AMS Spring 2023

This 3D Printed Optical Illusion Pinwheel Will Drive You Insane!

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pinwheelaniWhen I was a youngster, I had a fascination with things that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I loved puzzles, mazes, magic tricks, and stereograms. Pretty much anything that made me think outside the box or made my mind play tricks on me were fair game. I had one book which I literally wore the cover off of. It was filled with about 100 different optical illusions. To this day, I can spend an entire hour staring at these mind bending images.

One man, named Dalpek, seems to share this same fascination of these illusions with me. However, unlike myself, he has actually taken it upon himself to create his own.

“Since I can remember I have always loved optical illusions and 3D images,” Dalpek tells 3DPrint.com. “A few years ago I was traveling in Veracruz México and I ended up at a farm in the middle of nowhere. This farm had a white building where you could sleep, as well as a small lake with a weird restaurant/bar coming out of a big tree. This place was pretty eclectic. It had statues made out of rusted pieces of metal and strangely painted coloured lamps in the trees. But what caught my attention was a spinning circle fashioned out of wire and tubes. It moved with the air and it created an optical illusion as it did so. I was mesmerized.”

Dalpek asked the manager of this bar where he could get a similar contraption, but the manager could not provide him with any solid answers. Still, the device has remained in the back of Dalpek’s head for years, until just a couple weeks ago when he saw yet another at the top of a local museum. This inspired him to finally make a replica on his 3D printer.

“I thought it would be a pretty easy project to tackle,” Dalpek tells us. “Well, I was wrong.”

pinwheel3In fact it took five prototypes before Dalpek could get what he calls his Optical Illusion Pinwheel working. He ran into all sorts of problems with the dynamics of the pinwheel’s blades. He first made a prototype with 8 blades, but he found that it had too much plastic in the center which caused it to spin too fast. So he then made the blades thinner, but this made it too light, causing it to barely spin when air was applied. He finally decided on a good thickness for the blades (2mm). This seemed to be just the perfect solution, but he found that when air was applied, they spun in the same direction thus not causing the optical illusion to occur.

Finally he found the perfect design, which included creating individual blades with opposing twist angles for each section of the pinwheel, and voilà, he had completed his goal of creating his optical illusion pinwheel.

“I think it works very well, both blades spin at the same velocity and are light enough to be propelled by air,” Dalpek explains. “The current size of the object is dictated by printer limitations. I think a bigger pinwheel would be way cooler.”

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Dalpek, who is a systems engineer and graphic designer by trade, has been doing computer modeling since he was 10 years old. He currently works as a partner at a creative agency that specializes in virtual advertising for live sports. He has made his design available as a free download via Thingiverse, and welcomes anyone’s feedback on how he could improve upon it. As for me, I have been banned from printing this item by my wife, who knows it will cause me to become very unproductive around the house.

What do you think about this 3D printable pinwheel? Have you 3D printed one yourself? Discuss in the optical illusion pinwheel forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of the pinwheel in action below.

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