“Will it be able to 3D print LEGO parts?” This is a common question from folks who are thinking about getting a 3D printer but aren’t sure what they’ll use it for. And it’s no surprise they’re curious about these fantastic little plastic bricks: LEGO encourages creativity and technical thinking, and it’s popular with youngsters and adults. Is it possible to produce LEGO-like bricks on a 3D printer? You might not be surprised by the response. You certainly can, but it will be a challenge. So, let us demonstrate how to do it!
However, before we get into the specifics of making 3D printed LEGO-like bricks using various materials and printer setups, let’s review some basic information on 3D printed LEGO-like bricks.
We’re sure you’d like to know how much 3D printed items will cost you in contrast to injection-molded parts. It’s not a simple answer: printing a single brick is simple and inexpensive, but you must also consider the time required for post-processing.
How much does 3D printed LEGO cost?
Assume you require 20 pieces of grey high 18 blocks. They’re available for purchase on the official LEGO website. The cost of 20 of these parts, excluding shipping, is $5.40 (the price might vary depending on your country). Suppose you use your 3D printer and Generic PLA. In that case, you’ll consume roughly 80 grams of material throughout a 13-hour print session. It will cost you less than $2.50 if you simply consider the cost of the materials used. Isn’t that good? However, the price could be much more significant when you factor in the value of your time spent on print preparation and post-processing. (such as brim removal and possibly acetone smoothing of ABS/ASA parts)
Another difficulty is accuracy. Due to injection molding technology, the original LEGO bricks made of ABS have a smooth surface. They are constructed with a precision of 10 micrometers or greater. This is a goal that ordinary FFF 3D printers will never be able to achieve. However, many manufacturers worldwide (for example, io3dprint or 3dprintingmentor) are attempting to print LEGO with varying degrees of success – proving that you can 3D print nearly anything, even if it isn’t as simple as pressing a single button.
So let’s look at a few ways to assist you in dealing with hobby-grade machines’ lesser accuracy, but bear in mind that 3D-printed pieces won’t be as high-quality as genuine LEGO bricks.
3D print Lego with FFF
The FFF 3D print may be used to make both classic LEGO and LEGO Duplo-style blocks. Traditional LEGO bricks are more challenging to duplicate, but it is possible. In general, there are two guidelines to keep in mind:
1) The accuracy of FFF 3D printers is inferior to injection molding. Some sections will be more difficult to join, while others may be excessively loose. It’s possible that your 3D-printed parts will not fit as well as the originals.
2) With a well-maintained and calibrated 3D printer, you’ll get superior results (every 10 micrometers are essential). For a successful LEGO print, first layer calibration is vital. Even so, set the elephant foot compensation to 0.4mm in Print Settings – Advanced and print the brick with the bottom (hollow section) lying on the heatbed and a brim around it. Due to the print’s small footprint might detach from the sheet if it didn’t have the brim.
Recommendations for materials and post-processing
Remove the brim after the brick has been printed. You should be able to remove it by hand, but if you didn’t correctly calibrate the first layer, you might need to cut it with a knife. The layers formed by FFF 3D printing can cause problems connecting the blocks. To avoid this, print your bricks using ASA or ABS and then place them in an acetone solution to smooth them down with the vapors. This shouldn’t take too long because prolonged exposure will cause the pieces to lose shape. The ASA or ABS blocks were printed and smoothed in acetone to match the original LEGO pieces. When you merge original parts with PLA, you risk ruining them (because of abrasion), which means they won’t fit together either.
What materials are compatible with FFF 3D printers?
Large baseplates are an excellent example of missing or unusual pieces that LEGO either don’t offer or sells for a very high price. The ability to print specific pieces is also dependent on your printer’s capabilities. FFF 3D printers are generally not advised for producing tiny and fragile parts like LEGO mini-figure hands. The same is true for bigger groups of little blocks (for example, 11 low). Their post-processing (removing the brim, etc.) is time-consuming and complicated. It’s preferable to utilize an SLA printer.
SLA 3D-printed LEGO SLA printers have one significant advantage: their accuracy is comparable to that of injection-molded parts. However, there are additional issues that we must address. One of them is a significant degree of friction between two resin-made components. This makes the blocks challenging to connect and disconnect at first and prone to abrasion, resulting in loose joints. Another downside is that printed parts are more expensive than FFF parts. However, we advocate using SLA 3D printers for particular parts prototyping, mainly focusing on detail (for example, specific LEGO mini-figures).
LEGO is a well-known and imaginative building toy. It can also be supplemented with various unique items owing to 3D printing. It goes without saying that a business proposal to sell 3D-printed LEGO parts is unlikely to succeed. Cost, print precision, and health safety are the key reasons for this. Even with the issues mentioned above, you can still produce excellent outcomes. Don’t be discouraged by these issues; try printing and building something spectacular for yourself! Also, don’t forget to share your findings.
Have fun printing and also check the Matt Denton works! He 3D prints life size Lego parts.