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3D Printer Models For Universal Construction Toy Connectors 76

dangle writes "F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab have officially released their Free Universal Construction Kit, allowing builders to freely interconnect parts from Lego, K'Nex, Fischertechnik, and other common building sets. ZomeTool and Zoob patterns will be available after related patents expire. The makers have also spent considerable effort investigating and anticipating legal complaints from manufacturers, using an Inverse Think of The Children Argument: Some may express concern that the Free Universal Construction Kit infringes such corporate prerogatives as copyright, design right, trade dress, trademarks or patents of the supported toy systems. We encourage those eager to enforce these rights to please think of the children — and we assert that the home printing of the Free Universal Construction Kit constitutes protected fair use." Model files are available over at Thingiverse. The designs are all covered by the CC BY-SA 3.0.
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3D Printer Models For Universal Construction Toy Connectors

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the deal with the Kit's name? F.U.C.K? Is it good or is it whack?

  • Acronym... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:40AM (#39426533)

    Free Universal Construction Kit... F... U...C... mmmhmmm....

    • Re:Acronym... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:49AM (#39426643)

      It's actually a free Universal Construction Kit, if you check out the Things, they are "uck's Things" and the URL us []

      You can make a big deal about the acronym if you want, as they are probably hoping for free press. Or you can ignore that part, silently giggling when you think of all the lawsuits that will likely include the full acronym, capitalizing 'Free' and including it.

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

        But then, the link ( []) and this [] poster... manual... thing, whatever it is, both have the full name on here.

        Mildly amusing and the concept for melding all of these different sets of toys together is fantastic, but the low-brow name probably won't appeal to the parents who would buy this for their kids very much. Kinda stupid and short-sighted of them, really.

        • The thumb-in-the-eye to the Man is wrapped up in the juxtaposition of that acronym and "Think of the kids".

          They want to F.U.C.K. kids.

          I can't decide if it's brilliantly subversive or gobsmackingly stupid. Definitely one of those "Can't tell if trolling..." moments.

        • Lame.

      • by six11 ( 579 )

        I have it on very good authority that the "F.U.C.K" name was intentional. It was developed by the guy sitting 5 feet behind me. Well, one of them, at least.

    • They could just use the Dutch word for free, like the developer of the compiler originally intended for GNU [] (before GCC). Stallman asked to use it but got a "VUCK you" in reply: "the university was free but the compiler was not."
  • dangit (Score:4, Funny)

    by P-niiice ( 1703362 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:43AM (#39426559)
    more importantly, why in the living hell did I not come up with this?
  • Some may express concern that the Free Universal Construction Kit infringes such corporate prerogatives as copyright, design right, trade dress, trademarks

    If someone has really trademarked F.U.C.K, we're f***ed.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      Look at the "attractive B1 poster" and count how long it'll take for Electronic Arts to recognize that its old box-ball-cone logo [] has been given the old "rip and flip".
      • Do you mean the one they stole from Borland more than 2 decades ago?
        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Do you mean the one they stole from Borland more than 2 decades ago?

          I did a Google image search for borland logo and all I got was the current logo of Borland Software Corporation, which is just the word "Borland" in Impact typeface. Wikipedia's article about Borland didn't have a logo history section. And then I remembered that Borland had used the "Inprise" brand for some of its products for three years starting in 1998. Inprise had a different box, ball, and cone that didn't look quite as much like the old EA logo as the shapes on the "attractive B1 poster". And I though

          • I'm talking about the icon used to indicate data in programs such as Borland ObjectVision and Delphi 1.0 - a ball, a triangle, and a cube.

            BTW, your link to the EA logo is broken - it points back to slashdot :-)

    • Who's for tradmarking "If". Try and code without that ****** *******.

      Oh no, they got those words too:O(
      • Who's for tradmarking "If". Try and code without that ****** *******.

        Trivially easy.


        if (condition) {
        .... code ....


        while (condition) {
        .... code ....

        Both execute on the condition only once at most.

        Alternatively, use the ?: for an if/else.


