Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


F.U.C.K. - for the replicator of the future, today
June 25, 2012 3:10 PM   Subscribe

An article about the Free Universal Construction Kit -- for connecting Legos to Lincoln Logs to Tinker Toys to Fischertechnik to Duplos to Krinkles to Zometool to K'Nex to Zoob to gears. Designs at Thingiverse. A PDF page displaying all parts.
posted by Greg Nog (43 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does it work with Construx? Those things are damn underrated.
posted by JHarris at 3:12 PM on June 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wish them the best of luck and hope they don't get sued from here to kingdom come, but I fear they will at some point.
posted by tommasz at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2012


Oh no, block toy miscegenation. Won't someone think of the children?

OK, seriously, that matrix showing what parts connect what sets together? This is awesome stuff.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know that bit in The Fly when you see what Jeff Goldblum is turning into? Yeah, that's the feeling I get when I look at these .... things.

I vote we call 'em Brundles.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


God damnit, now I really want a RepRap system. I spent last night watching videos of it's various descendants and now the printrbot is out as well.

The Gada prize initiative is kind of awesome as well
posted by mrzarquon at 3:23 PM on June 25, 2012


Do they still make Capsela? When I was a kid, I was the only person I knew that had 'em.

And do they work with Rokenbok? If I ever have both a kid and a ton of money, the kid's totally getting some of those.
posted by box at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't see an Erector connection, but I guess all you really need to create that on any other platform is a drill.
posted by LionIndex at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


tommasz: “I wish them the best of luck and hope they don't get sued from here to kingdom come, but I fear they will at some point.”

It sort of sounds like that's the whole point.
posted by koeselitz at 3:31 PM on June 25, 2012


“You probably can’t stamp the name Lego on them, but if you don’t it’s hard to imagine what rights the companies could assert,” he says. “The real lesson is the vast ­majority of physical things aren’t protected by intellectual property law.”

Wait. So then it'd be legal to do this with regular K'Nex (Lego, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs), and not just these translator-connector pieces?

If someone could scan and send me a file for this, my 9-year-old self would give you all his Magic cards.
posted by saturday_morning at 3:38 PM on June 25, 2012


I once made a Lego / Construx hybrid by gluing a Lego flat plate onto a Construx flat plate (the square plate that would fit inside four medium beams arranged in a square), mostly so that I could add more weapons onto some sort of space vehicle I was creating.

As I recall, it worked OK but the glue must have been old because it broke apart pretty quickly and for some reason I didn't try it again. But really, that had possibilities.

CA glue is awesome stuff, right up until you stick your fingers together.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:42 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do they still make Capsela? When I was a kid, I was the only person I knew that had 'em.

Yeah, I don't think I've known anyone else that had Capsela. I loved those.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2012


I had Capsela too! Weird. Loved making little airboats and submarines.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:48 PM on June 25, 2012


Free Universal Construction Kit

Well, "free" for people who are already rich enough to own a 3D printer.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:49 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do they still make Capsela?

According to Wikipedia, no. But there is a thriving used market based on a quick eBay search.

I also discovered that there was a Construx revival in 1997 (it was originally discontinued in '87) which I was totally unaware of. That was always my favorite construction set toy, and I've always been sad that it didn't seem to survive when K'Nex, which were totally inferior, did.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:50 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Levin and Sims didn’t just make near replicas of the commercial toys, they used a measurement tool called an optical comparator to copy the toys’ dimensions to within 3 microns. And then they published those models on the Web. “Our lawyers were a bit concerned,” ­admits Levin, so much so that the pair initially planned to release the project anonymously.

Levin counts himself part of F.A.T. Lab, a hacktivist collective, and he wouldn’t be the first of its members to get into trouble. One of them had his PCs confiscated by the Secret Service last summer after installing software on Apple store computers that secretly took photos of shoppers’ faces.


Um, okay...

Sounds like a cool project but this guy is way up himself.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on June 25, 2012


Dang, no Mega Bloks.
posted by gurple at 4:16 PM on June 25, 2012


Nice choice of name, there. Very cool idea, though, at least!
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2012


Heh.

