3D Printed Photo Block Puzzle

About: My current interests are Electronics (e.g., Arduino), Clock repair, Archeoastronomy, Design for 3D Printing, Singing, Software, Woodworking, Poetry, Genealogy, and more each year. I'm on Twitter as @bneedha...

This is a 6-block photo puzzle that uses 3D printed cubes. Similar to noahw's Photo Block Puzzle, but aimed at folks who have a 3D printer instead of a woodworking shop. Once I'd printed the 6 cubes, it took only a couple hours to select 6 photos, cut them into squares, and glue the pieces onto the 3D printed cubes.

This gift was a big hit at our Twelfth Night party!

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

  1. access to a 3D printer. Many libraries and most Maker Spaces have printers available for use by members.
  2. 6 different photo prints, preferably 4 x 6 inches. You may want to get double prints, so you can give the puzzle solution pictures along with the puzzle.
  3. A ruler and pencil, for marking where to cut each photo.
  4. Scissors, for cutting the photos into squares.
  5. E6000 Craft Glue or similar, for gluing the parts of the plastic blocks together.
  6. Glue Stick, for gluing the photo squares to the plastic blocks.

Step 2: 3D Print 6 Blocks

Follow the instructions on my Thingiverse Photo Block puzzle piece to print and assemble 6 cubes, using the 3D printer and the craft glue. Each hollow cube consists of 3 printed pieces: a left half, a right half, and a bar that holds the two halves in place while the glue sets.

Give the glue plenty of time to set so the cubes won't come apart when you press the photo squares onto the cube faces.

Step 3: Choose 6 Photos and Cut Them Into Squares

Choose 6 photos that will be part of the puzzle. Print those photos, preferably on heavy, glossy paper. I designed the 3D printed cube for photo prints that are 4 x 6 inches (102 x 152 mm) but if your prints are a different size, you can adjust the size of the cubes before printing: see the Thingiverse "How I Designed This" section for instructions for resizing the cubes.

Cut each photo into 6 more-or-less equal size squares. For my 4 x 6 inch photos, I marked the short side at 51 mm (half of 102 mm) and the long side at 50.5 mm and 101 mm (roughly 1/3 of 152 mm). As always, "measure twice, cut once"; you can see in the cutting image above that I mis-marked one of the lines before I cut the photo.

As you cut each photo into 6 squares, make one stack of the squares from that photo. Doing this will be important in the next step, to keep the parts of the photos from getting mixed up.

Step 4: Glue the Photos' Squares Onto the Cubes

This step takes a little concentration. You need to make sure that each cube has one square from each photo; that no cube has two or more squares from the same photo.

Choose the first cube to glue photo squares onto.

In the previous step, you put each photo's squares into a separate stack. You now have 6 stacks of squares, one for each photo.

Pick one square from each of the 6 stacks. You will glue these 6 squares onto this cube.

Using the glue stick, put glue on both the back of the square and on one face of the photo cube. Press the square onto that face of the photo cube, pressing all over that square so the whole square sticks to the cube.

Repeat the process on this cube until you've glued all six of the selected squares onto the six faces of this cube.

Repeat this process of picking squares and gluing them on a cube until you've glued squares on all the faces of all six cubes.

Give the glue plenty of time to dry.

Step 5: Package the Cubes As a Gift

Choose how you want to present the puzzle as a gift. One way is to give just the jumbled cubes, without anything to help the recipient solve the puzzle. I found that for particularly difficult images - such as a photo of mussels clinging to a rock - you may instead want to include duplicates of the 6 photos in your gift.

Of course the challenge for the recipient is to a) flip the blocks until all the squares from one photo are face-up, then b) rotate and re-order the cubes until the photo makes sense, then c) do it again for another of the six photos on the blocks.

The finished gift works both as a puzzle and as a photo display. Enjoy!

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