Lego designer software
(free – not open source)
I was a huge fan of lego as a kid, theres been a surge in interest in old kids toys recently, there are now Star Wars, Harry Potter and other variations of Lego sets now, but the town, space and technical are still ever popular.
Where as the media got awfully excited by the return to the cinema of Transformers, a toy that can convert into two things, us Lego fans quietly enjoy having infinitely more variation in our little coloured bricks.
There has been several Lego designer programs for computers now, none I have tried until now, giving the new version 2 software which has been out since March 2007 I thought I would give it a try.
Quite often looking at buildings that have mainly linear angles and regular sharp edges (curves tend to be tricky!) I have often thought how some every day structures could easily be produced in Lego.
Using non-physical pieces has a few advantages. You can clone a piece or a group of pieces, which means building certain elements of a design in sub-assemblies and duplicating them a good idea. You can change the colour of pieces on the fly too a
The business model for this application for Lego is of course you can have your model (at quite considerable price unfortunately) ordered online and they send you the pieces and you can make in real life, you can also amazing make your own instruction leaflets as the application can make the how to guide (in traditional Lego pictorial diagrams with few or no words, meaning easy to be used by anyone without any language barriers.) to be saved in HTML format.
Some commercial models you can buy in the shops are some of the winning models made by the Lego digital designer community, probably saving them quite a few bob in their R&D budget. Some of the examples on the web site are very very good, although cost around £100-200 when you load them up and it shows you the total cost of the components.
Sadly this app is not without its flaws, it took me a while to get used to the user interface you definitely need to check out the documentation to get anywhere, with a complex model with a few hundred pieces it starts to get horribly slow to rotate around. I build a small block (4 storeys) of flats, and built the 3 middle sections and the ground floor in sub assemblies and attached them altogether and thats when it starts to struggle. Im running a XP based PC with P4 3.0 processor, 2gb of ram, and a not so special Geforce 128Mb 5200 graphics card, but my guess I dont think a super duper card would be that much better. Picking and placing pieces in tight spots can be fiddly and awkward. Disappointingly is a desperately small number of mini figs and some quite common generic pieces were absent.
I havent bought anything yet, it would be interesting to see how Lego handle ordered complex designs if their could be any issues with certain pieces out of stock.
Its well worth a play, its certainly a quite a capable 3D CAD application and you can avoid trending on the sharp bits without your shoes and socks on.