Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BlueSmartControl - automate your Technic creations

A little over a yer ago TBs posted a first article about BlueSmartControl or BSC as the developers abbreviate it. Back then the product was still in very early development and while it showed some promise, it wasn't commercially available.

Since then a lot has happened.

Now I can hear you thinking: why would I need another BlueTooth controller for my Technic creations when there's already something like the SBrick. It's a fair question and one that merits a well thought answer, so let's take it in steps.


On the surface there are a number of similarities between the two platforms as well as some striking differences:



SBrick is a BLE controlled device with one input (battery power) and 4 outputs (motors/lights) in a slick and very LEGO-like casing, with a 4x4 footprint and includes a few pinholes for easy integration into a model.

BSC is a BT controlled device with 5 inputs (battery + sensors) and 6 outputs (motors/lights) in a simple non-proprietary casing with a 4x6 footprint that can easily be attached to a plate (bottom side) and is just under 2 bricks high (including connected cables - BSC comes with PF cables that have been modified on one end to fit the unit)








So far the SBrick looks to be the mor professional solution, or does it? If we think in terms of technology there are a few significant differences that can already be easily observed. A first difference is in the BlueTooth technology used. While BLE is a very promising new technology there are still large number of devices that don't support it. BLE requires Android version 4.4 and above. BSC on the other hand works with BT 2.1 and above meaning any Android 4.0 device (and above) is compatible. Another difference lies in the number of motor connection points - 4 for SBrick and 6 for BSC. In addition, BSC comes with a specific port for connecting sensors.

The app is very responsive as can be seen in this (quite long) video Sariel made last year, testing the functionality of the app, including buttons, sliders and a game pad that allows controlling 2 motors linked to the X and Y positions on the pad:



Are you starting to see the differences?

Then let's look at what BSC can do. The BSC Control Center is the app that is used to control the BSC unit (or units - up to 7 units can be controlled at the same time, meaning you can use 42 outputs in a single scenario!). This app is the heart of the power of BSC and is what sets it aside. While the SBrick app allows you to create beautiful scenarios and controls, in essence those controls are only digital renderings of the physical controls LEGO provides with the standard Technic remote ("bang bang" control, that is on/off) and the Train remote (specific power level settings). While this can obviously also be done in the BSC Control Center, this app takes control to the next level by introducing programmable sequences.

Probably the easiest way to explain the implications of this system is by going back to Sariels Automated Trafficators System, a mechanical solution to make the indicator lights on motorised vehicles blink while it steered in the corresponding direction. His solution involved an M-motor and 3 polarity switches. The BSC Control Center allows you to do the same thing with a single control (button/slider/...). How? By setting up a sequence in the app by which each time you move the slider you have assigned to the steering mechanism is moved to the right not only the motor assigned to steering is turned on, but the lights on the side of the vehicle you steer towards start blinking. This means that with a single control you can set in motion several simultaneous or sequential actions.

The next step would be adding sensors to this mix. Unfortunately, MINDSTORMS sensors are quite bulky and incorporating an EV3 into a Technic model can be challenging at best. The size and power of BSC open up completely new avenues in this regard. Have a look at this short and very simple video of a lift, controlled by BSC. The carriage incorporates a magnet and there are reed switches on each floor level:


The BSC also works with an RFID sensor which can read transponder tags. You can see an excellent application of this principle in the video below in which the RFID sensor is used to detect the position of a train:


These are only the first of a series of sensors that are proposed by the BSC team. RFID is especially interesting for application in Train layouts as it allows you to know where each train is and progam sequences accordingly - starting ans stopping trains automatically, think of signal lights, switch points, etc. But Hall sensors, light sensors, Reed switches and distance sensors can all be integrate with the BSC and programmed from the BSC Control Sensor

The BSC is currently on Kickstarter, and his is their promotional video:




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

42056 - The official video presentation

Now, the real thing!



Enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2016

42056 - LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS was announced

It was yesterday we've seen a new official LEGO Technic teaser at LEGO Tecnhic Facebbok page (Promobricks copy at YT below) with a statement - "Coming in 911 hours".



We didn't have to wait that long for more...

LEGO announced the next big thing and it... well it is orange!... it just reminded me the days we were discussing here why almost everything Technic was Yellow?... and how cool it would be to spread some orange tone, or even to turn this in one mainstream Techic color...
Well... it has happened since then but this is truly awesome!



The Press Release

The LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS: the art of engineering and design in 2,704 elements
One of the latest models in the legendary 911 family, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, is appearing as a detailed LEGO Technic model. The exclusive LEGO set of the exceptional sports car, which has been developed in close conjunction with Porsche AG, will initially be available at shop.LEGO.com from June 1st, 2016, as well as in the 13 LEGO stores throughout Germany and Austria. It will be available in other stores from August 1st, 2016.

