Project: Dice Sliding Puzzle with the LC40 and 3D45
Cassidy and Cami Williams for Dremel

One of our favorite TV shows growing up was Survivor. It was a show of wits, physical strength, and social prowess. Above all else, our favorite part of the show was the challenges. We would try and recreate them for ourselves and compete to see who could finish the puzzles the fastest. One of our favorite puzzles to race against were the slide puzzles.

This was something we knew we wanted to create with the 3D45 printer and LC40 cutter. Our current design can be as small or as large as you like, and feature any design you’d want to create! We decided to make the face of the design resemble dice pieces, rather than standard numbers.

3D45 - Design 

Typical sliding puzzles are 3 by 3 or 4 by 4. Since we decided we wanted to use dice, we chose to use a 3 by 3 grid as a starting point.  To draw out our design of the moving pieces, we chose to use TinkerCad. TinkerCad is a a free online software you can use to design, draw, and export your .STL projects. TinkerCad is great for simple, easy designs. It made sense for this project, because the shapes we would use weren’t too complex, and they already had some basic components of which we could build off.

We started with the basic Dice shape that TinkerCad had built into its library of components. We used the default dimensions, knowing that we would scale it to fit on the printer later.

3d printer software 3D45

From there, we started to build out the faces of the dice. This was just using a simple sphere and using the rule tool to measure it so it was centered on the dice.

3d printer software

Once we had calculated our basic measurement for the size of the bump in the die, we used that to create dice pieces one through nine. For the game, we actually only needed eight dice since one space needs to be empty. That said, we figured we would just create all nine to have one as an extra!

3d printer software

Now that we finished the design for the top of the sliding puzzle, we needed to create the base. Typically, for the base of a sliding puzzle there are two bump outs and two slide holds on a square. The design is actually relatively easy, because it needs to be the same for each piece to ensure they can all slide no matter their position in the puzzle. 

3d printer software

We created the base with two simple cubes and two cylinders. We chose to use cylinders for the bumps so that way we didn’t have to worry about slides rubbing against each other. The cylinders will make it easier to move the pieces within the puzzle.

Once the base was done, we duplicated nine, assured they were scaled to the same size of the dice, and offset the dice on the z-axis so they rested on top of the bases.

3d printer software

After completing each piece of the puzzle, we saved the project within TinkerCad and exported as a .STL file to our local drive.

3D45 - Slice 

At this point, it was time to upload the .STL file to the Dremel Print Cloud to format it to properly print.

  1. Entering into the Dremel Print Cloud portal, “+ Upload New” project
  2. Select your .stl project file, and then click “Save and go to My Files”
  3. You should now be able to see your project file with 3 steps next to it. Select the first step: “Repair”
  4. Once your project is done being repaired, select “Layout”. In this window, you can scale your project to fit on the 3D45 bed. This software is really accurate; it will tell you if your project is too large to fit in the printer. If this is the case, I recommend either scaling it down in the Print Cloud, or alternating your .stl design to print into different parts.
  5. When you have finished the “Layout” section, click “Save and Slice”
  6. You can use this window to set the preferences of your print. I usually keep all of the defaults, and assure that “Raft”, “Supports”, and “Re-Center Object before Slicing” are checked. If you are an expert 3D printer, you can use the “Advanced” or “Expert” windows to choose a more precise print.
  7. Click “Slice and Toolpath Preview” once your slice preferences are chosen
  8. It will take a moment, but once it is finished loading you will see a frame-by-frame animation of how your project will print.  3d printer software
  9. If everything looks good, click the "Print" button. 
  10. If your printer is online, it will automatically start the print. Otherwise, it will be queued on the printer.
    1. When you are on the printer with a project queued, sleect "Build", "From Cloud", select your project, and "Print"

3D45 - Build

Depending on the size you select in the Slicing process of the project, this print can be completed quickly. This print was relatively fast compared to the other prints we had done, probably due to the fact that boxes are easy to print and require less supports. We chose to make it slightly smaller than the bed of the printer, so in total the print took about 8 hours. We used a Blue PLA plastic.

Once the print was complete, we removed the supports and cleaned up the slides!

3d printer project dice

LC40 - Design 

Now, for the case that holds it all together, we opened up Affinity Designer (though Inkscape, Illustrator, or several other vector softwares would work) and and framed up the case. The dice are each just under an inch wide, so we made the inner square that would fit around them 3 inches. The little tabs on the bottom of the dice stick out about a quarter of an inch, and the height of the base for each die is a little over .375 inches, so we designed little tabs that would stick right around the case that would fit the heights perfectly (while still leaving a little wiggle room for sliding). We then exported this as a PDF (which you can download here).

laser cutter software project file

LC40 - Importing into the Laser Cutter

Next, it was time to put our file into the LC40 laser cutter software. The way I have the design setup, I needed a sheet of material that was about 8” wide to about 4.5” tall. Importing a PDF (as cut lines only) makes sure that the file will be properly proportioned and not scaled in any weird way. Make sure you hit the “Run Perimeter” button to make sure your design is lined up with the plastic correctly! The preset settings for 1/8" acrylic should do the trick, no need to mess with them.

laser cutter software project file

LC40 - Cut

The actual cut time for the laser is about 5 minutes! Make sure you stay at your laser and your ventilation is properly set up. I like to allow a 1 minute cooling time after a cut is finished just to make sure all of the fumes are gone before I open the lid.

laser cutter project


Putting it all Together

The hard part is over! Not bad, right? Peel off the paper backing on your plastic (assuming you have some) and you can assemble all the pieces relatively quickly. A little bit of clear-dry glue will make sure that your pieces aren’t going anywhere as you start sliding your pieces around. 

We wanted to customize our print even further by painting on the bumps of the dice. We used a white Sharpie Water-Based Poster Paint markers, about $12 at our local store. These are great, despite the dark color of the plastic the paint shows up vibrantly! The paint dried quickly, and stayed on the pieces very well, even after playing with it many times!

laser cutter 3d printer project


We love how this project turned out. It is something that is fun to play, and easy to replicate for friends and family!

laser cutter 3d printer project