Feb.8, 2015 | By Kira

The of classic cubed shape of a Lego construction is timeless and instantly recognizable, yet it does create some limitations, particularly if the object you are trying to build is known for its smooth curves. Thankfully, curved Lego has arrived thanks to Netherlands-based 3D print designer Jan Jurjen Zwaard.

After attempting to 3D print curved Lego using an existing model designed by Steve Medwin on Thingiverse, Zwaard ran into some complications. “When I printed it, I found out that I wasn’t able to remove the supports very well,” he explained to 3ders.org. “Since I know how to use Solidworks, I was able to create a model myself in such a way that I didn’t need the supports.” After designing a few different sized models, Zwaard was able to successfully print his own modified, interlocking building blocks.

Steve Medwin's curved LEGO brick

Steve Medwin's curved LEGO brick

Jan Jurjen Zwaard's curved Lego blocks - no supports needed

Jan Jurjen Zwaard's curved Lego blocks - no supports needed

Zwaard has been working with Solidworks since 1998, when he graduated from The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Back then, the popular CAD design software was only a few years old, however he liked that it was compatible with windows desktop-based systems. He worked as an industrial design engineer at Polyplastic and for several Solidworks resellers until 2004, when he founded his own company, Studio Zwaard, which focuses on Solidworks automation and API. Since then, he has earned eight Solidworks certifications, including the title of Solidworks Certified Expert. “The risk was slim to none,” said Zwaard on starting out on his own 11 years ago, “but it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Yet after working with CAD design and APIs for so long, the entrepreneur decided that it was about time to get in on 3D printing itself, so in December 2014 he bought his first 3D printer, a Zortrax M200. “My main reason to buy the 3D printer is because for so many years, I was very much involved in the 3D modeling software, and 3D printing is so closely involved with SolidWorks,” he explained to us. “It seemed like a good time to step in.”

The curved Lego project was his first attempt at getting to know his new printer and becoming familiar with the process and materials needed. He started by making the largest piece, which measures 4x2, then created several smaller iterations (3x2, 2x2 and 1x2). The largest piece took about one hour to print on the Zortrax, using the Z-ABS 3D printer filament.

He is using the pieces to build a replica of the Naaldwijk water tower which sits directly opposite his home. “I came up with the idea because I showed the Lego blocks to my dad and he asked if I would print the tower,” he said. At first he was reluctant, but then realized that due to its unique and instantly recognizable shape, it would be the perfect project.

The Naaldwijk Water Tower

The water tower model is still under construction, however Zwaard estimates that it will measure roughly 40cm in height and require approximately 350 blocks in total, not including the dome-shaped top piece, which took over 14 hours to print using the highest printer resolution. “I’ve gone through one roll of filament already," he told us.

In addition to finishing the tower, Zwaard plans to improve on the design of his curved bricks and will consider using a different filament, such as the Z-ULTRAT, which has less shrinkage. In the long run, his goal is to print models for clients that do not have a 3D printer and are interested in 3D prototyping. As for his new Zortrax M200, he is more than satisfied with the ‘print and play’ functionality. “The software is very easy to handle and use, and with the printer, you can’t do much wrong.”

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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