UPDATE! - Print Your Own Bricks and Technic Parts!
We've all had that problem where we're building a robot or other LEGO design and we're missing a piece. Right? Well... that problem is about to go away for good.
LEGO has announced that it is making the digital blueprints for all of its bricks, Technic parts, and other doo-dads available to LEGO hobbyists around the world. With these digital blueprints (.dxf files are just one of the many file types they'll be releasing), anyone with a 3D printer (such as the MakerBot) will be able to simply load in a brick or other item and print it out!
I'm including a photo here of a 3D printer that I'm currently building - I can buy the filament (plastic) in many colors, so I'll be able to print out custom Hassenpins, for example, in purple, blue, yellow, and more!
Again... this is a big day for LEGO fans around the world - LEGO will continue to sell its wonderful kits in stores with plans to offer its own LEGO 3D Printer sometime in late 2011. For now, they're giving those of us with our own 3D printers the ability to print out our own bricks in plastic... but just wait a few more months and LEGO fans will be able to buy their own LEGO 3DP. The ultimate goal, according to LEGO, is to sell digital blueprints for all its kits to the consumer and have them print the kits out at home - it will be a bit of a shock to see LEGO kits disappearing from toy stores, but just being able to download a kit's parts list and print them out on your own - TOTALLY WORTH IT!
In addition to making the files available, there are also plans to install 3D printers in all LEGO Stores over the next 12-18 months - customers will be able to go in the store, select the parts they want, and have them printed out immediately.
We'll let you know as soon as we get our hands on the first batch of digital blueprints!
UPDATE: Well, it turns out that LEGO is turning off its machines on August 1, 2011 - from that point on, it will rely on 3D printing sales from its LEGO stores and sales of downloadable blueprints for its LEGO 3D Brick Printers. LEGO will begin selling smaller versions of its 3D printers to customers (rumor has it prices will be around $500 or so... not bad) in September 2011 and plans on offering plastic filament (to melt and print with) in all the standard LEGO colors.