A Different Kind Of 3D Printer: Desktop Holograms

Holograms aren’t new, but a desktop machine that spits them out could be available soon, presuming LitiHolo’s Kickstarter pans out. The machine will have a $1600 retail price and fits in a two-foot square. It can generate 4×5 inch holograms with 1mm hogels (the holo equivalent of a pixel).

The machine allows for 23 view zones per hogel and can create moving holograms with a few seconds of motion — like the famous kiss-blowing holograms.

Of course, you’ll also need a special self-developing film and a way to get 3D images into the printer such as software or a camera set up to do a 3D scan. In the 4×5 size, the film runs about $13 a plate which will create one hologram.

Since 5 inches is 127 mm the hogel resolution of the result is about 101×127, and the samples on the website and the video below certainly don’t look like they are in HD.

Will people pay $1600 for low-resolution holograms? More importantly, is there a market for grainy holograms that would let you earn back the investment? Maybe not, but that hasn’t stopped us from buying 3D printers and other workshop toys. Plus, if this catches on, what will be available in ten years time?

Of course, if you have the laser gear, you can already make your own holograms. You can even get kits that have most of what you need.

38 thoughts on “A Different Kind Of 3D Printer: Desktop Holograms

  1. Let’s get right to it: these are not holograms. They are really not much different from pictures printed to use with lenticular screens. So no, I would in no way pay anywhere near $1600 for this. And $13 per 4″x5″ “plate” of Polaroid film with a sheet lens on it? Also no way.

      1. I do recall a exposure apparatus for pseudo white-light 3D holograms, and the results looked fairly good without any kind of additional special optics on the film. Is it a mistake to assume this group created a version for hobbyists? The published KS video does not really give any real hints about how their method works. I kinda want the cheesy t-shirt too. ;-)

        “Holographic Printing of White-Light Viewable Holograms and Stereograms” (May 29th 2013. Hoonjong Kang, Elena Stoykova, Jiyung Park, Sunghee Hong and Youngmin Kim)

        “Seamless full color holographic printing method based on spatial partitioning of SLM” (Optics Express Vol. 23, Issue 1, pp. 172-182 (2015), Youngmin Kim, Elena Stoykova, Hoonjong Kang, Sunghee Hong, Joosup Park, Jiyong Park, and Jisoo Hong)

        1. The Kickstarter description is pretty clear: the image is made up of 1mm squares that have 23 different views from different angles each. This is not done with laser interferometry; the laser is just used to expose the self-developing plates very precisely.

          1. The original work the papers discuss deals with the constraints observed for angular resolution as it relates to hogel area. I assumed the KS machine used a similar apparatus given the specific odd terminology, motion of the exposure cycles seem to visibly index way too far even for lenticular lenses, and on viewing other videos it shows some sort of bottom assembly below the stage during the print (seems consistent with some sort of secondary optical path through the film).

            I look forwards to someone doing a tear-down of the machine… ;-)

  2. They are not lenticular screens – how would an image even be created with a lens sheet in place? The spec sheet clearly shows it as a standard holographic film in instant development form, so the limitation is with the 1mm resolution of gthe equipment, which is far below the resolution of a standard holographic setup. No doubt this would improve if the technology becomes adopted and developed in the future, it is unfair to dismiss it as a simple lenticular trick because that is just misleading.

    1. Misleading? Read this, from the Kickstarter:
      “How does it work?

      The 3D Hologram Printer takes multiple perspective images, captured from a camera, video footage, or rendered from a typical 3D graphics design. The images are sliced into unique recordings for each individual pixel on the hologram, called a “hogel” or “hologram element”. The printer then optically encodes that hogel information with laser light onto the special hologram film.”

      Even if it uses diffraction patterns, this most certainly is NOT a hologram. One millimeter resolution? 23 discrete images forming each “hogel”. No.

      Also from the Kickstarter writeup:
      “Horizontal parallax only (full-parallax may be a stretch goal)”

      So it doesn’t even behave like a hologram. Rotate it 90 degrees and you see no depth at all.

      So I may be wrong about it using lenticular lenses, but this really is not a significant improvement over 3D stereograms that do. For $1600.

      1. You’re completely wrong. It is absolutely a hologram *by the proper definition*. An interference pattern is captured on film and recreates the original source lightfield when properly illuminated.

        The fact that the original lightfield is severely limited compared to that formed by an illuminated object is ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT.

    2. Oh: and “how would an image even be created with a lens sheet in place?” Um, how about from the back side of the film?

      Or, “the limitation is with the 1mm resolution of the equipment, which is far below the resolution of a standard holographic setup.” Yes, it is. Holograms depend on having enough resolution that light coming to the film from different angles produce interference patterns. Without this, you wouldn’t get a lower resolution hologram. You would get nothing at all. But by all means, send them your money.

        1. Alas, I had some feline assistance with that last comment so it was somewhat truncated and I didn’t have time to correct my own typos.

