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I've designed some fun building brick sets that are compatible with LEGO but I know the market for them is smaller than what LEGO would be interested in. I've contacted some manufacturers at alibaba.com to see if they could produce the sets for me however most of them want me to send them 3D model files.

I can convert the LDRAW files to OBJ files, but are they accurate enough for use for manufacturing? Has anyone else tried this?

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    Short answer: no. Look at SBrick on kickstarter, for example, who are currently jiggling dimensions to get molded parts to fit with Lego pieces. There's lots of "a few microns off and try again" going on. Or hit shapeways and see all the lego-compatible parts there, maybe even throw your designs on and get some printed to see. – Móż Dec 2 '14 at 8:46
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    To clarify, are you trying to get custom pieces created, or custom sets created? If pieces, the LDRAW files are grossly insufficient. You'd be better off taking 3D scans of the LEGO pieces as a start. If sets, look at what Brickmania does: buys bulk new LEGO, and then repackages it into their own boxes with their own instruction manuals. – Nick2253 Dec 2 '14 at 15:56
  • Thanks Nick! To start I'm using standard LEGO pieces but in the future I may want non-standard ones. – chrislondon Dec 2 '14 at 18:41
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Look here: http://www.thingiverse.com/tag:LEGO

But be aware- as a single person manufacturing a LEGO compatible item, you might be open to litigation. You would probably win, but winning very frequently bankrupts people either way. Do you really require a unique piece that LEGO does not make? There are many custom sets around that are a kit of LEGO manufactured pieces.

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    Manufacturing LEGO-compatible items does not open you to litigation. Manufacturing patented items would. Considering that most of LEGO's patents expired, especially on their basic bricks, that shouldn't be a problem. As long as you don't infringe the LEGO trademark, you would be fine. – Nick2253 Jan 15 '15 at 17:01
  • Sorry, I should have been more clear. You're right- the LEGO patents are largely expired, which is what I was referring to by "you would probably win". However, if you used the word LEGO anywhere in relation to you product (including such things as "works with LEGO" or "LEGO compatible"), there would be some risk. They have sued a few companies and won- mostly Chinese companies manufacturing knock-offs. They do have design patents that cover certain bricks / brick features, so you'd have to carefully avoid those. – Tom Brendlinger Jan 16 '15 at 19:19

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