3D Printed Zoetrope Sculpture Squashes 4 Dimensions Into 3

This fascinating project manages to be both something new and something old done in a new way. Artist [Akinori Goto] has used 3D printing to create a sort of frameless zoetrope. It consists of a short animation of a human figure, but the 3D movements of that figure through time are “smeared” across a circular zone – instead of the movements of the figure being captured as individual figures or frames, they are combined into a single object, in a way squashing 4 dimensions into 3.

zoetrope-1“Slices” of that object, when illuminated by a thin shaft of light, reveal the figure’s pose at a particular moment in time. When the object is spun while illuminated in this way, the figure appears to be animated in a manner very similar to a zoetrope.

There are two versions from [Akinori Goto] that we were able to find. The one shown above is a human figure walking, but there is a more recent and more ambitious version showing a dancer in motion, embedded below.

Since a thin ray of light is used to illuminate a single slice of the sculpture at a time, it’s also possible to use multiple points of illumination – or even move them – for different visual effects. Check out the videos below to see these in action.


We have seen 3D printing used for a new take on zoetropes before, and even unusual laser-engraved zoetrope, but nothing quite like this before.

Thanks to both [Itay] and [aleksin] for sending this in!

46 thoughts on “3D Printed Zoetrope Sculpture Squashes 4 Dimensions Into 3

      1. Well, you are representing a 3d figure doing a series of poses. The 3D figures’ poses are represented by 2D silhouettes, and the Depth is used to connect the poses together in a single unified outline. In that way, it uses a 3D sculpture to represent a 3D figure moving through time (trading depth of the figure itself for time). Risking a time paradox in the process if something goes where it shouldn’t, of course.

  1. Kind of reminds me of that star trek episode where Data is deposited across several dimensions at once and he has to close this wormhole thing by dropping antimatter or something into it… and only the correct Data could do it at the right time. Really cool project.

    1. A quantum calculation… :D
      Perpetually lucky, you always choose to follow the universe with the correct answer because you didn’t survive the rest. All the iterations of the universes happen simultaneously on top of each other at different phases. Light spirals because photons are effected by their own past self. The faster you go the larger the phase difference. At the speed of light you are 180 degrees out of phase and nolonger influence your self.
      The whole universe is a 3D analogue version of Conway’s game of life that’s built from tessellation of regular polyhedra and cymatics.

  2. Want want want want want…. But I suppose this might be a bit ambitious for a third print (after the rocktopus and Yoda) on the shiny new machine I got yesterday. Anyone want to collaborate on figuring out how to do this?

    1. Its a cool feature.. It would be interesting to figure out how to do.
      I use solidworks daily for my job. I can see easly how to do it in a straight line with a Loft. maybe after that you can “Warp/Flex” it into a circle.

      1. Rhonoceros 3D will let you sweep shapes along a rail, including circles. You just need a bunch of shapes and it’ll basically do a loft around your circle parh.

    2. Openscad;
      For (i:0:360) {

      Won’t quite work, but will get you on track

      1. First try the Inkscape interpolate feature and some python code to export each member of the final set (each path) to a separate file. Then you are set to import and place etc. in Openscad.

      1. Nice catch! I completely missed that detail about the lead shot when I watched it. In thier defense though, you can buy steel shot. It’s not very common though.

        It seems Indiana Jones is going the way of the Star Wars prequels. Yuck!

  3. This is a perfect example of why I think that the Japanese’s visual culture is one of the most sophisticated in the world. They have always been like that, way ahead of the pack.


    1. If only they hadn’t reduced animation to 3 fps with static drawings where there is only a small element moving.
      Now even Disney stuff is like that.
      Sophisticated you say? I’m frequently not so sure about that.

        1. I don’t really remember nicks, so all are the same, the only ones I sometimes recognize are some of the HaD staff.
          Plus a comment is meant for all to view and ignore/dismiss/agree with. And to ponder on.

          Also I complain about the japanese way of animating, but I do think they have some great graphical artist and cartoonists who I am duly impressed with, and in that sense you have a point, I just highlight that it’s not all 100% perfect because it crosses with a pet peeve of mine.

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