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Hardware Hacking It's funny.  Laugh. Printer Toys Hardware

A 3D Lego Fabricator Made of Lego 87

eldavojohn writes "Making a Lego printer is pretty cool if you've never seen The LegoMakerBot. The creator has instructions on his site on how to make (out of Lego bricks) a machine that 'prints' Lego models — much like a 3D fabrication machine — after you model them in MLCad. The sped up video is nothing short of impressive."
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A 3D Lego Fabricator Made of Lego

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  • Amazing! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by headhot (137860) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:18AM (#33960684) Homepage

    Next step? Lego C&C machine.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      At first I thought this LEGO machine actually made LEGO blocks... which would have been far cooler.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A Lego Command and Conquer machines?
      Or perhaps you meant, Computer Numerically Controlled?

    • by mdemonic (988470)

      Lego Command & Conquer machine?

      • well, slap some external plating on this contraption and you are pretty close to the GDI factory, too bad it can't build tanks yet...

    • I'll be more impressed (and scared) when the lego printer, can make more printers out of lego blocks. And make more blocks out of liquified humans.
      • by natehoy (1608657)

        Don't worry. You're safe, at least for now. It'll start with anyone who calls them "Legos". :)

    • by eln (21727)
      After that? Lego C&C Music Factory! []

      The trick is getting the legos to perform those killer dance moves.
    • Did you mean CnC machine? []
      Also, I was bummed to note that this is a Lego assembling machine, not a Lego Fabricator (i.e. something that fabricates Lego blocks). I guess my dream of rapid prototyping new Lego blocks will have to wait...
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      I think you mean CNC machine.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:27AM (#33960798) Journal

    The builder made a colossal mistake. He included a design readable by the machine to build itself. This is how Skynet REALLY got started!

    We are doomed!

  • Recursion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by atisss (1661313)
    Can it print itself? There's a model picture of itself at the end.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by somersault (912633)

      It could print parts of itself, but it would obviously run out of space before it managed to print the whole thing, since it can only rotate teh assembly rather than move it along. Even if it could shift the sub-assemblies out, it would need some way of assembling them.

      It also seem that it can only build using one type of block at the moment, so it can't add in motors, control blocks etc. (yet!).

      Still, it's pretty cool :)

      • It could print parts of itself, but it would obviously run out of space before it managed to print the whole thing

        It's like that Steven Wright joke: I want a tattoo of myself, only taller..

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        It can print using 5 kinds of blocks.
        It's still not nearly enough, esp. that these must be BLOCKS (not gears/axles/etc).

    • by nmoog (701216)
      No, but it can print the individual parts that make up itself.
    • It doesn't print anything, it just assembles stuff out of blocks. Heck, you even need to feed the blocks in by hand.

      This is far from the "build anything you want" that the article claims, as it can only use 5 kinds of Lego blocks, is limited to 12 blocks tall, and can't print blocks so it's limited to whatever blocks you have on hand. Feh: Skynet fail.
      • by peragrin (659227)

        This is just thefirsthalf of the machine anyways. The secondhalf takes the sub assemblies this produces and assemblies them from the outside.

        Stage three wil be to take several complete units and have them work in parallel useing networking.

        stage four is were it gains sentience.

        Hopefull we live past stage 5

  • Thats unexpected! (Score:1, Redundant)

    by SolitaryMan (538416)

    It seems that our robotic overlords are coming from the most unexpected place: Lego!

    I for one ...

  • That's nice and all, but can it build an exact copy of itself? That would be awesome.
    • by binkzz (779594)

      That's nice and all, but can it build an exact copy of itself? That would be awesome.

      No, it can only assemble stuff out of 4x2 blocks, and nothing over half its own size.

  • It would rock if they programmed it in Lisp...

    • I seem to remember something about a Lego Turing machine. Use that to control the Lego fabricator!

    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:10PM (#33966534) Homepage Journal

      Actually, this reminds me of the classic AI simulation program "Blocks World", which *was* written in Lisp.

      Basically, it modeled a group of stacked blocks, and you could tell it, "put the red block on the blue block." If there were a yellow block on top of the red block, it would figure out that in order to meet its goal of picking up the red block, it had to remove the yellow one first.

      What was especially cool is it could explain itself. You could ask "Why did you move the yellow block?" and it would say "To get at the red block." If you asked "Why did you move the red block" it would say "Because you told me."

      That doesn't seem like much today, but thirty years ago it was the next thing to wizardry. Once you figured out how the program worked, you really understood why recursion is such a big deal in AI programs. Each individual inductive step was simple, but the results were impressive.

      To actually get the lego machine to fabricate parts is no big deal; that's just running through a predefined set of motions. What would be cool is if, like Blocks World, you told it what you wanted, and it took care of the details for you.

  • ... until 3D printers are affordable and everywhere, like Cory Doctorow describes in Makers [] . Now that I've got a kid, I keep wanting to print small, one-off plastic bits to repair and enhance toys.

    • by glop (181086)

      The Makerbot and other are about 750$.
      And the plastic seems to be 15$ a pound if I remember well.
      That's starting to look very affordable already.
      There was a guy who made a replacement part for his dishwasher on the Make blog or instructables. One or 2 hacks like that and the machine pays for itself...

