The Daily 3D Detail: 3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

Posted by Editor On August - 27 - 2017

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

As many parents of young children understand, the commodities markets (gold, silver, pork bellies) shamefully neglect to catalog the ongoing rate of one of the world’s most collectible items: LEGO blocks.

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

Image by Cmglee courtesy of Wikipedia

As LEGO blocks continue to hold their dollar value over time, the prospect of 3D-printing them grows. LEGO blocks are originally made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and can be easily duplicated by most 3D printers. STL (stereolithography) files for LEGO block downloads have been around for years.

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

Image of downloadable LEGOs by pokesummit

As the “world’s most powerful brand” LEGO has a strong tradition based on a singly mindful element of their product. It’s virtually impossible to replicate precisely. Even asian knock-off brands of LEGO blocks fail miserably across the board in terms of ease of use and reliability. And forget about having them work together with true LEGOs.

In terms of legal precedent in the LEGO trademark, a number of companies have been sued for infringing upon the LEGO design of their interlocking blocks. LEGO patented their definitive shape of the bricks with their inner tubes in 1958, but the latest European Court of Justice ruling in 2010, stated the eight-peg design of the original Lego brick “merely performs a technical function [and] cannot be registered as a trademark.”

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

Knock-off companies like Wise Hawk are shameless in their marketing and produce inferior products

So printing one’s own blocks are likely to run into the same quality control issues that plague all other attempts at replicating LEGOs accurately. But printing them at five times the size? That’s a different animal altogether.

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

3D-printing giant LEGO blocks

Mantis, a two-ton hexapod built by Matt Denton

Meet Matt Denton. Denton’s claim to fame is being the creator of the six-legged two-ton human-scale hexapod called Mantis. His latest contribution to the world is his giant-sized LEGO block creation, a five-times scale model of a LEGO go-cart, model no. 1972. Designed as a LEGO kit in 1985, this buggy cart with dual wheels and working rack-and-pinion steering took 168 hours to make — approximately seven days of printing. The end result weighed 5.1 kilos and cost a little over £100.

In his video series in two parts on the 3D printing of the blocks, Denton explains his tricks of the trade to replicate the LEGO creation in its massive size off a Lulzbot Taz 5 printer. Using extensive brimming to minimize warping at the edges, and foregoing support material in key spots were some of the techniques Denton employed. The video is extensive in construction detail, explaining which parts should be built in sections. No doubt this will not be the first of these mega-size LEGO creations, as anyone with a 3D printer can follow Denton’s lead through his step-by-step instructions.

It’s only a matter of time now until giant LEGO blocks becomes its own sub-Reddit thread. In the meantime, investing in LEGOs still proves to be a viable retirement plan for most parents.