FaBrickation: Combining Lego And 3D Printing


While 3D printing gives you the ability to fabricate completely custom parts, it does have some drawbacks. One issue is the time and cost of printing large volumes. Often these structures are simple, and do not require completely custom design.

This is where the faBrickation system comes in. It allows you to combine 3D printed parts with off the shelf LEGO bricks. The CAD tool that lets you ‘Legofy’ a design. It creates directions on how to assemble the LEGO parts, and exports STL files for the parts to be 3D printed. These custom bricks snap into the LEGO structure.

In their demo, a head mounted display is built in 67 minutes. The same design would have taken over 14 hours to 3D print. As the design is changed, LEGO blocks are added and removed seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the tool doesn’t appear to be open source. It will appear for the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, so hopefully we will see more in the future. Until then, you can watch the demo after the break.

29 thoughts on “FaBrickation: Combining Lego And 3D Printing

  1. I wonder what the cost difference between printing the whole thing vs. using Legos. I suppose Legos get a cost advantage for being reusable, but a lot of hackers like the 3D printer not for rapid prototyping as much as low-volume fabrication.

          1. Lego says nothing about how it should be pluralized. They simply don’t want you to pluralize the name at all because it’s the name of the company, not the bricks.

          2. I dunno. The image pretty clearly says “Please always refer to our products as “LEGO bricks or toys” and not “LEGOS”. So I’d say yeah, they prefer you don’t call their bricks “Legos”.

            That said, it’s just a request from them. Call it however you like. Getting into this argument is like stepping in dog poop. Excuse me while I go wash my boots.

      1. Using “Lego” for a bunch of bricks would make “Lego” a collective noun, which it is not. It is a singular noun. You can carry a bucket of water, but you cannot take one “water” out of the bucket. However, you can take one “Lego” out of a bucket of “Legos”.

        1. Well, you’re almost correct, except that it *is* an uncountable noun, and there’s no such word as ‘legos’.

          So, “I have a bucket of Lego” is perfectly correct and understandable.

          “I took some Lego from the bucket of Lego”, also correct.

          “I took a piece of Lego from the bucket of Lego”, also correct.

          It’s more like cake, pizza or cheese than water.

  2. Not exactly a great example. The legos would come apart during actual use, the display is not alighted, and the display is secured with rubber bands rather than a 3d printed part. And if their example is this poor what makes them think that this would have any real application other than making custom parts for your kid? I guess it was a cool project for a academic setting, but in the real world where would this have any real application?

      1. I don’t know why but it really, really bothers me when people get bent out of shape about the pluralization or capitalization of Lego. Totally setting aside the whole prescriptive/descriptive issue, I just don’t understand why some people are so happy to let a corporation dictate minutia of language, and why this seems to be the only case where they do so. I’ve never seen anyone corrected for calling the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games just “Stalker”, yet people practically fall over themselves to say “they’re not ‘Legos’ they’re ‘LEGO bricks'”. There’s absolutely no distinction to be made, no potential for confusion, and there’s obviously no intent to deride (as there is with calling miniatures, action figures, or whatever else “dolls”).

        It really does smack of autism not in the ignorant internet pejorative sense (“lol you care about small things”) but in the complete lack of awareness that it’s very likely not a matter of ignorance; people who talk about “Legos” on the internet at best *seriously do not care,* and at worst may be deliberately trying to provoke a fight.

        1. Sure it is autistic. Everyone scores somewhere on the ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) spectrum, and nerdy types such as us are off to one side of the mean. Nothing wrong with that. Celebrate your difference.

    1. Their original model also works with rubber bands to hold the display and if they wanted to improve the design (e.g., to remove the rubber bands), the Lego version would obviously be much faster to iterate. I do not agree that the choice of model is poor. Also, there’s two more examples of builds in the video besides the display.

    1. Those remind me of a toy I had where you jam little plastic rods into these sorta-triangular plastic vertices that broke really easy. But I’ll admit they look cooler and perhaps more durable.

  3. I think the examples are terrible, I don’t know who is asking for a bar soap grater. However, the overall idea shows promise.

    I don’t think it’s for developing a Lego-based final product, but if that’s your deal, then go ahead.

    I think this really comes in handy in speeding up design iterations. Once the fussy parts are dialed in, then work towards print the whole thing.

    Lego can and has been used as an engineering tool, to grasp the problem and find a solution early on. That doesn’t mean the final product includes any Lego bricks. This is a good looking extension to that concept.

  4. Ignoring arguments about the value of the examples, the idea of using LEGO bricks as either the bulk of — or the connecting points of — the nonspecific parts of a fabrication and using the 3D printer to handle the parts that must be exactly customized is a great one. There are obvious solutions to some of the objections people are whining about in this discussion — including simply using a glue or resin to make the snap together parts more permanent if that’s an issue, or simply using the LEGO bricks during the prototyping phase. The hack is a good one.

  5. Looks like a great idea to me. (and would people PLEASE stop going on about the correct use of Lego/s – its a dull as hell. At least wait for people to post actually about the thing being done first).

    Next step; Lego based pick and place + 3d printer combo?

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