Sliceforms – the background

Sliceform models are three-dimensional objects created by slicing a solid many times in two directions. The models are a series of cross sections which are made of a set of planes cut from card slotted together.

Most Sliceforms are continuously deformable from the extremes of two flat shapes which form interesting designs in themselves. The intersections of the slices act as hinges.

The pictures you see here do not show their full beauty. You have to make them and play with their endless shapes and see the way light plays on them as you move them about and deform them. As you move the Sliceforms they change colour dramatically at times. This is apart from the constantly varying and interesting shadows they cast.

Who invented Sliceforms?
The Sliceform technique originated with a mathematician called Olaus Henrici who taught in London at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He made models using cross sections of quartic surfaces; these are similar to a sphere but have with cross sections which are ellipses, hyperbolae or parabolae.

Models were constructed for sale in Germany by the firm of Martin Schilling. These were designed by Alexander von Brill in Darmstadt.
The method for making the models has not been fully exploited, although it has been used for making packing for fruit and other small regular items.

In the nineteenth century mathematical models were made for teaching and understanding geometry. Many museums have collections of these.

The Strange Surfaces exhibition at the Science Museum in London contains Sliceforms from the 19th century to the present day (by Brill and John Sharp)  and other interesting historical models of surfaces. Visit their website for more details.

John Sharp has extended the system to a wide range of surfaces and polyhedra, under the name Sliceforms.

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4 responses to “Sliceforms – the background

  1. hi. I love your site thanks for all the interesting information. I have a question for you. Most of this is done with paper and I was wondering if this would work with acrylic sheets or plexiglass that is 3mm in thickness. meaning would it work since it’s not bendable material or do you find that having to bend the material is important for putting it together. Sorry if this is a dumb question. Thanks!

    • John Sharp (Sliceforms)

      It’s not a dumb question. You can make such Sliceforms. You just need to make the slots slightly wider then the 3mm of the sheet you are using and be very accurate. Laser cutting would be recommended.
      However, since the paper models fold flat because the paper or card is thin, you will find that the plastic ones will not do so. There is not a hinge effect. I know of ones that have been made of sheet metal and thick cardboard.
      Regards

      John S

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