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Meet Bricasso, The Awesome LEGO 3D Printer

Meet Bricasso, The Awesome LEGO 3D Printer

by Giulio PriscoJuly 4, 2015

A new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 machine can scan an image and then print out a LEGO mosaic of it. Dubbed Bricasso, the LEGO 3D printer is constructed entirely out of LEGO parts, even down to the clips that hold the image in place, and the printing head that grabs each part and puts it in place.

Bricasso is the brainchild of master LEGO builder Jason Allemann, known for building a working LEGO keyboard and even a particle accelerator, as well as working robotic creations made with the LEGO line of robotic construction kits, Mindstorms EV3.

Lego Mindstorms kits contain software and hardware to create customizable, programmable robots. They include an intelligent brick computer that controls the system, a set of modular sensors and motors, and a set of special LEGO bricks to build mechanical subsystems for robots. Mindstorms, a flexible and inexpensive way to start tinkering with robots, has important applications in robotics education and rapid prototyping.

Toward Printing Full 3D Objects of Arbitrary Shapes With LEGO Bricks

BricassoBricasso uses the EV3 color sensor to scan the source image and save the data on the Mindstorms unit. It can then print multiple copies from the saved image data. The thin bricks (plates) used for printing the mosaic are sent via a gravity feed system to the printing head, a round plate that can pick up the bricks and put them in place.

3DPrint notes that Bricasso isn’t the first 3D printer that has been built out of LEGO parts, nor the first to build with LEGO parts. BlueBrick Studios submitted a design to LEGO Ideas for a 3D printer that builds 3-dimensional objects out of LEGO bricks. However, Bricasso is able to cope with much more complex creations.

The demo video, posted last week, shows the finished printer building the Lego logo, one piece at a time, onto a white plate. It took about 40 minutes to create the logo in two pieces. Allemann’s website JK Brickworks and YouTube channel explain and demonstrate in detail how Bricasso and its components work. For example, the printing head is a round piece that rolls off the top of a brick as it’s put into place.

What Bricasso does is really 2D printing with thin 3D blocks, but it seems likely that the same approach could permit printing full 3D objects of arbitrary shapes with LEGO bricks. Like Mindstorms itself, Bricasso could then find applications in 3D Printing education and rapid prototyping, and permit exploring 3D printer design issues and applications with a simple and inexpensive setup. Allemann says:

Perhaps in the future I will expand this project into the realm of 3D LEGO printing. Stay tuned!

The most awesome LEGO Mindstorms project to date is a robotic body powered by a worm’s mind. A few months ago, OpenWorm project researchers mapped the connections between the 302 neurons of a worm’s brain and simulated them in software. Then they uploaded the software to a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot.

Images from Jason Allemann.

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