PRODUCTION HAS BEGUN! see "making the electronics" video below
4-Mation is a 3D Zoetrope available in a full range, from DIY kits, to our finished, hand-painted "Exhibit" model. Buy a kit and show your kids they can make magic, or put "The Exhibit" on display and stun visitors with interactive wizardry. You can even complete one of our kits and sell it!
Our animation designs are free to download and 3D-print, or perhaps you will create your own animations?
4-Mation is the ultimate, interactive, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) display piece.
** Please read the detailed reward tier descriptions under the Design section. Kits in the "Walnut Kit" tier and lower are for backers who will 3D-print the animations themselves.
Everybody loves 4-Mation.
We took it to a local school, they loved it. We took it to New York MakerFaire, Denver MakerFaire, and UK MakerFaire. They loved it, and gave us a bunch of blue ribbons. We took it to Building Bloqs makerspace (buildingbloqs.com) and the professional makers there loved it too!
Making the Electronics
We're not making 100's of 4-Mations so there's no point outsourcing production. We're making them on site in Suffolk. Here's a video overview of how we make the electronics.
In the Press
If you would like to write about 4-Mation too our press kit is here: https://bit.ly/2PwQbsk
We're also on Make's youtube channel, who interviewed us at Denver MakerFaire last year. In this video Kevin attempts to explain what a 3D Zoetrope is and how it works. There's also another video near the bottom of the page we made just to explain how 3D Zoetropes work.
What is this "Animation Multiplexing" you speak of?
In this video we try to explain how we fit 72 frames of animation story into a 20 frame loop. We've been working on this explanation for a long time, we know we could still do better, but hopefully it makes sense to some of you! or perhaps you just enjoy this little paradox :)
The Interactive 3D Zoetrope: app control
You can control the animation speed, brightness and colour from the 4-Mation app. It's on the Android play store now - it's still in beta, but is fully functional. iOS version is coming in 2019.
Note the app is purely a wifi remote control for the machine control board. There is no cloud service and no data being gathered here!
Of course a phone or tablet is not necessary, since there's also a context sensitive smart touch button. Short touches start and stop the machine. A long touch while it's already running will engage "disco mode" where the RGB LEDs randomly cycle colour. A second long touch will reset back to white. A long touch while the machine is stopped will engage slow start up mode; the carousel RPM gradually increases until the touch ends.
For public display, you might like to put 4-Mation behind glass and mount a tablet in front running the 4-Mation app for visitors to interact with.
For those installing 4-Mation as an exhibit, the Exhibit reward tier offers an optional PIR motion sensor (Passive InfraRed - as used by motion sensing security lights) instead of the smart touch button. This will automatically start and stop the animation depending on visitor presence. The sensor comes with a 2m cable allowing for flexible installation.
Also the app has an "exhibit" mode where any changes to speed, colour, brightness will be set back to standard after a configurable time period. Visitors can interact with the animation as they please, then shortly after, the settings will be reverted for the next set of viewers.
Multiple machines can be controlled from the app; each 4-Mation has its own name and you can select which machine you're operating from the "connected-to" drop-down.
4-Mation has been design iterated for over a year to arrive at this beautiful and simple marriage of form and function. Machined walnut is bolted together with stainless steel and brass.
Alternatively there's a more affordable laser cut plywood (laser-ply) version with a design accentuating curves.
In the gif below we flip 4-Mation on its side and expose the operational guts of the machine - which you can't normally see - and yet as it shows, everything is accessible. The design is simplicity itself, and totally modular. Every part up to and including each custom cable is easily replaced, although the motor is the only moving part that might need maintenance.
In this GIF we reprogrammed the LEDs to do a super slow flash for the camera, Red, Green, then Blue, just because it looks cool.
Note this frame is in oak, not walnut as above.
We performed multiple endurance-torture tests running the motor and strobes 24/7 for over 6 weeks. That's more than 1000 hours continuous operation per machine without issue. We only expect customers using machines in a public display setting to be concerned with maintenance; as the one moving part, the motor, will eventually need replacing after some thousands of hours, but it's common and affordable. After the 12 month warranty, you'll be able to get it from us, or source it locally.
