Researchers from the University of Melbourne, KDH Design Corporation, and the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN) have achieved a significant milestone in the field of augmented reality (AR) by creating the world’s first flexible and transparent AR display screen using 3D printing and affordable materials. This groundbreaking development is poised to revolutionize the applications of AR across various industries.

AR technology enriches the user’s real-world experience by overlaying digital content onto their environment, enhancing perception and interaction. The challenge has been to develop flexible AR technology capable of adapting to different angles of light sources. Conventional AR manufacturing relies on glass substrates, necessitating time-consuming processes such as photomasking, lamination, cutting, or etching microstructure patterns. These methods are costly, yield low success rates, and pose difficulties in seamlessly integrating with product designs.

Led by Associate Professor Ranjith Unnithan, Professor Christina Lim, and Professor Thas Nirmalathas from the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with Taiwanese company KDH Design Corporation, the research team has successfully created a transparent AR display screen using low-cost optical-quality polymers and plastics—a remarkable achievement in the realm of AR displays.

The team employed additive manufacturing techniques, popularly known as 3D printing, in the fabrication process, establishing a pioneering approach in the field of AR displays. KDH Design Corporation, specializing in manufacturing AR motorbike helmets and military goggles, will integrate this breakthrough technology into the visors of head-worn devices such as AR glasses, AR sports goggles, and AR helmets and automotive displays.

The flexibility and versatility of the display screen allow it to bend and conform to various shapes, including curved or uneven surfaces, granting designers greater freedom to accommodate diverse product form factors. With its transparent nature, the display screen offers users a natural and unobstructed view while seamlessly overlaying digital content.

Moreover, additive manufacturing techniques enable precise control over design and production, leading to higher quality products. This opens up the potential for cost-effective and scalable mass manufacturing, making the technology more accessible and affordable for a wide range of applications.

The collaborative efforts of the research team have paved the way for a significant advancement in AR displays, promising a new era of immersive experiences and revolutionizing industries that rely on augmented reality.

By Impact Lab