I admire people who tackle big projects with everyday items. Arthur Sacek built a DIY Lego 3D CNC milling machine completely from Lego. Sacek is a member of Brazil’s ZOOM Education for Life, a 13-year-old company that is developing innovative learning projects in cooperation with LEGO Education. Sacek made his Mini CNC milling machine using parts from LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 building system. Lego Mindstorms kits are being used in schools all around the world to introduce children to robotics. The NXT 2.0 bloq is an intelligent microprocessor that provides an easy to use programming interface which allow drag and drop programming to make things move. Arthur Sacek built every piece of the machine using LEGO parts with the exception of the drill bit itself. Sacek used dual Rack and Pinion motor/gear drives to move the Y axis gantry fore and aft. A single motor/gear drive Rack and pinion set moves the X carriage from Left to right. Lastly a complex series of gears raise and lower the Z axis to move the drill down into the material. So far Sacek has only cut floral foam with the machine. Comments on his Youtube.com video indicate that a soft material is required because of the low torque motor used. The milling machine is an example of subtractive machining and is different from 3D printers (additive machining ) because they remove material from the stock versus depositing material. Personal machining is really taking off all over the world thanks to open source projects like RepRap and Makerbot. The ability to have access to machining tools is empowering students and hobbyist to innovate and may just be the spark we need to jump start the economy. While Sacek’s milling machine is not the first Lego CNC machine, it is certainly the most elegant I have seen. When you add the fact that a Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit costs under $300, you have one of the least expensive ways to make your own CNC machined parts. Here are some examples of CNC machines built using Lego Mindstorms.
We’ve seen a lot of 3D printers lately, but it that doesn’t mean milling/CNC machines don’t have their place. The latest one to get to our attention comes from Arthur Sacek from Brazil’s ZOOM Education for Life, a 13-year-old company that teams up with LEGO Education to develop innovative learning solutions. Sacek built a this wonderful device almost entirely using LEGO pieces–everything is made of LEGO except for the electric saw.
The LEGO milling machine–basically the opposite of a 3D printer–takes a bit of time to produce the finished product. As you can see in the video below, Sacek inserts a block of floral foam, the kind you see at the bottom of floral arrangements to keep everything together, and the printer goes to work, cutting away layer by layer. Since the layers of foam still sit on top of the original piece after the printer is done doing its thing, Sacek took a vacuum tube and sucked away all of the loose bits.
It took about 2 hours and 24 minutes to finish printing the product, but the result is remarkable. Compared to the original 3D image Sacek showed at the beginning of the film, the resulting 3D form is an exact replica.
Sacek said in the YouTube video’s comments that he will post a description of how the device works, and said it’s not as hard as you’d think. Sacek, a beginner programmer, used NXT. He said for it to be a real 3D printer he’d need to link the NXT to a PC using another program language. He’d also like to work on finding a new material to use, and a new algorithm.
We’ve seen LEGO pieces used before to make a pancake-making robot that moves similarly to the LEGO 3D milling machine. It’s amazing just how much you can do with those tiny, plastic blocks. Another project similar to the milling machine is the Solar Sinter which works in the same way by cutting away layers of material to form a solid object in the end. In the case of the Solar Sinter, the 3D printer used extremely hot rays of sun from the Egyptian desert to literally melt away at a container of sand, creating a glass object.
The world of automated 3D creation is endless, as is the world of LEGO creations. The two together can make a powerful team.
Via The NXT Step