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Very cool and very inspiring 3D print puzzle toys from Locknesters that will keep you, as a learning 3D print user, excited and interested in continuing to learn and use your 3D printer. Far better than the generic CAD test print models your printer may or may not come with, these 3D print puzzle toys provide learning concepts and maker milestones to conquer such as fit, finish, how the filament works, and many other areas to explore in 3D print production.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Print Puzzle Toys
Bringing you something else that gives a little bit of what the FFF to print inspiration. These are very cool, and it’s something that we have just personal interest in, it’s about these 3D puzzle toys.
They’re essentially three dimensional puzzles. That’s something that we’ve actually had an affinity for many, many years. We have a famous puzzle that our families had for decades that’s a polar bear, that’s maybe about eight inches long and five inches high polar bear puzzle that comes apart. It’s a three dimensional puzzle, it comes apart into probably two dozen pieces. I don’t think it’s quite two dozen. That’s a lot, though. I think it’s probably fifteen pieces of something like that.
The thing is, is that every kid starts grasping it younger and younger, we’ve found. Everyone wants to do it. It’s a challenge because it’s not only a challenge in terms of what piece goes where, but you also have to figure out how to hold it in your hand to get the pieces to fit together. Because until that very last piece is in, the whole thing can just fall apart instantly. The minute you loosen your grip on it or something.
It’s a real challenge when their hands are small for them to do it. Usually, you’d find at the age of, like Vanessa is, two to three, they start to hand you the pieces and then you’re holding them in your hand and then they give you the next piece. It’s a really fun way to go about it.
I think the idea of doing 3D print puzzle toys is great design project and challenge. We’ve been hearing from a lot people that they’re struggling, that you guys are struggling with staying inspired and excited as you’re going through the 3D print learning process. We get that. It’s like you have to challenge yourself from both a design and engineering product special, whatever it might be that is the problem for you or area that you need to work on the most.
Just doing the dumb tutorials that come with your CAD software or come with the 3D printer, you just get bored with those things. They’re just not interesting or exciting. I can make a cone, I can make a cube. We try to keep seeking things out there.
These 3D print puzzle toys, I think it’s a great category and it gives you really broad range of all the things you can do. You can create animals, you can create shapes, you can create blocks. You can do all sorts of things in this realm of it that really give you an ability to explore the concepts. Concepts such as fit, finish, just the expansion and contraction of the materials on this machine, how much tolerance space. There’s so many things to explore.
The relative tolerance I think is a really important thing for people to understand. If you remember the episode last week about Solidworks, CAD software tolerance and fitting of parts together is something we talked about. That a program like that actually can help you fit parts together virtually and see if there are interferences or conflicts between parts. Obviously, that’s a very high end CAD software. You probably wouldn’t use that for 3D print puzzle toys like this.
If you were teaching yourself Solidworks, teaching yourself with something fun and challenging in a project based way, is a great way to go and attack it and learn one of those softwares. The puzzle toy that we found here is from a company in Brooklyn, New York called Locknesters. This puzzle, certainly parts have to fit together, but it’s less of an interlocking and having things have to go in a certain order or else you can’t assemble it.
This toy, which is beautiful in many ways, because not only did they 3D print the parts but they sanded them down carefully. There’s a lot of real care taken with the finish, what the surface quality is of these puzzle toys. They specifically say no chemicals. They have done it really more traditionally in terms of finishing.
Anybody who is a little familiar with a lot of times how metals are finished or jewelry especially, they’ll actually take parts that are cast and put them in a tumbler, which is basically a big drum full of a material on the inside. That can be sand, it can be beads, it can be little blocks of wood, it can be metal pellets. It just depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Tumbling, you literally just put parts in there and they tumble with this aggregate in there, another material that’s tumbling with them, can smooth out hard edges and create a certain surface finish.
We actually experimented with this for while ourselves. It didn’t work so well for us though. Didn’t work so well with PLA parts we were trying it with. We were wondering if we could do less labor when you finish 3D printing a part and less having to scrape away little imperfections. Or if there was support material that was used after you pull it away, there’s usually some little residue of that on a part. Or the little hairs that you get on occasion.
We were wondering if we could just throw them in a tumbler and then have that take care of it. We do a lot of experimenting. I did a lot of testing over the course of six weeks or something and ultimately found, for the plastics that we were 3D printing with, it really didn’t work that well.
Here, these guys in Brooklyn have done, refined that process very well. What I want to say about their puzzle pieces is it’s almost like they created a design, in this case there actually is a bear. I don’t think it’s a polar bear, but there’s a bear puzzle toy they have. They cut it apart. Almost like you applied a jigsaw puzzle pattern three dimensionally to these parts. It’s really cool, it’s beautiful. I really like it. Where we’ve seen some three dimensional puzzles in that past, they really have … This bear is hollow. It’s like a shell. Then you’ve made it a three dimensional puzzle piece.
We’ve seen some that are completely solid and have different parts that either slide in or go in and rotate 90 degrees. They do different things to mechanically lock all the parts together. When you’re sliding pieces in, almost like if you’re doing things in wood with a Martinson10 or you’re doing something where you’re going to a hole that has a pin go through it or a bolt even go through it, you’ve got specific tolerance issues you have to really deal with.
