Lenticular Printing: and the Brave New World of 3D Printing

by Rich B

3D is very much in vogue at the moment and I have to admit I’m a sucker for it. The Nintendo 3DS is an amazing piece of kit, 3D augmented reality is a real technology to watch for the future; and 3D films and TV, I lap it all up.

Well, print is no different and there’s some interesting developments in lenticular technology and 3D printing in general, especially as Point of Sale, that will probably grow in popularity in the coming years. Here we’ll give an overview of lenticular printing technologies and applications, and in future articles we’ll look at further developments that are moving the technology on even further.

Lenticular
Lenticular is probably the best known printing technology with a 3D application. When it first hit the scene, it was very much about creating moving images or morphing one image into another but the most popular use these days seems to be as 3D images – and very much at point of sale.

How does it work?
For 3D lenticular to give a true stereoscopic image, the viewer needs to see the same image but from a slightly different viewpoint with each eye. The images to be viewed are sliced into very thin strips and the two images interlaced with each other. The surface of the lenticular print mimics the length and size of the images beneath so when the interlaced

diagram showing lenticular printing image interlacing

Diagram showing how image is interlaced.

image is placed underneath, each of the viewer’s eyes sees the same image, but from a slightly different view point. The result is an impression of depth. In other words, a 3D image.

3D Lenticular Printing Considerations
There are typically two approaches taken by lenticular printing companies; either to print straight onto the transparent lens material or onto appropriate paper (or synthetic paper) stock to which the lens is then laminated. Since accurate registration of the interlanced image to the lens is key in producing a quality result, it’s particularly important to find a supplier who has experience of working with this material.

Lithographic processes typically print straight onto the smooth side of the lens which is commonly made from PVC or acrylic or polymers such as PET (polythene). Flexo, inkjet or screen printing are becoming increasingly popular and allowing the lens substrate to be fed into the press as a continuous web and increasing the speed and reducing the cost for long-run applications.

Artwork Considerations
The digital image is typically manipulated with a prepress software package to digitally interlace the picture, ready for the lenticular printing process. To produce a 3D image, all image files are created and provided to the printer as separate element layers in an Adobe Photoshop file. 3D effects within the finished image displays depth information in relative terms between objects, so a few objects within the image is advised to accentuate the 3D effect.

Future
Technological advances are happening all the time and Lenticular is no exception. Spherical and multi-directional lenses, back-lighting and other developments are moving the technology onwards and we’ll be taking a look at some of these technologies in a future article.

 

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