    Lincoln Logs to Lego adapter? Brilliant.
    Though that time spent looking for that *one* piece I think will double, and become increasingly frustrating.
    Also, these things look like a huge threats to people heels.
    • Well for Lincoln Logs the tools exist to make new Lincoln logs and probably cheaper then a 3d printer.
      You buy wooden dowels, You use a table saw to flatten the edges. and cut holes on each end.
      • by p0p0 ( 1841106 )
        It's more the just plain freedom in combining lego and lincoln log structures together.
        I'm speaking specifically the adapter itself, which are all ingenius, not just the logs themselves.
  • by vlm ( 69642 )

    Doing that with kids stuff is pretty safe... when they start trying it with 8020 is when the copyright SWAT teams will literally descend upon them. I would like to see cheap 8020 but I probably will not within my lifetime, which is too bad.
    There's at least $10K of 8020 in a artsy architectural detail sculptural framework thing in the entrance at work... Can't wait till they redecorate, although unfortunately it'll probably be scrapped for scrap aluminum prices (probably over a hundred pounds of aluminum) i

    • I'm not sure a piece of extruded plastic can compete with that, but here's an important note: A form that is functional is not patentable. This goes for clothes, cars, etc. If you are making replacement/repair aluminium extrusions that are 80/20-compatible for your own use, I rather doubt 80/20 Inc can do a lot about that. Of course, I am not a lawyer so I might be completely wrong about that.
  • ...but why am I immediately reminded of the "genetic fusion" technology from Invader Zim? []

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:09AM (#39426869)

    Interesting but, do any of the various "home" 3-D printers have the ability to produce things with enough accuracy? You can't be off even a tiny bit with thickness or sizing for a LEGO to not fit, etc

    I've seen the output from a Makerbot plenty of times, and never got the impression it had the ability to make something that fine grained, much less strong enough.

    • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:18AM (#39427007) Homepage


      Even the commercial systems used by Shapeways don't have sufficient accuracy.

      Here's an old post where I looked up the numbers: []

      The problem is you can't make bricks of the same quality as Lego bricks using any 3D printer currently in existence or on the drawing board --- the tolerances simply aren't tight enough --- Lego uses _tons_ of pressure in their molding equipment, moreover, Lego is constantly doing QA on their production and will pull a mold and grind it up to re-use it at the slightest deviation --- the new Lego bricks I purchase for my kids still work fine w/ four decade old bricks from my childhood. Lego's precision for brick parts is something on the order of 2 micrometers.

      By way of contrast, the printer which Shapeways ( [] [] ) uses has a tolerance of, ``... about .1mm, but the material can change it slightly. Overall, .5 should be fine, just make sure that they are not any sort of support walls or they may get broken during shipping or printing.'' .1 mm == 100 micrometers

      If you want to know what its like when the tolerances are sloppy, buy a set of Mega Blok bricks, but even those have tighter tolerance than the tenth of a millimeter which Shapeways quotes.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Lego tolerance is very tight because when you start stacking brick upon brick upon brick, any deviations can realy begin to screw things up. But if you are talking about a lego-to-tinkertoy conversion, that doesn't really matter so much. You put on one converter brick and now your measurements are in a totally different system. Sure the adapter might be a little loose or tight, but it's good enough to get the job done.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Stackup's a part of it, yes -- and that's a big part of why Lego are so much better than Megablok (which have a looser tolerance than Lego, but still tight enough to almost always fit well).

          But on the 100um tolerance of typical 3D printers, you're not just talking "a little loose or tight", you're talking "may not go together or may fall apart" -- and the latter is a really big problem, since you can always sand/file a bit of interference fit down for acceptable assembly force. I think it'd work out OK in p

      • for _bricks_ it's 10 microns / micrometres.

        So the difference in precision is 10 to 1, rather than 50 to 1.

      • My toddler has built a homebew brick castle which I interpret to mean "Citation needed".

        Also, our bricks can have (gasp!) 30 degree angles. Shove than in your high pressure compression mold! []

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:14AM (#39426959) Homepage Journal

    In my day, if you wanted an interconnector for your construction kit you made it yourself with a rusty hacksaw, milliput and a hand drill.

    In fact, you made your construction kits the same way. And that's how we liked it!

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:17AM (#39426999) Journal

    3d printers have a precision tolerance of something on the order of about eighty to a hundred microns, or often worse... particularly for non-commercial home 3d-printers.

    Lego is manufactured to a precision of less than 2 microns.