Even the mounts that I created for our microphone booms here, that we drilled a hole through top surface, dropped it in and have a nut on the other side. There’s some major tolerance needed to do a bolt to a nut. You can’t do it line to line. I think we’ve talked about that in the past at some point on the podcast. Tolerance is a really critical thing and a great thing to learn about or to teach about.
Also, it’s a great way to go and understand the difference between what you see on your screen and what you print out. Because I remember really early on when we were talking, gosh, we had an interview with a company that was doing drones, MDAR. They were doing drones. They’ve been printing these things out.
For a while there, they thought everything was fine and then they couldn’t get the parts to fit together. They realized that there was a tolerance difference between what it looked like on the screen was perfect but the way it was actually printing because of the expansion of the materials and the different things that happened, that it wasn’t actually matching up. They had to create an adjustment factor.
Learning about that, it’s a great thing to be teaching if that’s what your goal is, teaching this. It’s also a great understanding that you will have and you’ll get at a tolerance that will most often work every time you go to do that. You know every time you need a tight tolerance, you have to make a 1% adjustment or whatever it might be. That’s probably really high.
Anyway, you get the idea of how that might be teaching you something both about your printer and about your CAD program and about how the two interact together. I think this is why these things are really fun and really interesting, on the one hand, but they’re also really lesson building. They are.
What I like about these Locknester 3D print puzzle toys is that they’re really combining new manufacturing techniques with old manufacturing techniques. They have a different philosophy than we do when it comes to 3D printing things. They’re 3D printing their parts with support material, because they’re creating a lot of organic forms that are, no matter what orientation you put them in, you need support in order to print them.
They’re actually using very much a handwork finishing process on the 3D printed parts. They’re putting labor into it on purpose. Through the tumbling and sanding and grinding and other things they’re doing, they’re even hand polishing these parts. With the materials they’re using to polish them and the buffing they do, it creates a unique surface quality and color that they’re putting into these.
They’re not just 3D printing something, boom, it comes off the printer and it’s done. They don’t want to touch it. They’re actually intentionally making these objects more precious and more special with the handwork they’re putting into them.
That bear puzzle is about $80 price, they show on their website, which I think is actually not bad for a piece that has all this handwork put into it. I think that the polar bear puzzle that we have, which is all injection molded plastic with very little handwork put into it, is somewhere around $50 or $60. It’s out of Canada.
The thing about it is though, is that my concern is that when you still got it, even though it’s got a really cool finish texture quality, at the end of the day, it’s still lightweight and hollow because it’s hollow. Where our puzzle is, it’s heavy. It’s solid. There’s a certain amount of, Americans like to buy things by the pound. It’s a sign of quality to have that weight in there.
To me, I think you probably should put more infrastructure into it as you’re 3D printing it. I know it takes longer. I think having that little bit more weighty quality to it gives something a higher value. I don’t know, I’ve not held this in my hand so I have no idea how heavy it is. The idea of it being hollow makes me instantly think, oh my gosh, it might be really lightweight when you get your hands on it.
I think there’s all sorts of ideas of things you can do with 3D print puzzle toys. You can go for the brain teaser route and do things that you have to slot together to get them apart. There’s all sorts of different ways that you can accomplish this puzzle toy idea and take it with your favorite type of puzzle. I just think that’s a really great and fun way to do it. You can start with something less challenging where you’re just cutting it apart and you can move to something more challenging where you get to this interlocking interacting. You’re advancing your CAD skills at the same time.
If I were doing this as a project for a class, for students, what I would do, especially if the 3D printers available to us in that class had a relatively small build volume, like one of these more mini printers or a four inch cube or so, build volume or an M3D or whatever. A lot of these small ones have that. I would actually not only have students create and design an object that needs to be assembled and disassembled like a puzzle.
I would make them exceed the build volume. The entire total puzzle needs to be larger than the build volume because that would also teach them about making multiple parts separately that would fit together and the whole after it’s assembled is much, much bigger than the individual build volume that could be done for any one part. That’s what I would do. Let’s exceed the build plate and have it assemble and make parts that not only have to fit together but hold each other together.
I think this is a really fun project. I think it’s a good challenge that can be fun for the educational to structure that class and that exploration using this. We just wanted to bring that one out today as an inspiration to you, to figure out what the FFF to start printing, to start creating.
It’s a great one. I’m inspired. I’ve had a lot of fun with this myself. I think it’s great. It’s a great one for a club or a class too. You could really do it over a course of six weeks or something like that, or six or eight weeks. You just start with basics, start with the cutting something apart, start with a three piece puzzles. Move yourself into more complex things.
You can have everybody do a different kind of object but then you really can teach some of these because it’s the same principles. Of slotting things together, of connections involving rotation. There’s all sorts of different physical principles. Of keyhole slots and all sorts of different things you can do to teach connections. About fasteners, how objects in general get assembled, T-slots and all sorts of fun things.
There’s a lot to be learned. It’s not a toy. The toy is what maybe makes it a little fun for people getting into it. But there’s so much more they can learn and get out of it. It’s cool stuff.
We hope you’re inspired. If you guys have made any 3D print puzzle toys or are making some in the near future as you’re inspired by this podcast, we’d love to see it. You can post it up in the comments on our blog post or email it to us on 3DStartPoint.com. Of course, you can reach us on social media @3DStartPoint.
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