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 Post subject: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:30 pm 
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Lately I'm seeing a trend...

MF8 has mass produced TomZ's 3x4x5.
Mefferts has mass produced Timur's Gear Pyraminx.
Mefferts has mass produced Oskar's Fadi Cube calling it the Mosaic Cube.

All of these have made it to the mass production stage with issues. In the first two cases I believe the general consensus is that the Shapeways puzzle is much better. It took me a while to find this quote but Oskar does say the "Mosaic Cube turns much better than Fadi Cube" in this post. However even in that case Oskar was able to make significant improvements to the Mosaic Cube with his Sphere Core.

And with MF8's 3x4x5 Tom has made it clear that MF8 used a "completely different design" from his Shapeways 3x4x5. I have mixed feelings about this. While I'm very happy to see Tom recognized as the first to make this puzzle, I also feel its a bit of false advertising. Tom has worked on his design and perfected it over the years. When I see a mass produced puzzle with his name on it my initial expectation was that its design would benefit from Tom's years of experience with the 3x4x5. I appreciate being pointed out that isn't the case before I bought one and I guess those that won't see that bit of info or don't frequent Twisty Puzzles may not know who Tom is but still it just doesn't feel right.

I haven't seen in detail how closely Meffert works with the original designers. It appears it's closer then MF8 does but I'd also say it doesn't appear to be close enough. Timur's Gear Pyraminx on Shapeways is said to be much better then the mass produced version.

So now how to fix this...
I understand the models submitted to Shapeways can't be used to make the molds needed for a mass produced puzzle but couldn't those new models be sent to Shapeways (or 3D printed) to test prior to incuring the expense of making the expensive molds. The original Shapeways designer should be a part of the process and get to approve the model prior to the molds even being made if his name is going to get put on the puzzle. Maybe some of this is already being done with Meffert, I just can't say. I could see how Oskar might not come up with the idea for the ball core until after the puzzle made it to market especially as he's said even without this modification its better then his Fadi Cube but its clear that once he was aware of the issue he had better ideas on how to fix it then Meffert. Nothing against Meffert in this case, he just didn't have the experience with the puzzle that Oskar had at this point. So what I'm saying is the whole process should be much more collaborative and I believe a great deal of these issues we are now seeing could be avoided.

Till then the best advice seems to be to not purchase a new puzzle until reviews of the puzzle have made it to the internet.

Carl

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:41 pm 
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I am of course, unhappy about this. The prototype that I received from MF8 was perfect after some tightening and I was quite happy to promote it. I am getting some more samples soon, it'll be interesting to see how those compare to the one I already have.
Manufacturers don't tend to do anything with Shapeways. For some of his earlier puzzles, Meffert has had some prototypes made by a local SLA printing company but that's it. 3D printing probably does not reflect mass production very much: injection molds suffer from shrinkage of the parts and all kinds of problems which makes it hard to know the final shape of the parts.
Anything designed for Shapeways usually uses spherical shells. These spheres are a nightmare to mold so a design is usually downgraded to a cylindrical mechanism before it is mass produced.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:50 pm 
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In general I agree with your statements. However, I think that you are missing a big point: designing mass produced injection moulds which can be commercially assembled is much more difficult than you might think. What can be made on Shapeways, and hand assembled, and turns beautifully, does not necessarily make a puzzle which can be made in the 000's at a reasonable cost. If only that were the case :(

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:01 pm 
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Thanks for the additional information Tom. Clearly I've glossed over some of the details regarding making the model injection mold ready as I've not been involved in that process myself yet. But to me this just highlights why it needs to be a collaborative effort. The producer who is aware of these issues should work to help educate the designer on the limitations of injection molding and do what he can to make sure the designer is best able to contribute his experience with a particular puzzle. I just don't feel this is being done or atleast not being done as well as it should be.

Just my 2 cents...
Carl

P.S. If I were to buy a 3x4x5 today, I'd be more inclined to get your Shapeways model then the mass produced one even taking the cost difference into consideration.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:07 pm 
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I cannot talk about the 3x4x5 and the Gear Pyraminx because I'm still waiting for them.
I had wrongly anticipated that Tom had some cooperation with mf8. Looking at the recent reviews abot the mf8 3x4x5, I'm ready to believe that we would have a better puzzle, if they had worked together.
The Starminx is another similar case.
I cannot say why such cooperations have not happened in the past. I hope for future puzzles that this will happen.

The Mosaic Cube is a different case, I believe. My impression is that there was a close cooperation between Uwe and Oskar. The production Mosaic Cube was better than the Shapeways Fadi. (Oskar has stated this in an email to me). Uwe had invested a lot into the many prototypes and still a lot of people were not pleased with the production version.

