Dec 26, 2016 | By Benedict

John Croucher, the 3D printing enthusiast behind the Fail Try Again blog, has used 3D printing to create a DIY flip book machine, otherwise known as a Mutoscope. 3D printable files for the 24-frame motion picture device can be downloaded from Thingiverse.

John Croucher's 3D printed Mutoscope

While many people across the world will be unwrapping HD televisions this Sunday, there is still a place in many people’s hearts for simpler means of visual representation—the humble flip book, for example, which appears to display a moving image when its pages are rapidly leafed through. Of course, most people adults don’t actually own flip books, but maker John Croucher has just provided a good reason for that to change. His 3D printable “Mutoscope,” a mechanical flip book machine, allows you to create a 32-frame “video” that requires no electricity, no satellite, and no fiber optic broadband. Just like magic!

“I was half-watching Storage Wars when Barry Weiss found a Mutoscope,” Croucher writes. “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 Mutoscope, an early motion picture device, was invented by Winsor McCay and later patented by Herman Casler on November 21, 1894. In a Mutoscope, individual black-and-white photographs are mounted on thick cardboard frames and attached to a circular core resembling a Rolodex. Viewers look through a hooded lens while turning a crank to rapidly advance the wheel, frame by frame, which produces the effect of live action. Historically, some Mutoscope reels contained up to 850 cards, which equated to around a minute of viewing time, and coin-operated Mutoscopes became especially popular in peep shows.

Inspired by seeing a Mutoscope on the junk-finding television show Storage Wars, Croucher decided to try and make his own. After some deliberation, he settled on making a 32-frame device capable of producing a shorter “video,” but after several failed iterations eventually decided to reduce the number of frames to 24, producing an effective Mutoscope with a 3D printed shaft, crank, wheels, and even frame supports. (Croucher had also attempted using wooden skewers as the “spokes,” with mixed success.)

One of the most important stages of Croucher’s 3D printed Mutoscope project involved choosing the subject matter for the flip book. In the end, the maker opted for a short scene from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in which a character gets hit in the groin. Croucher was able to find a GIF of the short scene online which consisted of 23 frames, and after resizing the images to fit the 3D printed frames, printed and glued everything together. When winding the crank on Croucher’s Clockwork Orange mutoscope, the short scene plays repeatedly until the viewer stops winding.

Two of the 3D printable parts of the Mutoscope

According to Croucher, makers attempting to 3D print their own Mutoscope actually have a few options when it comes to the function of the device: “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.”

All 3D printable files and instructions for the 3D printed Mutoscope can be found on Thingiverse, but Croucher isn’t finished with the project just yet. The maker wants to create a box with a viewing glass and light, which will improve the appearance of the Mutoscope while making viewing considerably easier.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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