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Look How Far We’ve Come: The Rubik’s Cube Continues to Evolve and Make History, with 3D Printing

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“If you are curious, you’ll find the puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.” – Ernő Rubik

Since its inception in 1974 by young Hungarian Professor of architecture Ernő Rubik, what was initially dubbed ‘The Magic Cube’ has undergone major refining and transformation. Originally designed as a visual aid in explaining spatial relationships to his students, the Rubik’s Cube has been the subject of a best-selling book (You Can Do the Cube, by Patrick Bossert,1981), inspired many competitions, and goes down in history as what may be the biggest selling toy ever.

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Matthew Bahner has created a 3D printed version of the popular puzzle cube that is a perfect example of how far 3D printing has taken us in streamling designing, prototyping, and manufacturing. Bahner is a fan of 3D printed geometric safe_imagepuzzles (see his gigareuleauxminx) and while it’s not exactly easy for him to create the forms he is fond of making, it’s certainly a far cry from what Ernő Rubik went through to in bringing the original Rubik’s Cube to the public.

Bahner used CAD to create new files to 3D design his version of the Rubik’s cube or another similar modern-day version — the V Cube. Bahner’s 3D printed design currently reigns as the smallest puzzle cube, with half the width size of the V Cube. The tiny complex cube features 49 squares on each side, with stickers for the squares provided by Olivér’s Stickers. While working to design this using CAD software, Bahner went through some refining, as the first prototype was flat-sided, larger, and had some quality issues he need time to figure out. Quickly resolved, he sent the 3D design to Shapeways for 3D printing, and voilà — the world’s tiniest and 3D printed puzzle cube, at 3.4 centimeters wide.

Erno Rubik created the Rubik's cube in 1974.

Ernő Rubik created the Rubik’s cube in 1974.

For Rubik, it wasn’t as easy as one, two, three, and… 3D print! He had to design a rudimentary prototype, have it made, and then find a way to have it manufactured in Hungary back in the mid-70s. Hungary was still part of the Communist regime, so you can imagine the contrast between whipping up a CAD design at home and sending it off to Shapeways to be 3D printed — and battling the constraints of communism to get something smuggled out of Hungary to be examined as a potential item for sale.

While Ernő Rubik himself never left Hungary, the Rubik’s Cube certainly did. Rubik’s design had the attention of admiring and supportive mathematician colleagues who smuggled the cube out of the country and showed it off at conferences, finally catching the eye of toy specialist Tom Kremer, who set out to sell the toy to the rest of the world.

The rest is history. And with Bahner’s creation, the complex but ever-inviting puzzle cube has experienced a rebirth with a new historical twist.

Have you 3D printed anything similar to Bahner’s cube? Is this a design you’d like to try 3D printing? Share your thoughts with us in The Puzzle Cube forum at 3DPB.com. Check out Bahner’s puzzle cube in action:

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