Build LEGO models with LDraw and LeoCAD

Tutorial – LDraw and LeoCAD

Article from Issue 268/2023

LDraw and LeoCAD help you become a virtual LEGO architect.

For decades, young and old alike have enjoyed the well-known bricks by Danish toy manufacturer LEGO. The success story began in 1932 with wooden toys. In 1949 the first plastic bricks went into production, and since 1958 they have been available in the form that remains popular. Today, LEGO is far more than just a children's toy; there are also many adult LEGO fans. LDraw and LeoCAD help you plan your own LEGO models on your PC.

Before you get started, there are two things you need to do. First, install LDraw [1] on your system. This is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs. The tool comes with 3D models of the bricks and a file format for the notation of the models you build with the bricks. Download the complete brick list [2] and unzip the ZIP file to the ~/ldraw/ folder or another directory. The bricks included in LDraw are constantly updated.

The second step is to install a LEGO CAD program, which you use to turn the virtual bricks into digital models. Of the various programs that use the LDraw standard [3], we chose the current 21.06 version of LeoCAD [4] for this article. For the sake of simplicity, it is a good idea to download the AppImage variant [5], which you can launch directly without installing. Alternatively, pick up the source code from GitHub and compile the program yourself [6].


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