Introduction: 3D Zoetrope

Zoetropes are devices that were popularized beginning in the mid 1800's as a way to create a "moving image" using an illustration on a piece of paper and a method for rotating the paper. Vertical slits in the paper create a frame for the image on the inside of the drum opposite the hole. They are still enjoyable today, even with the invention of digital animation.The 3D zoetrope is a combination of the old-time rotation mechanism of a zoetrope with modern technological tools, like the 3D printer.

Step 1: Materials

Everything we used:

  1. Paper & pencil
  2. A computer with access to Tinkercad
  3. 3D printer
    • 3D printed shapes
  4. Acrylic paint & brushes
  5. A circular platform: we lasercut a wooden platform but a vinyl record works as well
  6. A paper drum with vertical slits that fits around the circular platform
  7. A record player, or other such rotating device

Step 2: Sketch

First, do some sketches. Even if you're not a good sketcher or don't know exactly what your plan is, sketching will help figure out what you want the outcome to look like and can help settle some logistical issues before they arise. For example, figure out how much space you have, how many objects you plan to use, and the size each individual object will need to be to fit all together. Since our diameter was 12", that meant we had 2.81" for the diameter of each piece.

Step 3: Design in Tinkercad

We used an online design program called Tinkercad to transition our 2D sketches into 3D shapes. It's free and easy to maneuver even with no prior 3D design experience. Simple geometric shapes can be combined or there are preloaded forms. We combined shapes on Tinkercad to create the cake pieces, and then also ended up gluing them to the plates.

Step 4: 3D Print

When the shapes were ready to be printed, we exported the file as a .STL file. Once downloaded, we opened it in Cura, which is an interface used to designate the settings on the printer for our shapes. A variety of settings can be changed including the speed of printer, definition of details, and addition of support for parts that hang in space.

Step 5: Paint and Mount

The pieces needed support to be broken off and smoothed down a little before painting. Because our shapes were printed with colored filament, we used a white paint base layer first. We used colors with brightness and contrast, like the red raspberries on the white icing, that would give definition as the objects rotated.

We laser cut a wooden platform that was the shape of a 12" vinyl to glue the objects onto. This shape allowed us to use a turntable as our rotating device. We painted this platform in black and white with the intention that the high contrast would help to decrease blur.

Step 6: Rotation

A 'drum' was added around the sides of the wooden platform with slits in the sides to create the effect of a shutter. This shutter mechanism allowed- more or less- individual images to be registered by the eye instead of constant motion, which would come across as a blur and wouldn't create an effective "moving image". We adjusted the speed and pitch of the record player to get the best effect and ended up at about 60 RPM.