          However, if you search on ResearchGate there are some interesting papers on digital holography, though the Wiiki article gives the background and highlights why the resolution of this particular offering is limited to a resolution of 1mm cube and only 20 odd angles. This does not stop it being true holography, as you seem to think.

      1. That’s the image resolution, not resolution on the plate; basically, that’s the resolution of his synthetic object beam. Interference patterns are built on the plate with quite normal holography, the fancy bit here is that he’s got a computer-generated object beam rather than putting an object there illuminated by the laser; he just can’t fake that much complication in the beam, so it’s a low-resolution final image.

  3. Reminds me of the moving photos in Harry Potter. People would easily pay €50 for a desk/wall mounted portrait that resulted in something other than a static image. Increase the resolution and I could see these taking off.

  4. Its digital holography. They could eventually do it full parralax. They could cram 100 viewpoints per mm square if they wanted to but I guess they are trying to balance usability with minimal specs to get something acceptable out of the door and not wait hours to render. There is a reference beam and the light modulator (probably an lcd) simulates the object beam. You guys talking about lenticular are really off, but that’s understandable with all the holocrap bs marketing out there.

    It requires lighting at a specific angle like reflexion holograms. If you look at the creator’s profile, he’s a small holography workshop selling self-developping film.

    Now whats cool about this project is the fact that you can do it at home with no cancer causing chemicals and is relatively cheap compared to the other solutions out there.

    What sucks is he’s falling for the good old closed fixed specs system to sell only his film and this becomes a niche product for hardcore holography fans (you can see from the kickstarter that its not a lot of people for an international campaign).

    There has been several companies trying to do this on a larger format and multi color over the last decades, most failed and closed shop, Zebra was the leader, I think it got sold out after financial problems. none became a digikey of holography, not because its not cool…the market doesn’t price the wow factor to the cost of material, time and content production for these devices. Lenticular sucks compared to a large format digital hologram. Anyone who saw one will agree. But lenticular costs a fraction to make, has no lighting issues, colors are accurate and you can order 100s in 24 hours.

    I would back this project if it would be OSHW, I think its niche but has a lot of practical applications, but I am not going to get into a vendor lock-in for a niche prototype.

    1. If you could get a bit more resolution, somewhere you could charge people good money to take a stereo picture of them with their loved ones and send them a hologram in the mail.

  5. +1 that it’s a digital hologram.

    I have used the film to create conventional holograms, both transmission masters and reflection secondary holograms. It is a photopolymer that self-develops as it is being exposed. You set up your geometry, put the plate in place, settle, and turn on the laser. After a time you can look through the plate and see the image forming, though as it overlays the image of the object itself it’s kind of hard to tell until the object is moved out of the way. Pretty cool stuff in that it eliminates the development process which is messy and can be a source of problems and failures in and of itself.

    The caveat is that the film is a couple orders of magnitude less sensitive than good fine-grained silver halide plates. Back when I was doing the making of the holograms with ~80 mW of green laser, exposures took around 5 minutes, which is an eternity when nothing can move more than, say, an eighth of a wavelength. I ended up building a fringe-locker.

    My elevator explanation of digital holography is that they create holograms of little squares of light, or hogels, placed in virtual space, one at a time, sequentially. These eventually add up to form the image.


    1. Well, it is a recording of interference fringes between object and reference beams of a laser that when illuminated displays a virtual image that has parallax and as such appears 3-dimensional.

      I suppose one could increase the rigidity of the definition of a hologram to the point that this process would be excluded but that would exclude a host of other processes that are universally considered to be holograms.

      I’m curious: how do you define a hologram such that this isn’t one?

      Are images created by an array of sensors instead of a light sensitive chemical suspended in gelatin not photographs?

      1. So, here’s the thing: the Kickstarter page spends two paragraphs justifying calling this a hologram. That is, they KNEW that by the accepted definition, it is NOT, so they found an expert who would say that this is how the definition of “hologram” has been downgraded, because they really, really wanted to use that word, even if deceptively:

        “”Holography has come to take on two meanings in our culture. Firstly, it means wavefront reconstruction by interference and diffraction/reflection. More widely, it has come to mean the ultimate 3D imaging method of the future, and it stands as an optimistic hope for the progress of our science and technology relating to everyday life.” – The Art and Science of Holography”

        The first definition is the actual definition of a hologram. Period. The fact that it has “come to mean” something else is only as a result of people misusing the word to describe things THEY sold as holograms that are NOT holograms.

        If they wanted to be honest, they would have come up with another name, to avoid misleading potential backers.

        1. @BrightBlueJim – Sorry I came late to the party! I’m the founder of LitiHolo, Paul. Our 3D Hologram Printer is actual wavefront reconstruction, and I agree with you that the first definition above is the actual definition, period.

          However, Steve Benton was my professor at the MIT Media Lab, and his definition was always his way of more gently saying anything else was wrong, but we know you wish you could be real holograms.