The idea of the sphere core was produced by a post of one of us (Burgo!). So, this late improvement happened by accident somehow.
My impression is that this possible and essential improvement was not ordered by many. (As far as I can recollect only Burgo and myself have posted about it.)
Why that?
My personal theory is that many people found out the truth that after some breaking in and some lubrication the Mosaic Cube is not so bad after all :wink:

My conclusion is that the Mosaic Cube has not suffered from too less cooperation, while other puzzles could benefit from more.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:12 pm 
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Gus wrote:
What can be made on Shapeways, and hand assembled, and turns beautifully, does not necessarily make a puzzle which can be made in the 000's at a reasonable cost. If only that were the case :(
Agreed... I hadn't thought about all of that. Seeing Tom's comment about spherical shells it got me thinking about my Doctor Skewb. The only planar surfaces in that puzzle are on the surface. Everything else is cones and spheres. That doesn't sound very good for the prospects of a mass produced Doctor Skewb in our future.

Carl

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:27 pm 
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Konrad wrote:
The production Mosaic Cube was better than the Shapeways Fadi. (Oskar has stated this in an email to me).
Agreed. See the link I made to your post in my first post above.
Konrad wrote:
The idea of the sphere core was produced by a post of one of us (Burgo!).
You have a link? I had thought this was Oskar's idea. EDIT: You are correct. Oskar gave the link in his Shapeways description. Here is the link. I stand corrected.
Konrad wrote:
My impression is that this possible and essential improvement was not ordered by many. (As far as I can recollect only Burgo and myself have posted about it.)
Why that?
I'd be happy to try it. My issue is the same as the one I mentioned here. I can't take the caps off without risk of braking a valuable puzzle and yes it does work well enough for me to leave it as it is. If I had easy access to the screws though I'd be more then happy to make it a better puzzle.
Konrad wrote:
My conclusion is that the Mosaic Cube has not suffered from too less cooperation, while other puzzles could benefit from more.
I agree the Mosaic Cube appears to be the weakest example but it could be better. Meffert could offer a version with a ball core. Or he could even offer a DIY kit that make it easy to install the available ball core from the start. So there is room for improvement. I don't really consider the Starminx as an example of this as it makes no claims of being tied to Tom's puzzles on Shapeways. Its a MF8 creation and ture I believe it would have been better had Tom been involved but there is no "impression" given that he was.

Carl

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:51 pm 
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I will say now that I have never invented a new puzzle so I can only sort of understand how protective people can get over their ideas. However, I do know a lot about taking designs (I am an electronic engineer) and making them manufacturable, and that process is not easy.

There are lots of compromises, and sometimes you absolutely know that you know best. But I have found that that I am nearly always wrong. So, when you "give up" your puzzle design to "mass production", you have to accept that it will be different from your "perfect" design. And sometime that means a less than perfect result. Which is :(

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:15 pm 
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On the topic of going from a beautiful shell mech design to a mass produced puzzle: if you take apart an MF8 Starminx and compare it to TomZ's 30mm edge Starminx, some of the parts deviate significantly. The most telling thing about the MF8 version though is that most of the pieces were cast out of two molds and then have been screwed together. I think this demonstrates that MF8 knows how to design a puzzle with the right shaped pieces but they have to make significant compromises in the shapes of the pieces when they actually design molds to cast them. Casting each part as two and then screwing them together must really drive up costs. I'd guess they only do it when they just can't make workable pieces in a single mold and that if they can make a piece "mostly work" they'll do it, even at the risk of harming the turning quality of the puzzle.

Also, I think some of MF8s puzzles really need to have much larger fillets to reduce catching. My hypothesis for why they keep releasing puzzles with fillets that are too small is that something about making fillets in a mold is expensive or less reliable so they compromise and make them smaller.

So could manufactures learn from TomZ and Eric (and other designers)? I think the answer is definitely "yes" if they are designing for 3D printing. I think the answer is a more mixed "maybe" when it comes to casted parts and molds.

Edit: fixed minor spelling and grammar issues.

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Last edited by Brandon Enright on Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:35 pm 
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I'll pipe in here (yet again) if you do a bit of a search, you will see that last July (?) George Miller and I went to a factory in China with Uwe. At that time, George attempted to help on a puzzle that has been catching a bit of flack as well....(for those of you that don't know, George makes a lot of prototypes for puzzles-pre-shapeways days)

The Mosaic cube went through 8 retoolings before being made. EIGHT! Molds are incredibly expensive. I'm making a puzzle now and will let you know the cost of it after all is said and done, but here's the deal, I will NEVER make my mold cost back because my run is very small. Meffert's and the Mosaic cube? Same thing. He didn't make enough to pay for one tooling of it to say nothing about 8.

There is a huge difference between shapeways puzzles and injection molding. TomZ has hit upon one of the issues involved. There are so many others that it's not funny.

Filets? (For some reason I'm wanting steak now-must be my bad spelling) Sliders. They need sliders and each slider adds to the cost.

As for cooperation between the designers and the manufacturers? Well we would hope there is that, but often times just because someone can make a puzzle by shapeways doesn't mean they can do the same for the injection mold making process. Most of the time there is another engineer or two in the middle that is fixing some bit of the puzzle that just won't work in the change up from one to the next.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:46 pm 
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As an industrial designer who has designed hundreds of parts for mass production, including dozens of injection molded parts, I figured I should say a few things on this topic.

