A 3D printer produced invisible cloak could be the next advancement with interesting and, some might say, frightening consequences, according to a Monday report from Science Daily.
(The full report was originally published in the academic journal Optics Letters.)
Following up on Duke University engineering experiments from 2006, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering for the school told the website that “anyone who can spend a couple thousand dollars on a non-industry grade 3D printer can literally make a plastic cloak overnight.”
Not good news for those of you who may be somewhat frightened at successful recent experiments producing firearms through the 3D printing process (aka stereolithographic fabrication).
What’s so worrisome about “a plastic cloak”?
Nothing on the surface, but Urzhumov was recently part of a team that produced a polymer plastic disk that is capable of deflecting microwave beams, and the researcher is confident that in the “not-so-distant future,” their creation will translate to an invisible cloak capable of warding off higher wavelengths (including visible light).
“We believe this approach is a way towards optical cloaking, including visible and infrared,” Urzhumov told the website. “And nanotechnology is available to make these cloaks from transparent polymers or glass. The properties of transparent polymers and glasses are not that different from what we have in our polymer at microwave frequencies.”
A bit more on that here:
Urzhumov and his team left an opening in their disk where they hid an opaque object. When the microwave beams were directed to the object through the disk, the cloak gave the appearance that the object was no longer there.
Urzhumov said the 3D printer design “eliminates the ‘shadow’ that would be cast, and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected.”
In other words, the invisible jet Wonder Woman used to fly from adventure to adventure — one of the dumbest ideas in the history of popular fiction — may soon become a reality.
“In effect, the bright, highly reflective object, like a metal cylinder, is made invisible. The microwaves are carefully guided by a thin dielectric shell and then re-radiated back into free space on the shadow side of the cloak,” Urzhumov said.
The assistant research professor added that computer simulations caused him to believe that it would be possible to wrap a polymer plastic “as thin as one inch” around an object “several meters in diameter” and get the same effect.
So just remember that when you go to sleep at night, kiddies. It may one day be possible for someone to sneak up on you with a homemade plastic gun while wearing the invisible cloak — both objects made in a couple of hours via 3D printer — and attack without you seeing anything coming.
[Image via ShutterStock]