Product Design for School: Portable Playset in a Box (with Quick Deployment Action!)




Introduction: Product Design for School: Portable Playset in a Box (with Quick Deployment Action!)

About: I'm Mario Caicedo Langer (M.C. for short), a Colombian STEAM educator living in Azerbaijan, BSc in Naval Sciences and former Navy officer. I am a CAD and 3D Printing enthusiast and an artist specialized in jun…

Hello! My name is Mario. I have been a Tinkercad enthusiast for the last 6 years. And after a long and very interesting journey with this fantastic CAD tool, I am very proud (and at the same time, a little ashamed) to announce that after all these years, I just discovered how to use the Ruler Tool! :-)

(Yes. That's right: the very same ruler located at the right of the Workplane Tool. And honestly, I don't know how I could live without it.)

To celebrate this milestone, today I am starting a new series named "Product Design for School": ideas and prototypes for real life applications (knowing me, probably they will be mostly toys, not that I am complaining) with a final user in mind; and are not covered by our usual "Tinkercad Robotics" tutorials.

Today's project: Portable Playset in a Box (codename: "The Rox Box"). This is a cubic "lunchbox" that kids can carry wherever they go. Put in on a surface, unlock it, deploy it, and you will have a toy playset for action figures in matter of seconds. It is user friendly, and you can even open and closing it using only one hand.

You can make the Rox Box into a dolls house or an action figures playset. The size is limited to the printing volume of your 3D printer, and you can customize it to be a home for your favorite action figures. I chose Cobra (because everybody knows Cobra is cooler than G.I.Joe. Fun Fact: in post-soviet countries, the G.I.Joe movies are called "The Origin of Cobra" and "The Origin of Cobra 2: Revenge".)

This playset will have a control room, a cell for prisoners, weapons and full portability!


You will need the following materials.

  • 1 Computer with access to Tinkercad
  • 1 3D printer. Material: PLA. I'm using a Creality Ender 3 V2.
  • 3 iron rods or wires of 1.5mm diameter
  • 1 screw
  • 1 metal washer
  • Action figures of your preference (I love G.I.Joe but I don't have enough, so I had to also use Star Wars figures. Let's call it a "crossover")
  • Super glue (cyanoacrylate. My favorite is the one who comes with the aerosol activator)
  • Springs (optional)

Also, you will require the following tools:

  • Pliers (for removing support material)
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire cutter

Step 1: Sketches and First Prototype

Usually I start going directly to Tinkercad and doing Boolean operations until the primitive shapes start looking like a robot. However, this Rox Box was challenging in a different level, so I needed to do some sketches to know more or less what would be in the playset and how it would be deployed. I needed to understand what exactly could work on each platform, and what could not.

Also, I played with some 120mm*120mm wooden tablets, to have a physical model of the playset and if the size would be adequate for the action figures.

Step 2: Playing Areas

Let's start with the design. But first, for a better clarity of this project, these will be the different sections of the playset:

  • Platform 1: this is the main building of the playset. It will have a balcony, stairs and a cage. Also, it will have a big Cobra logo in the back. It will use 3 sides of the box, and the attachments will use more or less the 40% of the inner volume of the box, as long as they don't interfere with the handle of the platform 4.
  • Platform 2: this is the control room. It will have a control panel and a chair. It will use only one side of the box, and the attachments will use no more than the 30% of the inner volume, as long as they don't interfere with the accessories of the Platform 1, and the handle of the Platform 4.
  • Platform 3: this is the entry to the Platform 1. It will have a small ramp, an entry sign and a weapon. It will use only one side of the box, and the attachments will use no more than the 15% of the inner volume, so probably they will have to fit in the available spaces between Platforms 1, 2 and the handle of Platform 4.
  • Platform 4: this is the weapons system for the playset; and also, where the handle of the box will be kept during the playtime. As you can see, this handle is a critical point for the other platforms (10% of the volume). The handle will be near the wall of the control room (Platform 2). Also, the guns will have to fit in the empty space of the balcony of Platform 1 (5% of the volume).

These proportions are approximate, but they give a good idea of how everything will be distributed at the end of the project.

Step 3: The Main Box

Now, let's start with the design.

I decided that every side of the box would have an area of 150mm*150mm. The thickness of the walls would be 5mm.

I brought two main boxes of those dimensions, put one perpendicular to the other one and group them. These will be two of the three sides of Platform 1.

Opposite to the wall of Platform 1, I placed a box of 145mm*150mm. This will be Platform 2.

Then, over the walls of Platforms 1 and 2, I placed another 150mm*150mm box. This roof will be Platform 4, and where I will place the handle.

On the right side, I placed a box of 139mm*144mm. This will be Platform 3.

Step 4: Hinges (Part 1): Base Hinge

I created the base hinge using a vertical box of 20mm*5mm*150mm. On each end, I added a cylindrical hole of 1.5mm (note: if your metal rod or wire has a bigger diameter, change this dimension to suit it.) I also added a double meta-fillet on each end, to avoid any friction with the platforms.

