A 3D printer recently landed in the Huge offices (the Makerbot Replicator 2). Everyone is excited about the concept of printing objects, however modeling things can be intimidating. Fortunately there are a lot of tools which make this a lot easier.
To prove how accessible this new technology is, we decided it would be fun to hold a contest. The easiest way to get started was to take inspiration from the Cub Scouts. One of the projects they do is a Pinewood Derby.
With a Pinewood derby you start with a pine block with holes drilled into the block. The scout will then shape the wood with tools and then paint it. Once detailed, the wheels get added. They are just plastic wheels that you hammer into the wood. The end goal is a stylish and fast car that gets raced down a sloped track.
In our case, instead of starting with a pine block, we created a 3D model which could be used as a base. People would then use Tinkercad.com to adjust the model by adding and subtracting.
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As a lover of everything pinewood derby and science/engineering, I have been thinking about this for a while. One of the problems with using a 3D printer for the “official rules” is that the wheel axles have to be in the actual slots of the kit-provided block of wood and that there has to be some amount of wood that connects the from and back axle slots. This last year, I had my kids help me model what they wanted in Solidworks and then we milled away the excess. It would be awesome if there was someone who sold a wood piece with the minimum amount of wood possible and them attach a 3D printed part on top.