This isn’t your mama’s crafting tool any longer. This is a super MacGyvered 3D doodler created by Industrial design student Vimal Patel.
The idea started from a university project where he was challenged to use biodegradable 3D printing filament (monomateriality) to replace the functionality of multimaterial products. Products like helmets, for example, use multiple materials like foam, plastic, adhesives, and paint which cannot be recycled easily. A helmet made of a single material would go a long way in overcoming this problem. Plus, it would be a lot cheaper to produce.
Experimenting with traditional 3D printers, Patel printed layer upon layer to resolve the hardness issue of the filament, but then the flexibility became compromised. Realizing the answer to both issues would be to “extrude material along a path in multiple axes”, he took the next, uh…logical step and fabricated a handheld printer out of LEGO and attached it to a glue gun. Viola, a handheld printer that layers on all axes.
This is just pure genius. Check out the video below showing the build and the printing in action.
On his website, Patel explains:
“It was clear that the layer-by-layer deposition of material constrained the plane of flexibility to a single axis which made it difficult to make complex shapes (like a helmet). The ideal situation would be to extrude material along a path in multiple axes (i.e., with a robotic arm). This is a damned difficult thing to model and program, so I sought a simpler way.”
Ok so maybe this helmet isn’t ideal, but that’s not the point. Patel believes this project can be a foundation to continue to improve upon.
“What interests me is not only the potential to make things functional and biodegradable, but the accessibility of the making process – all you need is Lego and a cheap hot glue gun. I’d like to have this potential realised in some way.”
Until now I felt that experimenting with 3D printing was completely unattainable because I don’t have access to that kind of equipment. Patel has graciously made a digital file of the LEGO extruder that’s free to download. So for a few hours of build time and about a hundred bucks in parts, I can become a LEGO 3D printing engineer!