Archive for category JamesQuinn

3-D Chess pieces for 3-D printers

In response to the Maker bot industries giveaway, I had the idea of making designs for pieces. Not just ordinary chess pieces, but 3 dimensional (Space Chess) pieces. Anyone who has watched ‘Star Trek’ the original series has seen this ‘Three-dimensional chess’.

Unfortunately the contest closes tomorrow at noon, and I just started the project today. I don’t have any skill with using 3-D computer drafting programs, and I don’t think I will be able to learn Google sketchup proficiently in a matter of hours. So, I drew my designs out by hand and posted them here.

The reason I chose to create new chess pieces is because 3-D chess is a ‘new’ sort of game, like the next evolution of chess. I find it odd to think of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock playing a game of 3-D chess, using pieces such as a rook, bishop, etc. Can you imagine Captian Kirk trying to explain what a Bishop or a Rook was? I’m thinking that the chess pieces of the future would be something completely new,  with a new and unique culture derived from centuries of living in space.

So, I have replaced the traditional chess pieces with pieces based on a space faring theme. I have tried to use simple geometric shapes, so that they can be easily reproduced on a 3-D program such as Google Sketchup, and easily rendered in a 3-D printer, just as traditional chess pieces were designed to be easily made on a lathe. I consider these designs as ‘open source’, and I encourage other people to use them, copy them, alter them, etc.

The primary set I had designed here is intended to represent humans. The ‘King’ piece is meant to represent the planet Earth, or perhaps an Earth colony such as the moon of Titan, or perhaps the Sol system. 3-D chess players could play each other by proxy, with each board in a different location representing a different star system. The Sol system that Earth is part of might be in Toronto, Alpha Centauri in Pittsburgh, Tau Ceti in Brooklyn, Rigel, etc. All could be played in different locations remotely.

The only thing which makes a 3-D chessboard part of a particular solar system is the name/ designation which the King piece has. When placed on the board, a king piece which represents Tau ceti might be called the Tau Ceti system, at least for the individual player.

3-D chess games that were won or lost could be marked out on a star map, etc. Humans can and will come to inhabit other solar systems, and of course other solar systems can be conquered. Those that become proficient in 3-D chess might end up making many ‘Solar’ (Orbital Defence System or ODS) pieces to place on their boards, or even as trophies of their battles in a display case.

When I become more proficient with Google sketchup, Blender and so forth, I will add more chess sets to represent different species of aliens.  Mechanicals, Mutants, Cyborgs, Insectiod, Cephalods, Felinoids, etc. All of these have the potential to be interesting chess pieces. This makes it a lot more fun since you can have humans versus humans, humans versus robots, robots versus insects, and so forth. This would especially appeal to anyone that likes to collect minatures, since you could have dozens of different sets.

With that, I present my designs for the human set.


Soldier: (Pawn)

Absolutely essential for winning any battle is the ability to hold and defend land. This is where the Soldiers come in. Also known as ‘grunts’ or redshirts, a soldier is also part technician and part colonist.  Despite their small size, they are an equal match for any piece on the board.  Their moves are limited however.

redshirts, grunts, space marines
“They do the flyin’, we do the dyin’.”

Build: The pawn is a sphere which rests on a disk ‘neck’.  This sits on an ‘L’ shaped piece to represent the shoulders. A triangle which is folded at a 90 degree angle to represent the torso and legs. Two rectangles at the base have been chosen to represent the feet, though they aren’t necessary. The whole piece rests on a coin sized disk. The pawn is 1 and a half inches high.

Troop transport

"I hope I don't buy it on my next shipment."

Transport: (Knight)

This ship was designed to transport troops and materials from planet to planet, or from orbit to the planet’s surface. They are too slow and heavy to pass through a jump gate, but they are the only game piece which can jump over other pieces. They travel in an ‘L’ pattern.

Build: The basic shape of this rocket is a cylinder with a pointy top, and four stabilization fins at the base. The piece rests on a disk about the size of a quarter. This piece is 2 inches high.
The plans for building this piece already exist on ‘Thingaverse’.
Transmitter, Subspace transmitter

"This is Lima charlie one, over!"

Transmitter: (Bishop)

In any battle, the uninterrupted transmission of encyrpted data is vital for logistics. The vast distances of space were once considered a problem, until the invention of the subspace Transmitter. Through the distortions of tachyon fields, these transmitters are able to send messages at faster than light speeds. However, they can only travel in a diagonal direction, and their transmissions can be intercepted.

Build: This is based on the ‘Traffic cone’ in the Thingaverse, with the addition of a bowl shaped ‘radar dish’ on top. A pyramid shape was chosen to serve as the antenna for the dish.

Star gate, Jump gate

"Prepare for entry into sub-space."

Gate: (Rook).

The vast interstellar distances prevented many ships from making the journey, until the invention of the Hyperspace jump gate. By folding time-space in on itself like a tightly coiled spring, they were able to shorten travel distances immeasurably. Despite their massive size however, these gates are unable to transport any ships larger than two person fighter craft. They also close again after an indefinite time, sometimes leaving those who travel through them hopelessly stranded.  They also have to travel in perfectly strait horizontal lines.

