Puzzle!

Games, Product Design, 3D Printing

Background

While running my 3D printing service, I had an idea to design a game for kids to learn and practice an important civic education topic: states in the country. At the time, I lived in Nigeria; as a Nigerian, I knew how important that topic was especially in elementary school as kids were routinely asked.

It was also important to me that kids did not just learn the states but also learnt where they were and could remember their locations easily. With this in mind, I decided to create a map puzzle of 3D printed pieces that could be played as game.

Discovery

For this project, I decided Inkscape was the best tool, as it allowed me create traces of the states in the background and save the traces to a new layer. On making the traces, I could them export these as a DXF and extrude using OpenSCAD.

Prototyping

After designing the shapes, I had to determine what the right fit was. So I did a couple of initial test prints to determine this. To remember what states they were I added their names behind.

To play a board game, one needs a board so I printed a map to the same scale as I had printed and annotated the graph with the names of the states. I asked someone to try it and I felt the time to play the game was too fast.

To mitigate this, I changed the names behind the state shapes to numbers, and numbered the states on the guide board. With this, I tested the game with a number of people at a Christmas fair.

The full puzzle, all made and 3D printed.

With a guide map, printed at A3 size.

Lessons

I learnt a lot about fits in this project, and I could see how Inkscape helped because the trace of the line is very important in determining how well the final product will fit.

I got the chance to observe people playing the game and saw a problem with the game that I would not have seen otherwise: because the shapes were new to people they could not often tell the top from the bottom. There was a good side to this though, as it helped the game go slower.

I got the chance to remedy this, when a client asked for an Africa version of the puzzle with double colours. This meant that I made the base a different colour and people could differentiate this way. To 3D print this, I included a break point in the G-Code so that the machine could come to rest while I changed the filament colour.

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