Swiss engineering grad Romain Testuz recently developed software that can transform any 3D object into a structurally sound Lego brick object. It solves an old challenge using graph theory, which determines the stability and structural weakness of the build—an impressive feat.

As anyone who's worked with Lego knows, builds are mostly trial and error, but Testuz has created a program that drafts a complete construction plan to build any 3D object (no matter how complex).

His algorithm also provides "the exact number and type of Lego bricks needed" for the build. Thus, the problem of random, trial-and-error for complex builds appears to be solved.

The Lego Group presented this challenge to the scientific community to solve in 1998 and 2001. The recent study builds on previously designed approaches but takes them another step further.

In the past, engineers keen on cracking this problem developed solutions "focused mainly on disassembling 3D objects into smallest possible units that were subsequently substituted for larger bricks on a random basis." Though this approach worked with virtual bricks, it did not translate to construction with actual bricks. As Tetstuz explains:

It’s at this stage that we find the strength or weaknesses of the object. If the bricks don’t fit, your actual model collapses.

Testuz's software handles this problem using graph theory, which determines stability and structural weakness of the build.

Each Lego brick in the model is thus represented by a red dot and each connection by a blue line. The programme assesses the stability of the structure based on the quality of the connections, or edges between particular bricks, and automatically proposes solutions to improve the most failure-prone sections.

So, goodbye trial and error, laser cutters and expensive 3D printers! And hello to the future of advanced algorithmic Lego design! Maybe. Personally, I'm more of a purist. I love hearing about the long, harrowing weeks and months it's takes someone to complete a complicated build.

The sweat, tears and obsession help me appreciate the brilliance behind Lego creations. But, still this is a pretty cool feat of software engineering, that has almost limitless potential. And it's waiting for an actual giant Lego printer to start building a Lego Death Star for a fleet of X-Wing. [E&T]

Engineer Creates Algorithm to Turn Anything Into Robust Lego Objects

Photo by Alain Herzog

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