3D Printed Flip Book Machine

I was half watching Storage Wars when Barry Weiss found a Mutoscope. A Mutoscope is basically a mechanical flipbook machine. It made me think, I could make something like that. After some time looking through Thingiverse, I was unable to find anything even remotely close.

This then took me on a two-week process of designing and building my Flip Book machine.

The first step was deciding the number of frames. I decided on 32, for no reason other than it seemed like a good number. This determined the size of the wheels based on the number of holes and the size of the holes, which were based on kitchen skewers.

Version 1

I printed the two side wheels and made a cardboard frame for testing.
It looked good, then it came to the first turn. Instantly it was obvious something was wrong. dsc00783The skewers were twisting and would only start turning the other wheel once they were touching in the middle. I am doing a terrible job describing this, let’s just say it was a failure. It needed a middle shaft to ensure they turned at the same speed.

Version 2

New wheels, with a centre shaft. This centre shaft was printed in two parts and had a joining sleeve. This was because it was too big for the print bed. Unfortunately, the joining sleeve didn’t fit properly.

Version 3

I gave up on the joining sleeve, it was obvious it was going to be too big anyway and made the whole thing slightly smaller. This worked, but the skewers still were not ideal.

Version 4

dsc00784This time the skewers were replaced with printed frame holders.
At this point there was another issue, the frames were too close together.
As I slowly turned the wheel, the frames would get jammed on each other preventing them from flipping over fully.

Version 5

dsc00785A total redesign. I dropped it to 24 frames while keeping the wheel at the same size. This allowed for more space between the frames. I also reduced the overall size, basing it on the size of a photo. By using a 2×4″ photo as the base size, it would allow me to print the frames for higher quality if needed.
This version replaced the printed frames with printed spokes. It was basically back to skewers, but the idea of all printed parts was appealing.
The paper was cut out to 2×4″ size, folded and glued. There was apprehension as the handle turned, but it worked!

Version 6

This version replaced the temporary cardboard with a printed frame. The height was perfect. But the top and bottom did not fit properly.
A new version was printed, slightly larger which fitted perfectly.
On turning the wheels another problem occurred, the spokes would jam on the frame as they moved side to side.

Version 7

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-4-51-16-pmTo fix the issue, the wheels needed an enclosed end, rather than a hole all the way through.

The issue is printing this. If it is printed up one way, it needs supports under most of the wheel, if it is printed up the other way, I would need supports in every spoke hole.
During the design process, it suddenly hit me, a washer! I quickly whipped up a 3D printed washer, popped it in, perfect!

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-4-43-43-pm screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-4-46-22-pm screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-4-46-53-pm

That was the hardware done, now for the images.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-4-57-50-pmThe guy from Clockwork Orange repeatedly being hit in the nuts seemed appropriate and one result on Google Image Search ended up having 23 frames. For the 24th frame, I just repeated the 23rd frame.

It was then a process of

  • Resize the Gif to match the frame
  • Copy each frame out to an A4 size document, rotating to fit on as many as possible. I was able to do 5 at a time.
  • Print
  • Number each image on the printout. This will make it easier when you come to loading the frames.
  • Cut out the image. Having a white frame makes it easy. You can be very rough with the cutting.
  • Glue on the image using a glue stick.


  • You could have two different animations, one at the top and one at the bottom. This allows you to use the front and back of each frame.
  • If a bigger image is preferred, you could use the top and back for each frame. This would cause a gap in the middle of the image, though.


I want to create a box with a viewing glass and a light. This should make viewing a lot easier, along with a nicer looking finished product.


Thingiverse – http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1859005


One comment

Leave a Reply