This is where a PIR motion sensor can be useful for 4-Mations employed as exhibits, which might operate more than 2000 hours in one year. If the machine automatically shuts off when no-one is around, it will significantly extend the life of the motor.
Flat pack kit All rewards come flat packed, except the Exhibit model which ships an assembled machine, and a finished animation carousel separately. This is because an assembled animation needs special protection for shipping.
Frame assembly is easy. Here Ana puts one together in under 10 minutes in a single take, on her first attempt, after being shown how it goes together just once. Maybe Ana is a closet Ikea nerd, but it also reflects the simplicity of the design.
We will be producing a complete set of detailed assembly instruction videos.
Uber DIY: £10 Your choice of carousel cover from our 3 animations. You are a maker extraordinaire (or perhaps you just want a curious wall poster :) and will be designing and building your own strobe machine, but you're not an artist/animator, so you download one of our animations. You'll still need our physical carousel cover sheet though, since we are not making the 2D character position layout designs public.
Note the markings in the zoom section - these are precise markings for where to glue down the animation characters, in this case the clear support stalks for the fish.
Carousel covers are 32.5cm in diameter and ship in a poster roll.
Super DIY: Early Bird £115, Standard £155 Everything you need to make a 4-Mation 3D Zoetrope, except the frame and an animation. Download the CAD files to laser cut your own frame and carousel at your local makerspace. Also download the files to 3D print your own animation and carousel hub.
Inventory: Control and power-regulation board, smart touch button, 4 LED panels with 6 x 9Watt RGB LEDs per panel (3W/channel from true 45mil chips) and the LED hub panel. 7 custom cables to connect everything. A 24V universal power supply with a UK, EU or US plug (other types will need a plug adaptor). Quiet 12V 100 RPM worm gear motor with 2860 count encoder. Silicone mount for motor, metal bracket, and metal hub with carousel mounting screws. Hex key to lock metal hub. Silicone interface to mount carousel hub to metal motor hub, carousel hub screws and nuts, 3 brass thumb nuts in case you need to secure the carousel, and of course your choice of colour-printed carousel cover to match whichever animation you choose to download for printing.
Laser Ply Kit: Early Bird £175, Standard £220 Everything from the Super DIY Kit, integrated into pre-assembled laser cut plywood (laser-ply) cross-pieces with laser-ply struts and strut locks to make the frame, and a laser-ply carousel kit which includes a cast polyurethane carousel hub. All flat packed.
Inventory: Super DIY kit, pre-assembled laser-ply cross-pieces, 8 laser-ply frame struts, 4 laser-ply frame strut lock pieces, 8 laser-ply carousel segments, cast polyurethane carousel hub.
Walnut Kit: Early Bird £295, Standard £345 Similar to the laser-ply kit, but the plywood frame is replaced with stainless steel, brass and beautiful dark-grained walnut finished in rich hardwax oil, all packaged in a premium, branded box worthy of an unboxing video!
Inventory: Super DIY kit, pre-assembled walnut cross-pieces, 10mm stainless steel LED wiring conduit, 6 x 6mm stainless steel frame struts, 6 galvanised steel tie bars, and 16 brass thumb nuts, 8 laser-ply carousel segments, cast polyurethane carousel hub.
Walnut Kit with frogs resin kit, or LEGO-compatible carousel: Early Bird £385, Standard £445 Walnut kit plus an un-assembled coloured resin frogs animation kit. The frogs are already green, you will just need to paint the eyes, and glue them to the marked positions on the carousel cover (not pictured).
Note this animation resin kit does not include 3D lilies and lily pads, they will be part of a new animated 2D carousel cover design. Like the sea-floor animation on the fish carousel.
Alternatively you can choose the LEGO-compatible carousel and let your imagination run wild with LEGO or other compatible bricks. The LEGO-compatible carousel has 16 frames instead of 20, this is to allow room in each frame for mini-figure sized characters to interact.
The early bird reward for this tier will not ship before Christmas, our prototype moulds are working perfectly, but now we need to scale them out to production.
