Pick-and-place Lego prototyping

[Ned] tipped us off about his project for a class at Carnegie Mellon. Utilizing a Denso 6-AOF robotic arm they have built a rapid prototyping machine that uses Lego as the building material. LDraw, the open standard Lego CAD program, is used to build a model which is then translated into MATLAB files that the robotic arm can use for placement commands. Right now pieces need to be placed on a template for the robot to find and pick up.

It’s great that Lego pieces are used because they are readily available and inexpensive, but this type of precision robot makes the project unattainable for most tinkerers. Still, the concept is interesting and we could see an end goal being a more widely available machine. It’s not too much of a leap to image a RepRap type machine that takes internal measurements of a circuit board and the components, calculates inside case dimensions, then builds a prototype enclosure from common Lego pieces.


  1. bbot says:

    College students love kludging things together in matlab.

    The machine vision bit is pretty neat, but if this is sped up by eight times, then it must be pretty damn slow in real time.

    Also would have liked to see a HTML writeup.

    (whine whine whine)

  2. Foone says:

    By the way, they’re using the (excellent) MLCad, not LDraw. MLCad uses the LDraw datafiles (like most Lego design tools), but it’s not based on it.

  3. Hackius says:

    @bbot: Matlab is awesome for rapid prototyping anything that needs copious amounts of math.

  4. monkeyslayer56 says:

    looks cool. i should build one and give those legos in my closet a use lol

  5. jonzilla9000 says:

    This would be far cooler if the rapid prototyping machine was made out of legos too.

    It’s definitely possible – the attached clip is an automated lego factory that makes lego cars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ3AcPEPbH0

  6. partnerincrime says:

    it’s probably so slow because of the precision required to place the pieces in between each other e.g. seconds: 24-26. lego bricks next to each other have a spacing of .2mm or something like that, so you need to be pretty darn accurate!

  7. monkeyslayer56 says:

    i second that as i was playing with the schools robot arm one time and had the bigger legos with larger spaceing(the little kid version…) i had a VERY hard time getting it to line up and not just crush them and trigger a crash on the program.

  8. David says:

    Really!? For Legos, the same thing’s that can easily be put together quickly enough by hand. What a waste. I’m all for automated assembly tech, but this one is ridiculous.

  9. led tester says:

    Great! Just what I need to help me add to my Imperial capital fleet!


  10. Ned says:


    I agree it’s completely pointless. It’s just a fun and (I thought) interesting way to combine technologies to accomplish something. When it changes from pointless to slightly useful is when it does what we originally wanted it to do, which is decompose a solid model (Solidworks, ProE, Inventor, etc) and build a model out of that. Even more, something like this could find its way to a Children’s/Science Museum to teach kids the basics of CAD and more advanced development processes in a language they can understand — Legos.

  11. MrCheapskate says:

    i always thought legos were pretty pricy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,545 other followers