Investigating and Characterising the Coupling of LEGO and 3D Printing

  • David R F Mathias

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The importance and impact of prototyping in the design process cannot be overstated. It allows designers to test, communicate, and develop their ideas – pushing forward the design. The two largest factors limiting the use of prototypes are the fabrication time and costs. Addressing these enables earlier, and more frequent prototyping in the design process – producing better product outcomes.
While many efforts have addressed this through the creation of prototyping frameworks, few have focussed on the tools used. From an extensive literature review, the need for a prototyping technique that can rapidly and cheaply fabricate prototypes at suitable levels of fidelity is identified. This is supported by the findings from a preliminary study comparing prototyping techniques in a design task. This thesis reports the development and characterisation of a solution to fulfil this need: Hybrid Prototyping (HP). HP couples two different prototyping techniques to complement their benefits and mitigate their limitations. LEGO and 3D printing were the techniques chosen as they have opposing fabrication times and costs, but possess some common properties that aid their coupling. Through this combination, with LEGO forming the bulk of the prototype and 3D printing providing high fidelity parts, the fabrication time and material usage of form-based prototypes have the potential to be significantly reduced. This LEGO and 3D printing instantiation of HP was demonstrated and validated in a series of real-world prototypes. The different HP strategies were benchmarked against 3D printing, showing that the cumulative fabrication time could be reduced by 56 % and the material usage reduced by 76 %. The contributions to knowledge consist of the overall HP methodology, the characterisation of the coupling of LEGO and 3D printing, and the demonstration of HP. Further work considers the use of HP in the design process and how the tool can be improved.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorChris M Snider (Supervisor) & Ben J Hicks (Supervisor)

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