Introduction: Zoetrope Fidget Spinner

Picture of Zoetrope Fidget Spinner

It's already spinning, why not add an animation? Now you can be distracted by a cat video while you get out that nervous energy. It's a simple design: two wheels, two bearings, two caps for your thumb and forefinger, and a drum with slits in it press-fit together.

Step 1: Idea

I got this idea from darlingtom's instructable Animated Fidget Spinner. He noticed that the spinning motion opens it up for the possibility of animation. He made a phenakistoscope out of his, which as you can see requires you to look at it in a mirror.

It's a dead-simple, clever design, but I wanted to make something a bit more elegant that wouldn't require a mirror.

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

Although some version of the zoetrope might date back to 1st century BC China or even 3,000 BC Iran, the modern version I based this design on was patented in the US in 1867.

It's basically just a rotating drum with slits cut into it and sequential frames on the inside of the drum below and in line with the slits. This arrangement ensures that the slit is directly in line with the picture, but it also means that the drum has to be tall enough for a slit and a picture stacked on top of each other.

Since this is a fidget spinner and it needs to fit in someone's hand, I made mine so that the slits would be in line with the frames. The frames are then in between the slits, which still works.

Step 3: 3D Modeling

Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty simple 3D modeling project. All it is is a drum with 12 slots in it evenly spaced, two identical wheels on the top and bottom with holes cut out to let light in, and a couple of caps and bearings. The video above shows the process step-by-step, and I'll elaborate on it below.

Fusion 360 is free for students and hobbyists, and there's a ton of educational support on it. If you want to learn to 3D model the kind of work I do, I think this is the best choice on the market. Click the links below to sign up:



First, I used the Insert McMaster-Carr Component feature and brought in a couple of bearings. In this example, I used 608ZZ bearings- common bearings for fidget spinners.

I placed the bearings so that there would be enough of a gap between them to be able to see through to the animation frames- about 11mm.

I drew a profile of the top wheel and the drum in one sketch. On the right, you can see a stepped press-fit feature. I only needed half of the profile because I was planning on making the 3D parts using Revolve.

Using Revolve, I made a disc that would serve as the base for the wheels.

I made another sketch with lines patterned around the center at 120º, then offset two of those lines to make a profile that I could use as a void that would leave spokes with enough width to hold together.

I used the Extrude command to make the void.

I filleted the inside edges of the void to give the spokes a smoother transition.

I used the Modify>Pattern>Circular Pattern tool to make 3 evenly spaced voids out of the faces I just made.

I filleted the edges of the wheel to make it smoother to the touch (and to the eye) and made a copy for the bottom wheel.Using the original profile I drew, I

Using the first profile I drew, I used Revolve again to make the basic shape of the drum.

I made a new sketch for the slot shape that I would later need to cut out.

I used Extrude to make a new body that extended past the boundary of the drum shape.

I used the Pattern tool again to make 12 equally spaced bodies that I could use to cut out of the drum shape.

Using Modify > Combine, I cut the pill shapes out of the drum.

I used the Chamfer tool and Fillet tool to make raked profiles around the slots. I figured this might make the animation easier to see and it has the added bonus of using less filament.

I drew a new profile for the cap piece. The Intersect tool in the Sketch menu is helpful in ensuring that the parts will fit properly.

Using Revolve again, I made the cap.

I made a revolute joint to test out the motion with the animation frames, which I'll get to in the next step.

Step 4: 2D Design

To get an exact layout for the animation frames, I had to do a little math. I can easily measure angles and radii in Fusion, but I don't know an easy way to get the circumference or arc length of a curve. Not to worry, the math is simple and the internet has no shortage of ready-made calculators.

The radius of the inside of the drum is 38.5mm, which gives me a circumference of about 241.9mm. The height of the inside face is 11.3mm, so I start with a rectangle with those dimensions.

The angle between the edges of the slot is 4.5º, so I get an arc length of about 2.9mm there. The slot is a pill shape that's 2.9mm X 9.3mm.

That gives me a rectangular frame area of about 17.1mm X 11.3mm.

I did all the layout work in illustrator because it's easy to distribute shapes there, and you can print from it directly with a vinyl cutter.

The finished layout is a tape with slots distributed evenly in the middle, and half slot shapes on the outside edges.

Step 5: Making the Animation Frames

I made a few different versions of animations to try out with the spinner. This one is a motion study of a cat done by Eadweard Muybridge in the 19th century. He pioneered the motion picture way before anyone else was thinking this way, and he's got lots of public domain photo sequences that make great animated images.

I saved each frame individually, brought the frames into illustrator, then placed them in the proper locations between the slots.

Here's another one by Muybridge.

This is a wheel I did myself.

This is a kind of Op Art animation using ellipses.

Step 6: Testing Animation in Fusion

Since Fusion allows you to animate joints live in the modeling environment, I figured I might as well test out the animations virtually before I started printing the parts. The video above shows how I did it.

Basically, I just took a JPG of the cropped animation ribbon, then applied that to a material in Fusion that I placed on the inside face of the drum.

