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Virtual Beethoven

(November 2003 - February 2004)

(Due to limited webspace (50Mb), images have been reduced in size. You can still find the original images in my BrickShelf account.)

1. The idea

I've always wanted to build a sculpture - a large sculpture. Unfortunately I'm not a sculptor.
That's when I came up with the following idea:
If I have a three-dimensional scan of an object, it can easily be transformed into LEGO (height = 2/5 width when using plates, height = 6/5 width when only using bricks). But how can I make this three-dimensional scan? When graduating as an industrial engineer, I remember working with a three-dimensional measuring device during one of the lab-sessions. I just couldn't remember how data was stored, so I didn't start writing code to transform to LEGO immediately (I could use some help for this fase because I'm not really a programmer: I am very good with mathematical algorithms, but I can't really implement them into computer-language properly).
I finally came up with a nice solution:
I bought a 3D Sculpture Puzzle from Really Useful Games Company Limited. I scanned all layers one by one, and resized them to LEGO-scale. The most difficult part was to align consecutive layers; it was done with the naked eye (some layers were slightly rotated on my scanner, I had to bring them back in the right position).

I think that the computer-generated mathematical sculptures from Andrew Lipson were also a source of inspiration to build this model...
I hope Henry Lim will forgive me...

2. Start building

First I had to decide how big the statue would be. If I only use bricks, the statue would end up being more than 200 bricks high (there were approximately 200 layers in the original Sculpture Puzzle). I finally decided to use plates as well: when I use 1x2 jumper plates (lots of them), I can align consecutive layers in a half-stud fashion. This way, I can preserve more details from the original statue.
I made every layer two plates high, the finished model is 135 bricks high.

Just a few of the possibilities of how to align two layers half-stud in one or two directions:

3. Watch it grow

1 2 3 4

4. Other pictures

5 6 7 8

5. Bill of materials

To build this virtual model I used 63540 LEGO elements, mostly plates, tiles and jumper plates.
Here's a list of the most common elements. If I intended to build this model with real LEGO elements, just imagine how much it will cost to buy all the necessary parts through LEGO Shop at Home (#10115, #10064, #10060,...) or Bricklink (there are hardly enough jumper plates available !). It would probably cost me more than 5000 euro/dollar, merely to acquire all the pieces.
If somebody at the LEGO Company likes this statue, maybe they can provide me with the necessary pieces ;-).

3794Plate 1 x 2 with 1 Stud28374 x
3070BTile 1 x 1 with Groove5919 x
3710Plate 1 x 44027 x
3069BTile 1 x 2 with Groove3451 x
3666Plate 1 x 62969 x
3020Plate 2 x 42664 x
3623Plate 1 x 32621 x
3021Plate 2 x 31531 x
3460Plate 1 x 81497 x
3023Plate 1 x 21245 x
2420Plate 2 x 2 Corner1198 x
2431Tile 1 x 4972 x


6. Text

Did you notice the text on the pillar ? I payed lots of attention to it. The letters are shifted backwards half-stud (again I used 1x2 jumper plates). For visibility reasons I made them dark grey instead of light grey.
Important remark: there is no glue required; every element is attached to another element with at least one stud.

The rendered images are created with MLCad, converted with L3P and rendered with POV-Ray.

The 3D Sculpture Puzzle is manufactured and sold under license from Really Useful Games.