This long hinge will be located in the Platform 2, and will join this platform with 1 and 4.

Step 5: Hinges (Part 2): Modifying the Edges

I copied the cylindrical hole/meta-fillets set of the hinge, extended it and added it to the edges of the platforms that will be in contact with the edges of the other platforms through the hinges. This way, we are avoiding obstructions in the moment of opening or closing the box. Edges that don't have a hinge will continue having their sharp edges.

At the end, I created the missing wall for the Platform 1, of 140mm*150mm.

Step 6: Hinges (Part 3): Main Articulation Set for Platforms 1, 2 and 4

Time to create the main articulation. I duplicated the base hinge, so the platforms will be connected through two hinges. Then, I created a duplicate of both hinges; but these new ones will be hollow, higher and 1mm wider.

(Before continuing, I duplicated this set of 2 solid hinges and 4 hollow. I will need them for the next step.)

I placed the hinges set aligned to the middle of the Platform 2. I grouped the hole hinges with the Platforms 1 and 4, and grouped the solid hinges with Platform 2.

Step 7: Hinges (Part 4): Articulation for Platform 3

I took the duplicate I made of the hinges set, rotated 90 degrees and brought it to Platform 3. I repeated the previous steps with this platform, starting with the transformation of the lower edges into fillets and creation of a cylindrical hole.

However, there is a difference here: only the lower part of the platform will be articulated. So I only grouped the hole hinges with the bottom side (Platform 1), and removed the top part of the hinges set.

Step 8: Protrusions

I locked Platforms 1, 2 and 3 (sides of the cube) and hide Platform 4 (roof of the cube). Then I added a box of 20mm*5mm*20mm on top of Platform 3 and the opposite wall on Platform 1. These protrusions will enter to the roof (Platform 4) to keep the cube walls in place.

After that, I created hole boxes on Platform 4, specifically in the places where the protrusions will enter.

Step 9: Lock

To keep the box closed, I created a lock. First, I placed a box on top op the available wall of Platform 1 (opposite to the base hinges that connect Platforms 1, 2 and 4). Then I added a cylinder to keep the lock elevated 6mm, so the roof will be between the top parts of the walls and the lock.

The lock is a box of 20mm*10mm*4mm and Radius=5. It has a 6mm hole in the center. I duplicated the lock, turned it 90 degrees, made it a hole and group it with the roof (platform 4), so the lock can pass through it.

Step 10: Handle

For the handle, I used a cylinder of 10mm diameter and 100mm length. On each end, I placed a 5mm*50mm*10mm box, and at the end, a cylinder of 10mm*15mm*10mm as a hinge, that will be inserted in the Platform 4.

I created a housing for the handle, using a hole box, a bigger solid box and two hole cylinders for the hinges. Then I grouped these shapes to Platform 4.

Step 11: Deploying the Playset

Now that our box is ready, is time to move its walls, to adopt the shape of our playset. Place Platforms 2, 3 and 4 over the workplane, verifying that the hinges are aligned between platforms. Now you can add the accessories of your preference. In my case, I am doing a base for Cobra, the ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world!

Now the fun begins!

Step 12: Platform 1: Balcony

I created a balcony. The vertical wall cannot surpass the top part of the cube walls.

NOTE: I recommend you to create the balcony as a separate piece to assemble later. It will save you support materials, time and headaches. I created the balcony integrated to the Platform, more for laziness than for other thing. I regretted that decision later.

Well, it's a prototype! The best moment to make mistakes.

Step 13: Platform 1: Stairs

Using cylinders, I created stairs to communicate the balcony to the floor. I also placed a couple of holes on the floor, se the stairs could fit.

Step 14: Platform 1: Cage

I used the Cage shape from the Shape Library Beta, and cut two sides from it.

The prison is located under the balcony. I placed a hole box on the floor, so the cage can stay in place, and I created a hole on the balcony, so the prisoners can be thrown from there. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

There was an available wall, so I created a decorative control panel there.

Step 15: Platform 2: Control Room

Using boxes, I created the walls for the control room, leaving from distance between the front wall and the handle box of Platform 4.

Step 16: Platform 2: Chair

I grouped some boxes to create the operator's chair. Then, I created a square hole in the center of the control room, to keep the chair in place.

Step 17: Platform 2: Control Panel

Using a box a different shapes, I created a control panel with screens and buttons.

Step 18: Checking Compatibility Between Platforms 1 and 2

Before continuing, I returned Platform 2 to its original position, and checked if any element of the control room where interfering with the elements of Platform 1. So far, so good.

Step 19: Platform 3: Ramp

Using a wedge, I created a vehicular access to Platform 1.

Step 20: Platform 3: Entry Sign and Weapon

I returned Platform 3 to its original position, and verified where I could place and entry sign and a weapon. After finding out the places (over the balcony's floor for the entry sign, and between Platforms 1 and 2 for the weapon), I created these accessories.