When I select "animate model" under the rotational joint in the browser, the drum rotates and I'm able to get a rough idea of how the animation will look.

Step 7: Printing and Assembly

There's nothing to this part. I just made STLs from Fusion, brought those into Simplify 3D, and printed them out on the Makerbot. If you don't know how to do this, I'd suggest taking my Beginner 3D Printing Class.

Everything is press-fit together, and with the right tolerances it's easy to disassemble if I want to change out the frames.

Step 8: Lessons Learned

The skateboard bearings are too sticky to really get a good spin, so I redesigned it with another set of bearings that are flanged and double shielded with an ABEC-5 rating. With these bearings it spins for about 40 seconds (although at that speed the cat is running really fast!).

Want one? Click here and I'll make one and ship it to you.

Step 9: Print Your Own

If you want to make your own, I've attached STL files here of a simpler version. Enjoy and please post an IMadeIt!

Bearing: 608ZZ on Amazon


MikelM12 (author)2017-10-16

You are simply incredible. Only a genius could design that!

JON-A-TRON (author)MikelM122017-10-17

Well, thankfully some genius in the 1860's came up with the zoetrope for me, all I had to do wash mash it up with a fidget spinner.

DougE16 (author)2017-06-04

I have made several spinners using PLA, but I find that when they cool off the printer, the holes shrink just enough that the bearings won't press in. How do you overcome this? The only thing that has worked for me is to either put the bearings in while still hot from the printer, or heat the spinner in an oven and then it has softened enough to be able to pressfit the bearings. Any ideas?

Thanks, and BTW, this instructable is one of the best I have ever seen!

HumbertoB3 (author)DougE162017-09-05

Hi DougE16, I have the same issue. I many times implement Jon's tip below regarding the tolerance with a global variable in Fusion that I then use to enlarge/reduce specific parts of the print.

But a much more hands on approach is the hair drier trick. Use a hair drier to heat up mildly all the print and concentrate on the part of the print where you need to insert the bearing. It will fit much more easily and the mild heating will prevent brittle plastic like PLA from cracking.

JON-A-TRON (author)DougE162017-06-04

Thanks for the compliment! The pause and insert method will probably give you excellent results but make it difficult to remove the bearings if need be. This is essentially a tolerance issue.

If your bearings don't press fit into the hole in your 3D printed part, the hole is too small (duh). I find that making the hole about .1mm bigger than the true dimension makes for good press-fits in most cases. My free Intermediate-3D-Printing-Class goes over this concept in detail in Lesson 2, and there's a file there that's a series of posts with different tolerances so you can find the right one for your printer.

jsroques (author)2017-06-05

Very, very nice ! Building up one today !

JON-A-TRON (author)jsroques2017-06-05

Awesome! Show us what you made!

jsroques made it! (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-05

Here it is. Working good ! I have to find better bearings though. Those ones are not rolling for that long.

Also, I did not realise I needed to print with support because of the bearing "blocker", that is the little bit which avoid the bearing to go through (am I clear ? not sure...). But bearings tightly fit anyway. So I am not sure this is usefull. I would remove that to allow no support printing.

JON-A-TRON (author)jsroques2017-06-05

Well done! It looks like it came out clear regardless of supports. Try this instructable to get those bearings spinning faster:

jsroques (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-05

YOU have done most of it ;-).

Without support, I had to cleanup some "hanging" filament... and with support, I had to cleanup the support... Anyway, nice enough as this part is hidden below the bearing !

I'll try to add a led somehow to better see the drawings and probably print another drum with a dark filament. It may also help.

About the bearings, those are cheap ones I got from another spinner, but they were not the "spinning" ones. They were the "weighting" ones. And the inner ring is quite loose. They had no grease. I'll try to clean them up anyway.

Thanks for the nice design/


JON-A-TRON (author)jsroques2017-06-05

I was thinking the same thing! You could add a coin cell battery in one of the caps with an LED through the hole in the bearing. That way it would light up widen you squeeze it.

jsroques made it! (author)JON-A-TRON2017-07-09


I finally found some time to add a little led powered with a coin cell :-). A small video here : If anyone is interrested, cap 3d model can be found here :

InkwonP made it! (author)2017-06-25

I made it with coffee filament that made in Korea. I watched the animation while shining light.

Thanks for your sharing.

Thanks for

JON-A-TRON (author)InkwonP2017-06-27

Well done! I bet it smells good too.

InkwonP (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-27

Yes, it smells good.

diagirl1000 (author)2017-06-23

WOW!!! That's awesome! I totally want to make that!

AlistairB15 (author)2017-06-20

OK, I've printed it, BUT ... I am puzzled. Why an even number of slots? Would it not be better to look through a slot and see the space between slots, instead of seeing another slot? Just wondering about the reason. Thanks.

JON-A-TRON (author)AlistairB152017-06-21

I did it even because all the Muybridge nation studies have even numbers of frames, mostly 12 frames. Making an odd number would have made for jittery animations.

It doesn't really matter though, when it's spinning you can't tell that the pictures are visible slightly off center. It might make a difference at a larger scale I suppose.

