Introduction: Ice Cream and Ant Zoetrope

A zoetrope is a physical animation that was used years before film was invented. By placing objects or pictures on the inside of a drum with slits that allow the viewer to see one frame at a time as the entire disc rotates, a scene or object seemingly comes to life.

For our zoetrope we created an environment where an ice-cream cone tips over, spills out onto the ground and continues to melt as an ant wanders up and steals a sprinkle. Then the animation loops back to the beginning, the ice-cream cone unmelts, and the cone is back upright!

For this project you need:

  • Access to:
    • 3-D printer and 3-D printer pen
    • Wifi and computer
  • Record Player
  • Tinkercad (FREE online)
  • 12" disc (wooden or plastic) with a record player hole in the middle
  • Acrylic Paint and Brushes
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Gorilla Glue
  • 12" disc (wooden or plastic) with a hole in the middle
  • Sculpted (brown and green)
  • Scissors
  • Thin posterboard (for the drum)
  • Direct Light Source

Step 1: Imagine and Sketch!

Think about what shapes and objects interest you! What would you like to see animate for 12 frames? Does it tell a story or is it an interesting abstract animation? Sketch out your ideas! Remember that your objects will be 3-D and can be seen from all sides.

Step 2: Design Your First Object Iteration on Tinkercad

Take your 2-D sketches to a 3-D object with the FREE website Tinkercad. With the first try you may only want to print one object so that you can save time and make edits once you see what you want to improve or add on.

Once you choose a basic shape and place it on the grid, you can create both "Solid" objects and "Hole" spaces as done with the cone.

Step 3: Download and Print First Iterations

You will need different software depending on the 3-D printer you use but in our case we downloaded Ultimaker Cura and then set the objects on the grid to print.

Different printers require different settings but make sure to double check yours! If you are at the BEAM space at UNC you can ask the staff to double check behind you. If you have an object that may not be able to hold itself up due to size or angles you can generate support that you can break away later. Make sure that your 3-D printer has enough material to complete the print before you begin.

Once you check your settings you can save it to a USB drive and then plug the drive into the front of the 3-D printer and begin your print. You can leave your print and come back and get it but make sure to stay for 15 minutes after the print has begun so that you can see it off to a great start!

Step 4: Create Final Iteration on Tinkercad

Once you examine your first iteration and determine what you want to fix and add go back to Tinkercad and expand your design!

Originally the ice-cream that we created did not have a pleasing melted effect. To better it we used the scribble tool and created our own outline. Once our own outline was created we filled it in and added a paraboloid on top to resemble the unmelted ice cream.

The zoetrope that we created was a twelve step (or frame) animation so we needed 12 different ice cream steps. To create the effect of melting we copied the original melted part of the ice cream multiple times and stretched its length and width while shortening its height. As the diameter of the ice-cream spread we shortened the height of the paraboloid (melted ice-cream) so that the mass of the object would visually remain the same. After we altered the two parts of the ice-cream separately we added the paraboloid on top of the melted circumference and used the "group" tool on Tinkercad to make the two parts one. We attempted to create the cone on Tinkercad but we were not getting the dimension and detail that we wanted so we used the website Thingiverse to find and download a more detailed cone as well as the ants.

Step 5: Download Tinkercad Files and Print

Once you download your objects off of Tinkercad, put them onto your 3-D printer's personal software.

We used the Ultimaker Cura 3-D printers. Once your objects are on the grid, make sure that they are the size that you want them to be and that they are flush to the grid. Remember that you have to fit 12 versions of your subject on the platform so be mindful of size. We had to cut down the size of our objects significantly from the first iteration.

3-D Printer Recommendations:

1. The longer the printer runs the more chance it has to misprint and get off track. To avoid this issue we printed the ice cream separate from the cones and also from the ants.

2. The further the printer gets to the edge of the plate the more likely it is to malfunction. Try to keep your designs centered in the middle of the plate.

3. Make sure that your printer has enough material before you start your print.

Step 6: Prepare and Paint Your Objects

After taking your objects off the printer (make sure the plate has cooled down!) break off the supports as shown on the white ants in the first picture.

Once all of the supports are off; think about your color palette. You want to use colors that contrast well and will show up when being animated.

We chose to paint the ice cream pink and the ants black so that there would be a good contrast between the two. We then added blue sprinkles to the ants' backs and the ice-cream. On the upright cones we added hot glue-gun rims around the ice-cream to create a realistic initial melting step.

Step 7: Prepare the 12" Disc

First we used paint to create a grass effect on its surface. Next we used "sculpey" to make a raised area (hill) on the perimeter of the the disc.

We added this raised surface to give the ants more dimension. While the ice-cream was moving laterally and vertically the ants were only moving laterally. With the addition of the hill they reached different heights during the animation, making them more noticeable.

Step 8: Assemble!

Next we added all of the pieces to the disc.

First, make sure to do the math! We had twelve frames and so we divided 360 degrees by 12 to find that each frame had about 30 degrees of the disc to work with each. After measuring the degrees, we marked the sides of the disc so that we knew where to position each object.

Next we used super glue to attach the ants and ice-cream cones to the disc. In order to attach the right side-up ice cream cone to the disk we used a 3-D pen to create supports that we then glued on underneath the hill.

Once we made sure that everything was secure we then added the drum around the edges. When making the drum make sure that there is one slit per animation (12 in our case) and then create a uniform triangle-jagged edge. Make sure that the length of the paper is about a half inch longer than the perimeter of the disc so that you can attach the two opposite ends easily and then fold the triangles underneath the edge of the drum as support.

Step 9: See Your Zoetrope in Action!

Place your disc onto a record player and see your animation come to life! For better results use a direct light source and turn off overhead lights. You can alter the speed of the rotation to your zoetrope's best fit!

Sit back and enjoy your hard work!