Foremost is that I agree wholeheartedly with Carl's original sentiment that mass produced puzzles could benefit greatly from the involvement of the puzzle designer in the tooling process. However, unless that designer is also very familiar with the injection molding and mold design process, such cooperation will only yield so many benefits.

As several have stated, design for injection molding is very different from design for rapid prototyping processes. Some of the issues have been overstated (part shrinkage is not a big problem and any good mold maker will account for the proper shrinkage when a tool is being made), and some issues such as draft angles, parting lines, gate locations, and knock-out pins have not been discussed at all. Things like fillets, conical cross sections, and spherical shapes are not inherently good or bad. They can help in some mold conditions, and they can hurt in others. Sometimes making a part from multiple simpler pieces and screwing them together is actually the best way to create the required geometry, and will lead to a better puzzle than might otherwise be possible. Given all of the complicating factors, nearly all 3D printed puzzles (no matter the printing process used) would have to go through a rigorous redesign process to become viable mass-produced products. That redesign takes time and expertise. And sometimes even with that mistakes (and large useless chunks of steel) are made. (But my goodness, I hope Meffert's actually only had to make eight mold alterations, not eight entirely new molds. If the latter is the case Uwe really needs to find some better tool makers!)

Of course, the other thing it takes is a mass market. Since the size of the puzzle market is so small, it's a bit of a miracle that there have been as many new designs mass manufactured in the past few years as there have been. It will be a wonderful day when there is a market that truly demands large quantities of new brain-building products such as twisty puzzles.

On the positive side of things, as technology advances a convergence is starting to take place. The most advanced mold makers are now using rapid tooling techniques to produce molded parts in record times and at lower and lower costs. Check out Protomold to see what I mean. But as good as Protomold is (and they are very good, I've used them many times, but not for puzzles) there is still a wide gap in both costs and capabilities between 3D printing and injection molding. Due to all of the issues discussed above, this will always be the case, but it may not be too many more years before the point is made moot by newer and better technologies.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:23 pm 
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Is it possible that a cheaper process could be used to make the prototype molds (maybe a cheaper mold will make a few runs of prototype parts, but not be durable enough for mass production). Or would it simply be cheaper to 3D-print the mold itself rather than gorge the mold out or a solid block of metal? Maybe the mold could be printed in wax or plastic using cheap 3D print technology, then casted in steel, similar to how bronze sculptures usually start out as clay, polystyrene, or other material. It may be cheaper to cast a highly complex injection mold than to tool the entire thing out of a solid block of steel. :?:

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:38 pm 
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Good idea. Problem is if they don't print the molds exactly right, your right back where you started, but with a lot more money in on this. And as I know, 3d printing is rarely perfectly exact.

I agree that their should be more cooperation between the designer and mass-producer. Unfortunately, this just isn't possible sometimes.

I don't think anyone has mentioned the curvy copter, which turned out amazing.

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:06 pm 
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wwwmwww wrote:
And with MF8's 3x4x5 Tom has made it clear that MF8 used a "completely different design" from his Shapeways 3x4x5. I have mixed feelings about this. While I'm very happy to see Tom recognized as the first to make this puzzle, I also feel its a bit of false advertising.

You just need to remember some of the very unfair accusations that were thrown around about another previous puzzle and you'd see what happened here. If you think it's a problem, you should also recognize that it's a problem created by this very forum.
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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:27 pm 
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chris wrote:
You just need to remember some of the very unfair accusations that were thrown around about another previous puzzle and you'd see what happened here.
I think you are talking about the Starminx, correct?
chris wrote:
If you think it's a problem, you should also recognize that it's a problem created by this very forum.
The KO policy of this site is something I go back and forth on. Yes, in some ways it does pressure the producers to recognize the designer that made the puzzle first. And this is likely a case where they didn't even need to as the design is so different. Tom as said as much himself. Still I think the moderators are trying to do the right thing in a world with alot of gray and I agree with the reason behind the KO policy. In many cases acting on limited information is very hard to do so its not something I would want to do but I think they do their best.
chris wrote:
Independent invention happens.
Agreed. And I have to say I've gained a greater appreciation of the differences between Shapeways models and those used for Injection Molding. While I still feel the producers should welcome and try to get as much input as possible from the designers on Shapeways before they try to produce one of their designs I now feel that even with that its still no guaranteed fix to the issue we are seeing. In some sense, I'm almost feeling that most puzzles would almost have to be re-invented for injection molding so in that sense one might ask the question should an injection molded puzzle ever be considered a KO of a Shapeways design? The answer is still probably yes but its more complicated then I thought it was when I started this thread.

Carl

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 Post subject: Re: How to avoid issues with mass produced Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:53 pm 
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wwwmwww wrote:
chris wrote:
You just need to remember some of the very unfair accusations that were thrown around about another previous puzzle and you'd see what happened here.
I think you are talking about the Starminx, correct?

I think he is talking about this topic: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=21049


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