Inventory: Walnut Kit, and either 8 interlocking LEGO-compatible carousel segments in cast polyurethane to make a LEGO-compatible carousel, OR 39 coloured green, but unpainted, cast polyurethane frogs to make a frogs animation, together with a carousel cover marking the precise positions for the frogs, and incorporating a new 2D animation for the lily flowers and pads.
The Exhibit: Early Bird £1500, Standard £1900 An assembled walnut machine, plus a completed and painted animation of your choice (excluding the marvellous LEGO-compatible one).
You may elect to replace the standard smart touch button with a PIR motion sensor if you intend to install your 4-Mation as an exhibit. The sensor will automatically start and stop the animation as it detects visitors around the exhibit. The sensor cable is 2m allowing for flexible installation.
We updated the fish animation construction to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous shipping fortune (see our video below) but we haven't yet done the same for frogs or pyramids. You can still select a different animation for an early bird pledge, and we will do our best, but can only commit to Christmas shipping for the fish animation.
Also note that unlike the un-assembled resin kit frogs tier, if you chose the frogs animation in this tier, it will come exactly as shown in the videos and the picture above; fully painted and with 3D lilies and lily pads.
Inventory: Assembled walnut frame machine (everything in Walnut Kit tier), assembled painted animation, ships in separate boxes.
We're using DHL worldwide express, and all frame kits will ship in double boxes with double walled cardboard. The completed animation tier will ship the animation carousel separately in specially designed packaging. You will want to be certain that something so valuable arrives safely, so we made a packaging drop test video for you with crash test dummy fish.
Download STLs and DXFs for the Animations, LEGO-compatible carousel, and laser-ply frame.
Our animations are freely downloadable for you to print on your own 3D printer, or have someone else print them for you, for example on 3DHubs.com, or even Shapeways.
We use a Form2 resin printer, and we expect most resin printers will work fine. It seems unlikely that filament printers could print the Fish or Frogs animations, but it might be possible to print Snakes on a filament printer. The LEGO-compatible carousel should print fine on filament printers, we'll be posting pictures soon.
We are holding on to the files for the carousel covers with the markings for gluing the parts down, which will help us protect the animation IP at least until the rewards ship.
Having said that, printing and painting animations is not really the business we want to be in (which is why the Exhibit tier is limited) we want to sell 4-Mation kits. So if you want to buy a 4-Mation kit, print your own animation and then sell the assembled machine and animation, we couldn't be happier:)
Thingiverse CAD file links
Fish animation: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3025801 STLs and Formlabs print files.
Pyramids animation: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3053875 STLs and Formlabs print files.
LEGO-compatible Carousel: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3057509 STL. Pictures of prints from filament printers to come.
Laser-Ply Frame and Carousel DXF files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3054488
When we say we're ready to make these machines right here, we mean it. After a dozen outrageous quotes for the custom cabling required we invested in wire processing machines from China.
You mentioned a "Big CNC" at the Building Bloqs maker space. What's that and what's it for?
It's a big router (the Biesse Rover J FT 1530) that we'll use to carve the walnut frames. It has an automatic tool changer and a strong vacuum table - perfect for machining loads of 4-Mation frame sets in a day. It's expensive though, so we need enough orders to set up the production run, this is why our funding target is £8,000.
Before you go - curious how a 3D Zoetrope actually works?
So how does a 3D Zoetrope work? We hired a global shutter camera to capture 4-Mation running in slow motion with the strobes on. We slow down the action so you can see how 3D zoetropes are just like flip-books.
LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this web site.
Risks and challenges
The design is production ready, we're doing the custom cables in-house - and are already expert, the CNC machining and laser cutting happens at Building Bloqs and we have selected a Chinese PCB manufacturer, using boards from them in all our recent prototypes. So the hardware side is covered.
But the control app is still in beta. It is perfectly usable on Android now, however there is a risk the Android app won't be polished, and/or that the iOS app will not yet be functional when the early bird orders ship before Christmas.
Our first focus will be on building and delivering the early-bird hardware before Christmas - since the control app is not required to use 4-Mation, those without an android device can still enjoy the machine.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)