Everybody knows that 3D printers are expensive, and we can’t all afford to own a machine. However, at some point in our lives, we all want to make a 3D model of something. For those of us who don’t own a 3D printer, and who live far away from the nearest 3D printing hub, there are very few ways in which such a 3D model can be made. Step forward Michael Koehleart: The artist and engineer has found a cool method for ‘faking’ a colour 3D print using paper, a printer and a laser cutter. His clever technique involves four main steps: creating a projection image, slicing the model, slicing the image, and printing/assembling. Koehleart has shared his technique on Instructables, and has posted some photographs of 3D heads made using the technique, which are as impressive as they are terrifying.
Koehleart’s technique requires the following tools and components:

  • Model in STL format
  • Projection image, which can be a screenshot of the textured model, or a standalone image
  • Printer
  • Sturdy cardboard/cardstock or paper of another kind
  • Laser cutter, scissors, or another device with which to cut the paper
  • Assembly supports, such as acrylic or wooden dowels, and washers of the desired thickness
  • Some programming skills

To begin the fake 3D printing process, a projection image needs to be created. This can be done using any 3D modelling software, and involves taking a screenshot of the front of the 3D model. A full-colour image is then loaded, cropped, and perfectly aligned with the screenshot of the 3D model itself. This ensures that the colour image is synced perfectly with the colourless 3D model onto which it will fit.
Koehleart wrote his own slicing program for the next steps. Both the 3D model and the projection image need to be sliced into layers, each of which will make up one sheet of paper. With some technical trickery, each sheet can be printed to form each layer of the colour 3D model. Each piece of paper should be cut with a laser cutter, or with scissors (and ample dexterity). The slices can then be assembled to form the complete ‘fake’ 3D printed model. Take the first slice, feed it over the guard rods, add a washer if required, then add the next slice and repeat.
Commenters on Koehleart’s Instructable have been both amazed and disturbed. Studleylee praised the project as being ‘very cool’, whilst Arghus called it ‘creepy’. We agree with the former and can’t wait to try the technique ourselves.


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