3D films encode the image information as different signals for the viewer’s right and left eyes. The viewer can only decode these signals with the help of 3D glasses. The human brain then combines these signals to produce the illusion of 3D vision. Experts refer to a “stereoscopic” process. If the different signals are transmitted one after the other, the viewer requires a pair of “shutter” glasses, which alternately open and close their right and left lenses at the same rate as the different signals are transmitted.
However, if the signals are transmitted simultaneously but vary across the surface, they can be viewed using a simple pair of polarizing glasses with their right and left lenses blocking different polarizations. Such polarizing glasses are also used with 3D FPR technology. The films are applied to the polarization filters of LCD TVs and transform the image information of a 3D film into clockwise or anticlockwise circularly polarized light.
The films are also extremely sensitive to UV radiation and have very good thermal stability, as well as being simple to manufacture on a large scale. They are also ten times thinner than the glass-based shutter technology and have 20 times its transmittance. “Thanks to the 3D FPR technology, almost every new LCD TV sold today is 3D-capable,” says Neeff. “As a result, the demand for reactive mesogens has increased dramatically, from a few kilos at the beginning to a current figure in the thousands of kilograms.”
In order to keep up with this increasing demand, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany commissioned a new production unit at its Darmstadt site in March 2013. Furthermore, new areas of application are already opening up for reactive mesogens. One example is autostereoscopic processes — 3D processes which do not require the use of special glasses and can display both the moving 3D film and the 2D accompanying text with full sharpness.
Laptops and TVs with corresponding LCDs are already commercially available. The development of smart windows with FPR technology is not yet quite so far advanced. Such windows are intended to prevent the emission of visible light from offices or living rooms and thus ensure privacy when required. They are just like blinds that can be lowered. However, they are a lot more elegant.