Mechanical Iris Will Make You Want a Laser Cutter Even More


Mechanical irises are very intricately designed mechanisms that are mesmerizing to see in action — and if you have a laser cutter, you could make one in less than 10 minutes.

Our “Teacher of Science”, Instructables’ user [NTT] has revised a previous Instructables design on a mechanical iris to improve it. The original design used three layers of components and dowel pins for every joint. What [NTT] has done is reduced this to two layers, and eliminated half of the pins required by designing clever circular cutouts. The result is a very slick mechanical iris that is very easy and quick to build — provided you have the tools.

Stick around to see the original iris open and close — unfortunately there’s no video of the new design — but we think you can imagine the differences.

Or alternatively you could 3D print a version of it!

No laser cutter, or 3D printer? We feel your pain. Luckily there is also a cardboard version of it you can make without any fancy tools!


  1. Nick says:

    I want a giant one as a door. One day I shall make one

    reminds me of this papercraft from 2011

  2. cyk says:

    Imagine this one made out of shiny brass. You’ll be the king of the next steampunk festival.

  3. Eirinn says:

    I need this. Well…I don’t NEED it…want I want it badly :P Time to fire up that printrbot again.

  4. Trui says:

    Isn’t the goal to keep the opening more or less circular during any stage of the opening ?

  5. Sean says:

    I saw this thing today at the Seattle Mini Maker Faire! It was essentially the sales pitch for hourly laser cutter use at a makerspace.

  6. j says:

    I don’t like this model, as it can only open or close.I like the one where the leafs overlap a lot more as they allow you to keep a round hole but with different sizes.

  7. Wallace Owen says:

    This is not an iris. This is a shutter.

    An iris forms an apporximation of a circle of desired diameter. F-stop is the ratio of the diameter to the focal length of the lens.

    This is what would be called a ‘leaf’ shutter, as opposed to a focal plane shutter.
    Leaf shutters are used in lenses for cameras that don’t have focal plane shutters.

  8. fm` says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to build a 3d iris on the surface of a sphere.

  9. preamp says:

    So how’s the bokeh of a leaf shutter look?

  10. Guys… Do you realize what this is REALLY for?

    Complete control over the HVAC registers in my home. No more whistling, no more loss into unused rooms, and completely easy to automate!@#!!!

  11. daewootech says:

    I did one of these a while back when gizmofo reposted it and i laser cut it (its def not 10 minutes BTW unless you have an expensive one) and i posted a video of it

    The one i got was based off a flawed design that doesn’t fully close and it always bugged me and i wanted to go back and recut it. maybe i should do that….

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