Will Luminous Trees be our Future Street Lights?

It may sound lightyears ahead, but in the near future, bioluminescent trees could easily replace Street Lights. Or would it be the road itself lighting the way? Bioluminescence, the ability of small organisms to behave like living night-lights, could lead to some remarkable advances in the public space. Here are some of the greatest examples we’ve ever seen!

Bioluminescence – The Invention

Bioluminescence was “invented” dozens of times in evolutionary history. Scientists may now be able to explain not only why certain mushrooms glow in the dark, but they are nearer to create glowing trees as a novel form of street lighting.

Swapping streetlights with giant light-emitting plants or trees using biomimicry techniques by Daan Roosegaarde.

Daan Roosegaarde – Lighting the Way

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde – known from astonishing projects such as ‘Waterlight‘ and ‘Rainbow Station‘, among many others – is hoping to employ biomimicry to transform your average street-side trees into beacons of light. Like the luminescent abilities of jellyfish, mushrooms or fireflies, splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria would open a world of opportunities!

Glow in the Dark

Naturalists in the early 19th century identified fungal growth as the source of the glow from wooden support beams used to shore up mines. Many fungi and mushrooms are now known to glow in the dark, and explanations for why they do it range from it being a useless by-product of metabolism to a sophisticated anti-predator adaptation. The best explanation seems to be that the night-light attracts insects and other animals to the fruiting bodies of fungi, who then spread the spores far and wide.

Glowing ‘Van Gogh Bicycle Path’ by Daan Roosegaarde


Fireflies are likely the best known example of bioluminescence in nature. The insect controls the light it emits from its light organ by adding oxygen to a mix of other chemicals involved in the light-emitting reaction. As larvae, the light acts as a warning to predators that they don’t taste very nice, and as adults the light is used to identify members of the same species and to attract the opposite sex.

Bioluminescence – The Future!

I am thrilled to see how bioluminescent technology finds its way in various in- and outdoor applications and how it contributes to a safer world! I am sure this is just the beginning of many more to come!

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Light-at-Play: Projecting a Color Globe onto Various Objects and Surfaces

A light or image projector is a top class module that includes an optical device for a targeted projection straight from a light source. It is used to project an image (or if you like moving images) onto a certain surface, commonly a projection screen or whiteboard. In this application, however, I assembled a small light projector and embedded a 3D printed color surface into it. After that, I’ve been doing some trial & error work in various settings. Come and see how wonderful this works out when the light ‘paints’ various objects and surfaces in my backyard.

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Light-at-Play – A Hexagonal Lens Array illuminated by a projected Color Globe.


Light Projection: The Principles

The idea behind most projector lights is creating an image or concentrated hot spot by shining the light through a small transparent lens, for example to accentuate an object. The narrower the beam, the more precise and focussed the projection will be. LED lighting projectors are becoming more and more popular for use in a variety of applications. Emerging LED technology is now being applied onto a wide range of products, both for functional and decorative lighting purposes. Its durability and stability (incl. shockproofness) makes it an attractive lighting design option.

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Light-at-Play – Painting Pavement with a Color Globe.

Projector Types and Use

The most common type of projector we are all aware of is the ‘video projector’: A digital replacement for the earlier types of projectors such as overhead- or slide projectors. These earlier types of projectors were mostly replaced with digital video projectors throughout the 1990s and early 2000s (decade), but old analog projectors are still used at some places, for example at my grandparents’ home.

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Light-at-Play – Colored Spheres Array

LED Lighting Projectors are on the Rise

The latest generations of projectors are handheld projectors that use lasers or LEDs to project images, such as the device I used. A disadvantage is that its projections are hard to see if there is too much ambient light, so I limited this trial & error session to a fully dark garden environment only.

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Light-at-Play – Olive Tree and Rising Color Globe.

This blog is just another proof of evidence how light can enrich your ambiance in a functional or decorative way and turn unintresting or indistinct materials into living surfaces!

The 3D Printing Adventure

Our Novel Micro 3D Printer just arrived, the expirementing has begun!

The Micro 3D Printer by M3D is a cute, tiny and extremely quiet entry-level 3D printer that I found available for a modest price. The Micro is surprisingly compact and very light weight. Its simple, yet attractive Apple-like design makes it a good conversation piece and a proper piece of hardware for some initial expirements.

