AstraZeneca is a major pharmaceutical company that spends more than $15 million every working day of the year on the research and development of new medicines. Its scientists have developed significant drugs to treat such maladies as asthma, cancer, gastrointestinal disease, migraine headaches and schizophrenia.
At the company's Waltham, Mass., research center, a major research-and-development facility with hundreds of scientists and lab workers, complex presentations play an integral role in the development of new pharmaceutical products. Indeed, AstraZeneca scientists frequently create high-resolution, 3D presentations on SGI computers to render the complex molecular structures used in the creation of drugs such as Arimidex, Casodex, Nexium, Seroquel and Symbicort.
Tony DeFrancisco, AV manager at the Waltham facility, was recently asked to help with the creation of a new 3D- projection system for the AstraZeneca scientists. A meeting room at the facility, used for videoconferencing and presenting, was to be reconfigured to accommodate the 3D projection venue.
Building a 3D room
Instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a simulation-projection system, DeFrancisco decided to investigate a type of 3D projection that uses the overlapping light beams of two standard business projectors. Because the setup would require projectors with high resolution and brightness, DeFrancisco purchased a pair of Canon Realis SX50 projectors — LCOS-based models with SXGA+ resolution (1,400 x 1,050 pixels) and 2,500 lumens of brightness — at a cost of $4,999 apiece.
DeFrancisco mounted the projectors in a special frame so that they would sit one on top of the other. He purchased a $6,000 nonpolarized screen from Stewart Filmscreen to enhance the 3D effect.
The next step was adding a piece of hardware, called a 3D multiplexer, made by Cyviz, a company that specializes in 3D applications for the gas-and-oil industry as well as the manufacturing and scientific fields. The 3D multiplexer splits and renders images to create a pop-off-the-screen effect when used with a pair of projectors.
DeFrancisco, who's worked with 3D projection in the past, finished the project by calibrating the Realis SX50 projectors to work in tandem. The colliding light beams, with the help of the Cyviz technology, create an effect that allows scientists, who don a $3 pair of multi-toned 3D glasses, to view floating, rotating, colliding molecular imagery.
"The scientists love the 3D-projection room, and they use it every week for presenting," says DeFrancisco. "In addition, by using off-the-shelf components, the project saved the company many thousands of dollars."