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Zoetropes Get “4D” with the Incredible 3D Printed 4-Mation Platform

A 3D printed zoetrope

A 3D printed zoetrope

4-Mation Is A Series of 3D Modular Zoetropes With Swappable Animation.

Before the introduction of film and movies, pre-animation devices like zoetropes presented a glimpse into the future of moving images. Using a series of paintings or drawings in different phases of animation, a person could paint the illusion of an object (or objects) in movement.

The 4-Mation is a modern take on the pre-film animation device, and uses 3D printing to make its animations come to life. Whereas classic zoetropes are in 2D and often lack brilliant colors, 4-Mation allows fully-colored 3D renders to appear as if a cartoon movie came to life.


The machine comes in three models: one consisting solely of electronic, another which comes with a laser-cut plywood frame, and the final one which uses a machined walnut frame (as seen in the videos). Each model is powered by 24 3-Watt RGB LED strobes and timed by a microcontroller connected to an encoder motor. The zoetrope’s rotation speed, brightness, and color are controlled via a phone app for Android and iOS.

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