Gavin Tomchick – Portfolio


my name is Gavin Tomchick, I am a Junior Engineering Major and Math Minor from Falls Church, VA. I enjoy both watching and playing various sports (my favorite are wrestling and football). If I am not being active I’m being overly competitive when playing a board, card, or video games–especially if they are strategy games. Additionally, I am a very active member of Filipino Americans at Madison (FAM) which I have been apart of since my Freshman year.

My experience with 3D puzzles is rather limited, however, I have always had an interest in them –more so on the solving end. I think designing several puzzles this semester will be a challenge but enjoyable. When it comes to 3D printing specifically, I would argue that I have plenty of modeling or designing experience but little to no printing experience. My goal for this class is to get myself better accustomed to 3d printing process (in order to take advantage of this resource) as well as generate interesting yet challenging puzzles.

See the source image

Here is a picture of a Bald Eagle because I am a proud American, and my favorite NFL team is the Eagles (My dad is from Pennsylvania).

Find me below!

@Gavin Tomchick -Tinkercad

@Knotz -Thingiverse

@KnotzUC -Sketchfab

Initial Puzzle Research

The penny trap “puzzle” in class had me thinking about a recent YouTube video that I had watched a couple days ago on a similar, but more complex puzzle. This one, however, had a solution. The puzzle is known as the Hexa. It is a metallic cylindrical tube with hexagonal openings positioned similar to that of a tortoise shell. Contained within the tube is a decahedron. Like the penny trap, the purpose of this puzzle is to remove the central object from the cylinder. The solution of this puzzle deals with proper positioning of the decahedron over a certain hexagon where there is a unnoticeable difference.

Contrast to the opinions of the video, I think that this style of puzzle is fantastic because it is simple yet frustrating. I think that this would be a great puzzle to modify because the concept is fairly simple but there can be a lot of creativity in terms of the shape of the initial object, holes, or container. Last, I love the overall symmetry in the design and how one hole is unnoticeably asymmetric. That would make it very fun to model, however I am sure this type of puzzle would present problems when 3d printing.

The second puzzle that I did research on was the Excalibur Puzzle. From my general understanding this type of puzzle is a Burr Puzzle. The goal of this puzzle is simple, push the wooden blocks from 5 sides of the cube in order to extract the sword from the most upward side. I loved this puzzle idea for two different reasons. First, it looks like an incredibly difficult puzzle to solve–especially since the sword is very deceiving. Second, there is a fantasy aspect to this puzzle which is very appealing to me. It is the instant classic, only the worthy can pull this sword out of the rock.

Ways to modify this puzzle I would feel like are quite challenging since my initial idea would be to change the initial base (cube) into a more complex 3d object i.e. an octahedral. Granted that I have no experience making puzzles, it is very hard for me to imagine such a puzzle where you would be able to push blocks from 7 directions instead of 5. However, I think the most important take away from this puzzle is that I should incorporate some sort of theme or story behind my future puzzle.

*References are in the links above.

Thingiverse Puzzle Print

The model I chose to print was a Simple 3D Puzzle by cathalgarvey. I chose this puzzle for 2 main reasons, the first of which is because it was only 3 pieces and thus I had no difficulty printing it out. Secondly, there was no solution provided. In other words, I had to assemble the puzzle myself which I found actually a bit challenging. Personally, I am very happy with this puzzle–at least with the level of challenge and the design. A couple of things that I felt caused problems were the original sizing of the print; which was way too small (I scaled it by 800% and it is still very tiny), and the tolerances are very tight, thus I had to apply a good amout of force to slide the pieces through. Overall, like I mentioned it above, I consider this puzzle to be a success. Here is an image of my print (solved) below [MAKE]:

Tinkercad Cube Puzzle

I initially started this design process with a cube puzzle with a central cross (similar to how a Rubix cube cant move the sides), however, I quickly abandoned this idea since I had a tough time visualizing which direction to take the cube. My initial thought process was that I could just start making pieces and somehow it would find a way together. This was followed by me trying to determine what each of the sides of the puzzle would look like with the pieces–again this was quickly abandoned due to my inability to visualize.

