Additive manufacturing has expanded as a fabrication technology to make use of a variety of substances, including metals, ceramics, food, and even organic tissue. As technology startup Rohinni has recently shown, its capacity can be extended further, quite remarkably, to include light.

The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho–based company has created Lightpaper, which the company claims is the thinnest LED light source yet. The flexible, planar light is created by printing an emulsion composed of LED particles suspended in ink onto a thin, conductive substrate. When a current is delivered to the substrate, the tiny diode particles illuminate the entire surface.

Rohinni anticipates an expansive collection of applications for its captivating development that includes the construction, automotive, and mobile electronics markets. The company's chief marketing officer, Nick Smoot, told the Coeur d’Alene Press that luminaires could one day be designed with light-emitting shades, thus eliminating the need for typical lamps. "Anywhere there is a light, this could replace that,” he said.

Given the long service life of LEDs and their relatively low heat generation, the company claims its inexpensively produced Lightpaper would disrupt the market for other illuminating surface technologies, such as OLEDs. Architecturally, the technology could be integrated into wallpaper, ceiling systems, tabletops, and most other surfaces. What's more, the tools could one day be widely disseminated. "You will be able to design and print [your] own light," Smoot said. "Right now we are printing the light, but we are going to be putting that back in the hands of the people."

Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.