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Questions from Maker Faire: How many bricks?

Any brick?!

Any brick?!

This last weekend I had the good fortune to be able to help out with the MakerBot booth at the 2012 Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo1  So many people had so many interesting questions that I’d like to just can’t help sharing a few of them here on the blog.

One of my favorite series of questions came from two boys who were at the booth with their father.  After watching half a squirrel being printed out, they asked what material the MakerBot was using to make objects.  I explained that it was the same ABS that went into Legos.  All of a sudden the pairs of eyes that were watching the Replicator were now on me with laser focus.  They had to know if the robot could make Legos.  I told them that people had, indeed, shared designs for Lego compatible bricks on Thingiverse and they were no longer constrained to only have those bricks they could find in stores – they could have any brick they could design.  Now, that got their attention.

Their father, ever the savvy and wary consumer, wanted to know just how expensive it would be to make those bricks.  I responded with my own question – how many plastic building pieces could they buy for $50?  The father and both kids agreed that it wasn’t much – $50.00 might buy you a medium sized Lego set.  I reminded them that those boxes were also mostly empty – you buy a lot of air when you buy a box of Legos. 2  Hefting a spool of ABS plastic in their direction I told them that $50.00 would buy enough plastic to make more than two pounds of bricks – bricks of any size and shape they could imagine.  That definitely got the dad’s attention.

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  1. Near San Francisco []
  2. Don’t get me wrong.  I love Legos and own a LOT of them. []
Tagged with , , , , , 6 comments
 

6 Comments so far

  • TeamTeamUSA
    May 22, 2012 at 12:43 am
     

    Nice! :)

    How do you make Legos better‽ Add candy!

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:22735

     
  • Mark
    May 22, 2012 at 11:15 am
     

    Shame on you, dude. You didn’t point out to them that actual cost of those bricks would be $1700 + $50? Did you show them how to do a spreadsheet to show how many bricks they’d need to produce to amortize the initial costs of the makerbot and drop below the per block cost from Lego?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love what you guys are doing and am behind FDM completely, but you have to be honest about the up front printer costs when pitching stuff like that.

    Having raised two kids (one of whom was a lego’s junkie), I can tell you that they’ll lose interest in Lego’s long before that makerbot would have paid for itself just in making bricks.

    Off topic aside: The market value of multiple tubs of Lego’s Bionicles are near zilch on eBay when your kids turns teenager.

     
  • MakerBlock
    MakerBlock
    May 22, 2012 at 11:44 am
     

    Mark:
    Of course I told them the price of the MakerBot! But they wanted to talk about Legos and find out how much it a spool of plastic was and how well it translated into a finished product.
    Speaking as a recovering Lego junkie – I had Legos as a kid and as soon as I could afford them as an adult, I began buying them for myself. I bought them for nearly ten years – until my daughter was born. And now all of my Legos are going through a Renaissance as she gets to play and discover with them. Even if their market value may drop, their play value has not diminished at all. There’s hope for your buckets of Legos. :)
    Also, if you stay tuned over the next few days I’ve got a few additional posts about other questions that should allay your concerns.

     
  • Ryan
    May 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm
     

    Eh, I sold my wife on the makerbot with a plastic knob…

    Of course the knob for a 2004 Jeep is $20-30 special order, but the idea that you are never again have to worry about knobs or buttons or random plastic widgets that fail because somebody wanted to save .0001 cents plastic is powerful.

    What if you lose the xtra special part out of that lego kit? Good luck replacing it without a special order to lego HQ.

    Also – please send me as many tubs of legos as possible and I will pay you around zilch dollars for each!

     
  • Blizzard
    June 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm
     

    Actually, I don’t agree. The Lego 6177 includes Legos weighing about 1 kg, and it costs almost 22$, making it more than a half cheaper than the ABS from Makerbot. I could agree if you buy one of these constructed things, but if you want to make that, you would have to design each piece individually and make an instruction on how to put it together, and that costs a lot of time and knowledge. I’m not sure if the family dad even knew how to operate a 3D program to design his own pieces of Lego. But it’s clear that the ability to design pieces that don’t exist by yourselfs is a power which the Makerbot gives you.

     
  • Sam
    September 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm
     

    “how many Lego bricks is one kilogram of ABS plastic?”. My measurement of choice is the 2×4 Lego brick (2 knobs by 4 knobs). This brick weighs 2.5 grams. 1kg equals to 400 Lego bricks. This 120$ US if you buy 400 bricks in bulk from Lego pick a brick. Clearly it is cheaper to print your own Lego Bricks.

     
 

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