Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Virtual Lego Design

A little background on me: I'm a software developer and I work for a company that makes architectural design software. I have always loved the ability to visualize something on a computer before making it a reality. So I've enjoyed using things like AutoCAD, Google Sketchup, and other such modeling software. As it turns out, there are several programs out there that let you do the same thing with virtual Lego bricks, even going so far as to give you access to such interactive information as how Technic pieces fit together and the various different ways that common bricks go together. The one I tend to use the most is the one actually made by the LEGO Group, LEGO Digital Designer. It gives you access to most of their bricks and colors, past and present, and gives you a limited amount of control over minifig faces and paint schemes. It's got several great features for linking virtual pieces together, and being as I'm already used to SketchUp and similar software, it has a shallow learning curve, if you're already used to how Legos fit together. Like any software that models complicated relationships, it has it's share of minor glitches. For instance, it can be hard to pieces to line up correctly if you're working with any kind of angles that aren't in 45 degree increments. There's a handy tool for lining up pieces (like getting a technic brick with an axle through it to line up with another technic brick hole) that is really cool when it works, but the more complicated the model becomes, the less likely that is to happen. However, it's usually easy to work around such glitches and put together giant models of Legos. In some ways, it has all the fun of putting together a Lego set, but with access to as many pieces as you want and some handy little shortcuts. For instance, ever put together a set where the instructions tell you to build the same mini configuration 8+ times? With LDD, you just build it once, then Copy and Paste like you would with any other program. I have been playing around with this program for a little while, and I hope to post a few models in the near future.

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