physicad-bristol-uniWould you like to redesign your home or work space using only Lego? Well, if you pop by the Guild Co-working Hub in Bath today and for the next month, the Bristol University project PhysiCAD (physical Computer-aided-design) will give you your chance to collaborate in redesigning the Guild’s co-working space – using everyone’s favourite plastic building material!

PhysiCAD’s ambition is to get physical changes to be replicated in software, so that instead of you having to draw your designs in computer modelling applications like CAD, it would be better, for collaboration and real-time visualisation, to be able to build it out of something physical like Lego bricks.

“People find it hard to interpret 2D plan drawings”


physicad-duncan-boa-bristol-uni-at-the-guildDr Duncan Boa from Bristol University (pictured left in main picture, above), one of the people involved in the PhysiCAD project, explains: “People find it hard to interpret 2D plan drawings. Architects are used to it, but a non-expert finds it quite challenging. So by having construction kits (e.g. Lego) it gives a physicality and tangibility to what you are creating in the design process. Plus Lego is really fun!”

PhD student David Mathias (right in main picture, above) adds: “You can also attach information specific to certain brick types e.g. the materials used for it, the load it can carry, the cost of the material or even have it so there are restrictions built in telling you can’t put that brick there.” You can see this demonstrated in the video below:

PhysiCAD built in values: Different bricks are
assigned different values via RFID tags


This means if you preload the bricks with this kind of information, the system will be able to automatically detect violations of, for example, building regulations or other safety rules.

physicad-board-for-designThe ultimate aim of the project is ‘twinning’ – where changes made to the physical model appear on the software design and vice versa. There are also plans to use the project to look at ways of generating instructions on how to make something on the fly, during the design process.

Open source availability soon

Duncan tells us the project is publically funded and open source – all files generated by the project and used to create it will be put online on the PhysiCAD website in the next couple of weeks.

physicad-cad-screenYou can also get involved with the project by inviting PhysiCAD to your workplace or organisation to see if it can help with your design needs. Duncan explains, “We are trying to find interesting uses cases, for example, in the Guild they are planning a redesign, so this seems like a fun place to explore how PhysiCAD can help solve that. We are also going to Brighton to help design a Maker Space and then Newcastle for the Maker Faire.”

Thanks to Duncan and David for talking to us! The PhysiCAD stand will be at The Guild from 3pm today (and will be there for about a month) for you to have a go at remodelling the space in Lego. To find out more about the project you can pop along to the PhysiCAD website.