Alex Riche
Economics, 2019

Ryan Kuffner
Economics, 2019

Project Description

Our year-long project was to design a complete home-made chess set. We designed the chess set to be comprised of a detailed wooden chess board that could fold in half and become a portable box that would store our chess pieces. We constructed the chess board from maple and mahogany 2’x1’ boards in order to fashion the alternating chess squares and surrounding border for intricacy. We also 3D printed multiple sets of chess pieces. Using the EPICS lab 3D printer, we first downloaded online files of chess pieces and printed those. Then using computer software such as Fusion 360, we designed our own pieces to be built from the 3D printers. The 3D printing and design process took many attempts in order for us to master the techniques.

In order for the chess set to become foldable once completed, we had to plan ahead by making two separate chess board halves, instead of the entire board as one. Then, we attached two small hinges to the bottom sides of the two chess board halves, so that the board was now firmly stuck together but could also fold in half by 180 degrees. We then added plywood strips on the outside edges of the chess board. Therefore, the board now sits horizontally on a small 3’ table but can also fold in half to form a box, that stores our chess pieces when not in use. A small metal latch was then added so that the box could be secured, portably carried and stored. Finally, the wooden board/box was sanded down and coated with polyurethane for a smooth clean finish to the chess set. Many hours, tools and skills in the wood shop were needed for the construction of the chess set.

Technical Background

The chess pieces were designed and built using 3D printing. For this ‘background section’ we will focus on the science and technology behind 3D printing. 3D printing is the process of making three-dimension solid objects from a digital file. This is achieved using additive processes by laying down successive thin layers of material on top of each other until the object is formed completely. Each of these layers is a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the object in the digital file. 3D printing starts with making a virtual design of the object. This virtual design is either made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) or with the use of a 3D scanner to copy an existing object.

3D printers use a combination of materials such as polymers, metals, ceramics and paper in order to extrude the thin cross-sectional layers. Printer resolution describes the layer thickness, which is typically 100 micrometers. Though the relative tensile strength of the materials is strong, because of the continuous build-up of layers, if the object contains overhanging forms (i.e. if you were to print a 3D letter ‘T’), gravity and unsupported weight can negatively affect the end-product. Therefore prior to printing using different orientations and various support structures must be utilized and added to the design of the printer software to maximize efficiency. These additions may be removed from the object once the print is completed. Raft bottoms are also used as an extra removable measure to assist with bed adhesion at the bottom of the print. A 3D print can take anywhere from several minutes to several days, depending on the resolution, size and complexity of the 3D model. In the 1990’s, 3D printing was suitable only for functional prototyping for technological companies, but today the precision, repeatability and quickness of 21st century 3D printers have allowed this additive manufacturing process to be often used for industrial production.


Design Drawings

Fabrication Process

Our chess project was a year long project. In this section we will detail our progress and fabrication for both semesters. In the end, we achieved our goal; of building a complete chess set from scratch, by making a wooden chess board that can store our self-designed 3D printing chess pieces.

1st Semester Fabrication
Using wood-working skills and tools we fashioned two detailed halves to a chess board, that when placed together formed a complete and ready-to use chess board. First, we ordered 1’x2’ by 8ft boards of maple and mahogany wood from Home Depot. Next, we ripped the boards into 1.5’x6’ strips of alternating maple and mahogany wood using the table and band saw. Then we flipped the strips in an alternating fashion and glued them into 2 chess board halves. We cut the boards down and glued them together into two halves of the chess board using the miter saw, belt sander and clamps. Our result was a nice home-made chess board split into two even halves. We made it into two halves to eventually create a portable and foldable chess set box with which we can store the pieces inside of.

In the first semester, we also created our initial chess pieces too. After learning how to use the EPICS lab 3D printers, we downloaded files off the internet and printed chess pieces to match our chess board. We then downloaded the files to the EPICS lab computer as STL files Then we used the MakerBot 3D printer for the white pieces and the Maker Bot 3D printer for the black chess pieces. When 3D printing, we used support structures and rafts for all pieces in order to allow the pieces to have detailed overhang and maximize efficiency of the print. In the first semester we began the key initial construction steps and learned the skills needed to finish our project in the second half of the year.

2nd Semester Fabrication
In the second semester, we continued to work on our chess set. From the two separate chess board halves, we turned them into a foldable and portable completed chess board. By adding wooden strips and hinges to the bottom edges of our chess board it allowed the chess board to lie horizontally flat and complete when the box was unhinged. We were also able to collapse the chess board into a neat, compact box that would be able to store all our chess pieces too. A metal latch and was added to fasten and allow portability for our chess set. Tools used for the construction of the foldable chess board/box included table saw, miter saw, band saw, hand-drills, screws and J-clamps. Lastly, we painted and furnished our chess set using polyurethane for a detailed, smooth finish.

In the second semester we also designed and printed our very own chess pieces. After many painstaking hours we were able to design unique chess pieces from the computer program Fusion 360. From this we were able to extract our design as STL files and 3D print them in the EPICS lab using the MakerBot 3D printer. Finally, we took our personally designed and printed chess pieces back to the woodshop and added sticky green felt to the bases of the pieces. This gave our pieces the weight and feel of traditional chess pieces. In total, we fully succeeded in our project to build a homemade, portable chess set.

Final Result