Oct 4, 2015 | By Kira

MyMiniFactory user Lucia Di Santo has invented that game that’s part Lego, part Jenga, and part mathematical engineering, that’s sure to trick and challenge your friends. Each 3D printed Tricky Brick has a different weight and balance to it, meaning you can connect and build them up into awkward, precarious and gravity-defying forms—just as long as you don’t topple them first.

While the rectangular pieces all look more or less the same, each has particular features that can help you select the right piece for your tower before you even pick it up. See-through triangles indicate a hollow, lightweight block, whereas the smaller closed-off shapes are the heavier ones. What makes the Bricks super tricky is that each block has a different centre of mass—some will lean towards the left, others to the right, and if you’re lucky a few might be grounded. In order to know, the arrow design on the sides of the bricks points you towards the direction of the weight.

“In a nutshell I wanted abstract bricks that I could stack in unusual ways…I always thought it would be cool if all the weight was on one side of the brick so that it wouldn’t fall over when hanging off the table or off another brick,” said Di Santo. “3D printing made my idea possible."

The files were designed in SolidWorks and allow for support-free 3D printing, reducing material waste and the need for post-processing finishes. “It is VERY important to print with 100% density,” she warned. The blocks had a layer height of 0.15 and printing took approximately 16 hours with 242g of filament. The starter collection files are available to download on MyMiniFactory, and obviously the bigger you want your towers to be, the more bricks you can 3D print.

Designing them wasn’t simply a matter of drawing out the rectangles and printing, however—these aren’t your average Lego bricks. In order for each brick to have its own weight and centre of mass, Di Santo partnered up with engineer and mathematical whizz Anthony Voilque. Using SolidWorks, he was able to come up with a calculation that would keep the centre of mass of the brick as far away from the middle as possible, all while ensuring that from the outside, it still looked like a regular brick.

This is a tricky task, since a brick that is too small doesn’t have room to move the centre of gravity far enough away, while bricks that are too long wouldn’t fit on a standard desktop 3D printer bed. If you’re interested in the exact math behind it, you can see how the balance works in the diagram below.

The blue square shows where the center of mass of the rectangle, the yellow triangle is the centre of mass of the triangles and the green circle represents the overall centre for the whole brick

Di Santo predicts that Tricky Bricks would be a fun game for users of all ages. There’s no complicated set-up or instruction manual: just pick up a piece and then try to use your intuition and balance to build up from there. Children can experiment with wobbly towers while learning the principles of balance and engineering, while adults can challenge their friends, countering each other’s weight or trying to use every single piece before the inevitable fall.

Tricky Bricks is a fun variation on classic brick games, which nearly every one has played with at some point in their lives (even Minecraft is just a digital riff). Di Santos plans to expand the game even further by designing add-on packs and adaptations, which will all be available to download and print. Will your towers wobble or win? There’s only one way to find out.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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