A LEGO CNC Pixel Art Generator

If you are ever lucky enough to make the trip to Billund in Denmark, home of LEGO, you can have your portrait taken and rendered in the plastic bricks as pixel art. Having seen that on our travels we were especially interested to watch [Creative Mindstorms]’ video doing something very similar using an entirely LEGO-built machine but taking the images from an AI image generator.

The basic operation of the machine is akin to that of a pick-and-place machine, and despite the relatively large size of a small LEGO square it still has to place at a surprisingly high resolution. This it achieves through the use of a LEGO lead screw for the Y axis and a rack and pinon for the X axis, each driven by a single motor.

The Z axis in this machine simply has to pick up and release a piece, something solved with a little ingenuity, while the magazine of “pixels” was adapted with lower friction from another maker’s design. The software is all written in Python, and takes input from end stop switches to position the machine.

We like this build, and we can appreciate the quantity of work that must have gone into it. If you’re a LEGO fan and can manage the trip to Billund, there’s plenty of other LEGO goodness to see there.

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A LEGO Orrery

We aren’t sure how accurate you can get with LEGO, but a building block orrery looks cool, if nothing else. [Marian42] saw one done a few years ago and decided to build a version with a different mechanism. At first, the plan was to use some 3D printed fixtures, but the final product is made entirely from LEGO bricks. Very impressive. The video below shows that it has been complete for awhile, but the write-up that goes into great detail has only just arrived and it was worth the wait.

This is one of those things that seems simple if you don’t think too hard about it. However, when you sit down to actually do it, there are a number of challenges. For one thing, the Earth tilts at 23.5 degrees, and as the planet rotates, the tilt stays in the same direction, making it tricky to model mechanically.

The moon also has a 5.15 degree inclination, but since that’s hard to notice at this scale, the LEGO orrery exaggerates it. So, the Moon’s track has its own set of design problems. The whole thing has to rotate on a concentric shaft, which is also tricky to get right with kids’ building blocks.

Compared to the last orrery we saw, this one is huge. We’ve always been partial to ones that you have to look up to.

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Most of a three-key macro pad featuring a 3D-printed, LEGO-compatible plate.

3D-Printed Macro Pad Plate Is LEGO-Compatible

We love LEGO, we love keyboards, and when the two join forces, we’re usually looking at a versatile peripheral that’s practically indestructible. Such seems to be the case with [joshmarinacci]’s LEGO-compatible 3D-printed plate for a three-key macro pad. For a first foray into scratch-built keyboard construction, we think this is pretty great.

The idea here is threefold: the plate holds the switches in place, negates the need for a PCB, and makes it possible to build the case completely out of LEGO. In fact, [joshmarinacci]’s plan for the keycaps even includes LEGO — they are going to 3D print little adapters that fit the key switch’s stem on one side, and the underside of a 2×2 plate on the other.

Although [joshmarinacci]’s plan is to design a PCB for the next version, there is plenty to be said for combining the plate and the PCB by printing guides for the wires, which we’ve seen before. We’ve also seen LEGO used to create a keyboard stand that fits just right. 


Sticky Situation Leads To Legit LEGO Hack

[samsuksiri] frequently uses a laptop and has an external drive to store projects. The drive flops around on the end of its tether and gets in the way, so they repurposed their old iPod pouch and attached it to the laptop lid with double-sided tape. You can guess how that went — the weight of the drive caused the pocket to sag and eventually detach over time.

Then [samsuksiri] remembered that they had LEGO DOTS patch stashed somewhere. It’s an 8×8 plate with adhesive on the back so you can build almost anywhere. Then the problem was this: how to attach LEGO to the drive itself? You’d think this is where the hot glue comes in, but that didn’t work because the drive is too slippery.

Nothing worked, really — not until [samsuksiri] flipped the drive over to work with the dimpled side that has un-coated plastic. Finally, the answer turned out to be mounting tape. Now, [samsuksiri] can attach the drive in any orientation, or even attach a second drive. Be sure to check it out after the break.

Looking for slightly more astounding LEGO creations? Check out this hydroelectric dam.

