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. []