Introduction: 3-Dimensional Zoetrope

Throughout the 2018 Spring semester, I was enrolled in the course, Movie Machine Making Class, at UNC. During such, I received an opportunity to create various photographic and cinematic products as part of projects involving individual effort. For this instructable, I am showing you the requisite steps to re-create one of my favorite projects - the 3-Dimensional Zoetrope. A zoetrope is a classic optical toy consisting of a see-through (through holes) cylinder with a series of images or objects within. It is quite fun to make and play with, as you can project any series of motions within the design based on your imagination. The 3-dimensional zoetrope definitely adds a modern twist to this classic optical toy!

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • Plywood (¼ inch piece for this project), or simply phonograph/vinyl record, to serve as the the necessary rotating platform
  • PLA filament (about 15 meters for this project), to print out 3D objects
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Super glue
  • Construction paper or poster paper, in black, to serve as the spinning drum


  • Record player, or other rotating devices/alternatives
  • Tinkercad, or other 3D online design tools/softwares
  • 3D printer (Ultimaker 3 is used for this project)
  • Laser cutter

Rotating plywood platform design and spinning drum design can be downloaded here for free!

Step 2: Sketching Your Models

Make some sketches before you start working on your designs within Tinkercad. While you are making sketches, be aware of the size of the plate and how many models to show in a single sequence. Be aware that the diameter of our rotating plate is 12”, so we can only make no more than 12 models on a plate (approximately 3” for each model) order to effectively project our animation.

Step 3: Transform Into a 3D Model

Once you finish the sketches, transform your design into 3D models by using online design software programs, such as Adobe. In this particular case, we made use of Tinkercad, which offers various shapes and modifications for designers to create their envisioned models. Once the 2D sketches are transformed into 3D models, save and export your work as STL file.

Step 4: Printout Your Product

Open the exported STL file in Cura, one of the most popular 3D printer slicing applications available. Each slicing program varies in its settings, but here are the essential settings used for our project.

Material: CPE

Profile: Fast

Layer Height: 2mm

Infill: 20%

Printing Temperature: 245 degrees

Build Plate Temperature: 85 degrees

Leave other settings at default.

Step 5: Paint and Place Your Models

Choosing your paint colors is crucial to the piece, as contrasting colors give a boost to the visual effectiveness of the animation represented. This is why we chose bright, sharp colors, such as like cream white and cherry red for the cake and space black for the rotating plate to create a color contrast. In this, the visual effect is suitably enhanced. By applying radiant colors on each of our models, the audience can readily register the change in different parts of the cake.

Also, don’t forget to mount your models on the rotating plate with super glue, or else they will soon be flying everywhere while the model is in action!

Step 6: Action!

Place your models and plate on a record player or similar alternatives, and have each wrapped around a pre-made spinning drum. Having slits on the construction paper (as shown in the file) is crucial, so as to create the effect of a shutter; and the human eye will be able to perceive animation easier by avoiding blurry moving images. Most importantly, the record speed should be limited to 78RPM, to favor the most effective presentation of the model.