New Kind of Lenticular Sheet Arrives

Can be printed on flexographic printers, a reported first.

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A new supplier and processing method for lenticular sheet have made their debut. 3D technology leader Jade Phototech announced it has partnered with custom processor Lindar Corp. in a joint venture whereby Lindar will produce PET micro-optical sheet under the brand name Optica. Lindar recently commissioned an extrusion line from SML in Austria (U.S. office in Gloucester, Mass.) at its plant in Baxter, Minn., that was designed by Jade Phototech specifically for this product. The move marks Lindar’s foray into extrusion; it had been exclusively a thermoformer focused on food containers, paint tray liners and heavy-gauge parts, says Dave Fosse, dir. marketing.

Lenticular sheet is used to create a 3D “motion” effect for packaging, point-of-purchase displays, labels, ID cards, and a range of other applications. While there are a number of extrusion processors supplying sheet of this kind—which is flat on one side and has tiny lenses, or lenticules, on the other that are imparted by an impression roller—the Optica sheet production process is reportedly more repeatable and efficient, generates less scrap, and can be printed using flexographic printing technology, believed to be a first for lenticular material. Says Fosse, “This is a game changer in the motion-graphic market. This provides very high-resolution print quality and guaranteed consistency across the entire width of the sheet, from 8 to 33 mils thick.”

Once the lenses have been extruded—either into roll stock or sheets cut to size—the images are printed directly onto the material. This causes the image to “pop” with 3D graphics, morphing graphics, flip graphics, and up to 24 frames of motion graphics being viewed through the lenticules, the companies explain.

Jade Phototech, Norcross, Ga., has numerous patents on the process. Bruce Hinkel, president of the company, says only a few aspects of the extruder and die are unique to this technology. As for the PET used to produce the sheet, Hinkel would only remark that the company “resisted using additives,” and that the “secret sauce” that makes Optica sheet unique can be generally explained by greater control over material melt point, melt pressure, and intrinsic viscosity.

Adds Dr. Bill Karszes, Jade Photech’s CEO and the machine’s lead designer, “Jade Photech has taken a systems approach to producing more cost-effective and attractive 3D images. We have designed and built a process to produce the most uniformly consistent micro-optical material available in the market. Now our partnership with Lindar has furthered our goals by utilizing their manufacturing expertise and experience. The material has been successfully printed and has proven to be cost-effective.”

Karszes and Jerry Nims, chairman of sister company Photon 3D, are considered pioneers in the development of 3D technology. Among other things, they jointly developed/patented the 3D depth of field and control of the parallax, which was the basis for viewing analog 3D images without glasses.