Yeah, the whole "oh noes I might get sued" aspect makes little sense given the mega blocks situation.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on June 25, 2012


If someone could scan and send me a file for this, my 9-year-old self would give you all his Magic cards.
posted by saturday_morning


Here ya go. You can keep your Magic cards.
posted by jamaro at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2012


Huh. I was just reading about this the other day. Jonathan Coulton used it as an example of the complexities of copyright law when he was responding to the whole Emily White downloaded music thing.

It really is pretty awesome. I'm kind of a purist, I wouldn't want my Lego hanging out with those Tinkertoy kids, but this is the sort of thing that those 3D printers were made for.

When I was a kid I had one of those Tyco slot car tracks and I remember how cool it was when I found an adapter so I could use some AFX (a competitor) track along with it. Really improved what I could do with it and it only made both brands more appealing to me.
posted by bondcliff at 4:59 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, "free" for people who are already rich enough to own a 3D printer.

I think they mean it as in "free speech" rather than "free beer."
posted by straight at 5:02 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Well, "free" for people who are already rich enough to own a 3D printer.

Considering the printrbot is down to $550 or so (with a wait list), and the gada prize I linked too is pushing for folks to make a $200 3d printer that can print 90% of itself, its not too far off.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:04 PM on June 25, 2012


And you don't need to own one - you just need access to one. There's a 3D printer in most hackspaces...

Things only get crazy when you start looking at stuff like selective laser sintering - lasers make things hugely more expensive than heat melders, and many of the compounds used as the "ink" in SLS are still patented... but you probably don;t need to worry about that with these, because they don't need to be that robust, or be made without a sprue...
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:07 PM on June 25, 2012


Also, I'm not saying that while you were there you could print out Jordi LaForge's visor. I'm just saying.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:33 PM on June 25, 2012


Considering the printrbot is down to $550 or so (with a wait list), and the gada prize I linked too is pushing for folks to make a $200 3d printer that can print 90% of itself, its not too far off.

We may well see a readily available sub-$1000 thingmaker in the near future (the printrbot still looks a little too janky to work as an everyday appliance), but I still envision a near-future scenario where thingmakers follow the Gillette model: Give away the razors and mark up the blades. Whatever raw material ends up as the standard base for these things is gonna become real expensive real fast.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:38 PM on June 25, 2012


box: "Do they still make Capsela? When I was a kid, I was the only person I knew that had 'em."

Oh man, I had Capsela, because I think my folks got me an erector set but it was broke, and so they got the capsela after returning the erector set... but for some reason I only did like one thing with it even though it seemed cool (to my little like 10 year old brain or whatever). I think the erector set would probably have been more mentally stimulating.

What's interesting is that this is sort of like M/F adapters for various I/O plugs and such. Only instead of plugs you've got TOYS!
posted by symbioid at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2012


When I read this to Mrs. Wintermind she asked, "It is Play-Dough? Or tape?" I LOLed.
posted by wintermind at 6:07 PM on June 25, 2012


> the printrbot still looks a little too janky to work as an everyday appliance

I don't know, it is managing to print itself pretty easily. The printrbot jr is planned to be a $200 from commercially manufactured parts version of it, that prints smaller things (like these legos) would be easier.

> Whatever raw material ends up as the standard base for these things is gonna become real expensive real fast.

This is pretty much why the commercial 3D printers all use secret and proprietary powders in their castings.

This is also things on RepRap's todo list: document and create parts that will help build the ABS plastic or similar filaments needed to power the RepRap. They are also working on using it to make it's own circuit boards.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:13 PM on June 25, 2012


1. I had Capsela too. Unfortunately the thrill was lost when the motor capsule became slightly less than water-tight and the thing ceased to work.

2. Construx seriously needs to become a mainstay building set. I discovered that you can actually interoperate them with Lego; a Lego 2x2 block's bottom will fit right into the end of a girder. It seems kind of half-assed though, hence my above question.