      • by sootman (158191)

        Thanks, I had thought they were a lot more, like in the several-thousand neighborhood. says $1,225 right now. I googled 3D printers a while ago and the ones I found were expensive, now I see a Wikipedia page which has several listed with prices. Thanks! []

  • Too busy marveling at this to make any lean/robot/overlord jokes. Very cool.

  • I went to an estate sale recently and bought a 5 gallon tub filled with Legos for my son. The owners were moving and many of the Legos appeared to be circa 1980 vintage blocks that their kids had (eg, the old-style wheels with the metal axle that snaps into the 4x2 brick with the 4 holes and the innards for snapping in the wheel axles).

    While most of the bricks were pretty much the same as in some of the new "generic" brick sets, a few pieces like some windows and doors are not. I'm not a big Lego hobbyist

    • by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:06AM (#33962024) Homepage

      I doubt that a fabrication machine will ever be able to create parts w/ the precision which Lego demands in their molds (tolerances are just 2 micro-meters, molds are discarded when they wear out, they use _tons_ of pressure to force the ABS plastic into every bit of the molds).

      That said, so long as the bricks don't infringe on any Lego trademarks (this varies by one's legal locality, see the article on the recent EU case [] ), one would be able to make them (w/in the tolerances of one's fabrication machine).

      For an example of what it's like trying to use bricks which are _not_ manufactured to Lego tolerances, just pick up a Mega Bloks set (they're cheap) --- they sort of fit, but not w/ the precision of Lego bricks and they don't stay together as well.

      • I doubt that a fabrication machine will ever be able to create parts w/ the precision which Lego demands in their molds (tolerances are just 2 micro-meters, molds are discarded when they wear out, they use _tons_ of pressure to force the ABS plastic into every bit of the molds).

        I am a serious Lego collector, and not only are you wrong about it ever being possible to do this, there are people already doing this. Go checkout Brickarms or Brickforge for some examples of high quality third party accessories.
        • by WillAdams (45638)

          The brickarms site isn't making their products on a fabrication device though:

          from their FAQ:


          `` I used a 3D parametric modeling program , which produced CAD files. A mold maker then used these files to program a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) milling machine to cut cavities into both halves of the mold. When the cavities are ready, he uses an expensive injection molding machine to inject hot ABS plastic (the same plastic used by LEGO®) into the mold with 90 tons

          • If by fabrication device, you mean a 3d printer, then you are correct about Brickarms not using one.

            However, you are still wrong. There are people that have posted images of Lego compatible parts that they have created using 3d prototyping machines on Brickshelf and flikr. I don't have any URLs handy, but the last one I saw was custom race car parts.
            • I specifically noted in my post that one could make such parts ``one would be able to make them (w/in the tolerances of one's fabrication machine)'' --- what isn't happening, and I doubt will ever happen --- is making them w/ 2 micrometers of precision as Lego does for their bricks.

              The Shapeways link notes ``The printer resolution goes to about .1mm, but the material can change it slightly. Overall, .5 should be fine, just make sure that they are not any sort of support walls or they may get broken during s

  • ...I heard you like building things out of legos, so we gave you instructions on how you can build something out of legos that will build you something out of legos.
  • by Cytlid (95255)
    Maybe they should have called it "GCC"...
  • Proves... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:00AM (#33961956)

    On a macro scale, with blocks that are built for children, we have something like this. Wow.

    Look, I know that on a molecular level you have to deal with all sorts of physics that would not apply in what we see here but dammit I am hopeful that we are getting closer to having nano-bots. Of all the tech that I think we can do this is the stuff I think we could see in a lifetime.

    Time travel...we don't have the energy yet to close the loops or so Hawking says. FTL travel...the physics that I know seem to say it's in the same league as time travel. The energy we currently view as high is not even in the same league as what we would need to have these types of tech. And as such there is very little research into such ideas.

    And that is fine. We do need to have a stable planet such that we can actually progress. And as such the research into what we can do on our scale is very valid. Lets make some nano-bots that clean out our arterial walls and such. Do it. Go.

    • Re:Proves... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CraftyJack (1031736) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @12:44PM (#33963388)
      Slow down. He made a pick-and-place machine out of legos, and you're up to time travel and nanobots. It's nifty, but we're not really in the Hawking realm here.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      dammit I am hopeful that we are getting closer to having nano-bots.

      Me, too. I can see a time (sadly, after I'm dead) when everything is made of nanobots and made by nanobots, including nanobots. Your entire house made of nanobots that could morph into any design you wanted it to. Your bed would dissolve into the floor after you got up. Each nanobot couuld have a one pixel LED display, no light fixtures needed; your ceiling glows.

      The only property would be land, and intellectual "property". You would pretty

  • I seriously thought this was about a 3D printer that could print the blocks, but instead I'm presented with a pretty unimpressive assembly machine.
    1. Build Lego assembly machine
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    Call me when you've got something to custom fabricate Lego blocks.
    1. Build Lego block printer
    2. Sell one to every Lego store on the planet
    3. Profit!

    • I'm pretty sure printed bricks will cost a lot more than the original, mass produced ones. also of inferior quality(smoothness etc.)
    • I've got something to custom fabricate Lego bricks sitting on my desk. I've been using it to print parts for a geodesic dome to donate to the urban garden society as a greenhouse, but it will make Lego. I got sick and tired of waiting for Makerbot parts to come into stock over a year ago and built one myself by hand. Get off your ass... the only thing holding you back is you.

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