          The 3D Hologram Printer splits the laser beam into 2 parts, a reference beam and an object beam. The object beam passes through an LCD display which carries the information for the 23 perspective images. The object beam then focuses to the 1x1mm hogel location, and interferes with the reference beam coming from the other side of the plate.

          The film itself is a self-developing material that we have been using for many years in our Hologram Kits, where you would make more classic (analog) holograms by reflecting the object beam off the actual object. The Kickstarter printer is using digital information (perspective images) to create what is sometimes called a digital holograms, or sometimes stereogram holograms.

          The pattern captured by the film is the interference pattern of the object beam and reference beam interfering. The self-developing film is really impressive, as it captures a phase hologram without the need for first capturing an amplitude hologram, thus creating a very high efficiency hologram without any chemical development.

          To replay the holograms from the 3D Hologram Printer, you do need a spot light source, or sunlight or even a smartphone flashlight. The point source light is diffracted off the captured interference pattern in the film, and recreates the original object wavefront.

          Lenticulars are classically limited by their lenses and the diffraction effects as the lenses get smaller. So as the resolution gets higher (smaller lenses), the depth gets shallower (or blurry). Holograms do not have this kind of limitation.

          We did choose start simple with our Kickstarter hologram printer, so the resolution (hogel size) is lower, but this can and will improve as we develop. The 23 perspective images is also just a starting number and could go to hundreds of perspective images per hogel eventually. And as for full-parallax, we will be putting a stretch goal on Kickstarter very soon to hopefully add full-parallax (and maybe higher resolution too).

          I hope this helps clear things up with our hologram printer. And I hope that if you are a supporter of true holograms and holography (first definition from Benton, and what we do), I hope you will consider supporting us along the way. Thanks.

          1. Thank you for correcting my ignorance on the details of this process. As I said in another comment here, it doesn’t matter if they use laser interference to produce the 1mm “hoxels”, it’s still not a hologram. From what you say, it is a hybrid that has the worst properties of a hologram and a lenticular picture: the poor resolution of lenticulars and both the lack of color and the illumination constraints of laser holograms!

          1. You can go on and on about how technically it isn’t actually a lie to call this a hologram, but implicit in the term “hologram” is resolution in the range of the wavelength of visible light, due to the physics of the process. This is like arranging M&Ms into a mosaic and selling it as a “photograph”.

          2. I’m curious as well. There seems to be a contingent that strongly rejects that the process here is creating a hologram, yet no one has explained why.

            I’m somewhat familiar with this process and have used litiholo’s film, but I am in no way associated with the company or the Kickstarter effort, nor am I vested in their success in any other way, just to disclaim.

            I am also fairly sensitized to the misuse of the hologram moniker to label things that are not holograms. It gets up my nose in fact. I am not comfortable with the second broad definition that society seems to have adopted. But when I call out instances I consider misuse I back it up.

            From what I can see, I feel ok calling this a hologram. If everyone else here disagreed strongly, yet no one explained why, I wouldn’t change my opinion.

            So I’ll ask again: what makes this not a hologram?


          3. Ah, same time sending :)

            I think we’re in the semantics weeds…

            BBJ, I am defining holography in a technical sense and ignoring subjective quality. I agree that this can’t really compare to the quality of a good analog hologram, and as such I agree with your analogy.

            I suppose that if the m&ms had been arranged corresponding to the outputs of a grid of cheap photodiode light sensors illuminated by the image formed by a plastic toy magnifying glass, I would call it a photograph. It still wouldn’t mean I thought it was a good one :)


          4. @BrightBlueJim – I think you already agreed above that “The first definition is the actual definition of a hologram. Period.” That is what we do!

            Each hologram element (“hogel” is a term coined by MIT, I believe, but well before my time there) is indeed a very high resolution interference pattern, with resolution near the wavelength of the visible laser light used to create it. The hologram film we use, likewise has to be a very high resolution material to capture that interference pattern.

            As our hologram technology improves, we will continue to improve the hogel recording density, but the current specs were developed to introduce the technology at a price point that was more affordable. The previous hologram printers that I got to work with at the MIT Media Lab came with an MIT-sized budget and filled an entire room. We’ve been able to bring this hologram technology down to a desktop size and a much more accessible price.

            If you are interested in holograms recorded by bouncing laser light directly off the object, you should still take a look at our LitiHolo hologram film, which lets you make those kinds of holograms as well: http://www.litiholo.com/hologram-film.html

            Our 3D Hologram Printer uses the same LitiHolo self-developing hologram film, but will also let you create hologram portraits and holograms from 3D graphics, and not just physical inanimate objects.

  6. Dear all, let me show up just two links about the case you discuss:


    BTW: “Dennis Gabor, during his Nobel lecture said: “I did not know at that time, and neither did Bragg, that Mieczysław Wolfke had proposed this method in 1920, but without realizing it experimentally”.[11]

    So, the optical hologram idea was born and calculated decades before the laser was invented.
    Thank you

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