerance between the outer & the inner ring. When this was part printed by the Polyjet technology machine, the tolerance between that two ring will printed with full of support materials that allow light to travel.

#2 Sanding & Polishing Techniques

Upon completion of printing, we used a high speed water jet machine to remove the support material. Once it is cleaned, the block is sanded using several types of abrasive sandpapers. Once the surface of the block has been smoothed, the block is then polished using a polishing liquid. The final product would be a clear block with embedded tubes.

3D Printed Light Pipe Block - Before After

The light effects were tested using laser pointers and built-in torch smartphones. The resulted light effects were visible at the tail of the curved tubes.

3D Printed Light Pipe - Light Illumination

Noticed how the light dots are appearing at the 3rd pipe?

Key Takeaways

Results were not as perfect as what was shown on Disney’s light path block video but from this experiment, we can conclude that the Stratasys Polyjet printers are able to develop a clear object that can match the reflective capabilities of a mirror.

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