Amazing 3D-printed zoetrope reveals an animated picture when illuminated

One of the endlessly fascinating aspects of 3D printing is just how adaptable it is. Some people use it to 3D print entire buildings, others to manufacture tools in outer space, and still others to produce “bio-ink,” a critical early step toward what will one day be fully 3D-printed biological organs.

Japanese media artist Akinori Goto has a slightly different idea. At the recent Spiral Independent Creators Festival in Tokyo, he showcased a 3D-printed artwork, which uses a spinning drum and a series of still images to produce a ghostly animated figure. Think of it a bit like the holographic Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope and you won’t be far off the mark.

To make the dreamlike attraction — which Goto calls a “toki” — a reality, the Japanese artist created a 2D time axis following a figure through an animated sequence. This sequence was then divided into a series of still images, and arranged three dimensionally in a ring — so that spinning the 3D-printed drum, while shining a light on it, produces a hypnotic animated effect.

As modern as this execution is, however, the idea behind the concept — often called a zoetrope — actually pre-dates modern cinema. “The initial idea of a zoetrope is pretty old,” 3D-printing digital artist and animator Dieter Pilger, who has also co-created 3D-printed zoetropes such as the collaborative project Flux, tells Digital Trends. “The name more or less translates to ‘wheel of life’ in Greek, which I think describes the idea in a wonderful way.”

Goto’s creation recently claimed the Runner-up Grand Prix, as well as the popular-appeal Audience Award, at the Spiral Independent Creators Festival. Any single component of this project would have been worthy of sharing with Digital Trends readers, based on just how ornate it is.

When they’re all combined, though, the effect is so much greater than the sum of its parts, as you can see.