Build: As a gate, this piece should look like a ring, an ellipse, or a torus such as the one pictured here. When building a ring, it should be two inches high and no more than an inch at the base. Spaceships entering and departing from the gate might add more visual interest.

Death ray


Death Ray: (Queen)

Once considered ‘The Peace ray’, these matter disintergrator beams are the most destructive force known to current technology. Using the dense heart of a collapsed star, they must be located on an object with at least the mass of a large moon in order to work. Fortunately, they are so expensive to construct and maintain that each Stellar military force only has one in it’s arsenal. In effect, what they do is to obliterate their target’s molecular structure, while creating a rift, and then inserting themselves in the time-space location of any target they destroy. These pieces can travel in any direction they choose.

Build: To achieve the visual effect of a spherical planet shooting a Death ray from it’s surface, I have placed a sphere on top of a series of interlocking disks which descend in size as they go up. A cylindrical dowel forms the ‘trunk’ of this cone. Alternately, a sphere on a long rod can be made, with a spring placed over the rod. The piece is 3 inches tall, with a 1 inch base.

Orbital Defence systems

"This is it! Fight to the last breath!"

Orbital Defense Systems/ Star: (King)

When everything else has failed, the Orbital defense systems represent the planet’s last line of defence. Fortunately, they are fairly formidible. A network of defense sattelites projects a forcefield around the planet, preventing an enemy from landing or using energy weapons.  This force sheild jams all enemy frequencies, making the use of a transmitter or even a Death ray impossible. The only way to penetrate this sheild is to locate and take out the ‘key’ sattelite. Once this happens, the defence grid is down and the planet is vulnerable. This sattelite defence system can travel one square away in any direction.

Build: A sphere rests on four pillars. This might be similar to the ‘chair’ tutorial in Google Sketchup, or it might be an enlongated rectangular block. I have shown this piece resting on two legs with no middle, to give the impression of a planet floating in space. The spherical planet has a ring around it. This ring could either represent the rings of Saturn (of which the moon Titan might be a future colony), or it might be a Dyson ring during later stages of extraterrestrial colonization. If one is planning a multi-system game of proxy 3-D chess, this piece might have the name of a planet or system. In fact, the sphere in the middle might represent the star or sun, rather than an inhabitable planet.

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Solar System project

Venus stationThis is my recent adaptation for the scale model of the solar system project which I have been working on for some time now. Each of the traditional planets in the solar system (including Pluto), are represented in sculptural installations called ‘stations’.

This is the ‘tripole’ configuration.

The pole on the left of the picture has the planet object mounted on top (a peppercorn in this case).

The pole on the right will have a plaque explaining what the planet/ project is all about. The top of the pole is slanted, with a view screen to display slides/ pictures.

Speakers and a sound system may also be intergrated into both of these poles. This would add to the interactive element of the sculpture.

The pole at the back is the ‘signifier’. This is a banner or flag that makes the planet station visible from a distance. In this case, a ‘Fly ban’ outdoor banner is used.  The height will be increased the farther away the planet station is.

Directional fingerboards made from 2×4′s or plywood are attached to the poles.  These indicate the distance between the planets and the direction of the next planet station. Ideally, both of these fingerboards should move on a pivot like the hands of a clock, so that direction can be easily changed.

Sun stationThe next station depicted represents the Sun. The main difference here is that the Sun is an inflatable soccer ball held in place with wire.

Fibreoptics will represent coronas from the surface of the Sun. The soccer ball is illuminated from the interior at night. El-wire is also wrapped around the soccer ball, to assist with night-time illumination.


Illumination will be comprised of LEDs and El-wire. Holes throughout the posts will allow battery powered LED X-mas lights to represent ‘stars’. Yellow El-wire could be used for the lettering on the planet-object pedestal, to illuminate the exterior of the plaque, and possibly for the banner. Channel LEDs would be necessary if the plaque would be legible at night.

Motion detectors would be useful to help illuminate certain parts whenever someone walked by. Perhaps the motion detector LEDs could illuminate the plaque, or the mp3 player. It also adds to the interactive element.

With the exception of the Solar station, the planet-object pedestals would be illuminated at night with solar powered LED path lights. The plaque pedestals might have a hand operated crank connected to a dynamo and battery if they are to house any kind of a picture/ sound show.

The ‘signifiers’ (Fly ban) would have to have something like a flashing xenon bulb on top of them, to be visible from a distance. The xenon bulb from a disposable camera might suffice for this. However, it would have to be contained within something like an opaque bowl, as well as fitted with a flash shield. I am thinking of a glow in the dark frisbee for this.

Sound/ picture show:

If the sculpture is outfitted with a sound/ picture show, I have already been given permission to use David Hickney’s paiste gongs for the four rocky planets. The four gaseous planets have their own ‘sound’, which was interpreted by the Voyager spacecraft’s computers.

Deciding what pictures to show is difficult. Either these could be pictures of the planet rotating, such as through a praxinoscope, or slides of something related to space travel, which would be more like a kinetescope. A lot of it depends on the message I want to portray.  I do like the idea of portraying the solar system as it would look in a thousand years, colonized by humans.

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Solar Station

The Sun station

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Third Millenium project

Venus station

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