We’ve seen LEGO wizards create some pretty amazing projects lately by combining the iconic blocks with technology. One fourteen year old LEGO genius, Leon Overweel, has used his skills to construct his very own LEGO printer! Dubbed the LEGO Mindstorms NXT printer (or PriNXT), the machine uses three motors to control an attached pen, which draws objects and messages.
Leon previously built an incredible Robotic Arm, and he put his LEGO knowledge to use for this next project. Built with gray, red and white LEGOS, the mini-printer looks like a toy version of a drafting printer. Packed with gears, cables, and remotes, the LEGO printer is a future draftman’s dream.
The printer utilizes three motors that work together – one motor controls the pen tool, which draws on pieces of paper. The other two motors control the pen’s motion – one moves it up and down, and the other left to right. The complicated gears and gear racks keep the movement fluid, for complicated turns and curves. Touch sensors help calibrate the robot, and tell the motors where to deposit each stroke of the pen. A color sensor kicks in when the drawing is complete, telling the robot to stop.
To create each image, Leon imports his chosen drawing to Paint.NET for editing, then exports it as a .PBM file, which translates the image into a stream of 1s and 0s. After more formatting, the final image is then formatted with RobotC, then sent to the PriNXT. The resulting drawings from the LEGO printer look like a pixilated version of faces, letters and designs – but drawn in marker. We can’t wait to find out what Leon will be up to next!