My favorite thing to do with Construx was to make a chute that led into an obstacle course that a golf ball could careen downwards through.
posted by JHarris at 6:28 PM on June 25, 2012


(Oh, concerning point 1 above: I had a kit that had pontoon pieces for making boats. Powered boats. Yeah, they were awesome.)
posted by JHarris at 6:30 PM on June 25, 2012


I really only ever had Legos as a kid, but if I had access to these things I totally would have stolen all the coolest parts of other sets from my friends and added them to my Lego hoard.
posted by etc. at 6:31 PM on June 25, 2012


It might be helpful to understand this as an art project as much as a practical product. I like how it skewers the stupidity of some kinds of intellectual property enforcement and highlights how it's all going to look different when people can easily fabricate objects themselves. See also: physibles at PirateBay.

You can see a short Ignite talk from Golan about F.U.C.K. and QR Hobo Codes at Eyeo last month. (Bonus video of his adorable son.)
posted by Nelson at 6:38 PM on June 25, 2012


Oh my gosh, the screaming kids in the end of the video cracked me up. I fell out of my chair.
posted by Mizu at 6:58 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and also, yes, at my house growing up we had construx and lego (much later, k'nex, but those were a teenage thing for me and my brother) and we'd make hybrid construx/lego things all the time. The minifigs from lego fit nicely to scale into huge airship/spaceship construx monsters, and you could use lego as crenelations and weird decor things when the greys and blues of construx needed jazzing up.
posted by Mizu at 7:01 PM on June 25, 2012


Mizu: "Oh and also, yes, at my house growing up we had construx and lego (much later, k'nex, but those were a teenage thing for me and my brother) and we'd make hybrid construx/lego things all the time. The minifigs from lego fit nicely to scale into huge airship/spaceship construx monsters, and you could use lego as crenelations and weird decor things when the greys and blues of construx needed jazzing up."

Lego Minifigs were also the perfect size to seal into Capsela capsules and build floatable pontoon boats that would paddle their way across the bathtub. The perfect size.
posted by barnacles at 7:10 PM on June 25, 2012


Somewhat off-topic, this video of a fingerboard skatepark made by a MakerBot 3D printer is so awesomely nerdy. My 8th grade self would've loved this stuff when I was building WWF wrestling sets out of cereal boxes, pencils and rubber bands, with rubber erasers as the wrestlers.
posted by slogger at 7:26 PM on June 25, 2012


No love for Robotix?
posted by radwolf76 at 7:31 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If someone could scan and send me a file for this, my 9-year-old self would give you all his Magic cards.
posted by saturday_morning

Here ya go. You can keep your Magic cards.
posted by jamaro


Wow, the Internet really does have everything.
posted by slogger at 7:34 PM on June 25, 2012


Fuck yeah, Construx! They were the perfect width apart (when joined by one standard beam) to build huge rollercoasters for tennis balls. We My brother had so many we could build one that basically filled his entire room, starting at the top of the bookshelf and using the highboy dresser, the bunk beds, the desk, the chair, etc., as support platforms.

These need to be re-reissued now that the people who grew up playing with them are having kids. I would buy ALL THE CONTRUX for my kids. Um, yeah, my kids.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:48 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favorite thing to do with Construx was to make a chute that led into an obstacle course that a golf ball could careen downwards through.

Whaaaaaat? That sounds awesome; how was I unaware of this.

I may or may not be presently inquiring as to the freight costs involved in having my Construx shipped down to my house from their current resting place so that I, too, can build a crazy golfball maze.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:06 PM on June 25, 2012


For Unlawful Constructor Knowledge.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:45 AM on June 26, 2012


The irony of creating a universal connector and distributing it only to 3d printer owners
posted by MangyCarface at 7:18 AM on June 26, 2012


I'm pretty sure these were released as digital files to create physical objects in order to avoid further copyright provocation. I'm guessing anyone else would be free to manufacture these and distribute them if they wanted to take the incentive.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:32 AM on June 26, 2012


« Older Weathering Spring...  |  Sound-Word Index... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments