"As 3D printers become more sophisticated, creatives are quick to exploit their potential. Take, for example, Massachusetts-based industrial designer Jiani Zeng and architect and computational designer Honghao Deng.
They recently launched the 3D-printing method Illusory Material — a collection of printed polymer objects using Voxel printing, a facility in some of the new-generation machines designed to produce realistic anatomical models for surgeons to practice on.
Voxel printing allows pigment to be applied not just to the surface of an object but to all layers. Building up base strata of varying colours and opacities, then overprinting a transparent wrapper of varying thickness, Zeng and Deng obtain a lenticular effect, where the see-through upper layers act as lenses, changing the perception of the pattern and colour underneath.
At its simplest, the effect is like an old-fashioned ridged “magic” postcard in which a picture seems to move when tilted.
The pair see subtle possibilities for a technology described by Zeng as bringing digital world effects into the physical one. A prototype lamp known as Unream has multiple layers of blue and red, overlaid with vertical transparent ridges, varying in width and depth up and down its 30cm height.
Illuminated from inside, the colours shimmer and change as the viewer moves round the lamp. Such interactive homeware is only the start, says Deng: “You can make millions of variations. This is just an example to inspire designers to do more.
”3D-printed objects may, so far, have been slow to reach our homes. But when they do, they are very likely to add an intriguing dimension to them."