My eight year old son never ceases to amaze me with his computer skills. He called me over to the computer the other day and showed me his latest discovery on the web. Before I reveal what it was I want you to stop for a second and think about just how many people in the world have played with LEGOS. I’d be willing to bet that most everyone has put together some LEGO Bricks at least once in their lives. Did you know that you can build LEGOS now using 3D software? No…..it’s not SolidWorks or any other CAD package. Its a package called LEGO Digital Designer…and it’s FREE! Let me tell you, this program is FUN!!
The software is only a 27 megabyte download (Available for both Windows and MAC). It installs quickly and automatically downloads all the LEGO brick components the first time you run the program. The Bricks are categorized in a Brick Palette which is organized by several different LEGO kit series. An interactive screen showing all available Bricks can be found here.
As you drag components into the screen they snap into position based on how the cursor is positioned on existing components and the way the components are designed to go together. You can build models using one of their starter kits or “freeform” build your own model from over 750 LEGO Bricks available.
Models can be saved to your computer so you can work on them at your own pace. Once you complete a model, you can upload it to the LEGO Gallery. You can even order the parts used to assemble your model so you can build the kit for real! LEGO even includes some options that allow you to design the box it will be delivered in. Here is a Quick Video showing how easy it is to build LEGO models.
LEGO Digital Designers saves the files to your computer using a proprietary format (.LXF). Since it has the look and feel of a 3D CAD system, I did a little digging into the background of the software. Quicktime and the Ageia PhysX engine are mentioned as primary components of the software. Codev Limited in London has LEGO Digital Designer listed on their web site under “Projects” so it can be assumed that they had a major role in the design of the software. The only component I found in common with mainstream CAD applications was the Ageia PhysX engine which is used in SolidWorks.
If you have a few spare moments, check out LEGO Digital Designer. It will definitely bring out the kid in you. My son can attest to that!