Since I had no clue on where to go from here, and I am relatively inexperienced with the Tinkercad program, I decided to do some basic research in the steps in order to make a puzzle like this. I stumbled across a tutorial article and decided that this level of modeling I could be comfortable with. I liked the aesthetic of this cube puzzle because it isn’t the standard “Tetris” blocks, however this design was relatively simple. In order to mix things up, I decided to change the orientation of the triangles on every block (which eventually caused me several problems). After finishing the modeling work I went to print. Unfortunately, one of my initially designed pieces failed to print. So I was left with 7 pieces of an 8-piece puzzle. While printing the puzzle, I took advantage of the multiple 3D-printers and I printed the stand. Luckily, I had no problems with this. Following my previous failures, I proceeded to re-print the missing piece. This time there was no issues.

Again, like I briefly mentioned earlier, another issue emerged: this time, my puzzle was currently unsolvable. I quickly learned that my initial iteration of rotating triangles with no thought wouldn’t lead to an eventual solution. By the third iteration of my design, I ended up re-printing half of my puzzle–excluding the one misprint (as denoted by the image below–the original puzzle color was grey).

UPDATE: after another set of printing failures, unfortunately I’m going to call it a night. I have decided to make the last 2 remaining pieces with the finest print in hopes that at least during class time I will have a finished product. This process has spanned several days and unfortunately I will be unable to reach the deadline–however, it was still a valuable learning experience and I feel confident that after my 3rd iteration, I will have a successful puzzle.

*photo of completed print is below

Cube Puzzle Iteration

After, trial and error, I was finally able to complete and make a successful and solvable puzzle. I felt that I have worked extensively on addressing the issues of this puzzle already and just about the only thing that I could do was reprint each piece until they looked and felt clean. I decided against that because that didn’t feel like real progress to me. Instead, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself by making a more difficult puzzle–of the same style. To do this, I had to think what makes puzzles inherently more difficult, and thus, I came to the conclusion that the easiest way was just to increase the number of pieces. Before jumping into making this new puzzle, I wanted to reflect on the process of making the previous puzzle. I realized from my previous failures that I should address the issue of solvability right away.  To do this, I had a completely different outlook when designing this puzzle. In stead of designing each individual piece, I would design each corresponding layer instead. I thought it best that instead of containing one file that had all of my pieces, I should have 3 separate files of my pieces since my main iteration was to increase my puzzle size from a 2X2 to a 3X3.

So I started my modeling with a similar plan as my original puzzle, however, this time I oriented the pieces in the way that the solution would be. Each block was 20mm*20mm*20mm which was the same scale as my previous puzzle. Each cube was positioned 22mm apart from each other because I knew that each wedge would have 10mm thickness. This extra space (2mm) would allow me to make sure that each puzzle piece would actually fit.

I then proceeded to add the wedges on each “left-right” side of the puzzle. Each wedge was 19mm*19mm*10mm. These dimensions were the same of the previous puzzle and I think it was perfect because it already addressed the issue of  the pieces fitting together. Each right angle of each wedge was positioned to the corresponding corner of the cube in which it was attached. I positioned each wedge randomly, however, I made sure that the solution was sure to work. Initially, I may have mentioned that I originally had plans of designing this in Solidworks because I am more comfortable with their interface. Instead, I just played around with Tinkercad for about 20 minutes and quickly realized that if I used the ruler tool, in addition to the workplane tool, I could easily address my issues with alignment.

Here, I repeated the process mentioned above, except I rotated the wedges to fit their corresponding “front-back” faces of each cube.

Next, I positioned the wedges on the top face of each cube. To ensure that each wedge was positioned properly, I used the workplane tool to make a plane on the top face of my cubes. Then, I used the ruler tool to set my 0 at the bottom left corner of my first cube. In other words, from my new plane, my zeroed point was the same as my initial 0 point plus 20mm in height (x and y coordinates are the same-only z changed).

Last, I grouped each piece using the grouping tool. I color coded each piece like this because this way because random colors (which is what I did for the last puzzle) didn’t help me distinguish each piece. This way, at least in Tinkercad, it allows me to keep continuity when I design the next two layers. One thing that is concerning about the next layer however, is that each piece will start with a wedge on the bottom. I am not sure if this would cause difficulty for the 3d printers, since there is no smooth transition from triangle to cube. This has to be as clean and sharp as possible or I risk that the pieces wouldn’t fit together. However, this wouldn’t be an issue for the last layer since I can model each piece then flip them so that the cube base is at the bottom. On a side note, after attending the makerspace, I was interested in what they had to offer–especially the Glowforge. I like the idea of having a wood element be the container/holder of this puzzle. Additionally, I am working on what I would want as a logo to be etched into that container. Currently, I have no idea what I want this logo to look like, but, at a minimum I know I want to have one. I have experience working with Illustrator, so I’ll probably design something off of that and make an .SVG file to work to print with it.

