LEGO + Arduino = Brickduino (1. the LED)




I know LEGO has the Mindstorms-set that probably is great, but wouldn’t it be even better (and cheaper) to hack your regular bricks into your own micro controller controlled LEGO? Well I think so!
I had this idea for a long time, but to many other projects stood in the way until Tristram posted this instructable: DIY-LEGO

Brickduino (1. the LED)




We tried to work together on this project, but it seemed impossible to synchronize our agenda’s and get together so we both run our own projects. First I took the same route Tristran took and even build myself a MYDIYCNC to cut the bricks, but finally I decided to take an other approach.

A nice first step in this project will be a simple LED in a brick.
(Tristram also did a LEGO-LED but with his own approach)

My goals for the LEGO-LED:

  • It must be 5V so is can be easily controlled by an Arduino micro controller
  • It must fit in a 2×2 brick and be flush within the brick
  • There must be come logic in the positive and negative poles
  • There must be a easy (LEGO-like) system to connect cables
  • The design must be useful for different modules in the future, like sensors and switches. (so there must be a possibility for three poles: 5V, GND and signal)
  • It must be repeatable
  • It must be cheap (not counting the CNC I build for it)
  • It definitely must look cool

Step 1: You will need:

Major Components in Project

For starters you will need a bunch of LEGO-bricks to destroy. I couldn’t destroy my LEGO, so I bought it specially for it in “Pick a Brick” on the LEGO site.

LEGO:

  • 2×1 black bricks
  • 2×2 black bricks
  • 2×1 red plates
  • 2×2 red plates

Other stuff:

  • M2.5 x 5 mm bolts
  • M2.5 nuts
  • 0.5 mm copper plate
  • small electrical wires
  • 5mm LED
  • The fitting resistor to light the LED on 5V
  • (if you want) 6 mm plastic, aluminum of wood and 4 mm aluminum to make rigs

Tools and stuff:

  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Small screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Drillpress (it might also be doable with a hand drill)
  • Drills: 2.5 mm, 4,5 mm, 5 mm, 5.5 mm an old 8 mm wooddrill
  • A CNC is helpful, but small files might also work
  • Soldering tools
  • Razor blade
  • Super glue
  • Grinding wheel or power sander

Step 2: 1) The cables

The cables




Normally I wouldn’t start with the cables, but my bricks for the LED-module aren’t delivered yet, so the cables it will be.

The cable will be a 1×2 black brick with one of the studs made into a connector and a 1×2 red plate on the bottom with the little round stud in the middle replaced by a connector.

The hole in the Bottom plate

To make the connector, we need a 3mm x 4 mm hole though the 1×2 plate. I use my CNC for that. (you can also use a drill and file). To make it easier to repeat, I first made a jig to hold the brick out off 6 mm thick HDPE plastic. The G-Code to make the jig is included in this instructable. I used a 1.4 mm bit in the CNC.
As you can see on the pictures, the LEGO fits snugly in the jig. When I zero-out the CNC on the little hole I made in the jig, the bricks will be cut perfectly every time. (G-code included. You might need to change the .txt extension in .ngc)

Step 3: The connector on the bottom plate

I tried manny different ways to make the connector. I tried 3mm nails, machined parts and bolds, but I think that I found a good solution now.
The best solution that I found until now for the bottom connector is a folded strip of copper. I was lucky to find a nice 0.5 mm thick, 3.5 mm wide strip of copper at the place where I buy my metals.
See the drawing on how to fold the strip.
To make this also easily repeatable, I also made a jig for this.
You can also use needle-nose-pliers.

  • Cut the strip to a length of 30 mm
  • Fold up the last 1.5 mm on both sides
  • Fold up again 4.5 mm from both folds
  • Fold down 3.5 mm from the last folds
  • Fold down 2.5 mm from the last folds

If everything went well, you ended up with something that looks like the pictures.

 

For more detail: LEGO + Arduino = Brickduino (1. the LED)




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