Embedding PCBs In 3D Prints

The folks over at Lunchbox Electronics are working on a very cool prototype: embedding LEDs inside standard 1×1 Lego bricks. Being a prototype, they needed a cheap way to produce Lego bricks stuffed with electronics. It turns out a normal 3D printer has okay-enough resolution, but how to put the electronics in the bricks? Gcode wizardry, of course.

3d-printed-LEGO-w-pcb-thumbThe electronics being stuffed into the bricks isn’t much – just a small PCB with an LED. It does, however, need to get inside the brick. This requires stopping the 3D printer at the right layer, moving the print head out of the way, inserting the PCB, and moving the head back to where it stopped.

Gcode to the rescue. By inserting a few lines into the Gcode of the print, the print can be paused, the print head raised and returned, and the print continued.

If you want to check out what these light up Lego look like, There’s a Kickstarter happening now. It’s exactly what the 80s space sets needed, only thirty years late.

19 thoughts on “Embedding PCBs In 3D Prints

  1. What a great Idea(ie putting lights in lego), hopefully she makes good on this and it does look like her kickstarter will be funded. This can be applied to so many other things and I have been manually pausing, thanks for the link I just didn’t know how to do the gcode pause and didnt want to fiddle for a couple hours with it.

    From the kickstarter video I am not so sure about the STEAM acronym, we should probably leave Art out of the mix and keep it STEM considering the constituents are directly related. Art should just be its own thing altogether than can also incorporate STEM.

    1. Surprisingly yes. It’s not going to be able to do things like the LEGO logo on the top, nor will it fit with the same tolerances of the official bricks either but you can easily get megablocks-like compatibility. It’ll never be perfect but for prototyping a device like this it’d work a treat.

      1. Color me skeptical…. at least for the purposes of this Kickstarter. Is it their intention to print these off and sell them or kickstart a production mold and run them in ABS for sale, sort of like what the Lego Weapon guy does?

      1. Yep some of the train models included them. Had one back in the 90s that was like that. I’d assume they have them and use LEDs now but I haven’t played with them in a long time. The one I had came with the bulb embedded in a brick and a light-pipe to bring it out to the front of the train.

  2. Now if we can get those LEGO’s to light up before I walk across the floor barefoot!

    In the article is the comment “use G0 or G1 as it does the same thing” — should be “does the same thing on THIS MACHINE”. My homebuilt CNC router (48″ x 48″), G0 is enough to almost toss a 80# Gantry off the end.
    G0 == RAPID; G1 == Normal pace.

      1. You can’t exactly cheap out too much on diecast molds and 30k doesn’t get you too far with multicavity plastic and metal molds plus fees plus fulfillment. Cool idea but I worry about the numbers if it comes in right at 30k.

  3. This is OLD news. Sailfish/Jetty firmware for Makerbot (over 3 years old), was the first and invented the capability. It’s called Pause @ Z Pos. WeI created it for exactly that function, to embed PCB’s in prints and this came way before Cura or any other of the copy cats and even before Makerbot or Reprap community had thought of it.

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