Activity: Create a Sliding Puzzle
This page serves as a guide to creating your own custom sliding puzzle in DaBL!
- Back-Plate: The platform that puzzle pieces sit on
- Frame: Raised edges that constrain the puzzle pieces
- Puzzle Pieces: The puzzle itself!
Step 1: Design a Puzzle
To create our design, we raster an image into a sheet of MDF. You can create a design from scratch using Inkscape, however, for this example we are using an image found online.
Recall that the laser cutter rasters shapes which are the color black. Understanding this, all we need to do is transform our bitmap image into a black and white image. Luckily for us, Inkscape's “Trace Bitmap“ command will do exactly that.
After selecting the image you want to use, open it in Inkscape. Now, click to select the image and from the top toolbar select Path > Trace Bitmap…
This will bring up the Trace Bitmap menu. Notice that there are several trace modes (Brightness cutoff, edge detection, color quantization, etc). These are all slightly different and some modes may work better for different images. For now let’s select “brightness cutoff” which will turn pixels black that are between a certain brightness range.
Click “Live Preview” at the bottom to examine the changes you are making. Now, toy around with the threshold values until you get something you are happy with. Click “OK” to apply the changes.
Step 2: Segment your puzzle
Now that we have a beautiful design for our puzzle, let’s chop it up into individual pieces.
Important consideration: To ensure all the puzzle pieces can move freely, we must cut out small amounts of material, rather than simply cutting a grid.
To accomplish this, I prefer using Corel Draw. Export your current design as a Plain SVG and open it up in Corel Draw.
- Determine the overall size of the puzzle
- Determine how many pieces you want. (Personally, I have found that 4x4 is a size and difficulty I like)
- Determine the size of each puzzle piece
- Do this by dividing the puzzle's width/length by the amount of pieces you want Ex: 4x4 Puzzle with length and width of 5 inches. 5/4 = 1.25 in pieces
- Separate the puzzle pieces
- Important consideration: To ensure all the puzzle pieces can move freely, we must cut out small amounts of material, rather than simply cutting a grid.
- We do this by drawing skinny red rectangles (.025 mm width) that span the length of the puzzle.
- Using the ruler and the zooming tool, place rectangles between each piece.
- Use the width we determined in step 3 to separate the rectangles. (Ex. place rectangles at 1.25", 2.5", and 3.75")