3D Printing – The Next Generation

When I noted the M3D Micro 3D printer back in April, my attention was initially drawn to the tagline: “Micro 3D printer is the Next Generation 3D Printer”. Well, that’s exactly the truth: our next generation likely grows up in a world different from today: 3D printers, 3D Print Communities, 3D Print Hubs, Fablabs, etc. all will be common stuff. And, very likely, they are not or unsufficiently educated for the jobs they will be hired for by tomorrow.

So why not start with teaching them the basics of 3D printing today?
So I did, and my two young boys join me on this journey…

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Design and Features

The M3D Micro 3D printer I finally decided to buy comes in two versions: the ‘Retail’ (the one we purchased) and the ‘Standard’. The Retail version includes a filament spool and written instructions, and it has a one-year warranty. The Standard model has a 3-month warranty, and it doesn’t come with filament or written instructions, as far as I discovered. Our unit is white, but different color options are available for the frame.

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Setting up the Printer

Thanks to the enclosed instructions, the initial set up of the Micro was a fairly simple process. When you take the printer out of the nicely designed box, you have to unpack it by removing all the bubble foam and tape. The instructions emphasize taking off the clips that hold the extruder carriage in place during the shipping. One thing I overlooked: two pieces of black foam beneath the extruder.

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Downloading the Software

After unpacking it, I have downloaded the software from M3D’s website and installed it on my laptop. Then I plugged the printer in, and the M3D logo starts to light up (there’s no power switch on the printer, but the M3D logo nicely lights up when the printer is connected to the mains) and connected it to my laptop via the included USB-cable.

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Loading the Filament

The next step was to load the filament (1.75mm), which can be done either internally – a small filament spool fits exactly in the compartment at the base of the printer under the print bed – I discovered it accidentaly, or externally: the spool of filament can be placed in an optional spool holder outside of the printer. To start loading my files, I clicked on the ‘3D Ink’ tab in the software. Then, you have to enter a code (describing the filament type) and feed the filament from the spool to the extruder.

M3D sells spools of filaments along with the printer, which they call ‘3D Ink’. For this initial trial, we used a spool of M3D’s clear PLA filament (WOW) and Light Carribean blue (SKY). I loaded the filament externally, what is way easier than the internal loading.

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M3D Software & Library

The Micro’s 3D printing software is by far the simplest I’ve ever used. At the top (left hand side) of the main screen are two icons: a filament spool labeled ‘3D Ink’ and another folder called ‘Open Model’. At the right, there’s a gear icon, from which you can calibrate the print bed.

If you have previously uploaded any 3D models, you can click on a thumbnail to load the model, or choose ‘Open Model’ and navigate through your file directories to select a 3D file to load. Once loaded, the 3D-object will appear on the screen framed within a visual image of the printer. You can rescale, rotate, center or reposition the object with the help of several buttons at the left edge of the screen, or center the object with a button at the bottom of the screen.

Marvin – Symbol of the 3D Printing Movement

We finally chose to start with printing ‘Marvin’ – the symbol of the 3D printing movement, as found on 3D Hubs. Marvin’s core ethos is about community, creativity, social change, and problem solving. He’s determined to revolutionize the way we make things through 3D printing, so that seems to be a good start!

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When we had ‘Marvin’ scaled and positioned to our satisfaction, we started the process by simply hitting the ‘Print’ button. A dialog box that identifies the printer and the filament pops up. There was a possibility to choose one of five print-quality settings from a pull-down menu.

“3D Printing is determined to Revolutionize the Way we make almost Everything”

In a second dropdown menu, I was able to choose from six additional settings by which the fill density could be defined: two hollow settings, with the walls of different thicknesses, and four settings with increasing percentages of infill. The higher the resolution and the thicker the infill, the longer it takes to print an object.

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The Printing Process

I printed two Marvins, one for each of the boys. The first one in medium and the other in low resolution. Honestly, I didn’t see too much difference in quality among the chosen resolutions. Both test prints tended to look slightly rough-hewn, and some fine detail was lost. Some post processing (polishing) will be needed anyway, but the first results are promising. Here are the puppets:

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Finally, the Micro might not be exactly the ‘breakout’ prosumer model I’ve been expecting when I ordered it online, but I might be spoiled in my actual job position at Luxexcel where we use to work with world class hardware (Printoptical Technology, for the printing of optics and optical components). However, it’s certainly worth taking a look at if you’re looking for a solid starter 3D printer for educational or hobby purposes.

