Researchers at Duke University have used a consumer-grade 3D printer to make something out of a Sci-Fi movie- an invisibility cloak. Yaroslav Urzhumov and his crew of engineers have used the printer to create a device that sort of looks like a giant perforated waffle. The holes and perforations are arranged in an algorithm that, together, deflect microwave beams and make the obscuring cloak- that is easily printed on an at-home 3D printer.
The 3D printed cloak is made by using sterolithographic technology to add layer upon layer of polymer plastic into the shape of a plate. The 3D printer then lays down layers of plastic, skipping holes and perforations that coincide with the specially designed algorithm.
When the opaque objects, placed in the center of the holey plate, are blasted with microwaves, they seem to suddenly vanish in thin air! The plate’s holes are arranged to eliminate the object’s shadow by suppressing the scattering of light around the object. The microwaves are then guided by the plate’s thin dielectric shell and then re-radiated back into space on the opposite side of the cloak- making it appear to be invisible.
As of now, Urzhumov’s 3D printed invisibility cloak is only effective when hit with microwaves, but he and his team believe that the same technology could be developed to print even larger devices that could be used to manipulate visible light and infrared radiation. Since 3D printers are now readily available in retail stores, that means once the technology is developed, anyone can create their vary own invisibility cloak right at home!