Original Puzzle:

New Puzzle: 

Cube Puzzle Wrap-Up

I think I have been overly ambitious with this project, at least when it comes to completing both the 2X2 and the 3X3. I don’t think I am changing much when it comes to this iteration, the key differences have to come with the best way to print my pieces. Luckily, there were some notes that I stumbled upon on ways improve this printing process. I know now that when printing pieces that have angles less than 60 degrees I need to add support. Additionally, I need to extend the layers of my pieces through the central cubes or the printer may consider the wedges as separate entities.

When it comes to actually creating new things, I finished the last two layers of the 3X3 (at least when it comes to modeling) as well as designed a new holder for the 3×3. Something I realized while playing around with the 2×2 was that since there wasn’t a snap or nice touch when the pieces came together, it wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted it to be. To try and tackle this problem, I played with calipers and came to the conclusion that I was lacking a “snug” fit. Thus, I modified the holder so that It was almost press fit ( left room for clearance) with 3 walls. I think this gives a better feel since the walls of the puzzle box now hold the puzzle in place.

Overall, I think I’ve learned a lot when it comes to the Tinkercad interface as well as general puzzle designing. Additionally, I’ve learned a lot about the limitations of 3D printing–especially when it comes to printing irregular looking shapes and pieces. As it relates to my final project, I briefly mentioned above that I was exploring detail elements via laser cutter and I know I want to incorporate more than a just a 3D printing element. Also, I like the idea of irregular shapes, and I think I would like to include them in my final puzzle. Last, I realize the importance of the container–and like I mentioned in my initial puzzle research, I could implement a thematic element on the container. I think that will further elevate my puzzle. Since I enjoy the idea of Medieval fantasy, I was thinking of incorporating some sort of jester element–at least when it comes to a logo or container.

*there are a lot more pieces than shown

Personal Project Pitch

When it comes to my final project, I want to pursue something challenging with some sort of thematic element involved. The two main styles of puzzles that I looked at were, first a puzzle similar to the Hexa Puzzle (from my initial project research), and second some sort of  Burr Puzzle (again from my puzzle research). In terms of pursuing a trap like puzzle, I would have to iterate both the shape of the holes as well as the object contained within. Additionally, I would definitely want to design a container for this puzzle. I think part of the experience is that if I were to sell the final product, there has to be a good form of packaging–whether that be a simple plastic bag or a wooden box.

When it comes to previous knowledge, I have none regarding developing this type of puzzle, however I have experience in the fabrication portion. From what I’ve learned previously, the best chance of me succeeding is to give myself as much time as possible to print. In the past, I have been bogged down by the amount of things I have needed to print as well as the time required to print. My previous two cube puzzles took upwards of 16 hours to print, with the 3×3 taking about triple that amount of time. However, I am not too worried about the modeling/designing phase since I believe I have pleanty of experience on that front. Worst case scenario, if I were to be unable to design in Tinkercad, I would simply redesign in SolidWords and export as an stl. file.

Some of the challenges I will face will be major. The initial challenge is find a configuration of shapes that give a potential solution without having the object just fall out from everywhere. In other words, I have to strike a really tight balance between a solvable puzzle (with few solutions–preferably only one) and an impossible to solve puzzle (e.g. penny trap).

20 Things in Fusion 360

My experience with Fusion 360 has been very positive–in fact preferred to that of Tinkercad. The interface is much more complicated here, however this allows room for more creativity. Additionally, the interface is very close to, but not exactly the same, as Solidworks–which I have a ton of experience with. I think the familiarity with Solidworks allowed me to make complex shapes and even assemblies. Another thing that carried over was a lot of the quick keys. This was super nice because it allowed me to quickly make the shapes I wanted without the hassle of searching everywhere around for the certain thing that I wanted.

This was the base overview of my models before I went and created more complex assemblies (which will be shown below). I focused on creating a white variety of shapes all from the base sketch form. I chose to ignore the instant creation of 3D objects because I felt, with the exception of the coil, I could more easily and more precisely created the shapes needed with the correct dimensions (D key).

The first Body that I made (and the one that I printed) was a simple lofted box that had a hole that went through the entire piece. The edges of the box were fileted with the modification tool then additionally, all sharp edges (with the exception of the base) where chamfered.

The second Body that I created was made using the line tool–from the sketch menu. I drew a random zig-zag pattern and then used the sketch-filet tool to round out all the corners. I then proceeded to use the pipe tool, which I dragged across the entity to create what is shown above.

