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The Genius of the Lego Printer 187

Posted by timothy
from the dot-by-dot-by-dot dept.
Barence writes "If you've ever struggled to build anything more complex than a cube of Lego, this will blow your mind. It's a fully functioning Lego printer, complete with felt tip print head."
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The Genius of the Lego Printer

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  • Lego Printer? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:03PM (#32435806)

    When I saw this headline, I thought it printed on to lego blocks forming words using lego blocks

  • by sxedog (824351) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:07PM (#32435854)
    Let's improve on this by adding a fine point marker! :)
  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:08PM (#32435864) Homepage Journal

    Search "Lego factory" on YouTube. I've seen one that builds Lego cars.

  • Re:Lego Printer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:12PM (#32435906) Journal

    I thought it printed LEGO creations from LEGO blocks.

    Y’know, your average 3D printer... but with LEGO bricks.

    That would be cool.

  • by adeft (1805910) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:13PM (#32435916)
    The little guys riding on it just top it off perfectly. I'm reminded of the rickety dumb erector set models I made as a kid with an instruction manual. :(
  • Re:Ouch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:13PM (#32435922)

    Although he loses some street cred for not using Dogcow [wikipedia.org] Especially since it was used for print dialogs.

    The image of the dogcow was used to show the orientation and color of the paper in Mac OS page setup dialog boxes. HCI engineer Annette Wagner made the decision to use the dog from the Cairo font as a starting point for the page graphic. Annette edited the original font and created a larger version with spots more suitable for demonstrating various printing options. The new dog graphic had a more bovine look, making it arguably less clear as to what animal it was intended to be, and after the print dialog was released the name "dogcow" came into use.

  • Next steps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wickerprints (1094741) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:14PM (#32435930)

    1. Multiple colors via a pen carousel and switching mechanism.
    2. Support for plotting in addition to line-by-line output.
    3. Halftone dithering.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:18PM (#32435970)

    I have built a similar device from a kit called "Merkur" more than 20 years ago.
    A video of merkur alfi [youtube.com] in action.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:54PM (#32436400) Journal

    Whether it moved the paper or the pen is relatively irrelevant. I think his main point was, plotters universally draw line art (moving the paper, or pen, in a fluid continuous movement along the path you are tracing)... vs. printers which rasterize their image (print dots of colour which merge together to form a complete image).

    Although this project rasterized the page (printing dots), it could have just as easily been designed to set the pen down and then do continuous line art... but you have much less software that’s capable of printing to a line art plotter as opposed to a regular raster image printer. That is most likely the reason for the dot-matrix print style that it used.

    This really isn’t that impressive. The main point that impresses me is that LEGO products are precision-built with such a quality as to be able to feed paper and move a pen to accurately position the dots and produce what looks like essentially a flawless page of print (albeit slightly low-res because of the relatively large size of the dots). We always knew that LEGO used top-quality materials with very, very small tolerances on the parts... this takes advantage of that and shows just how high their standards are.

  • Re:Lego Printer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @04:03PM (#32436520) Journal
    For what it's worth, here's a video of a LEGO car printer made of LEGO bricks [youtube.com]. It's not an arbitrary 3d printer, it just does cars, but you can choose the color of the car.
  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @04:28PM (#32436834) Homepage

    I remember being awestruck seeing a picture of a Lego plotter machine many years ago. It turns out that it was build by Larry Page [wikipedia.org] of Google fame.

    Here's a picture of it [luberth.com]

  • Re:Ouch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @05:29PM (#32437584)

    Lasers, on the other hand, are rather expensive up front but can run for miles on one tank

    Indeed!

    I own a color laser that I got second hand with at least 2 replacement sets of toner for $80. That was three years ago. I still haven't put any of the replacement toner in. I think it's going to last longer than every inkjet I've ever had put together.

    The ironic thing is that laser printers are good for people who print infrequently, as the toner doesn't "dry out" due to disuse like ink does. To top it off, ink cartridges are about $50, and toner is about $80.... for 5X the number of pages.

    There was a great deal a year ago on these network Lexmarks from PCConnection with high-cap toner installed. $150ish or so. I did the math for a buddy of mine who was looking for a printer at the time on how much the replacement toner would cost an so on.... He bought two of them instead :-D

    AC. Stupid mod points.

  • Re:Cool, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by socz (1057222) <socrates&ghettobsd,org> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @07:52PM (#32439064) Homepage Journal
    A lot of my friends and family laugh at my crazy ideas of using legos as solutions to problems. About 6 months ago I was starting to work on a lego pyramid to house a computer. My GF being thoughtful as she is, ended up buying me the Antec Skeleton case! So no pyramid for me - yet!

    But I agree with you, the inherent joy of playing with legos is slowly lost UNLESS you maintain your creativity with them. I've used them for so many random things that people can't help but laugh and then say "yeah, that worked out great" because they're so flexible. Sure my collection is now less than a shoe box and some parts don't quite fit very well together anymore, but it's faster and easier sometimes that getting tools out and cutting materials to size.

    Until recently, legos has served as my projector's adjustable base. It not only held the projector on the front of a rack, but also propped it up in place. Now because of where it's used I just built a rig to hold it in place on a shelf (that secures itself). Since I was working with tools already it didn't take much to build it (just a little thinking and measuring). But believe me, if that wasn't the case, the legos would still be under that projector!

    Worth mentioning, I always recommend people to buy legos for kids. They're some of the best things one can have to help develop many skills and thinking processes. I always refer to legos being the basis of becoming and engineer.
  • Re:WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @08:12PM (#32439226)

    Also, this is just a more advanced variation of a project included with the original Lego Mindstorms kit.

    This kind of thing goes back WAY further than that.

    I've got a book from the mid-80's with a whole lot of C64 robotics projects in it, which features a lego pen plotter. The paper handling is more convenient - that project was a drum plotter - but otherwise, it's a variation on that basic design. In some ways it's both a step up and a step down from that project - this rasterizes everything, whereas the old C64 project could draw non-jaggy lines in any direction.

    I'd say the paper handling alone makes it a step up from the C64 project in terms of convenience and usability, though. Plus, any advancements over the Mindstorms project make it worthy of attention IMHO - it's great that we can all learn from other tinkerers.

  • by nukenerd (172703) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @08:23AM (#32443120)

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the fact that a generation or two of kids have been brought up on Lego is partly responsible for a decline (in the West at least) in people interested in engineering as a career, and in a general lack of public understanding (and even revulsion) at engineering.

    Lego was introduced as a constructional toy for model brick buildings. It replaced stuff like Bayko and Betta-Builder. With Betta-Builder (I may have that name wrong) you glued little bricks together with water-soluble glue; Lego was its less-messy replacement.

    The dominant mechanical construction toy of the time was Meccano which had an awsome arrray of components (machine-cut brass gears for example), far more than it has had in recent years. Meccano was true miniature mechanical engineering; you construct Meccano on the same principles as a full size project. I am a professional engineer and have seen Meccano used to demonstate real-life mechanical and structural engineering concepts; eg I know that some of the buffers you see at railway termini were first modelled with Meccano. A plotter-printer would be well within its stride.

    But somehow Lego went from a masonry toy to ousting Meccano as the leading constructional toy of any kind, with the introduction of rather crude and weak plastic shafts and gears. A Lego mechanism is not however representative of how you would design a mechanism for production.

    Lego is however colourful, has no sharp edges, is not made of nasty steel, and above all you cannot see any nuts and bolts - supposedly the greatest design gaffe of the modern age - OMG.

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