The entry sign is a box. The weapon is an accessory I already created for my "Create Two Walking Machines" instructable.

Step 21: Platforms 1 and 3: Cobra Logo

I went to the Tinkercad gallery for a good Cobra logo. The best one was created by Tinkercad user John Boyer.

A big Cobra logo would be placed outside the wall of Platform 1. A smaller one would be used on the entry sign.

In both cases, I duplicated the logo. One of the duplicates was transformed into a hole and grouped with the surface where it would be placed. From the remaining duplicate, I removed the base, leaving only the logo. It would be printed in a smaller scale, and it would be inserted in the respective slots.

Step 22: Platform 4: Weapons and Deco

On the handle's case, I created some decorative gates.

For the weapons system, I used a missile launcher that I created for another project.

Step 23: Completed Design

So far, this is the completed design for the playset. Now it's time to export every single component and transform it into a STL for printing.

Step 24: Slicing and Printing

After rearranging the parts for printing, I exported the STL files and opened them in the slicer.
I used the following parameters:

  • Printer: Creality Ender 3 V2
  • Slicer: Ultimaker Cura 4.8.0
  • Material: PLA
  • Printing Temperature: 200°C for hot end, 50°C for printing bed
  • Infill: 20% (platforms, cage, logo, chair, guns, sign), 30% (mechanism, missiles). 50% (stairs, handle, missile launcher and trigger), 100% (lock)
  • Supports: Linear for most of the parts with overhangs, Treelike for the weapons.
  • Raft: Yes, specially for the platforms (warping would be deadly for the box)
  • Scale: 100% (except the Cobra Logo. It was tricky, mixing parts between 98% and 90%. I will explain this situation on Step 27)

I am attaching the STLs, so... have fun!

Step 25: Building Platform 1: Cage and Stairs

The cage (orange) was placed under the balcony. No need to use glue. However, I glued the stairs to the platform and the balcony.

Step 26: Building Platform 1: the Lock

I inserted the lock in their respective place, and used the screw and the washer to keep them in place.

Step 27: Building Platform 1: Cobra Logo

I have to be honest: the idea of printing a Cobra logo in smaller scale and fitting it in the Cobra hole didn't result as effective as I expected. The curves of the Cobra siluete are very tricky, and the shape simply didn't fit. I had to use patience, sandpaper, glue and printing the logo in two different scales to finally achieve the desired look.

Step 28: Building Platform 3: Sign and Weapon

I inserted the weapon and the entry sign into their respective sockets.

Step 29: Connecting Platform 1 to Platform 3

I aligned the hinge of Platform 3 with its respective hinge in Platform 1, and introduced the iron wire to join them. At the end, I cut the remaining part of the iron wire.

Step 30: Building Platform 2: Chair

I added super glue to the lower part of the chair, and inserted it in its respective slot in the control room.

Step 31: Building Platform 4: Handle

I inserted the handle's hinges into their respective holes in the handle's case.

Step 32: Connecting Platform 2 to Platform 4

I aligned the hinge of Platform 2 with its respective hinge in Platform 4, and introduced the iron wire to join them. At the end, I cut the remaining part of the iron wire, and tested if the control room interfered with the handle's case. So far, so good.

Step 33: Building Platform 4: Weapons

WARNING: this missile launcher is unstable and the missiles are pointy. It is included here only for demonstration purposes. I recommend you to print a couple more of non-spring loaded weapons and place here instead.

I assembled the missile launchers and put some springs on them. Then I attached to them to Platform 4.

Note: When I transformed the playset to box, the right missile launcher was in conflict with the balcony, so I changed it for the same weapon of Platform 3. The other missile launcher didn't have the same problem, because it entered directly to the cage's hole.

Step 34: Connecting Platform 2 to Platform 1

I aligned the available hinge of Platform 1 with the available hinge in Platform 2, and introduced the iron wire to join them. At the end, I cut the remaining part of the iron wire.

Step 35: Ready for Action!

Our playset is ready! Test it, improve it and have fun!

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    7 months ago

    Well done as usual Mario! Keep it up! See you around Baku! --Aisha

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    Reply 7 months ago

    Thanks a lot, dear Aisha!!! :-)

    Stevens Workshop
    Stevens Workshop

    1 year ago

    Great little play zone in a box, I'm sure the children love it.

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot Stevens! And also, some adults 🙂


    1 year ago

    Man, this would make an awesome gift.

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot, dummy1977! 🙂


    1 year ago

    You just keep getting more and more impressive with the models you build and print! Brillant :D

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot Jessy!!! :D

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    1 year ago

    This is so neat! I always loved toys that transformed like this and it's really neat to think people can just design and make professional looking ones themselves :D

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot Nicole!!! This could also be an idea for a M.A.S.K. toy! :D