If you ever had more than one type of toy for building things as a child (LEGO, Tinkertoys, Duplo, etc.), odds are you tried to mix the sets together at some point with creative, though disastrous, results. Apparently the folks at F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab had the same experience and have created the Free Universal Construction Kit to solve this childhood dilemma. By downloading free designs and using a 3D printer, you could have your very own pieces to connect ten different brands of building toys to each other and construct even more elaborate contraptions and structures.
The Free Universal Construction Kit (you can work out the acronym yourself) is being presented by F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab as a downloadable set of designs that can be fed into any 3D printer (Thing-o-Matic, The Cube, etc.) to create a set of almost 80 adapter pieces. These can then be used to link together pieces from LEGO, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (a.k.a. Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob. Most of the pieces connect one set to another, though the Kit also includes a larger Universal Adapter Brick that can connect all ten sets at once.
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Naturally, being able to combine these sets of toys opens up a wide range of new structures to build, and the designers are hoping these new pieces will help foster more creativity in children. The adapters also mean that toy sets aimed at younger children won't necessarily become obsolete as soon at the children grow older and move on to more complex sets.
To build the Kit, F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab had to first reverse engineer the exact dimensions of each toy connector to ensure each adapter piece would fit correctly. The designers were able to get these measurements using an optical comparator that was accurate to less than one ten-thousandth of an inch (2.54 microns). While the designs are almost exact, the makers of the Free Universal Construction Kit caution that some 3D printers might not be able to print at that precision unless they are finely tuned.
The makers of these adapters have made it clear that they will not be selling the actual parts themselves, just the designs to print them. There's a couple reasons for doing this: for one, the designers have stated they want the construction kit to be freely available for anyone to make themselves. For another, offering the designs for free is less likely to infringe on copyrights from the original toy companies.
No word on whether the designs will be expanded to include other popular children's toys (Mega Bloks and wooden toy train tracks come to mind). For now though, the Free Universal Translation Kit is available for download at Thingiverse and should be available through The Pirate Bay's "Physibles" category soon.
The Adapterz LLC video below shows us just how this kit can be be put to use.