Here at Timed Out, we have incorporated 3D printers in our system of creating puzzles. It is a new and cool technology that most people do not know about. Heck, it is still new to us! With a couple of months of experience, we are finally getting the hang of it. Here is what we discovered:
What is a 3D printer?
Some people might not even know what a 3D printer is; it’s okay. It is still very recent technology. It actually has been around since the early 80s; however, printing just got popular around the early 2010s. Printing used to be only used by companies and the government, but now anyone can buy one online.
3D printing consists of melting down plastic and reshaping it into any 3D object you want. You can make toy soldiers for your kids, a bookend for the shelf, or even a small car part. You can customize and create anything you want. But how does the machine know what to make? Do you just talk to it and it builds? Well, it is a little more complicated than that unfortunately.
Printing and AutoCAD
The printer needs a certain code in order to start the building process. You can actually get files online without having to create your own. Websites such as Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory, and Pinshape upload files other people created so you can print what they made. However, if you are looking for a specific design or want to customize your own design, you have to create your own CAD file.
You can make your own 3D item by using a tool called AutoCAD or TinkerCAD. AutoCAD is used by professionals, such as architects, to blueprint 3D models. If you are just starting out, just like the majority of us at Timed Out, TinkerCAD is more appropriate. This is for beginners, and the site helps you learn all the tools to create designs.
When thinking of puzzles, we usually brainstorm themes or items that would be found in a particular themed room. For example, in our room West, we thought of poker, outlaws, and dynamite. Then we go on from there to see how it could be made into a puzzle.
Then after some quick sketches and a general idea, we put the idea onto the computer to see how it will look and function. There is a lot of trial an error in this stage of a puzzle’s life, as you can imagine.
After we think we have a running model, we print it out and see how it looks. Usually the first printed model is terrible, but we tweak it out on AutoCAD and keep going. This part is even more tedious than the stage before. The worst part is the print time. The time varies between prints because of the complexity and size. Waiting for a print may take up to 5-6 hours. It sucks when you’ve waited hours for it just to see that the model is wrong.
Finally, after all these stages, the print is complete and ready to be assimilated into the room. The puzzle is done!!
We have been 3D printing like crazy for this new room, and everyone here is so excited to open it and see your reactions!
Incorporating Into Rooms
We already have used 3D prints in our rooms available – West, Precinct, and Illusion. In West, we have dynamite for blowing up a mountain. They are super light and the kids love them.
In Precinct, we 3D printed donuts for the police; we accessorized the donuts with sprinkles, fake powder, and nuts.
Finally, in Illusion, we printed 4 decorated eggs you must find hidden in the room. All of these have been a success and all use technology. We placed RFID stickers and magnets to trigger the puzzle when correct. So not only are we using technology to build puzzles, our puzzles are also tech-based. In every room here at Timed Out, there is at least one technology puzzle inside. When you visit us next time, try to find these cool pieces in the room.
For our new room, Depth, the theme of the room is futuristic science. Most of the puzzles in this room will be tech-based, and we want to create this kind of sci-fi atmosphere. It also takes place in a scientific research lab at the bottom of the ocean. We have been getting our inspiration from movies like Alien and ocean life, so all of our puzzles have a pretty cool vibe to it. Because of this, we are using the 3D printer for making the majority of the puzzles. We wanted to make everything as sleek as possible, and the 3D printing helps us achieve that goal. All the staff here are so excited to show you this room!