Dec 29, 2014 | By Kira

Lego is undoubtedly one of the most popular children's toys ever invented, yet even time-tested favorites can be improved with new technologies. Recently, an independent company has found a way to connect Lego to high-tech sensors, enabling the plastic constructions to come to life via 3D printing.

Lego's colorful, interlocking bricks have been around for decades, and are a part of nearly every child's fondest memories. Today, Lego continues to thrive, with mechanical and robotics sets, theme parks, adult collector's sets that sell for thousands of dollars, and a hugely successful blockbuster film released earlier this year.

While Lego has been a fixture in toy stores around the world, actual Lego creations aren't built to last—for most children, almost as soon as they have built their house, castle, or spaceship, they tear it apart to create something new. A group called Gravity Research Club has found a way to solve this problem.

"When you play with Legos, you see much more in it that plastic bricks," states Gravity Research Club. "They are the fastest way to turn your ideas into reality. LEGO X understands what you are building, and what you are seeing, offering you endless possibilities, from digital crafting to 3D printing."

In a video they released online titled "LEGO X", several Lego blocks are shown being attached to various sensors. These are connected to a tablet, which recognize the shape and location of each brick, and displays them in real-time on the tablet screen. Each time another Lego brick is added on, the application adapts to reflect a 3D-model of the construction.

Although Lego allows children (and adults) to expand their imaginations and create infinite objects, the final products always feature hard, pixilated edges caused by the rectangular shapes of the bricks. To solve this, the LEGO X application implements algorithms to smooth out the edges and create a more realistic and defined model. The application can even predict what the builder is trying to make (such as an airplane, as shown in the video), and suggest shapes that simply aren't possible with the real-life Lego bricks.

Finally, once the builder is content with the refined, 3D model on-screen, they can send it directly to a 3D printer to create a solid, permanent version of their Lego creation at any scale that will last long after the bricks have been taken apart and re-used to build something else. Creations come to life, moving from bricks, to screen, to an actual 3D object—a dream come true for most children.

From Lego bricks…

…to a smoothed-out, CAD model… 3D printed airplane.

What's truly remarkable about this technology is that it can be used by children and adults alike, even if they have no experience with CAD models and 3D printing. It's as simple as clicking some Lego blocks together and letting your imagination run wild—something all of us are familiar with, even if it's been a few years since the last time we tried.

As the world's largest toy manufacturer, the Denmark-based Lego Group already brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. While there is no word yet on whether LEGO X will be purchased by Lego themselves, or if the company has plans to implement similar technology into their brand, they aren't the type to shy away from innovation. Looking back on how far the simple toy bricks have already come, it wouldn't be surprising to see LEGO X popping up in toy stores in the very near future.

Whether you have kids—or are still one at heart—LEGO X is paving the way for the future of toys and DIY culture. As a tool that encourages children to expand their imaginations and introduces them to the basics of CAD modeling, LEGO X is a welcome innovation that is sure to delight the next generation of maker movement enthusiasts.



Posted in 3D Software


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