Rather than use the same bottom plane for construction of all my objects, I used the side plane of one of the ends of the pipe (Body 2) to create this “gear.” This shape initially started as an circle which I extruded into a cylinder. Next, I chamfered the edges of the cylinder. Now, using a new plane–which was one of the new bases of the cylinder, I used the line tool to connect the center point of the circle to the 12-o-clock position point. I then proceed to make the center point circle with a radius of 10mm placed at that position. Using the circular pattern tool, I replicated that same circle placed equal-distantly from each other. Last, I used the hole tool to cut the gear. I chose to use a notched hole to make each area look like a “screw.”

This is what the two bodies look together.

I next created the mushroom looking shape (in the first picture, directly in the front) by sketching a L shape (line tool), then rounding the edges of the L with the sketch filet. I then used the revolve tool with the axis being on the long end of the rounded L. I chose not to do a rotation of only 275 degrees–which is why it looks like there is a section cut out from the mushroom.

I created this simple hexagonal nut by extruding a center polygon tool with 6 sides. I cut the hole by using a center circle, defined at the center. Last, I rounded the edges yet again with the filet tool.

I made this “neck pillow” shape by using the 3 point body tool then extruding it. I then repeatedly chamfered the edges at a decreasing rate until I was satisfied with the shape. I am aware that there is a Taurus shape in the 3-D creation menu, however, all faces of that shape are rounded, where as, my top two sides are flat. I felt that this would be more useful especially when printing since could ignore replicating the complex curvature at least on the base sides.

With the exception of the coil (behind the chair base), I tried to replicate, what I felt as easy every day objects for my next two bodies. The chair, being the simpler of the two and the door handle being the more tricky object. To create the chair, I used the extrude tool on a two point rectangle which I defined using the define tool to make a square base. I then proceeded to sketch on the face of the platform and define by using a couple of lines as guides. this is how I placed the 3 pillars which are equally spaced apart. I then drew on the top face of my 3 cylinders what I thought looked like the head of a chair from a birds eye view. I defined each line using geometric dimensioning to ensure that each side was the same. In hind sight, it would have probably been easier to just use the mirror tool after creating one have of the chair head. Last, I extruded the chair head and then again rounded off all the sharp edges using the filet tool.

For the doorknob, I mentioned this was a trickier shape because I wanted the angled handle. To create this shape I started with the line tool, drawing 3 sides of a rectangle. I finished my base shape with a tangent arc–which finished that tombstone-esqe shape. I then extruded. I then proceeded to create the cylinder with a center point circle placed at the “center” of the arc. Again, here I just extruded. To create the angled portion, I started with a sketch on one of the side planes (left or right–I can’t remember which one I used but either way it is irrelevant) I drew what I thought looked like a nice angle piece for the door handle, again rounded the edges on the handle side, then prepared to extrude. Instead of just standard extrusion, this time I used the drop down menu to extrude to face, and then clicked the opposite side face. After completion, it gave me the option of connecting the two extrusions, which I accepted–and which is also why it looks like 1 contiguous shape from the side.

Overall with my work, there is a noticeable pattern when creating the shapes that I wanted. Sketch –> Extrude/Revolve/Hole –> Filet/Chamfer. I would argue that with just those limited amount of tools, you could make almost any shape you could ever need–especially from a practical standpoint.

10 Things in OpenSCAD

My experience with coding is rather limited. I wouldn’t consider myself a “good” or established coder, however I would say that I have some experience with it. This program overall was a lot more difficuilt for me to pick up rather than that of Tinkercad or Fusion because I am more familiar with similar types of software where OpenSCAD was a completely new experience for me. For my first couple of initial objects, I watched some tutorials on YouTube, for example the ball bearing below as well as the parametric bowl (However I did modify the codes that’s why there are subtle differences). In the bearing, I replaced the balls with cylinders, and for the bowl I added sides, added more twist and changed the diameter.

Another shape I created was based off of this video below.

After gaining a bit of experience by watching programs teaching me how to make certain objects, I decided to look at the OpenSCAD online code database and see if I can create a couple of interesting shapes from there. For example this is my attempt at a star like shape. I created this by using _points, _points_len, and adj_ = 0 to create the star “tips” I just added a height modifier as well as rounding modifier which I learned from one of the previous videos on each of the corners.

This is a “ninja star” made in a similar method but flat instead of raised. One key difference is that I had to set an initial base plate of points (a circle in this case) or the star would have been a square.