Jun 10, 2015 | By Simon

As more and more young builders (as well as old!) flock towards Minecraft and other world-building games that some are saying is the future of STEM education, it’s not surprising that there has also been a surge of interest in the original block-building experience, too: LEGOs.  

However unlike in the popular video game, LEGO blocks lack a level of interactivity that some of the younger users may come to expect when building with the simple blocks or older users might have always wanted to add more dimension to their various LEGO projects.   

Aiming to solve this problem, Lunchbox Electronics has designed a solution that is sure to bring joy to both the younger users and older users alike in the form of their Build Upons.

The Build Upons use small LEGO-compatible bricks which allow builders to light up their brick creations using a three-part brick setup that includes a power brick, a bridge brick and an LED brick.  While the Power Brick provides electricity through a direct connection to a battery pack via the Bridge Brick, the LED Brick adds a light feature to literally any LEGO creation while simultaneously teaching the basics of circuitry via an open source platform.  Additionally, the Build Upons are based on the smallest 1x1 brick that they could fit an LED into in order for users to be able to create the most flexible and custom designs possible.  

Founded by design engineer Alicia Gibb, Lunchbox Electronics (LBE) is focused on creating innovative new products that focus on imagination and passion for open source hardware.  Gibb is no stranger to all things open source - she has been working with open source hardware since 2008 and runs the Open Source Hardware Association, an organization to educate and promote building and using open source hardware.  

Unsurprisingly, Gibb and the rest of the Lunchbox Electronics team created the Build Upons using a LulzBot TAZ 3D printer and prototyped the design through a series of iterations.

As a part of the prototyping process, the team put an LED onto a custom-made Gold Phoenix circuit board that needed to be embedded into the 3D printed brick.  To do so, they wrote Gcode that was capable of pausing at intervals during the printing process that allowed for them to embed the necessary components before completing the print process.

Left: a 1×1 LED brick printed with natural PLA containing a printed circuit board; Right: the circuit board that is used in this brick. The wire is coiled up to fit in the socket of the LED brick while the print continues.

While the Build Upons are certainly a very welcome addition to any LEGO builder’s collection, the team was also generous enough to supply instructions on how to create your own embedded or other customized 3D prints using their print-pausing Gcode formula.    

“This solution of pausing the print and moving the head out of the way can be useful when changing the color or type of filament,” said the team in their blog post.   

“This method allows for a more dynamic print while utilizing the base model of most 3D printers. More than just circuit boards can be embedded with this method if a part needs to have metal inserts or if internal cavities need to be coated in an epoxy to make a part water proof for the inside of a vase. The applications are endless!”

Currently, the team has raised over two-thirds of their campaign goal of $30,000 for the Build Upons with over two weeks left to go in the campaign.  They are planning on using the funds raised to cover the costs of injection molding and die casting of the final parts.    Those interested can purchase a starter kit for $25, which includes a handful of each of the bricks necessary to get started on your first light-up LEGO brick project.   


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive