When I was a kid, I would get into trouble all the time for trying to build with my LEGO blocks when I was supposed to be sleeping. To this day, I have a box of LEGO blocks, and I still build things with them. Well, you can also do some LEGO construction using your computer!
The official LEGO computer program is called Digital Design. There are currently 763 different LEGO bricks to choose from. Using these, you can design your own projects, then order the pieces you used if you wish to build it at home for real. You can choose from partially built models, or a blank slate to create the design of your dream. There is no obligation to actually order LEGO bricks, so let your imagination wander!
There are a couple of good open-source applications which are LEGO-like, but not endorsed by the company itself. The first one of these is called LDraw. LDraw is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes. You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations. The possibilities are endless. Unlike real LEGO bricks where you are limited by the number of parts and colors, in LDraw nothing is impossible.
Second, we have BlockCad for Windows. BlockCAD is a freeware program for building virtual models with Lego-like bricks. You can save your models, or save pictures of them (.bmp, .jpg), even reuse a complete model as a part in another model. Everything can be controlled with the mouse, but it’s also possible to use the keyboard for most of the commands, making ‘routine building’ more effective, and there is a minimum of text involved, to make it easier for kids.
Last but not least, there is the BrickSmith offering for OS X. Bricksmith allows you to create virtual instructions for your Lego creations on your Mac. The magic is based on the LDraw library, a collection of 3D models of Lego building blocks created by enthusiasts from around the world. With Bricksmith, you never have to worry about running out of parts!
So, do you still play with LEGO’s? What do you like to build? Have you used any of these programs… or will you try one out after reading this? Let me know!
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