how to create a giant jigsaw puzzle

How to create a giant jigsaw puzzle

Posted Posted in Artwork, Designers, Exhibitions, How to, Wood

FifeX designs, creates and installs bespoke interactive products, exhibitions and educational resources. They’re based nearby in Tayport. Ken Boyd approached us to help them produce two A2 sized jigsaw puzzles for their customer, REME Museum of Technology. REME wanted to replace two puzzles that were worn out as they had been so well used by visitors.

The museum had two images that they wanted to make into jigsaws. We thought long and hard about the best materials to use and how to cut the pieces accurately, and came up with a plan.

Choosing a material

Firstly, we had to select a material to make the jigsaws from. We settled on 6mm birch plywood because it laser cuts well and wood is a lovely, chunky material to handle. Being pale in colour, the pictures would show up clearly. Also, the wood grain would be visible through the print, a lovely feature. And plywood is robust, chunky and lightweight, very important considerations when the product is designed with younger visitors in mind.

Creating the jigsaw

Once the customer had chosen the material, LaserFlair cut two A2 sized shapes from 6mm plywood and sent them to the printer. They applied the pictures and returned the panels to LaserFlair for cutting into jigsaw pieces.

FifeX found a piece of software for designing jigsaw piece layouts and shapes. It created vector lines that the laser can follow to cut the lines between the pieces. We could select how many pieces we wanted in the x and y axes, and choose regularly or irregularly shaped pieces. We decided on 20 pieces to make each piece the size that the customer wanted, and selected an irregular cutting pattern for more interest. Then we laser cut the puzzle.

The whole process was a great success. This picture shows one of the jigsaws sitting on the laser bed after cutting.

plywood pitfalls

Plywood pitfalls

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Artwork, Designers, How to, Wood

You’d assume that 3mm plywood is 3mm thick, wouldn’t you?

Wrong! With plywood, thicknesses are nominal, not actual. This is because plywood is made up of different layers glued together. 3mm usually has 3 layers, and the result is an actual thickness of 3.2-3.3mm. 4mm ply has another layer, and is usually 3.8mm thick.

Potential design disasters

This can create a whole worlds of pain for designers and manufacturers if they want to create products made up of pieces that slot into each other and require a good fit.

If you assume a thickness of 3mm and you design 3mm slots in artwork and then try to fit 3.3mm thick wood in the slot, it’s not going to happen. Or if 4mm ply were used, 3.8mm parts would be too loose.

Case study

Imagine making 300 reindeer kits for Christmas, sending the artwork to a maker, and getting back parts that don’t fit?

This could have happened to one of our earliest customers, but we made a prototype, realised the problem and fed it back to the customer. They tweaked the artwork before we performed the production run. This simple check saved our customer –  and us too –  a lot of time, money and heartache.

Always check that your designer and maker are speaking to each other to avoid disasters like this.