Lenticular Printing - History of Lenticular Image Technology

History of Lenticular Image Technology

Images that change when viewed from different angles predate the development of lenticular lenses. In 1692 G. A. Bois-Clair, a French painter, created paintings containing two distinct images, with a grid of vertical laths in front. Different images were visible when the work was viewed from the left and right sides.

Lenticular images were popularized from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s by the Vari-Vue company. Early products included animated political campaign badges with the slogan "I Like Ike!" and animated cards that were stuck on boxes of Cheerios. By the late sixties the company marketed about two thousand stock products including twelve inch square moving pattern and color sheets, large images (many religious), and a huge range of novelties including badges. The badge products included the Rolling Stones' tongue logo and an early Beatles badge with pictures of the 'fab four' on a red background.

Some notable lenticular prints from this time include the limited-edition cover of the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request, and Saturnalia's Magical Love, a picture disk with a lenticular center. Several magazines including Look and Venture published issues in the 1960s that contained lenticular images. Many of the magazine images were produced by Crowle Communications (also known as Visual Panographics). Images produced by the company ranged from just a few millimeters to 28 by 19.5 inches.

The panoramic cameras used for most of the early lenticular prints were French-made and weighed about 300 pounds. In the 1930s they were known as "auto-stereo cameras". These wood and brass cameras had a motorized lens that moved in a semicircle around the lens' nodal point. Sheet transparency film with the lenticular lens overlay was loaded into special dark slides (about 10×15 inches) and these were then inserted into the camera. The exposure time was several seconds long, giving time for the motor drive to power the lens around in an arc.

A related product produced by a small company in New Jersey was Rowlux. Unlike the Vari-Vue product, Rowlux used a microprismatic lens structure made by a process they patented in 1972, and no paper print. Instead, the plastic (Polycarbonate, flexible PVC and later PETG) was dyed with translucent colors and the film was usually thin and flexible (from 0.002" in thickness).

Lenticular arrays are also used for 3D television (autostereoscopic, enabling the 3D perception without glasses), and number of prototypes have been shown in 2009 2010 by major companies such as Philips and LG. They are using cylindrical lenses slanted to the vertical, or spherical lenses arranged as a honeycomb which provides a better resolution.

While not a true lenticular, the Dufex Process (Manufactured by F.J. Warren Ltd.) does use a form of lens structure to animate the image. The process consists of a metallic foil imprinted by litho printing with the image. The foil is than laminated to a thin sheet of card stock that has had a thick layer of wax coated upon it. The heated lamination press has the Dufex embossing plate on its upper platen. The plate has been engraved with angled 'lenses' at different angles so designed as to match the artwork and reflect light at different intensities depending on angle of view.

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