Ever wish you could build with Lego® bricks and never run out of bricks. Well now you can.
Please see legal statement at the bottom of this post.
I got a Lego catalog in the mail yesterday. Well that’s what happens when you buy a nephew a Lego kit. You get catalogs forever. That’s ok. So I was looking through this catalog and saw mention of Lego Factory which is a program for your computer where you could build lego scenes and then order the bricks to make the scene. So since I’m a 3D artist, I decided to try it out…. Well Lego Designer is simple to use, but very frustrating. Here’s the creation that I built in about an hour messing around with it.
Lego Designer is very frustrating to use. I was spending many times over and over clicking and moving bricks because I could not get them to stick where I wanted. By way of constructive feedback, here are some issues with Lego Designer 1.6.680.
- The choice of views is very limited. Sure would be nice to just drag around in the window to change the view. Of course serious work needs a 4 up view that most CAD programs provide.
- The interface is dumbed down, presumably for children. Someone doesn’t seem to be keeping up with what children know about computers these days. They are more savvy than the rest of us, and will soon outgrow this limiting interface.
- The biggest problem is that the block positioning algorithm is very frustrating. I finally gave up on the program because I couldn’t efficiently build a large model with it.
- The Lego Factory website promised export to LDRAW format exporter, but I couldn’t find anyway to export anything. The format for Lego Designer is a binary format, in contrast to other Lego CAD programs that save TEXT formats that can easily be cross converted. So, in spite of the fact that I can order the bricks for a model using Lego Factory, I can’t import any of my very cool models built with Lego DRAW or LMCAD and then order them using Lego Designer. This seems odd since the folks using the other CAD program have built the largest models.
After my short, but frustrating, time with Lego Designer, the whole idea was intriguing and after some searching I found a much better tool. MLCAD. Here is a whole community called the LUG – or Lego Users Group
and there’s a section on CAD programs available for Legos. I haven’t checked them all out as yet, but I have spent a few enjoyable hours with MLCAD.
MLCAD is a serious CAD program for Legos. The bricks position and snap together easily. Although there is no legality checking, so you can position bricks inside each other or use invalid snap positions. There are some 500 brick types to choose from. The brick types come from the LDRAW website and so installing the programs involves some hand crafting.
As your scene becomes large, it is increasingly difficult to position bricks. But there is a nifty way around the problem: Sub-objects. By creating parts of the scene as “sub models” these become easier to assemble into larger scenes. And of course sub-models can incorporate other sub-models, so there is no limit. The performance is quite good as you can see by the size of my first project.
Here are the various sub-models that I built as part of my hotel.
I’ll post more of my Lego Models here as I develop them. You can download the model of the hotel here for LMCAD and work with it yourself. I sure it’s not that great a model, and there are probably some invalid or less optimal brick layouts, but it will give you an idea of what is quickly possible.
Lego® is a registered trademark of the Lego Group. LDraw, the LDraw file format, MLCad, and other software mentioned on this website are not official software titles published by the LEGO Group, they are developed by private, individual enthusiasts. For more information and discussion, please visit the LUGNET CAD discussion group.