    We're probably at LEAST another 5 to 10 years away from being able to use 3d printing technologies with tolerances in the 1-2 micron range, which is what would be required to adequately fit together with Lego.

    For comparison, Megabloks is manufactured to a precision of approximately 10 microns.

    Megabloks routinely slip, Lego does not. I shudder to imagine how poorly these 3d printed connectors are going to work.

    We're not reliably connecting to Lego anytime soon. At least not with 3d printing.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Stable in compression, although you're correct, completely unsuitable in tension.

      What does work, so I've read, is supergluing a "real lego block" making a sandwich with real lego above and real lego below and printed block in the middle.

    • 3d printers have a precision tolerance of something on the order of about eighty to a hundred microns, or often worse... particularly for non-commercial home 3d-printers.

      Lego is manufactured to a precision of less than 2 microns.


      For comparison, Megabloks is manufactured to a precision of approximately 10 microns.

      That's absolutely incredible. For comparison, the typical oxygen penetration length in tissue (the diffusion length scale: sqrt( diffusion constant / uptake rate)) is on the scale of 3-D printer precision: 100 microns.

      Human cells are on scale of Megabloks precision: 10-20 microns in diameter.

      A human cell nucleus is on the order of 5-7 microns in diameter: still larger than the 2 micron Lego precision! 2 microns is on the same order as the size of bacteria!

      If you want some more introductory reading on

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:17AM (#39427001)

    Shame- it won't be until my grand-kids generation that Makerbots become really good and common cheap house-hold appliances.

    I'm officially not going to heaven/hell/land of 16 virgins/nirvana whatever when I die. I demand to be reincarnated so that I get to play with stuff built with 3D printers and get to have these type of adapters whilst still a kid.

  • So, this article led me on something almost resembling a wiki-walk. While I was reading about the IP implications of all this, I remembered the commercials-... you wouldn't steal a car, so why would you steal music? Well... we're already copying music (which does not take away the original) and I'm sure plenty of us would LOVE to copy a car. Or hell, design their own.

    The coming century is likely to become a golden age for consumer industry if we have our way, or a dark age of gradually-reinforcing IP laws i

  • How about Creating a Open source construction kit? That is unique, easily printable on current 3D printers/ or off the self parts from your local hardware store. and does not violate someone copy right. This way all parts will interconnect and improve over the current line of Toy construction kits limitations.


    • But once you have your Created Open-source Construction Kit in your hand you should let it get in the Free Universal Construction Kit. Cause after all what good is a C.O.C.K if you can't use it with your other toys and F.U.C.K.?

      Sorry I couldn't resist.

  • No, no, no, no! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WillHirsch ( 2511496 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:56AM (#39428305)

    If I didn't know better I'd say this is a deliberate caricature of the misappropriated hype around 3D printers.

    3D printers are good for making unique parts. As soon as the worldwide demand for a part exceeds more than about 100, the time and energy cost of manufacture per part will exceed the cost of tooling up one of the many mass manufacture processes available to make the part in bulk. That is highly unlikely to change - not least because the better 3D printing gets, the quicker and cheaper it gets to make the unique tools for a bulk operation.

    If it wasn't for the total unsuitability of 3D printing for press fit interfaces, this might have had a niche application for circumventing the IP restrictions on establishing a mass manufacture operation. As it is, it's just another chapter in the myth that one day we will download and manufacture most of our own hardware at home. The world is a big place with a lot of people in it, and against the odds we are actually relatively efficient at cooperating with each other when it comes to products that lots of us want.

  • Who's going to tell them that glue also works?
  • I was never properly trained in its operation.
  • This will probably be the first major lawsuit by corporations alleging 3D printers and printing services encourage IP theft. The companies will be sued into oblivion or driven into bankruptcy by insane licensing fees.

    'This has happened before, and will happen again.'
  • Sorry. Children are expendable when it comes to the enforcement of copyright/trademark/patent rights.

  • You can't copyright a functional part in the US. That was settled years ago, which is why there's a third party auto parts industry. Some other countries allow that, but not the US. Patents may apply, but patents only cover the "invention" part, whatever that may be. Unless someone has a new method of connecting things, a patent isn't likely to cover an adapter.

    As far as I can find, there's has never been a US lawsuit over replicating a part with stereolithography.

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