Project Spotlight: 3D Printed Micro Planter Chess Set by XYZ Workshop

As XYZ Workshop says, "The proof is in the print." The XYZ Workshop team, formed in early 2013 by Australian Architects Elena Low and Kae Woei Lim, rallied support for their 3D printing competition entry on GrabCAD. Thanks to GrabCADr support and an amazingly creative design, they were able to nab the top prize in the My Mini Factory 3D Printing Design Competition.

Micro Planter Chess Set STL Rendering Other By Kae Woei Lim on GrabCAD


This husband and wife team were intrigued by desktop manufacturing and spent their free time tinkering around with a 3D printer kit assembly from Ultimaker. Much like architecture, they were drawn to the potential of 3D printing as it fuses aspects of art, sculpture and technology. Elena and Kae Woei have a 14 month old son, Cooper. ”We want to bring him up in an environment that encourages creativity, exploration and making.” says Elena.

“Although Cooper is still young and has just begun to walk, we are hoping that in the near future, he will be able to play with the 3D printer, giving him access to a level of 'making' and inventing that we never had when were we younger.” Elena and Kae Woei have bigger plans to promote this idea of encouraging invention by creating 3D prints via "make + learn" classes for aspiring young kids in Australia. Recently I got a chance to catch up with XYZ Workshop and ask some questions about their submission.

What tools did your team use to build your chess set?

As the design of the Micro Planter features geometric shapes that were fairly straightforward and simple, we used very simple tools like Sketchup to model the individual pieces. Although we use a variety of modeling software like Rhino, Grasshopper, 3Dmax, AutoCAD and Tinkercad, Sketchup still seems to be one of the easiest and fastest modeling softwares to use.

XYZ Workshop tools

Did you have a process for managing your files, versions, design reviews?

After the 3D models were checked using a Sketchup Plugin called SolidInspector, the files were exported and loaded onto Cura Software developed by Ultimaker. Here, we prepared the files for printing and were able to review the tool path the printer is going to take before we send it to our Ultimaker for printing.

Why did you choose to promote your design on GrabCAD?

The GrabCAD Community has a wide, global reach with a lot of supportive designers and engineers. We had previously entered the GrabCAD Toy Design Competition which had a forum of users who gave insightful, constructive feedback.

How did you gain support for your idea?

We believe the best way to stand out amongst the thousands of models that are uploaded onto GrabCAD and grab the Community’s interest, was to provide actual photos of the final product. The proof is always in the print.

What does winning the competition mean for your team?

Winning the competition has been a culmination of numerous competition entries. We have been entering ourselves in several competitions as we saw it was a great way to challenge ourselves and push our creativity. We enjoy the whole process of brainstorming for ideas and sketching which tend to lead to whole lot of new ideas. It provides a good vehicle for ourselves to learn the opportunities and constraints along the way.

Winning the prize takes us one step closer to our vision for creating an educational program to teach people including kids who are interested in 3D printing.

XYZ Workshop's 3D printed micro planter chess set

The design is loosely based on a Bauhaus Style Chess set. They were interested in blending the simple strong geometric forms of the chess pieces with nature. The chess pieces allow nature lovers to integrate their favorite succulents or herbs into their game play. Each Chess piece can be planted with specific herbs or succulents to give them a level of individuality and personality. This also allows the player to assign unique textures, colors and smell to the pieces. Use some Corsican Mint to bring some minty freshness into you game, or perhaps a series of hard wearing cacti, if you don't have a green thumb.

They  also included a 3D printable, portable chess board skin which is only 0.6mm thick. Printing four of these allows the player to turn any flat surface into their chessboard. Genius! Make this green chess set a feature in your garden, or bring the garden into your living room. Follow their work on GrabCAD and Facebook.