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color graphics slicer. Slices 3D files into an array of images to be printed onto transparent acrylic, looking glass-style
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Glasscutter is a program that slices color 3D objects into a set of flat slices.

A brief rundown of the program

Here's the Glasscutter UI

There are three main sections of the UI:

The box dimensions

When all the slices are stacked up, they will form a box of this dimension.

Slicing axis/slice thickness

The slices will be normal to the slicing axis. The slices have a certain thickness -- this is the thickness of the material that the slices will be printed on.

There is a number of microslices that make up each slice. These microslices will all be printed together onto their slice. Think of them like contour lines on a topological map. The closer the contour lines get, the more detail they can represent on the map.

The next version of Glasscutter, currently in beta, replaces microslices by drawing a polygon onto the slice if the triangle is flat enough that it lies within the thickness of a slice.

Output Options

Glasscutter currently supports two export formats: png and pdf.

The options at the top are all for the pdf export -- output page dimensions, columns, rows and margin. The pdf will contain a set of dimensionally accurate pages that can be directly printed and cut. An example pdf export is here, sliced from a colored version of this thingiverse thing

Page dimensions set the size of the page, rows and margins set the number of slices that go on a page, spacing is the distance between the slices and margin is the margin between the slices and the edge of the page.

The bottom options are for the png export. The resolution sets, well, the resolution of the png in dpi. 'Overlap' prints microslices from the neighboring slices onto the current slice. The value is the number of microslices from the neighboring slice that will be printed on the next slice.

Finally, in the center, along the right side, there are two checkboxes to set pdf and png exports. If no boxes are checked, the program will just slice the model and show a preview, but not export anything. If either box is checked, the program will export that format.


Glasscutter is written in Processing, which is based on Java. The Processing environment is open-source and free for download from


Glasscutter requires the ControlP5 library for graphical user interfaces, available for download here. To install, download the library from the above website and unzip it. There's a folder that contains your Processing sketches -- for mac users, the default location is in ~/Documents/Processing, and for windows users it's in My Documents/Processing. Inside that folder, there's another folder called 'libraries'. Drag the unzipped directory that you downloaded into the libraries folder and restart processing. You're good to go!


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The summary and full text of the license are viewable here

This version of Glasscutter can only slice ascii-formatted, vertex-colored PLY files. Fortunately, the open-source software Meshlab can convert just about any 3D file format into ascii-formatted, vertex-colored PLYs. Here's how:

Vertex Coloring

There are two ways to color 3D files: vertex coloring and texture-mapping. In texture mapping, there is an image file that contains the flattened "skin" of the 3D object. Each vertex in the mesh contains a co-ordinate from the texture that describes how to wrap the skin around the mesh. Glasscutter doesn't handle this, yet. If you want to help make this happen, you would be a rock star hero.

Vertex coloring is the other approach. In this approach, each vertex in the mesh has a certain color. When the renderer draws the triangles in the mesh, it'll color each triangle with a linear gradient between the vertex colors along the triangle's surface. This is a much simpler way to color a mesh, but it has a limitation: the resolution of a vertex-colored mesh is based on the number of vertices in the mesh. You can add more vertices to increase the resolution, but it makes the 3D file larger and more difficult to handle. Texture mapping scales much better.

You can use meshlab to convert a texture-mapped mesh to a vertex-colored mesh. Open the 3D file in Meshlab, and then go to to Filters->Color Creation and Processing->Transfer Color: Texture to Vertex. Give it a second, and your 3D object will now be vertex-colored. You'll still have to export the PLY file, though. Read below to see how.

Exporting PLYs

Exporting PLYs is simple, but there are a few things that you have to get right. To export a file as a PLY, first open the file in Meshlab. Then, go to File->Export Mesh As... and select "Stanford Polygon File Format (*.ply)" in the "files of type" drop-down menu.

The following dialog box will appear

Only click the "Color" box under 'Vert.' All other checkboxes should be unclicked, especially the 'Binary Encoding' checkbox -- unchecking this ensures that the PLY file will be in human-readable ASCII format. At the bottom left of the checkbox, the radio button for 'All' should be selected.
Click 'Save', and you'll have a PLY file that Glasscutter can handle.

Glasscutter is a work in progress. We'd welcome contributions -- if you'd like to get involved in the code, send a pull request. If you fork it and build something cool, tell us about it at

In particular, we'd love help adjusting the GUI and adding support for texture mapping. If you're interested in helping with either of these, get in touch.

There's a few other features that we're adding. Stay tuned for...

Upcoming features:

  • support for rendering polygonal surfaces rather than stacking microslices together

  • OBJ import

  • support for texture mapping

  • integrated png tiling

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