Sunday 5 June 2011

allard discovers Shapeways

OK, so in the last post I mentioned that I’d picked up one of Oskar’s new centre-pieces from Shapeways for my Mosaic Cube, and that I’d ordered a couple of other things while I was there ... well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Oskar’s Shapeways shop has an absolute abundance of specialised puzzles for the discerning twisty-guru – right up to a DIY 17 * 17 * 17 twisty cube – if you simply have to have the biggest, badest cube in town!  He also has a number of other puzzles, including a series of Cooksey Mazes that caught my eye. 

The original was designed in the 1970’s as a prototype Pentangle puzzle that didn’t quite get off the ground – Oskar has simplified the design in a reproduction of the original Cooksey Maze and then produced a set of 6 Cooksey Tributes for Shapeways to churn out. 

I picked up a copy of the ‘original’ Cooksey and it’s a neat little puzzle – the ring has two pins that alternately engage opposite sides of the maze on the cylinder. The ring is a bit oversize, so at any time, one pin is engaged in the maze and the other is free allowing the ring to either rotate or slide up and down, depending on the orientation of the hole that the pin’s engaged in. The maze itself is made up of a series of 2*1 or 3*1 rectangles orientated horizontally or vertically and the aim is to work your way from the start of the maze at one end of the cylinder to the other end (and back, since you can only take the ring off on one end).

Working between the two pins you can rotate the ring and move it up and down following the rectangular holes in the cylinder – every now and then you’ll come across a single square hole, which effectively means you’ve hit a dead end and need to retrace your steps a bit.

The framework construction of the cylinder can make for a slightly disorientating experience and the interaction between two sets of opposing holes makes for an interesting puzzle. No doubt if you take the trouble to map out all the possible routes, it collapses into a fairly simple puzzle, but that’s probably true of a lot of puzzles.

While I was nosing around Shapeways, I also spent some time looking through George Bell’s shop – and couldn’t stop myself from picking up a copy of his Five Tetrahedra Plus. It consists of 5 serially interlocking tetrahedra, with an icosahedron trapped in the centre. Each of the interlocking pieces is ‘solid’ in the sense that it consists of a single piece – they’re created interlocked. I should probably point out here that this isn't a puzzle - more an impossible object - a really impossible object. Until the advent of 3D printing, you either had to have the patience of Job, or you had to know an incredibly talented woodcarver if you wanted to come close to achieving this sort of thing – nowadays, conceive it and draw it up in 3D and just print one off ... because you can! It looks cute and really freaks people out when they try and work out how it's made ...

...and that’s something that blows my mind a bit about Shapeways – I get the whole print-it-in-3D-thing, but here’s a business that enables folks to design puzzles and then get them made, one at a time, whenever someone’s interested in buying them – Shapeways handle all the logistics. That’s a powerful concept to bring to puzzle-making – and I really hope that it’ll help to bring a lot of new, interesting puzzles to the market that might not have made it if the inventors had had to build a supply chain and deal with all the logistics themselves... here’s hoping ...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Allard,

    I also like the Shapeways stuff. I have bought 6 cubes from the microcubology store (Richard Gain) and they are great fun. The only downside with Shapeways is the lack of multiple colours (you need to dye the pieces yourself). Richard will do them for you if you contact him.