Sometimes, a problem at first glance may seem very difficult. But very often, when you stop to think about it, you may find that the solution was right there, in front of your eyes.
This post is a story about a seemingly complicated issue that turned out to be a breeze to resolve later on.
Tarak Parikh is a very close friend of mine. And the one thing my close friends can always be counted upon for – is making life difficult for me.
Don’t get me wrong. Tarak was the best man at my wedding. And I have a very cordial ‘give’ and ‘take’ relation with him. He always manages to give me a headache. And he also takes a lot of pleasure in doing so.
Anyways, coming to the subject matter at hand…
Tarak’s son Parth was studying to be an engineer. Now Parth is a bit of a puzzle head. Also, his 15th birthday was approaching in a couple of weeks. And Tarak wanted me to make him some kind of a personalised puzzle.
He kept insisting that I come up with a highly innovative & novel gift idea. A gift, that’s unavailable in any store and one that Parth would treasure for years to come.
You see the problem here, right?
Those of my readers who work in corporate environments will know that executives in the higher echelons of power love to make statements containing hyperbolic words like ‘novel’ & ‘innovative’.
But for underlings like me, these words are ephemeral and have no substance.
For example, where do I come up with this so-called ‘unique’ gift idea? What do I base my ‘innovation’ on? And most importantly, who is going to be compensating me for all my efforts?
I am a humble printer who ekes out a living, working on machines. Tarak, on the other hand, went to business school. You know that place where they teach you to craft statements containing terms like ‘paradigm shift’ & ‘quantum leap’.
An MBA, according to the Dilbert school of management, is one who…
Anyways, I seem to have veered off into a rant.
So let’s come back to my friend’s mandate for a ‘unique gift’. Now, I know that I’m not Tarak’s lackey. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself. So I said to him that the best idea for a gift would be to buy his son the latest MacBook Pro.
To which he replied that an even better idea would be for me to go and boil my head.
Tarak’s request for a puzzle from a photo did have a precedent at Orchid Digitals.
We had previously personalised Rubik’s Cubes bearing photographs of loved ones. In fact, I had already printed one such cube for his daughter. And Tarak now wanted something similar for his son.
So we kept going back and forth on proposals for a unique gift and finally hit upon a pretty cool idea. We thought of creating a jigsaw puzzle with Parth’s photo on it.
But cool ideas have one problem.
While they are fantastic to brainstorm about, somebody has to do the actual grunt work to turn them into reality. And in this case, yours truly would become the grunt while my friend would hog all the credit.
Creating a single, customised jigsaw puzzle involves too much effort. And while the concept was pretty novel, I would have to jump through a lot of hoops to make it happen. Here are the steps I would have to take to bring this unique gift idea to fruition.
The first step was to select an appropriate photo of Parth. Ideally, a close up of his face. Next, we have to set the image to size. Too small, and it will fail to impress. Too large, and he could find it difficult to store or display.
I determined that a portrait of size 8 inches X 12 inches would be adequate for this project.
With the layout in hand, the next step is to generate a high-resolution sticker print. We then have to paste the image on a thick and rigid sheet of either acrylic or sunboard. Printers find both of these materials easy to work with. They are great for reproducing high-quality images.
And have an excellent finish to boot.
Finally, the printed acrylic sheet has to be cut into individual pieces.
Jigsaw tiles interlock into each other. The smaller the tiles, the harder the puzzle and vice versa. Also, these individual jigsaw pieces are oddly shaped. They have ‘knobs’ or ‘tabs’ that fit into adjoining ‘slots’ or ‘blanks’.
One cannot cut these individual pieces by hand. At least not if you need to ensure accuracy and a perfect finish. Luckily, at Orchid Digitals, we have these huge, industrial laser cutting machines. We use them primarily to create acrylic logos and glow signboards.
But we can also deploy these machines to cut our personalised jigsaw puzzle with flawless precision.
The problem’s that our machines are geared to print large hoardings and fabricate industrial signage. We can, in theory, deploy the same equipment to manufacture my friend’s ‘print your own puzzle’ project. But in reality, it involves a ton of effort.
“Life’s too short”, I told my friend. And while I loved his son like mine own, there was no way I was going to put in the required 2 – 3 days of hard work to see this project through.
At this point, I need to tell you a little bit more about my friend.
He is a lot like a dog with a bone. Once he catches hold of an idea, he just won’t let go. A week went by. And like our friends from the family Canidae, Tarak kept chewing my ear about this job.
I too, promptly did my part. I kept procrastinating.
My Marathi speaking friends would be familiar with the terms ‘karto, karto, udyaa baghto’ :-). I also used the ostrich’s time tested method of resolving a persistent problem.
I buried my head in sand and hoped it went away.
My Marathi speaking friends would be familiar with the terms ‘karto, karto, udyaa baghto’ :-). I also used the ostrich’s time tested method of resolving a persistent problem. I buried my head in sand and hoped it went away.
Finally, after about a fortnight, Tarak plopped into a chair in my office. His nostrils were flared, and I could see faint wisps of smoke coming out of his ears. He also seemed to have spent an hour chewing his moustache.
You may call me overly sensitive. But I now had a feeling that there was no more turning this guy back. And if I wanted to go home for dinner, I had only two choices left…
Tarak placed a standard jigsaw puzzle on my table. He had purchased this from a nearby toy store. And he was wondering if I could directly print his son’s image on the existing toy instead of creating a jigsaw puzzle from scratch.
And that’s when the penny dropped!
Jigsaw puzzles are made out of flat pieces of pre-cut cardboard. So all I had to do, was print out Parth’s image on the same. If I managed to do this, we could avoid the intervening steps of mounting an image on acrylic and laser cutting the same.
Now, at Orchid Digitals, we have a UV flatbed printer. And this machine can directly print on objects which have a flat surface. So I took Parth’s photograph, resized it to match the dimensions of the readymade jigsaw puzzle and directly printed the former on the latter.
The puzzle had a photo of the Taj Mahal on the front. So, we printed Parth’s photo on the reverse side. One could now play the puzzle from both sides. Depending on his fancy, Parth could recreate his face or the Taj Mahal.
And the end effect was pretty neat, as you can see from the images & videos posted here.
This incident always reminds me that we humans, very often, tend to amplify our problems needlessly. A seemingly tricky matter can have a simple solution right beneath your nose. This project took 15 days of back and forth deliberations. In contrast, the actual execution happened in 15 minutes flat!
And oh yeah, in case you are wondering, this story has two happy endings. In addition to this custom photo jigsaw puzzle, our birthday boy also got a MacBook Pro.
My friend Tarak has a generous nature. For my efforts, Scrooge McParikh paid me with a tepid cup of masala chai :-).
But jokes apart, a personalised jigsaw puzzle bearing an image of your loved one could prove to be a great gifting idea. And some of you may be curious about the cost for the same.
Unfortunately, we don’t provide individual gifting solutions at Orchid Digitals. We mainly lean towards commercial printing jobs. And custom toys do not really figure in our rate card. But if I were to guess, this project cannot cost more than a few hundred rupees.
Every so often, I come across some pretty exciting and offbeat projects in my line of work. This custom printed jigsaw puzzle was a simple yet novel idea. And hence, I feel that it merits a mention in our interesting projects section.
Finally, Dear Reader, I would love to hear your views on this project. Do let me know what you think. Perhaps you have your own ideas about the best gifts for your friends/family. Do share the same.
And don’t hesitate to post your thoughts in the comments section below.
Bye for now.