How to Slice Up a T-Rex in 123D Make




About: Artist in Residence at Pier 9, currently exploring a vast array of new tools with which to injure myself.

Grrr... Arrrgh! In this tutorial, I'm going to guide you gently through the process of using Autodesk 123D Make to turn a 3D model of a dinosaur into a cardboard model kit. It's extremely simple to do, even if you have no prior experience of using 3D software. You will, however, require either a laser cutter or a heck of a lot of patience for cutting cardboard.

123D Make is free and available to download for Macs at There are also plans in the works to release an online version of the software which will run on PCs as well as Macs, hopefully within the next few months.

You can now buy a pre-cut version of this kit at the Instructables Store! Woohoo!

Step 1: Start Up 123D Make

First things first: open up 123D Make. You should be presented with a clean, almost empty interface.

In the top left, you'll see a tab labeled "Start shape". This is where you choose the object that you'd like to slice. You can either select a shape from the small library of default models, of you can import your own STL or OBJ file. If you've got something other than a T-Rex that you'd prefer to make, then go ahead and do that.

You can download the T-Rex model here and then open it by clicking on Import in 123D Make.

Step 2: Choose a Construction Technique

If all has gone well, you should now see a dinosaur doing an impressive tail-stand in the 123D window.

123D Make lets you choose how you want to construct your model. Your options are Interlocking Slices or Stacked Slices. For this project, select Stacked Slices.

Step 3: Choose Your Material Dimensions

The dinosaur should now appear as a rather low-resolution stack of thick slices. The blue slices indicate areas that would be structurally flimsy or poorly connected to the rest of the model. We're about to change all the slices around a bit, so don't worry about those just now.

Notice that a new tab has appeared on the right, displaying all of the finished pieces.

In the tab labeled "Cut Sheet Layout", set the print size to match the dimensions of whatever piece of cardboard you're using, as well as the appropriate thickness.

Step 4: Set the Object Size

In the tab labeled "Set Physical Object Size", enter the desired dimensions of your dinosaur. If you change one dimension, all of the other will scale accordingly. The thickness of the slices, however, will remain the same. This means that increasing the total size of your dinosaur wil increase its resolution, making it appear much better defined.

Step 5: Re-orient the Slices

At the moment, the slices are all oriented so that there are many small slices rather than few big slices. In the tab labeled "Slice Control", click on View Controls. This will bring up a set of axes that can be clicked and dragged until the slices are aligned along the length of the dinosaur. Move them around until you're happy with the position of the slices.

Step 6: Familiarize Yourself With the Assembly Instructions

You can click on View Instructions in the "Assembly Instructions" tab to bring up a preview of how the model will fit together. Drag the slider at the bottom back and forth to see how all of the pieces assemble.

Step 7: Output an EPS File

Now you're ready to export your slices as 2D vector images. In the "Output" tab, click on Export.

123D Make will automatically add number and alignment markings to all of your slices, so you don't need to worry about figuring out which piece goes where.

Step 8: Cut Out All of Your Slices

I highly recommend using a laser cutter to cut all of your pieces from cardboard, but with enough patience you could also make them using a craft knife. And by "enough patience" I mean "the willingness to invest several hours, perhaps days, of precise finger-aching labor".

If you're using a laser cutter, set it to vector cutting mode and adjust the speed and power so that it cuts all the way through the cardboard on the blue lines but only lightly etches into the cardboard on the red lines (i.e. the labels).

Step 9: Sort Your Pieces

Make a pile of all of your slices, ideally in some sort of rough order. Notice that each slice is marked with a number* as well as several small crosses or partial crosses. These crosses are used to precisely align the layers.

*In some cases, where all the pieces within a slice are not connected, the slices will be labeled with multiple numbers. For example, slice 6 might be divided into slices 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, etc.

Step 10: Align and Glue the Pieces

It's time to start building! The best way to align each slice with the one below it is to poke a pair of pins through the little alignment markings, then line them up with the corresponding markings on the previous slice. Once you've got them aligned, glue the slice in place.

In this manner, gradually build up your dinosaur! It's like an archaeological dig in reverse...

Step 11: Keep Building

Now, just rinse and repeat (only without the rinsing - cardboard doesn't like getting wet). Keep adding layer to your model until you have yourself a dinosaur. You may find that some pieces cannot be added until you've attached subsequent layers, i.e. in places where there are overhangs on the model.

How long this takes will depend on the size of your model and the thickness of your material.

Step 12: ROAR!

Now hum the Jurassic Park theme to yourself and try to find a toy car to chase with your new T-Rex!

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29 Discussions

erik hansen

3 years ago

I still dont understand the numbering system of the layers. for example 113-2 or 119-3 what does the mean. I have roughly 750+ pieces so I would like to understand this before I tackle this project.

