Perplexus Solves 3D Modeling Puzzle With SpaceClaim

Published on May 19, 2016. Written by: Tangie Motley


Perplexus is a 3D puzzle designed by Michael McGinnis that challenges players to navigate a ball through a labyrinth contained in a clear plastic sphere, using gravity and their own steady hands. Ever since he was a high school student, McGinnis had been making 3D mazes made from wood he built by hand. McGinnis teaches sculpture and design at a local junior college and spends his free time in his shop, designing and building. His dream was to turn his maze creation into a toy for mass-production. 

Challenges with Product Design and Development

The first prototype and iterations of his design for Perplexus Original was built from styrene plastic sheets until it was time to send the final version to manufacturing. The manufacturer would then hire a CAD expert to work with Michael during the modeling process. After several attempts and close calls, Perplexus successfully found worldwide distribution in 2002, nearly 25 years after he built his first 3D maze.

Even after his success, modeling continued to be a tedious and time-consuming process. McGinnis knew there had to be a better way. He was spending hundreds of hours on his designs. There are CAD packages in the market, but knew he couldn’t learn to use them due to the complexity of the software. He wanted more control in the 3D modeling process and didn’t want to depend on others to model his very intricate hand-built designs.

Finding an Easy Way to Streamline the 3D Modeling Process

McGinnis found out about SpaceClaim CAD modeling software from his student. “As soon as I saw SpaceClaim, I knew this was what I was looking for,” he says. 

“I had no CAD experience up until SpaceClaim. It [the software] was just intuitive—I found that I could figure out how to build things. An obvious feature of SpaceClaim I love is the simplicity of the tools.”

Michael McGinnis Perplexus Inventor

The toy inventor taught himself how to use the software, and built the entire concept design from scratch. SpaceClaim became Michael’s go-to 3D modeling software. He replaced his physical design process with 3D modeling and saved many hours in every iteration of a design. Michael took his designs to the next level by using SpaceClaim from concept modeling, prototyping, to preparation for manufacturing.

Becoming a CAD Specialist

Gone are the days of wood and holding the CAD expert’s hand hoping he doesn’t make a mistake. McGinnis now creates his prototypes with 3D printing or waterjet cutting, then sends the completed design to partners in Utah to prepare them for manufacturing. 

Over the years since discovering SpaceClaim, he has refined his software-design skills, creating models that are more complex, and need fewer modifications for printing. His 3D printing service commented that McGinnis’ models never need to be prepped for printing, compared to other customers that require significant amounts of work. From carving wood to flawless 3D models, McGinnis has become an accidental expert in creating concepts in SpaceClaim and empowered him on his creative process.

Video Case Study

See firsthand how McGinnis develops his Perplexus creations using SpaceClaim:

Since its inception, Perplexus is the winner of 16 toy industry awards, including Game of the Year for Perplexus Epic, the first maze project McGinnis ever used SpaceClaim to work on his design.

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Perplexus Case Study, SpaceClaim. 
GoMeasure3D is an authorized distributor of SpaceClaim.