Using LeoCAD to create and animate toy brick models

Using Leocad to build and animate brick models

LeoCAD is an easy-to-use and easy-to-get-into 3D modelling application that is used to create virtual models using LEGO® and other toy building bricks.

Introduction

LeoCAD is a free and open-source 3D CAD program for creating virtual LEGO brick models. It is one of three 3rd party editors to be used with the, probably most, extensive LEGO brick model collection of LDraw.

Although other LEGO brick CAD editors exist (e.g. Stid.io and Lego Digital Designer), LeoCAD is considered great for Windows and Linux operating systems. It is also available for macOS. LeoCAD is available under the GNU Public License v2 and according to its official website, it will always remain free.

LDraw compatibility

LDraw™ is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that is used to create virtual LEGO parts. According to their website, the term “LDraw” can also be used to refer to the original DOS-based LDraw program, the LDraw parts library, the LDraw file format or the LDraw System of Tools.

LDraw™ is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes.

LeoCAD is compatible with the LDraw parts library, the LDraw file format and some of the related LDraw Tools. Since LDraw’s original author, James Jessiman, passed away in 1997, the parts library is being maintained and extended by LDraw community members. It also uses the brick colours determined by LDraw.

The LDraw parts library gets updated very regularly with official LEGO bricks and sometimes other brick formats too.

At the time of updating, the LDraw parts library had close to 10 000 core parts (called core library files) which are automatically included with the installation of LeoCAD. Additionally, unofficial parts can also be downloaded from LDraw and custom libraries can be created.

LeoCad file formats

The front end is intuitive and includes various features for even advanced users. LeoCAD can save models as .LDR, .dat and .MPD files.

Models can be Exported to 3DStudioMax (.3DS), COLLADA (.dae) and Wavefront (.obj). Blender works well with .dae and .obj files.

Installing LeoCAD

The installation file for LeoCAD can be downloaded from the official LeoCAD downloads page.

Leocad download page
The LeoCAD download page. LeoCAD is available for Windows, Linux and macOS.

At the time of updating this post, LeoCAD was at version 21.06. For Windows, the installation file is downloaded as an execution (.exe) file.

All the default settings can be used to install LeoCAD.

The LeoCAD Minifig Wizard

A nice feature of LeoCAD is its Minifig Wizard which allows comprehensive customisation of the standard LEGO Minifigure before inserting it into the building area.

Most of the Minifigure parts are also available in the Parts section, but by using the Minifig Wizard they will be grouped as one model. Apart from using this feature to make your own Minifigures, it is also handy to add a quick figure to get an idea of the scale of your model.

The LeoCAD MinifigureWizard allow users to make custom Minifigures before it is added as a model.

The Minifig Wizard is available under Piece in the top menu bar. Completed figures are inserted by simply selecting OK.

Animation

Yet another nice feature of LeoCAD is that it supports basic animation. Animations are mainly used for creating files with built-in building instructions.

After the frames are set by using the forward and backward arrows, the same buttons are used to cycle through the steps.

Conclusion

LeoCAD is great for building virtual LEGO and other toy brick models. It is free, easy to use, and is available for most major operating systems.

The software is capable of saving or exporting model files to many other formats. Some of its other features include the Minifigure Wizard and animation features.

Finding part names in Lego Digital Designer

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