“Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzle” is the term most widely used today in Mechanical Engineering for a puzzle made of solid pieces that must be manipulated by one’s hands to obtain a solution. A Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzle is a self-contained object, composed of one or more parts, which involves a problem for one person to solve by manipulation using logic, reasoning, insight, luck, and/or dexterity. 

The oldest and largest class of mechanical puzzles consists of those puzzles that are solved by assembly or by fitting pieces together. The most popular member of this class is the jigsaw puzzle.

Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzles range from ancient tangrams, two-dimensional assembly puzzles, to modern-day sophisticated and complex three-dimensional interlocking solid puzzles, from simple wire puzzles which were so popular around the turn of the century, to beautiful and intriguing Chinese ring puzzles, from secret boxes with hidden openings to sequential movement puzzles, as well as nineteenth-century secret puzzle pitchers, puzzles in which images appear to vanish without a trace, and objects which seem to be completely impossible to construct.

The degree of difficulty in solving these puzzles varies enormously. Many Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzles require a vast amount of patience and a careful exploration of all possible manipulations. Some may require a computer program while, every mechanical puzzles has certain mathematical elements. Many delightful mechanical puzzles seem non-mathematical because they are solved by the kind of heuristic reasoning that is used by mathematicians when they discover an elegant proof of a theorem, or by scientists when a flash of insight leads to a fruitful theory.

Classification of Mechanical Puzzles

  • Put-Together Puzzles
    The oldest and largest class of mechanical puzzles consists of those puzzles that are solved by assembly or by fitting pieces together. The most popular member of this class is the jigsaw puzzle.
  •  Dissected puzzles 

These were popular much earlier in Greece. The earliest known example is the Loculus of Archimedes, or the Stomachion, the Tangram. 

  • Take-apart puzzles
    These were beautifully made of polished boxwood, ebony, brass or nickel plated steel. These puzzles were used to remove an object such as a marble or a ring from a barrel, a tower or a cannon. More complex are the Japanese puzzle boxes which have been exported to the West since before 1920. These require several sliding panels to be moved in a specific order before the box can be opened. 
  • Interlocking solid puzzles / burr puzzles
    Such Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzles are made of pieces so cleverly interlocked that they seem almost impossible to separate. There is usually a single piece, called the key, which must be removed first in order to disassemble the puzzle. In many such puzzles the pieces must be replaced in a certain sequence and the key is always inserted last to lock the other pieces in place. The ancient Japanese skills and techniques of joining wood without nails to make buildings and other wooden structures were applied to making interlocking puzzles. A keychain puzzle is also an examples of interlocking puzzle. 

  • Disentanglement puzzles
    Disentanglement puzzles deal with the problem of freeing (or attaching) a part of the puzzle, usually a ring or a handle. They are made of various materials such as cast iron and sheet metal, wire, and string. The Bent Nails Puzzle and The Chinese Rings Puzzle are the most common, disentanglement puzzles and are viewed as a kind of wisdom game, conducive to the training of engineering.
  • Sequential movement puzzles
    Sequential movement puzzles require a series of steps or moves, following a set of rules, to reach a predetermined goal. These puzzles include solitaire puzzles, sliding block puzzles, counter puzzles (hop-over), rotating cube puzzles, and maze and route puzzles. 

  • Dexterity puzzles
    Dexterity puzzles have been popular for centuries in many different cultures and civilizations. Although they are often called games. Long ago, dexterity puzzles may have been used to teach eye-hand coordination and other hunting skills to engineers.
  • Folding puzzles
    The folds are confined to the creases, and the final result must be a packet with any rectangle on top and the others under it. The object of a folding puzzle is to achieve a specified goal by folding. 
  • Puzzle Vessels, Vanish Puzzles, And Impossible Object Puzzles
    Other types of puzzles include puzzle vessels, that involve drinking or pouring a liquid, or filling a vessel, without spilling; vanish puzzles, puzzles which when turned or moved cause an image to change or vanish; and impossible object puzzles, the puzzle element being to discover how the object was made.

Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzle of A Planar Modular Mechanical Metamaterial Assembly

The metamaterial consists of identical pieces similar to jigsaw puzzle tiles. Their rotation within assembly provides a substantial flexibility in terms of structural behavior, whereas mechanical interlocks enable reassembly. The tile design allows us to vary elastic properties from stiff to compliant, with positive, zero, or negative Poisson’s ratio. 

Nature efficiently distributes material and designs optimal structure across scales with respect to anticipated loading. Here we propose to mimic such local adaptivity by material design similarly to a way as assembled images decomposed into jigsaw puzzle pieces. 

Metamaterial Assembly

To illustrate the adaptivity through local tile rotations, assemblies, tiles were arranged to exhibit auxetic, non-auxetic, and mixed behavior and subjected to a displacement-controlled compression applied at the top edge/facet of the specimen. 

Customized Assemblies

Because of its modularity and inherent a periodicity rotation of a few tiles by 90° within an assembly significantly changes the response to loading. The assembly plan can be adjusted with respect to anticipated loading and specific requirements on both local and global behavior. 



Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzles require patience and concentration, which can help to improve focus and attention span. They also require analytical thinking, cognitive skills, critical thinking, and logical reasoning. 

Mechanical engineers are problem solvers” 

Mechanical Jigsaw Puzzles help them to apply their skills to design, develop, build, and test all sorts of mechanical devices, tools, engines, and machines in just about every type of industry.


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