Introduction: 3D Printed Zoetrope

A zoetrope is an animation device that predates the use of film. It creates the illusion of motion by placing a series of images or objects in a circle and looking at the objects through slits as the device spins. For this project, we 3D printed ice cream cones that fall over, melt, and then return to its original form. For fun, we added an ant stealing a sprinkle!

Things you'll need:

  • A 12" wooden disk
  • Paper drum with slits
  • Access to a 3D printer
  • Tinkercad (to design your objects)
  • Ultimaker Cura (to prepare your objects to be printed)
  • Acrylic paint, paint brushes, super glue, and hot glue
  • Record player (or some other way to spin the zoetrope)

Step 1: Brainstorm What You Want to Animate!

First, you have to decide what you want to bring to life! Since you are 3D printing your objects, you have to think about the design process: will this be feasible to create in Tinkercad? will this be able to 3D print? will I be able to come up with enough variation to create an illusion of movement?

Step 2: Design Your Objects

Using Tinkercad, start to design your objects. For a 12" disc, you will need twelve different objects that will become a looping sequence with a beginning, middle, and end that somehow can return to the object from the beginning. This is so there is a continuous and sensical flow to your animation.

In this photo, I was simply using a sphere shape that can be found on the sidebar to print our four upright ice cream cones (before they fall over). We found it would be easier for the printing process to print all twelve of the actual cones separate from the ice cream. We found our cones on Thingiverse since we couldn't achieve the waffle detail we desired from our own design in Tinkercad.

To create melting ice cream, we used the scribble setting on the sidebar and drew a puddle, filled it in, then adjusted the height to make it flatter. Then we used the paraboloid shape on the sidebar and placed it on top of the puddle we created and as the ice cream "melted" we lowered the height of the paraboloid and stretched the size of the scribble.

Once you have designed your object in Tinkercard, you'll need to click Export and export the file as an .stl to download to Ultimaker Cura when you're ready to print.

Step 3: 3D Print Your Objects!

Once your files are downloaded into Cura, you can scale them to the size you need. Remember, all 12 objects have to fit on the 12" disc! You'll have a 30-degree angle per object, which ends up being around 1.75 inches. You'll want to move your objects you intend to print to the center of the printer and then go through the proper settings for printing. At the BEAM Space at UNC, the staff is ready to assist you and can tell you the correct print settings so that it will successfully print. Be sure to generate support if your object needs it! After your settings are chosen, you will click Prepare in the bottom right corner, which will let you know how long the print will take as well as the material in grams that will be used. Then you can save your file to a removable drive and go print your object(s)!

Step 4: Put It All Together!

Once you've printed all of your objects, it's time to paint them as well as design the disc to fit the theme.

Using acrylic paint, we painted all the cones a peachy color, the ice cream a light pink (we call this flavor raspberry sorbet), and our ants black. We bought real sprinkles and glued the blue ones on the ice cream and ants' backs. We then glued the cones to the ice cream. For the upright ice cream cones, we used hot glue around the edges of the cone that we painted pink to imitate the way ice cream hangs over the sides of cones in real life.

We used modeling clay to look like grass and dirt for the ants to run around in!

Then, we glued the objects to the clay. The upright cones were difficult to figure out how to keep up in a way that would sustain the spinning motion. We ended up creating support for them by using a 3D printing pen to hold the tips of the cone, which is hidden and glued under the modeling clay.

Step 5: Make It Come to Life!

Once your zoetrope is complete, you'll need to attach the paper drum around the sides of it, making sure to line up each slit with an object. Then, you will put it on the record player and watch your objects look like they're moving!