What happens if LEGO bricks are combined with 3D printing? Light up bricks, LEGO 3D printers, and LEGO 3D printing guns. Try them yourself!
An important question. What is the plural of the word ‘LEGO’, exactly? Is it LEGOS? Or just LEGO? We can seem to find a satisfactory answer. If anyone has an idea, send us a postcard with the answer please? Thanks.
Moving on, here’s a compilation of impressive projects that combine the chunky plastic bricks we all know and love with 3D printing. They’re diverse, they’re strange, and they’re utterly delightful.
FDM 3D Printer made with LEGO
“Warning: This printer is not a toy.” Some important advice to consider when approaching this Instructables tutorial on constructing a 3D printer from LEGO.
“The temperature of the heat bed can reach 110 degrees celsius,” continues maker Gosse Adema, “and the temperature of the printhead starts with 170 degrees celsius.”
But don’t be discouraged! As a proof of concept, this LEGO 3D printer definitely works. Built on the foundations of a Prusa i3 fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer, the Franken-trapion has been paired with Nema 17 stepper motors.
Technically speaking, it’s not 100 percent constructed from LEGO. The use of the stepper motors instead of LEGO Mindstorms servos is bending the rules for the hardcore LEGO nerds. But since it looks and smells like the real thing, it gets a pass from us.
Tiny Light Up Bricks
Lunchbox Electronics is running a Kickstarter campaign for ‘Build Upons’, a fun and simple way to teach kids the basics of electric currents.
Build Upons are small, LEGO-compatible bricks that allow builders to light up their creations, and using three brick components – a power brick, a bridge brick, and an LED brick – they’ve developed a safe way to discreetly illuminate any Lego playset.
But before Lunchbox Electronics took to Kickstarter, they prototyped their designs on a 3D printer. Explaining the process in a post on their website, the makers show how they used a Lulzbot TAZ 3D printer to embed mini-circuit boards snugly into a 3D print.
The post is definitely worth a read. When printing a brick, they were able to pause the 3D printer at a specific juncture and move the extruder out of the way. That left them free to place the tiny circuit boards into their location, and then resume printing. If you’re keen to do the same for a project of your own, Lunchbox have provided all the technical documentation you need.
DLP 3D Printer made with LEGO
Back to Instructables for another crazy contraption, this time a high-resolution Digital Light Project (DLP) Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer.
Proud inventor matsermind has christened it ‘The Chimera’, after the mythical beast of legend. This printer isn’t just made from LEGO bricks, it’s also made from K’nex parts AND an old Mitsubishi desktop projector. Everything but the kitchen sink has been sucked into the vortex of its conception.
“While LEGOs could be used,” says matsermind, “I’ve found that interlocking bricks are not good for large and stable structures. So I turned to the other ‘toy’ that can make large, lightweight, and sturdy structures, yet has a similar flexibility for alterations to the design as Legos do, and that is K’nex.”
This printer was made for only $60 bucks, which isn’t dramatically off from the figure of $20 we mentioned in our article on do-it-yourself SLA printers. Proof that cost really isn’t a barrier to entry.
3D Printing Gun made with LEGO
In his own words, Vimal Patel has “made a thing, which can be used to make more things.”
What’s interesting about this project is not just the ability to make things that are functional using biodegradable filament, but also the open nature of the production process. Patel has demonstrated that to produce complex objects, all you need is some (Technics) LEGO and a cheap hot glue gun.
Okay, you’ll also need a keen eye and a steady hand, because you’ll be extruding filament in any axis without the benefit of calibrated support.
Nonetheless, Patel encourages others to follow in his footsteps. Fancy replicating his invention for yourself? He’s released a digital file of the extruder which can be freely downloaded and opened using LEGO Digital Designer.
License: The text of "LEGO and 3D Printers are Bestest Friends Ever" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.