Jan.22, 2014

Anyone who has seen a 3D printer in action may have experienced the following sensations – exhilaration and then... a significant amount of waiting. A recent article in The Atlantic features a unique solution to a common problem: the speed 3D printing.

This solution is the faBrickator, a software program which allows users to 'legofy' their designs. Basically, this means that the program shows areas where standard Lego blocks may be substituted in designs. The remaining areas of the prototype can then be printed as blocks to be used together with standard Legos – all of which are specified by the software. With this 'legofied' approach to design it is possible to speed up the rapid prototyping process by many hours.

The faBrickator software is designed by doctoral student Stefanie Mueller and her friends at the Human Computer Interaction Lab at the Hasso Plattner Institute – some of the same people involved in the design of LaserOrigami, a rapid prototyping system that produces 3D objects using a laser cutter.

Mueller told The Atlantic that the type of blending specified by the faBrickator software is already quite common in rapid prototyping, but that it requires designers to have a good amount of "ingenuity and experience." With the faBrickator, the process of blending is simplified as the program indicates exactly where Lego blocks may be substituted, what remains to be printed, and how these pieces connect to one another. This allows less experienced designers to use advanced blending techniques which save time in rapid prototyping.

Mueller shows the process of fabricating a head-mounted display body. For such a project, getting the optical path right is paramount. Designers can mark the lens mounts as "high-resolution" to indicate that these should later be 3D printed. During the printing process, designers can build the rest from Lego bricks using faBrickator's on-screen instructions. When the printing is complete, the 3D printed lens mounts can be inserted into the body. It also allows re-printing only the elements that changed. It takes normally 14:30 hours to print the whole display body, but with faBrickator it takes only 67 minutes. "On average, our system fabricates objects 2.44 times faster than traditional 3D printing while requiring only 14 minutes of manual assembly. " says Mueller.

Each 3D printed part has a unique ID. With faBrickator, users can easily decide which parts need to be custom built and how much volume can be substituted with bricks. After all the parts are perfected, designers can revert the whole project to 3D printing, and drop all the Legos out.

"We used Legos as an example to demonstrate the concept since Legos exist in many different sizes and shapes, are inexpensive, and can quickly be assembled and taken apart," she explains.

The following video shows the faBrickator in action and features three example 'faBrickations':


Posted in 3D Printing Software



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clark wrote at 7/24/2015 5:03:08 PM:

i have a 3d printer hopefully for lego

Dan wrote at 4/17/2015 5:43:18 AM:

Whatever happened to this? It should have been on Github a year ago according to the creator.

Ben wrote at 1/23/2014 5:27:20 PM:

jd90; Yeah I get that. I use to love legos and that's how I use to think, in "legos". I see how this could appeal in a classroom where the 3D printer is in high demand and students could build parts of their design before hand. It also looks like it would create quite a bit of rework for the sake of a temporary time saver. It would expose other errors as printed parts replaced legos. Instead of addressing multiple design flaws this (for better or worse) only allows for "targeted" problem areas to be addressed.

jd90 wrote at 1/23/2014 3:27:11 PM:

Ben; I don't think the point is always to make a Lego-based final product, or necessarily to make Lego pieces, though those are options. I think the point is that Lego bricks are used as stand-ins to speed up the design process by selectively refining and iterating the more difficult areas, without requiring reprinting the whole model, which uses a lot of material and machine time for each iteration. Once the hard parts are refined, print the whole thing as a conventional part, and the design won't necessarily look so goofy Lego-ish. I don't understand the need for a soap grater though. It seems an incredibly inefficient use of bar soap.

Ben wrote at 1/22/2014 11:18:31 PM:

errr... I would want to design an ergonomic fit to not have legos eating into my face. The weight of the phone would break loose the legos at multiple stress points as well. I WOULD use it to design a quick way to make custom lego accessory parts though.

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