AlistairB15 (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-21

OK, thanks. Super project. Good idea and thanks for the effort you put into teaching it.

JON-A-TRON (author)AlistairB152017-06-21

No worries- please show us what you made!

rgorman4 (author)2017-06-18

This is cool! I kinda want to make one as a fathers day gift for my step dad. Any idea where I could find frames of a dancing female silhouette?

JON-A-TRON (author)rgorman42017-06-18

Giphy is a good place to start:

You can open a GIF in photoshop, then lay out the frames on the PDF I've provided with the blank spaces.

laith mohamed (author)2017-06-13

Creativity >>>>

penguin4hire (author)2017-06-11

Nice work and one of the best if not THE best fidget spinner design out there. I would like to build the exact one in your instructable but the STL files for the drum and wheel do not appear to be rounded like in your instructable. Can you post those STL files also? Eventually I will learn how to modify them but I'd love to print that exact design in different colors. Thanks and great work!

I do see now that you stated having posted STL files "for a simpler one." Well thought I'd ask, thanks again!

JON-A-TRON (author)penguin4hire2017-06-12

Thanks for the compliment! Yeah, I'm keeping the fancy rounded version for sale. If you're interested in doing your own modeling, check out my 3D Printing classes on the Class hub.

BillG131 made it! (author)2017-06-06

I really like your design, but It was too light to spin well so I modified it to add weights. I have also ordered some LEDs to see if I can improve the visibility. Just curious as to why you changed from the original barrel design. I like the way the origonal one looks, I was wondering if the current one is more functional.

JON-A-TRON (author)BillG1312017-06-07

Nice! I was thinking an LED through the center of the bearing would help with the visibility- you could put a coin cell in the cap. I didn't use the weights because it would make the inside darker, but an LED would fix that.

I used a simplified version for shared files because I'm selling the fancy version. I've had people take my designs and sell them elsewhere online before, trying to avoid that problem!

HumbertoB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-09

Hi Jon,

I was thinking also on the subject of weight and I imagined something on the inside walls, embedded in the plastic, behind the image strip. Something along the lines of the rough sketch i attached below.

Also if you make a rectangular slot for each image instead of a perforated strip it would be much easier for people to swap images and make their own animations on regular printers.

Great design BTW.

JON-A-TRON (author)HumbertoB32017-06-10

These are both really good ideas! There's a way to pause prints when they're in progress and add components, might be worth trying here.

theeray (author)BillG1312017-06-07

Awesome! Would you be willing to share your files?

barancanaydin (author)2017-06-07

I need a meke. Perfect things thank you.

Laral (author)2017-06-06

Unique design. Very well written instructions. I suggested this to Spinnermint and the owner published it—DIY - Zoetrope Fidget Spinner.

JON-A-TRON (author)Laral2017-06-06

Nice! Thanks Laral!

DanielS205 (author)2017-06-06

Wow, awesome !

Wynfordeagle (author)2017-06-05

What a brilliant idea. The kids where I am are spinning away and this project is one way to utilise the spin. I regret I find the spinners that are popular rather dull. All they do is just spin. So thanks for renovating an old idea and turning it into something much more interesting. Are you or anyone here able and willing to contribute more film strips?

vbanaszak (author)2017-06-05

I love this! I need one! I need money so I can get one!

JON-A-TRON (author)vbanaszak2017-06-05

Maybe you could make your own with some cheap parts. Darlingtom made one with some scrap plywood, I bet you could make one just like mine with chip board and skateboard bearings: Animated Fidget Spinner

SidA2 (author)2017-06-05

Wow cool idea!

JON-A-TRON (author)SidA22017-06-05


dshilman (author)2017-06-05

How can I contact you to order one?

JON-A-TRON (author)dshilman2017-06-05

You can order one here:

cfs0527 (author)2017-06-04

Now this is creative! I see fidget spinners all of a sudden are quite the fad. If we could find some way to harness all that useless motion...

JON-A-TRON (author)cfs05272017-06-04

Well, we can at least harness it for distraction via a cat video!

SuzanneJ22 (author)2017-06-04

You also took something modern and raised the bar so to speak! Made it even more 'cooler'!~Suzanne

SuzanneJ22 (author)2017-06-04

That is very cool! Good write up! ~Suzanne

JON-A-TRON (author)SuzanneJ222017-06-04

Thanks for saying so!

SuzanneJ22 (author)JON-A-TRON2017-06-04

It's very clever! It also reminds me of the older toys but with a new twist.~Suzanne

JON-A-TRON (author)SuzanneJ222017-06-04

That's kind of my thing, I guess. I love using the latest technology to make things that are reminiscent of old technology. Before we had computers, it was generally obvious how things were made and how they worked. I think there's something comforting about that.

darlingtom (author)2017-06-04

This is awesome. I just could not wrap my head around how to go full zoetrope. Getting ride of the core is actually better than building a core that's wrapped in the artwork--more motion! Genius.

I don't have a 3D printer, but I'm going to try a low-rent version. Very exciting.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an inventor / maker / designer based in the Bay Area. My background is in residential architecture, film set design, animatronics, media arts, exhibit design ... More »
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