I am looking for examples of useful machines built with LEGO (probably Technics, NXT etc.). There are many fun project examples and proofs of concept, such as a Rubik cube solver and a Turing machine.

Do you know any examples of LEGO machines that simplify some actual task or where should I look for examples?


5 Answers 5


Here are some examples that caught my attention in the last years:

  1. Cambridge scientists are using LEGO Mindstorms in their lab instead of a professional robot, saving them large amounts of money.
  2. The Kno tablet development team is using a LEGO rig to perform automated stress tests on their devices.
  3. University of Southhampton is using LEGO bricks as the structural frame for a cheaper supercomputer (warning: they use the word legos).
  4. Building custom encasing for electronics like this monster three-motherboard PC.
  5. For automatic milling and sculpting, there are also plenty of examples of LEGO CNC machines. They can be used to prototype parts, make molds, etc. Here's one.
  6. A loom machine to produce usable weaved cloths — pictures, video.
  7. Pheromone Labs is using LEGO Mindstorms 2.0 to perform automated tests of a tablet app — link, video.
  8. Low-cost nanoscope at UCL (news, main page)
  9. Handling insect specimens (link)
  10. UV-Vis spectrometer (Link)
  11. Braille Printer (Link)

It depends a lot how you distinguish useful from proof of concept.

  • I think this clock could be useful (or at least be fun): http://tiltedtwister.com/. The website even provides building instructions. However it will be noisy, expensive and take a lot of time (and fun) to build, which will make it less useful for a lot of people.

  • There's a super computer rack for 64 Raspberry Pis built from lego: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~sjc/raspberrypi

  • I'm using only 4 bricks as additional feets for my keyboard, everyday at work. So this is probably the most useful thing I can think of. Things do not have to be rocket science to be useful. enter image description here

  • +1! Had to catch my armchair tightly to not to fall down laughing! :] Your four-brick-keyboard-supporter certainly deserves Nobel Price or at least ten +1!
    – trejder
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 19:52

Lego Antikythera Mechanism can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLPVCJjTNgk

The Antikythera Mechanism: http://bit.ly/fm4oFK is the oldest known scientific computer, built in Greece at around 100 BCE. Lost for 2000 years, it was recovered from a shipwreck in 1901. But not until a century later was its purpose understood: an astronomical clock that determines the positions of celestial bodies with extraordinary precision. 

In 2010, we built a fully-functional replica out of Lego. 


I once built an NXT robot that opened and closed a set of blinds.

The blinds had a rod that you could spin to open and close them, and the rod had a hole at the end, which made it pretty easy to hook up to a mindstorms motor.

I made two different versions. One version was a "clapper" - with a microphone sensor, and one was a smarter version, that used a light sensor. The light sensor was positioned on the outside of the blinds. When the sun came up, it would open the blinds, and when the sun went down, it would close them.

I could have combined them together - in fact, I was planning to do that - but then I decided to use the NXT unit for some other projects instead.


It depends how you define machine.

I've used a static rig as a phone holder on a desk. I've built small tools for pushing Lego pins out when constructing Lego models. I've built innumerable machines for demonstrating principles of physics, engineering and structure.

If someone has dominoes as a hobby, then there is a Lego domino setting machine - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=de4xdOVVROQ.

I've seen an NXT being used to tidy Lego bricks - although that may have been more proof of concept as it could only cope with bricks below a certain size, it would use a rotor to sweep the bricks (And anything else) into a rear hopper.

I've also seen brick sorters - for those who like to color sort their Lego (I used to do this) these can be handy.

  • Well this all sounds like toy examples. The machines for demonstrating principles of physics, engineering and structure come closest. There should be online video tutorials for learning with Lego :-)
    – Jakob
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:39
  • 1
    I've also build a small stand to hold my phone securely in the dashboard of my car when I'm using it as navigation aid, so I wouldn't underestimate the adaptability of LEGO for similar jobs. At the other end of the range, there's even been a full desk - not a machine, but fully functional.
    – Joubarc
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 10:59
  • I've seen pinball machines too. The thing is - if such things are somebodies passion - then stuff that assists in them could arguably be "Useful machines". Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 11:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.