Company in Austin readying low-cost holographic printer
(Dallas Business Journal; 03/27/98)
AUSTIN - A local startup is close to unveiling a holographic laser printer.
Zebra Imaging wants to help everyday computer users make their own
holograms - hard copies that simulate three-dimensional objects or scenes.
Its far-out goal is coming to life inside a Pflugerville laboratory armed
with high-powered lasers and optical equipment.
But Zebra's work began a while back, a long way from its pricey lab here.
In the mid-1980s, the firm's three founders - Michael Klug, Mark Holzbach
and Alex Ferdman - worked inside the Media Lab at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
At that time, all the technological pieces weren't in place for a low-cost
holographic printer, they say.
Now they are.
In May, Zebra plans to unveil a prototype - a print system for
monochromatic, or single color, holographic images. The company's big goal
- a full-color printer - is scheduled for unveiling in late 1999.
Zebra has serious competition, including Japan's Sony Corp. and digital
camera maker Ricoh Corp., also racing to finish prototypes.
But at least one, possibly biased source says his money's on Zebra.
"(In the world of holography), desktop hologram printers are the golden
chalice," says Stephen Benton, head of the MIT Media Lab's spatial imaging
group. "The race is on. I'd bet on Zebra, though."
Zebra has not worked out price yet, but executives say they foresee a cost
"under $100,000." Target markets include graphic design, advertising and
With the touch of a button, an architect could print a 3-D copy of a home
design, Zebra executives say.
Zebra's technology is based on a digital process developed at MIT. It makes
a three-dimensional image by exposing a number of single-strip holograms
side by side on a piece of holographic film.
Traditional photography exposes an entire area of film simultaneously.
Zebra's process prints out images line by line, much like a laser printer.
"(That process) gives us a lot more control over what each line does," Klug
In addition to its desktop printer, Zebra is working to develop big,
billboard-size holograms. In fact, Zebra's biggest investor is a "major
corporation" that wants holographic billboards for advertising.
Zebra executives won't disclose their partner's identity, but say its
backing paid for thousands of dollars in laboratory equipment and
materials. Zebra plans to develop billboards as a service business separate
from its desktop printer products.
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