Make the Raibow PHiZZ Origami Buckyball!




Introduction: Make the Raibow PHiZZ Origami Buckyball!

I like PHiZZ origami. There's just something satisfying about the geometric shapes you can make those simple little folded squares. The one thing I wasn't happy with are the colors available. That's right... the nearly infinite variety of origami paper just isn't infinite enough for me :-) I decided to print my own paper with a continuous 'color-sphere'.

I used the happy coincidence that we have the same number of color dimensions as we have spatial dimensions, and mapped the coordinates of the XYZ bucky-sphere vertexes into the RGB color space. After much futzing and fooling around and came up with a software program that produces a PDF with the proper gradients to produce the rainbow bucky you see here.

I used the wide-format printer and laser cutter at the TechShop to print and cut the pieces. You can use a 24" printer, or I've also included an 8.5x11" PDF to make at home. I made this at the TechShop.

Materials Required:

  • Plain (i.e. NOT photo!) paper for your printer. The photo paper is too thick. Use the best paper/ink combination for getting vibrant colors on your printer.

Tools Required:

  • An inkjet printer. I tried a color laser, but the 'ink' flakes off when creased. Maybe newer lasers are better in that regard.
  • A laser cutter (e.g. from TechShop), or a rotary paper cutter/trimmer. IMO, the guillotine types are totally worthless for anything but removing fingers. They have a no ability to cut precise lines, especially on a stack of paper. If using a laser cutter, a cutting template is included. If using manual cutter, crop lines are included in the files.

Patience Required:

  • Much

Update: I just made the software available on github, so go ahead and make your own size!

Step 1: Download the Files and Print. Both Sides

Now, it's time to print out your PHiZZ squares.  If you don't know how the PHiZZ widgets work, please take a look on the interwebs or here or here for how to fold and assemble the PHiZZ units.

Even though you nominally only see one side of each square, you'll want to print both sides.  The reason for this is that you can actually see little slivers of back side in the assembled product, and seeing the un-inked, white backside is no fun.  See that attached image for the difference  

So, download either the or

If you're using the buckyball, and a standard 8.5x11 paper, print the file called, "buckyball_8.5x11_front.pdf".  Or if you're using 24" roll paper, then print with buckyball_24x14_front.pdf.

Be sure to set your print settings to NOT SCALE the image.  Or scale it by a specified amount.  You need all pages to have the same scale on the way out.

In either case, once you're done, you need to print the back sides.  I've already taken into account the left-right offset and reversal of the image.  You load the paper back into the printer so that the back of page 1 gets printed first, and then print the XXX_back.pdf image.

I suggest trying this out on your local inkjet to understand how it works before you try it out on a large format printer.

Step 2: Cut the Pieces Apart. Use a Laser or Rotary Paper Cutter

Cut using a laser cutter:
If using a laser cutter, grab your paper and head over to the laser.  Use the xxxx_laser.pdf to print to your Epilog laser.  Check that it's vectorizing -- it should be, the line widths are small enough, on the epilog helix anyway.  The .pdf may be multiple pages, be sure to print only page 1, and also be sure to unset any scaling.  I.e. ensure that scaling is 1:1.  Also, IMPORTANT:  the CUT LINES start at 0,0, rather than at the corner of the page.  Be sure to set the HOME position to the top left portion of the crop marks!  Do a 'laser-off' pass to be sure!

Cut using a manual cutter:
This is not as accurate, and not as much fun, but it works just fine.  I have NEVER had luck using the guillotine cutters, especially with multiple sheets.  They reliably curve the cut at the end of the stroke.  I highly recommend a rotary cutter, but YMMV.  You'll see that there is 0.1" margin around each square, and horizontal and vertical crop marks, arranged in an oddball manner.  

You cut the horizontal ones first, then cut the vertical ones.  If you do it the other way, you crop off the crop marks before you can use them :-)  After your first time doing that, you'll see what I mean.  

Step 3: Start Folding

The folding of the PHiZZ units are described in lots of places. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when folding the PHiZZ units:
  • Start with the word FRONT facing you, and reading forward.  (It's reflected on the back side)
  • The first fold is a  valley fold so the front folds in on itself.  
  • Second and third folds expose the forward reading numbers.  See photos.
  • Then, when you start the diagonal folds always start the same way.  i.e. I start with the paper in an 'M' shape (not a 'W' shape, and I start at the lower right corner.  It doesn't matter that much exactly how you do it, except that you do it exactly the same every time.  You can create right and left handed PHiZZ units, and you always want the same one.

Step 4: Wash, Rince, Repeat

Get some wine or beer, and keep on folding.  If you can recruit your family members, that's even better!

Step 5: Assemble. Follow the Guide.

There is a 'XXX_adjacency_matrix....png' assembly guide in the .zip file you downloaded that will help you assemble the units in the right order.  Be careful that on each vertex that you get them in the right order.  Again, there's a chance to get it wrong.  Check against the assembly guide.

Note that there are 2 assembly guides.  This is so they print nice and flat as you see them.  If you blindly assemble the two independently without regard to ordering, you can actually end up with a right handed and a left handed assembly that are incompatible!  

The assembly guides are in the .zip file you already downloaded.  The ones on this page are an example.  Use the one in the .zip

Step 6: Finished!

By the end, you'll be letting the expletives fly!  The last connection is really tough.  It's greatly eased by clipping off just a little corner of each of the 3 PHiZZ units to assemble the vertex. 

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition

Be the First to Share


    • Remote Control Contest

      Remote Control Contest
    • Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge

      Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge
    • Build a Tool Contest

      Build a Tool Contest



    9 years ago on Introduction

    I folded up the buckyball and it was quite fun to fold, although it was a bit small. One of your images has a larger buckyball, any chance of getting the gradient files for that? or even better would be to see the script used to generate that, would be fun to make some larger ones.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Okay Gorloth, now you have the BIG ONE :-) It's in the downloads now. Also, check out the google code link here for the software:

    Please post a photo of your creations :-)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, that's totally awesome! Where would you get said coordinates for the torus? That's some serious folding :-) I really want to see that.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Great! I'll post up some more stuff. I'm glad to see somebody else who made it :-) I need to get the code out again and run it, but it should all work. Perhaps I'll just post it on google code or something so people can make modifications themselves :-)

    Maybe I can do it later today if I remember when I get home.

    Looks really cool! It would be neat to see the script (even if it's not terribly finished) or your calculations. Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Okay, here you go!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Script is in python and can be modified for other shapes that have 3 edges per vertex. (like other bucky things). The code won't work for other shapes, but some python/origami hacker can certinaly make it work.