Laser Cutting a Jigsaw Puzzle

I took part in Remote Hack today, which is a monthly event where peeps get online and do some hacking together. No theme, no pressure, just whatever you want.

Last week I did a jigsaw puzzle, I'm not into jigsaw puzzles, but someone lent me a 1000 piece and I thought I would give it a go. Seemed lockdown appropriate. I ended up being pretty obsessed with finishing it - I'm not sure if that's because I wanted to or because it was taking up my entire kitchen table. But suffice to say it got me thinking about making jigsaw puzzles. I really like the idea of an abstract design.

So I thought I would use the hackday to try the POC (Proof Of Concept) - is this viable? Could I laser cut a generative jigsaw?

My generative SVG software was fired up. Someone asked if I could share it later, but honestly it doesn't work how I intended at the moment and is very finicky. I need to go down the SVG v1 vs v2 rabbit hole a bit more. Browsers are really good at rendering SVGs - my laser cutter software, not so much.

I had found a jigsaw piece generator on the Glowforge forums (Glowforge is my laser cutter) and although part of me thinks programming jigsaws is probably a very interesting activity, I am happy at this time just to grab an SVG for the cut.

Anyway, I made an SVG with the image from my software and the found generated cut path:

An SVG of random shapes and a jigsaw style cut

I used corrugated cardboard as the trial. It's great that you can both cut this material and engrave it as it means you can prototype really easily and cheaply. I actually took a delivery for my neighbour a couple of days ago and when she came round to collect it, I was a bit 'can I have the box for this weird thing I want to do at the weekend?'.

Here's video of the cut [I AM SORRY IT IS 35MB]:

Anyway... doing the jigsaw was a pain in the arse. Card did not work for this πŸ™ˆ. However the jigsaw bit was great. I then set about making a couple more with more substantial materials. Here's a couple of pics:

MDF jigsaw pieces
A photo of the mdf jigsaw pieces
Perspex Jigsaw
A photo of the perspex jigsaw completed

The first was made with MDF, this worked really well. The second I made with perspex, which is amazingly tactile, it just feels lovely, but the engrave doesn't work as well as the MDF so you may as well be doing a one colour jigsaw.

Both of them suffered from quite a wobble when the jigsaw pieces were together. Where the laser cuts gives you about a gap of 0.25mm, which isn't noticeable on most things, but actually is on a jigsaw.

But having said that, they work so well as a nice 'cup of tea and jigsaw activity'. Especially considering there's not much else to do at the moment ☺️