Why do I want to print an Enigma machine? I think some background on me is important here.
I’m not one of those people that can read a book and learn something useful. I have to be able to apply it. As most of you know, I work at Microsoft – and while I took some programming classes in college, I never really was able to pick up programming. I’ve tried a few times: grabbed a book one the programming language flavor of the month, try some code, and fail miserably. I’ve taken some interactive courses through places like Codecademy, which make you apply a project.. and it doesn’t stick. The example projects are abstract, irrelevant, and uninteresting to me. I don’t care to program a game of Battleship.
What I need is to build something that I’m interested in. It pulls me in, and I can then learn. Unfortunately, there’s no “How to Program an Enigma Machine in C#” book (if anyone reading wants to write that, it’d be great).
So, about two years ago, 3D Printers were becoming more reasonable for home use. I backed one that came up on Kickstarter for $200 thinking that it was a price I was willing to pay to experiment with 3D printing, and — like many Kickstarter efforts that greatly blow past their funding goals — it failed spectacularly. While I was one of the few backers to actually get a printer, the quality on it was pretty abysmal — but it did show me that 3D printing had some cool possibilities as soon as I printed a Brio track adapter for Oliver. I sold it on eBay for $50, and then ordered a Prusa i3 MK2S. Quite a bit more than I originally planned to spend, but I saw a future in it.
To justify my expense after-the-fact (yep), I needed a project. I’ve always been fascinated by the Enigma. A few years ago, I actually researched what it would take to buy one from a private owner — tens of thousands of dollars. They’re cool, but I just wouldn’t be able to justify that for obvious reasons. I searched online on Thingiverse and other sites, and found a few Enigma examples — but nothing that was accurate. Sure, I could have a 50% accurate model, but I wanted more.
I then made the decision that if I was going to learn how to 3D print, I might as well learn to do 3D modelling as well. This began my journey.