2 replies
EricS5erik hansen

Reply 3 years ago

The first number is the layer number. A second number will only appear if there are more than one part available for that layer.

For instance, if you were modeling a saguaro cactus, you'll probably only get 1 number for the parts that comprise the base until the section where one of the arms start bulging out. Beyond that, you'll get two parts -- one for the main trunk and another for the arm. Let's say at that point, you're already at the 100th layer, the part for the trunk will be 100-1, while the arm is 100-2. If your cactus has two arms, then the trunk will be 100-1, while the left arm is 100-2 and the right arm is 100-3.

But it's best if you study the automatically generated assembly instructions first. I use that one as a reference to find out where a particular part is located in the diagrams and where a part would go to, in the case where you get the XXX-YY part id.


Reply 1 year ago

please, i didn't understand something .. ok more than one part in that layer ... but which goes first ,second and third? right to left or up to down or what?
and sorry for returning you 2 years ago..


2 years ago

The cut layout tab has disappeared. How do I get it back?


3 years ago on Introduction

how do you do a vertical slice? i seem to only be able to do a horizontal slice


7 years ago on Step 7

can you make a bigger photo of the pieces or a PDF file or something? I want to do it by hand, cutting all the pieces out one by one, but the picture's quality is to bad to be able to print it out, the numbers are not readable :'(

please, please please :'(
thanks in advance


7 years ago on Introduction


Everytime I try to import my OBJ file into 123D-make, the program crashes. I tried multiple different files. Nothing works.

I work on Mac.

Any idea of what the problem might be? Or anyone nice enough to run my file through their program and sending me the exported puzzle. I am losing patience.


7 years ago on Introduction

Thanx.. but I did not even look further :~(
I am so CUT-UP that I am still stuck with the BillGutless system.
Excuse the pun.

Good news about pc based in pipeline.

I envy you

6 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

If you do a Google search you will find that the Windows version is called 'Create' -
check it out


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Oh how I wish that were fully true.
You can use 123D on a PC, but the 123D MAKE (add-in?) is not available for PC just yet.
123D Guys need to hurry up on that one! :) Please....


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I made a mistake in my post.
The software is 123D CATCH for Windows

123D MAKE is for Mac OS - 123D CATCH is for Windows
its a Public Beta release I think.

That is what I understand from the AUTODESK site, I have downloaded the software but have not installed it yet - a weekend thing and today is Friday here.
Buggered if I know why they just didnt have the same name and OS type change, thats Autodesk.

If I am wrong, I appologise in advance.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

123D Catch allows you to take photos of an object or landscape and turn it into a 3D model. So there is still not a 3D MAKE for PC.

FamilyGuy2006 is right: the PC software and the Mac software are very different. There's sometimes a bit of (understandable) confusion about what piece of 123D software does what, so here's the run-down:

123D is the name given to a small family of different Autodesk programs, all of which are aimed at getting complete beginners involved in 3D modeling.
  • 123D Catch allows you to convert photos into 3D models. You take a whole load of snapshots of a single object, building or person and the software magically makes a 3D model from them. It is currently only available for the PC.
  • 123D Make lets you slice up 3D models into different 2D pieces that you can then cut out and assemble, as shown in this tutorial. It is currently only available for the Mac.
  • 123D Sculpt is a tactile sculpting app for the iPad. It lets you sculpt an object out of virtual clay via a very intuitive and user-friendly interface.
  • Most confusingly of all, there is also a piece of software just called 123D, which is a 3D modeling program currently only available for the PC. 123D is a more traditional design program, rather like AutoCAD, only much simpler and easier to use. It lets you design an object from scratch.
Why all of the different software platforms? As I understand it, that's just a quirk resulting from different teams working on all the different pieces of software at the same time. The end goal is to make all the software available online for any operating system. Within the next few months, you should start seeing much more integration between all of 123D's different branches.

I hope that cleared some things up!

Great news everybody! 123D Make is now an ONLINE APP. It only does slice build ups, no radial or orthogonal gap slice builds. But its at least SOMETHING that I can use on my PC! Though I have been unsuccesful in uploading any STL file I still have hope


7 years ago on Introduction

Cool dino. Do you know that Noah took to his boat 2 dinos but they was boys both? Ahahaha =))


7 years ago on Introduction

For all the work and technology needed, making this out of cardboard doesn't make sense to me. If the laser cutter can do thin plywood, or balsa wood, it would be much better, as you'd get a more permanent sculpture.

Otherwise, once you can print paper sheets with all the slices, glue it to plywood (so that it is removable afterward) or trace it into the wood, and cut them with a hand coping saw with fine teeth.

I think this would be more in the Instructables "spirit" as well

best regards,


7 years ago on Step 8

Awesome instructable... but.. a laser cutter? how many people you think has a laser cutter at home or at work?! I will invest a lot of hours, or at least... will search for an instructable for lasercutters :D
Thanks for the perfect guide!