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

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.

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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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Animations, such as the jumping frogs and fish-eating fish, can be downloaded and printed for free. If users get tired of the two animations, they can design their own and play them on the 4-Mation.

The project is set to go live on Kickstarter sometime in December—so we’ll be sure to keep you posted when it’s up!


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.