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College Freshman Creates COVID-Inspired Chess Set with 3D Printing

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Relying on ingenuity and 3D printing technology, 18-year old William Paterson University freshman Nicholas Montesano created a COVID-inspired chessboard for his 3D Design class. The “COVID-19 Quarantine Essentials” themed chess set combines two topics that dominated 2020: cleaning and disinfection practices to tackle the coronavirus disease and a global chess boom inspired by the hit Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit.

As part of the final project portfolio for the 3D Design class at the university’s College of the Arts and Communication, Professor HyukJae Henry Yoo assigned students to develop, fabricate, and present a themed chessboard. The objective was to integrate 3D modeling and fabrication methods while applying 3D visual aesthetic principles learned in class. Montesano, who is currently enrolled as an art student, immediately began working on a few concepts. His final COVID-inspired chess design competed against two other themes he had envisioned: popular cartoon characters and famous skyscrapers.

Freshman student Nicholas Montesano created a “COVID-19 Quarantine Essentials” themed chess set using 3D printing. Image courtesy of Nicholas Montesano.

Created with Autodesk’s Maya 3D software and a MakerBot printer on campus, Montesano’s chess set pieces are unique. Players can go head-to-head in an ultimate “enhanced cleaning” duel with the highly detailed miniature recreation of essential cleaning and protective equipment. The 32 custom 3D printed chess pieces stand out in red and white over the 64-space, 16 x 16-inch wooden playing board.

The Red and White teams feature masks as pawns, Clorox spray bottles as knights, toilet paper as the bishops, hand gloves as rooks, Lysol aerosol spray cans as the kings, and Purell hand sanitizer as the queens. Montesano brought the pieces to life using Maya’s 3D modeling tools and realistic effects, then used the university’s 3DPrinter OS platform to share his 3D files with the 3D printing lab in the school’s Cheng Library, in New Jersey. The site has a large selection of 3D printers. Montesano’s pieces were printed with a MakerBot Replicator 5th generation desktop 3D printer, the student explained to 3DPrint.com.

Final rendered chess pieces created with Autodesk Maya software and submitted for 3D printing. Image courtesy of Nicholas Montesano.

Montesano said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, students were required to submit the pieces virtually for printing and couldn’t go in-person to “see the 3D printers in their glory.” But he got a glimpse of the machines when picking up the pieces and was thrilled with the results, which took two weeks to complete, including the unlimited options for customization. Although this was Montesano’s first time using the technology, he has plans for more 3D printing projects as soon as classes resume.

The inspiration for the set design and colors was a first aid box and first aid “+” logos, which are cleverly detailed onto the board. He also applied social distancing stickers to 16 squares on each side of the board. Montesano physically built the chess set box at home using wood, spray paints, and custom printed adhesives. The customized set also doubles as a storage box to avoid losing any pieces. Overall, the colorfully vibrant, eye-catching configuration of the set design makes it contemporary and original. The young creator said he wanted to copyright the chess set and potentially license it to large toy companies, like Hasbro, but still needs to raise the money to pay for the copyright fees.

Nicholas Montesano cutting wood with a chop saw and table saw in his home to create the chess set’s base and the board. Image courtesy of Nicholas Montesano.

Although still a freshman, Montesano plans to major in Industrial and Product Design. The self-described entrepreneur has been quite busy. As founder and Editor-in-Chief of footwear news and review website TheSneakerBrief.com, he gets to wear test sneakers and write articles on the latest sneaker news and release dates. He has also designed an auto-lacing medical shoe for healthcare workers who have to spend hours at the hospital amid an unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. With so many innovative approaches to designing everyday products, Montesano said he is very “passionate about designing and creating innovative products with a function and purpose to help people.” By mixing his passion for art, design, and healthcare, the student is on the right path to becoming an entrepreneur.

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