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Optical Table





Table Mounts

Optic Mounts

Plate Holder




Before you start building this display holography system and producing holograms, you need to see a visual overview of what a basic system (also known as an optical arrangement, optical setup or just setup) looks like when it is completely set up and ready to record a hologram. Figure 1 shows a photographic view of the setup and Figure 2 shows a top-view illustration of the same setup. Figure 1 shows the setup on a floor instead of on my optical table for clarity. This is a "multi-beam" transmission hologram setup because the laser beam is split into two beams by the beamsplitter instead of using just one beam without a beamsplitter for "single-beam" setups. The optical setups I will be describing on this site work extremely well. There are other systems that can be built (such as a sandbox system or screw-down system), but I have found my gravity system to be much more versatile for creating excellent holograms up to 12 inch x 16 inch in size. That's the objective of all this: to produce high quality bright white light reflection display holograms that can be hung on your wall and display their images.

overview setup photo
Figure 1: Photograph of a basic multi-beam holography setup.

The setup shown in Figure 1 has five basic optical components. They are the laser (L), beamsplitter (BS), directional mirrors (M1 & M2), diverging lenses (DL1 & DL2), and the parabolic mirror (PM). In addition to the optical components, there are additional components which are the object scene (OS), the recording (photographic) plate/film holder (PH), the table mounts, the optic mounts, and the optical table. From this point forward, I will refer to the recording medium as a photographic plate or just plate and "film" will be inferred.

overview setup diagram
Figure 2: Illustration of a basic multi-beam holography setup (top view).

Referring to the diagram in Figure 2, here is what happens during the recording process. The laser beam from the laser (L) travels to the first directional mirror (M1) and is reflected to the beamsplitter (BS). At the beamsplitter, the beam is split into 2 beams. These 2 beams are given names. One is the reference beam (R) and the other is the object beam (O). The reference beam (R) travels through the beamsplitter to a second directional mirror (M2) and is reflected to a diverging lens (DL1) that spreads the beam to a parabolic mirror (PM) that reflects a collimated beam (not diverging nor converging) to the recording plate (PH).

At the same time, the reflected object beam (O) from the beamsplitter travels through a diverging lens (DL2) that spreads the beam and illuminates the three dimensional object scene (OS) which then reflects the beam's light to the recording plate (PH). The interaction (interference) of the light from the reference beam and the object scene's reflected light at the recording plate creates a holographic interference pattern within the recording plate at the microscopic level.

After the plate is chemically processed, it is placed back in the plate holder in its original orientation. The object is removed, or masked using black mounting board, and the reference beam is allowed to illuminate the recorded plate. Looking through the plate from the opposite side that the reference beam is illuminating the plate, you can see a three dimensional image of the original object scene suspended in space as if the original object scene were still there. This illumination of the recorded hologram with the reference beam only is called reconstruction.

This optical setup is called a "transmission" hologram setup because both the reference beam and the reflected object light impinge on the plate on the same side of the plate. A "reflection" hologram has the reference beam impinging on the opposite side of the plate from which the object light is impinging.

The setup of the components shown in Figure 1 is a simplistic setup for illustrating the recording process. Your setup will be slightly different to facilitate creating high quality display holograms. In this section on Building a Holography System, I will cover:

I have provided supply houses and item costs in the Resources section located in the web site's navigational menu. I often review this area to make sure the information is current.