What’s next?

The boys and I will continue the trial & error in the upcoming weeks, there’s many more to come this summer period, so watch out for the progress! Let’s see what happens if we bring some (back)light in as well…

Thanks for reading this post, stay tuned!

Light at Play – Creating Vitreous Light Effects by RGB LED Lighting Application

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“Lustre: The Way Light interacts with the Surface of a Crystal, a Rock, or a Mineral”.

The word ‘Lustre’ (also referred to as ‘Luster’) traces its origins back to the latin word ‘lux’, meaning “light”. Generally, it implies a radiance, gloss, or sparking brilliance appearance of an object lit by day- or artificial light.


A variety of terms are used to describe this sparkling light effect, such as earthy, metallic, greasy, and silky. Similarly, the term ‘vitreous’ (derived again from Latin, here from the word glass, vitrum) refers to a ‘glassy lustre’ as we display it here.

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Lustre varies over a wide continuum, and so there are no rigid boundaries between the different types of lustre.
The terms are frequently combined to describe intermediate types of lustre.

It liturally became my passion to mess around with RGB LED light units and transparent items, such as optics or, like in this case balls of broken crystal glass to optimize the lustre effect. Exciting to see what happens!

If you want more footage, just refer to my Pinterest board ‘Lustre RGB Effects‘. Enjoy!

Happy New Year and a Good Start in 2016!

It’s been my pleasure to have you as a reader last year! Thank you for following me, staying connected and the valuable feedback shared!

In 2016, I will continue to provide you with the latest newsworthy updates around 3D printing, optics and lighting via this personal ”off-topic’ channel and via my other blogs 3DPrinting.Lighting and Inspiration.Lighting.

I wish you lots of inspiration and creativity for the New Year and look forward to continue our conversations in the time to come!

Have a wonderful break and a Prosperous 2016!

Best regards,

Marco de Visser

Lighting Up the Night – Fireflies Blazing Beautiful Patterns in the Dark

Remember watching fireflies light up your back yard on hot summer nights? Fireflies are beautiful, mysterious, and magical. Firefly populations are dwindling all over the world. Here’s a small post on these magical creatures – the most efficient lights in the world!

Fireflies Talk: the Language of Light

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. Howeer, in most situations the both sexes glow. Very often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

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Scientists believe they may flash to drive away predators, claim territory, and communicate with others of their species as well—although the finer points of their language have never been studied extensively. One thing’s for sure, though: without those flashing lights, there could be no fireflies.

Fireflies produce “cold light”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

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Fireflies – How does it Work?

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

Fireflies have a short ‘Lifespan’

To stay a bit in ‘the language of light’: the lifespan of fireflies isn’t that long as you may expect. Although being very low consumers of energy with a high eficacy, an adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

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Fireflies – what’s more?

There’s certainly many more to say about these intriguing creatures, but let’s finish with a great movie with night and day timelapses and some references. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in the phenomenon of ‘bioluminescence’, I can recommend you reading one of my other posts ‘Bioluminescent Plankton Create Magical Blue Imagery at Night‘.

The stunning time-lapse images in this article were created by photographer and Artist Tsuneaki Hiramatsu for the Daily Mail.

Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light

This short blogpost illustrates optogenetics — a radical new technology for controlling brain activity with light that I recently rediscovered. Optogenetics is an emerging field of research that is combing ‘optics‘ with ‘genetics’ to modify the activities of brains.

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Researchers genetically modify certain neurons to activate when they receive pulses of light. This is part of the medical field that is studying how to stimulate specific areas of the brain to relieve a host of chronic neurological aliments ranging from depression to Parkinson’s disease.

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This post might be a bit ‘out-of-the-box’, and too research minded. But it think this interesting topic is worth mentioning. Impressive to see what the power of optics and light can do, especially related to the human body and brains. Finally, here’s a movie from MITTechTV explaining this new phenomenon in research:

[Pictures and animations in this post are courtesy of Sputnik Animation, Ed Boyden, and McGovern Institute for Brain Research.]