We have seen 3D printed LEGO parts before, but when those parts are printed using a standard FDM 3D printer they are rarely ideal building blocks. Unfortunately the resolution on FDM printers is limited by the basic laws of physics in relation to the surface tension of the material being used. Most plastics, at least those that exist at this point, simply can’t achieve enough liquidity to create the same smooth surface and level of detail that injection molding is capable of. So LEGO parts 3D printed on an FDM printer never fit quite as tightly with each other as traditional LEGO parts.
But that doesn’t mean that a 3D printed LEGO can’t be just as precise as its injection molded forebears.
3D Prototype Design Inc. was one of the first companies in North America to offer 3D printing services, and was the first in Canada. Since 1996 they have provided their customers with some of the top of the line 3D printing technologies available and the company is generally considered one of the industry leaders in rapid prototyping.
They wanted to show off how detailed the parts made with their SLS 3D printers were, they came up with the idea of making a complex LEGO Technic tractor. Not only to show off how good the parts looked, but how strong and usable the parts were.
The LEGO parts, and the eventual tractor constructed from them, were designed using professional CAD design software Creo. 3D Prototype Design technicians created more than 100 different individual 3D models of the LEGO Technic parts. Then about 720 pieces were 3D printed in nylon using their SLS 3D printers. Read more.
[Ed. If you’re not familiar with the SLS printing process, watch the quick video introduction below. And if you want to know more about designing for additive manufacturing, subscribe to PTC Express, our monthly newsletter. The August issue focuses on Creo and 3D printing.]