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AI + LEGO = A Brickton Of Ideas

What if there was some magic device that could somehow scan all your LEGO and tell you what you can make with it? It’s a childhood dream come true, right? Well, that device is in your pocket. Just dump out your LEGO stash on the carpet, spread it out so there’s only one layer, scan it with your phone, and after a short wait, you get a list of all the the fun things you can make. With building instructions. And oh yeah, it shows you where each brick is in the pile.

We are talking about the BrickIt app, which is available for Android and Apple. Check it out in the short demo after the break. Having personally tried the app, we can say it does what it says it does and is in fact quite cool.

As much as it may pain you to have to pick up all those bricks when you’re finished, it really does work better against a neutral background like light-colored carpet. In an attempt to keep the bricks corralled, we tried a wooden tray, and it didn’t seem to be working as well as it probably could have — it didn’t hold that many bricks, and they couldn’t be spread out that far.

And the only real downside is that results are limited because there’s a paid version. And the app is kind of constantly reminding you of what you’re missing out on. But it’s still really, really cool, so check it out.

We don’t have to tell you how versatile LEGO is. But have you seen this keyboard stand, or this PCB vise?

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A Kyria split keyboard and wrist rests on a stand made of LEGO.

LEGO Keyboard Stand Fits Just Right

Split keyboards are great for many reasons, but mostly because you can place the halves as far apart as you want and really give your arms and shoulders the room they need. [Jason Cox] hit the nail on the head, though: add in a couple of palm rests, and you now have four things that will potentially shift and drift out of place on your desk or keyboard tray. It was such a problem that [Jason] hardly ever used his Kyria. That is, until he built a stand out of LEGO to hold everything.

[Jason] was using a pair of Manfrotto pocket tripods to tent the keyboard, and those held their position surprisingly well, even though he tweaked them here and there over time. Ultimately, [Jason] knew he wanted the answer to be something customizable. And what’s more customizable than LEGO?

About $60 worth of new white bricks and plates later, [Jason] got to work, spending an evening building the thing. He ended up using a few bricks to hold the keyboard in place on the plate, and it worked perfectly.

Of course, he didn’t get the whole contraption exactly how he wanted it the first time, but tweaking builds is half the fun, right? After a while, [Jason] figured out he could rebuild the part that connects the two keyboard halves to go around a plastic piece at the back of the keyboard tray, which holds the whole thing in place. The end result? Wonderful. The Kyria stays in place, and now [Jason] is using it way more than before.

You know LEGO is versatile, but did you know you can use it to build a hydroelectric dam?

Via reddit

Harbor Freight And LEGO PCB Vise Is Cheap And Effective

It doesn’t take much chasing things around the bench with a soldering iron to appreciate the value of good work holding. And don’t get us started on those cheap “helping hands” alligator clip thingies; they’re somehow worse than no work holding. Isn’t there a better way?

Maybe, judging by [Paul Bryson]’s idea for a dirt cheap PCB vise. It’s a pretty clever design that’ll have you heading to Harbor Freight, or whatever the moral equivalent is in your location, where you’ll pick up a small ratcheting bar clamp. [Paul] used a 4″ (10 cm) clamp; that which looks fine for a wide range of boards, but we suppose you could go bigger if you like. You could also stop there and just clamp your PCBs in the plastic jaws, but [Paul] adorned the jaws with swiveling arms made from LEGO Technic pieces, of all things. Rubber grommets slipped onto Technic pegs go into the holes on the beam to hold the PCB edges firmly, while the swiveling action adapts to odd-shaped boards.

To our mind, the biggest advantage to this design other than cost is how low it holds the PCB — a decided advantage while working under the microscope. Don’t have any Technics parts close to hand? No worries, 3D printed parts could easily stand in, and maybe even improve the design. [Paul] also shows off a substitute for the Technics beam rendered in PCB material, which would reduce the height of the workpiece over the bench even more.

We’ve seen a lot of PCB vises come and go, using everything from scrap wood to 3D printed compliant mechanisms. But we doubt you’ll find anything more cost-effective than [Paul]’s design.