Legend has it that Ern? Rubik was working at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest. The Cube was designed as a teaching tool to help his students understand 3D objects and space, during the process he was solving the structural problem of moving parts independently without the entire mechanism falling apart. He did not realize that he had created a puzzle until the first time he scrambled his new Cube and then tried to restore it. He Patented his accidental invention in 1975 and has since inspired and challenged millions of minds around the world.
Because 43 Quintillion ways to scramble the ‘simple cube’ is not enough for twisty puzzle fans, many have come to Shapeways to design their own 3D printed twisty puzzles riffing on the original Rubik’s Cube concept. 3D printing makes it possible to create the most complex puzzles as there is much less cost in creating intricate details as there is with other manufacturing methods. Because each product is 3D printed on demand, people like Oskar van Deventer can take his 17x17x17 Over the Top puzzle to market even if there are only a few people brave enough to take it on.
Do you enjoy solving complex puzzles? Or navigating through through sophisticated mazes? Thanks to 3D printing technology you’re no longer limited to the standard Rubik’s cube. There are now many new designs and innovations that will make you rethink the way we see puzzles. Here are a few 3D printed puzzles and mazes on Shapeways that have taken a twist and turn for the better.
With these puzzles everything that could be imagined to be twisty, does twist.
3D printing has given designers the freedom to modify, configure, and customize shapes in order to create these unique puzzle and maze products. The process of Selective Laser Sintering has completely changed the puzzle-making game, empowering designers to make puzzles previous impossible in low volumes or with injection molding. These creations make for a brainteasing toy both for the mind and on the eyes. Seeing is believing, but doing is achieving.
Want to learn more about how 3D Printing is enabling the most complex puzzles ever created? Here’s a great article from Gigaom.
This week’s Designer Spotlight focuses on Tom van der Zanden, a talented inventor who turns his mind to making crazy puzzles. The twist in this tale is that his passion lies in creating the puzzles, but he leaves the solving of them up to you!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I am Tom van der Zanden, 19 years old. I am currently studying Computer Science and Mathematics at Utrecht University. I am starting the last year of my bachelor’s degree now and next year I will start on my master’s. I live in the city of Nieuwegein, The Netherlands, which is close to the University and only 70km from the Shapeways office! Besides creating puzzles, I also like to play piano and saxophone.
What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you? How did your interest with puzzles start?
I have always been fascinated by how things work and DIY. My interest in puzzles started when my friend introduced me to the Rubik’s Cube. I was into competitive solving for a while but I never got far. On the internet I noticed people building their own puzzles which had a strong appeal to me. I really got inspired to build my own puzzles by the work of Adam Cowan and Andrew Cormier, who both helped me a great deal with learning 3D design.
How did you learn how to design in 3D? What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
My design skills are pretty much self-taught, with help from other puzzle makers. I started out working with AutoCAD but I moved to SolidWorks as this software is better suited to my work and better fits with the way I think. My first designs were printed for me by a friend who has access to a FDM printer at the school where he works. Unfortunately his access to the printer is limited so I could not produce many puzzles using this technique. It was Oskar van Deventer who pointed me to Shapeways and I opened my shop in August of 2009. WSF is actually a far nicer material than the FDM material and gradually I got more comfortable using it. Helped by income from my shop I’ve been able to make many new puzzles.
How did you work out how to put puzzles together? Do you solve your own puzzles?
Putting the puzzles together is relatively easy. From the design process I have a clear idea of where each piece goes and once you actually have the pieces in hand it is usually easy to figure out how to put them together. The hardest part is always getting the last few pieces in place but thanks to the amazing flexibility and resilience of WSF it is possible to snap them in place. I can not solve all of my puzzles, though I can solve some of them – but I rarely do so. The part about puzzles I enjoy most is actually designing them and figuring out a working mechanism for complex puzzles, rather than solving them. I leave that to my collectors!
Check out this video of the Multidodecahedron puzzle in action. It has an internal and external puzzle in one – unbelievable!
Who are your favorite designers or artists?
I have attended two “puzzle parties” where I met far too many amazing puzzle makers to list them all. Andrew Cormier and Adam Cowan are both amazing puzzle makers and do have shops on Shapeways. I already mentioned him, but Oskar van Deventer is an amazing puzzle maker who has been churning out new puzzles like crazy on Shapeways. He encouraged me to start my own shop which really changed a lot for me, because it generated money that I could put towards making new puzzles. Using income from Shapeways I can sustain my puzzle making hobby, which is great as it is quite rare for puzzle making (or any other hobby) to be self-sustainable like this!
If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
In my puzzle making I am not so much limited by what shapes the printing technology can make but by fundamental mechanical properties. It’s unreasonable to ask for a material that is unbreakable even when 0.1mm thin even though such a material would be very nice. Not directly applicable to puzzles, I find the idea of printing circuitry and microchips very attractive. I would love to see computing devices roll out of printers sometime in the future.
A popular category of 3D printed items found on Shapeways is puzzles, with 3D printing allowing for ever more complex designs. Steve Winter from Ethereal Maze Puzzles has created a new puzzle and has turned the challenge of solving it into a contest. The grand prize is a $50 voucher from Shapeways, with the runner-up receiving a model from his shop. The elegant design looks simple, but appearances can be deceiving!
He explains why below…
“SOMA’s Revenge” is a new type of puzzle inspired by the classic SOMA Cube Puzzle. It uses an inner and outer set of SOMA shaped pieces. Like the classic SOMA cube puzzle the “SOMA’s Revenge” pieces can be assembled into a cube 240 different ways, and challenge players with thousands of figures to construct – so it’s lot of fun. However, unlike the classic SOMA cube, the inner pieces in SOMA’s Revenge can also slide into and interlock with the other pieces. This creates additional puzzle challenges to build a cube shape from the outer pieces, and another cube inside of that with interlocked inner pieces.
I designed “SOMA’s Revenge” around a configuration with an inner and outer interlocking cube, but I have purposefully not tried to solve for any other interlocking cubes configurations. This means that the Grand Prize winner will also have the honor of being the first person IN THE WORLD to solve the puzzle! I will post this winner’s names on my Shapeways shop and other puzzle sites so they have full bragging rights.
All entries, including partial solution entries will be up on my YouTube channel, so you can look for hints and see how others are progressing.
The contest runs till the end of 2012 – so you have plenty of time to enter. See full contest details and links to the videos at the “SOMA’s Revenge” Shapeways Shop page