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New & Improved Looking Glass Volumetric Prints: Slices of Life

by Lambert Varias

Late last year we found out about Looking Glass, a volumetric printing service. Each 3D object consists of printed slices stacked and stuck together in a case. This month the company relaunched with a better and more affordable service.

looking-glass-volumetric-print-2014-4zoom in

I talked with Looking Glass founder Shawn Frayne shortly before their relaunch. Shawn said they’ve “made dramatic improvements in the resolution and color-fidelity” of their product since we first heard about them. They can also now make prints out of CT scan data, in addition to .obj, .ply and .skp files. With the help of these improvements, Shawn said that they’re barely keeping up with orders. Doctors in particular have been asking Shawn for prints of CT scans.

looking-glass-volumetric-print-2014zoom in

looking-glass-volumetric-print-2014-2zoom in

The two images above show a Looking Glass print of an injured foot based on CT scan data. Shawn says it’s the first volumetric printed object with varying opacity. Speaking of which, Shawn said that Looking Glass isn’t looking to compete with 3D printing services. The company is focused on making prints that are great to look at instead of ones that are meant to be touched or used.


In my first article about Looking Glass, I mused that the prints would be much better if the slices were removable. Shawn said he’s gotten requests about that option as well and that it is possible, though his company isn’t going to offer that option anytime soon. I wonder if making the slices removable is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

looking-glass-volumetric-print-2014-3zoom in

Shawn did offer an alternative to my suggestion. Instead of one Looking Glass print with removable slices, the company can take a 3D model and split it into multiple prints: “We do however offer cross-sectional prints, where several Looking Glasses can be combined like building blocks to reconstruct, say, a heart or enlarged cell volumetric image.  When these blocks are pulled apart, the internals of the volumetric image can then be examined.”

Looking Glass accepts orders online if your source file is .obj or .ply. Their standard size is 9 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm (approx. 3.5″ x 2″ x 1.6″), and costs $65 (USD) plus $10 shipping anywhere in the world. Email Shawn at smf[at]lookingglassfactory.com for other print requests, such as printing from CT scan data or printing large objects. Shawn says they can make prints as large as a person if they want to. You can also check out and buy customer-submitted prints on the Looking Glass site.

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