I recently saw this creative paper contraption online this prior weekend and wanted to see if I could automate the process of creating all ~35 layers of an equation. Essentially what I would want the final output file to be is either a pdf, jpeg, or something of the sort that gives you all ~35 layers outlined and ready to cut out, and then also the two bottom rectangles.

Any suggestions on what I should use to output such a file? I'm torn between MatLab, Maple, or Mathematica.

I have also attached the picture below for reference. enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ You can program any one of Maple, Matlab and Mathematica to achieve that without too much trouble. Why are you torn? Just pick one and use it. If you're familiar with one more than the others, choose it. If you're not familiar with any of them, pick the one that's easiest for you to gain access to, and learn to use it. $\endgroup$
    – Alon Amit
    May 2, 2011 at 16:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It would have been less work if they had chosen to print out in radial directions. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2011 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, Nicolas, I wonder where did you see this picture? from a math-related blog? Could I have the link please? $\endgroup$
    – Shuhao Cao
    May 2, 2011 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MathChief Sure, but there's not much to see: imgur.com/gallery/UaT4X $\endgroup$ May 2, 2011 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ This is just so cool. I will find a way to have any students in any multivariable class I teach to make these somehow. Math art for Skiles! $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda
    May 3, 2011 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


Mathematica and Excel (and I suspect the others) will work fine without going through a pdf. They will plot the points on a graph, which you can print and cut out. The hard part is getting the scales to match so squares stay square. I would suggest the equation on the side is incorrect: it should be $$z=\frac{\sin\sqrt{x^2+y^2}}{x^2+y^2}$$

  • $\begingroup$ The equation is incorrect, but I didn't make this one. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2011 at 17:03

I am digging out this old asked question.

Recently I've created an Instructable "3D plot out of paper" where You can automate generating slices just within Your browser. It is raughly optimized for printing them.

It uses Rechner Online website as plot drawing engine.


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