Munich, April 25, 2016. Like every sports car with the Porsche emblem on the hood, the LEGO version of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS also combines design, performance, and functionality. Still concealed in black-and-white foil as a mystery model at the Nuremberg toy fair late January, the color of the characteristic bodywork has now been revealed and shines in bright orange. Thus, it corresponds to the special coating of the original sports car in lava orange authentically. The model, which has 2,704 elements, also delights the beholder with sleek, aerodynamic lines and an adjustable rear spoiler. Besides many authentic features, the packaging and accessories that come with this complex LEGO Technic model also contribute to a building experience rich in variety: among other things, the box contains a comprehensive collector’s book with exclusive background information on the development of the model. Furthermore, the elements of the individual assembly groups are packed in separate boxes for the first time and, together with the detailed instructions, provide an insight into the assembly process of the actual vehicle.

The LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS combines design and functionality
According to Ferry Porsche, driving enjoyment is not created by comfort - quite the opposite is the case. Consequently, the LEGO model also features a few rough edges that give it identity and character, just like the powerful original on which it is based: the authentically recreated bodywork is convincingly realistic with its characteristically low and sloping design, the large cooling air intakes at the front, the surface contouring of its roof and compartment lid, the unique front wheel arch air outlets of the lightweight carbon fenders and the striking rear wings.

Both the performance and the sportiness of the original have been realistically reproduced in various technical features on the LEGO model. One particular highlight is the fully functional Porsche double-clutch transmission with four gears and gearshift paddles on the steering wheel. But all technically minded LEGO fans will especially love building and playing with the six-cylinder boxer engine with moving pistons underneath the rear lid.

In addition to the technical features, the interior of the model is also authentic and close to the original. A detailed dashboard, a steering wheel with gearshift paddles, racing seats, and a glove compartment concealing a unique serial number can all be found in the easily accessible cockpit. Using this serial number, additional exclusive content can also be released from June 1st 2016 by following www.lego.com/technic.

Further product highlights on the LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS for master builders aged 16 and over include:
  • Opening doors and hood
  • A trunk with case
  • Authentic stickers to give the model the faithful final touch
  • Rims in the original design with RS emblem
The LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS is a 1:10 scale model and is 17 cm high, 57 cm long, and 25 cm wide.

And the RRPs are:
US $299.99 - CA $349.99 - DE 299.99€ - UK £249.99 - DK 2599.00 DKK
*Euro pricing varies by country.  Please visit shop.LEGO.com for regional pricing

There is also a detailed interview with the LEGO Technic designers Andrew Woodman and Uwe Wabra, but let's start with their bios.



The Designer Bios

Mini Bio: Andy Woodman
Current position: Senior Design Manager LEGO Technic



Andy Woodman, age 44, married with 1 daughter aged 4 who already shares her dad’s passion for speed and loves to ride around on her own Ducati.
Lives in a forest area of Denmark in a house they designed and built themselves.
Has a first class Hon’s degree in Industrial Design and Masters degree in Vehicle Design from the Royal College of Art, London.
Work experience includes RLE international, DAF Trucks Holland, Emap and Lego System A/S where he has worked since 2003.
Has a passion and interest for all forms of design especially Architecture, Vehicles and Yachts. Passes on this passion and knowledge for design by lecturing at local colleges, hopefully inspiring others to be interested in perusing a design career.
Loves cars and all things automotive, especially racing his rally prepared Porsche 911. Loves road trips and exploring new places, hates plane travel, not flying, just everything associated with it. Still looking for the ultimate family car, to use on a grand tour with the family and explore new places.


Mini Bio: Uwe Wabra
Current position: Senior Designer in the LEGO Technic department



Uwe Wabra, has worked at the LEGO Group since 1996.
Lives close to Billund in a home he has renovated over a number of years and is constantly evolving to accommodate his fantastic collection of Auto Memorabilia.
Originally trained as a chef at a prestigious Danish Hotel before turning to his other passion, carpentry. Then in 1996 he got the opportunity to reignite his childhood passion for LEGO Building by accepting a position with the LEGO Group in the LEGO Technic department.
Since then he has had many roles designing for other departments in the company but his passion is for the LEGO Technic models and is very happy to be back working with the LEGO Technic team.
Has a passion for all things automotive – just take a quick look in his garage or at his model collection, which is spread all over his garage and house. It really is an eclectic collection of cars, bikes and trucks.
His passion is for classic vehicles and of course, Porsche has a strong past. He has always had a Beetle and now that he has worked with Porsche, he really wants a 356.


And of course...


The Interview!

The designers of the LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS Andrew Woodman and Uwe Wabra are talking about their dream project – from the idea to the complete model.

What was the idea behind this project?

Andrew Woodman: As a lover of design and high-performance cars, it was a dream to make the Porsche 911 our first model. When we started to collect ideas for this new LEGO Technic model, we realized that we wanted to create more than just a great building experience. It should be all over special. We knew that we needed a partner with the perfect vehicle that was both highly desirable and a true icon. So we reached out to Porsche.

How did the cooperation with Porsche run?
Andrew Woodman: The cooperation with Porsche was fantastic. The employees are incredibly passionate for the Porsche brand and showed huge interest in our LEGO Technic model.
From our very first meeting it was clear that Porsche shared the same passion for the vision of this concept and together we decided upon using the current 911 GT3 RS as the first vehicle in this LEGO Technic series.

How much time did the whole process take and what were the particular development steps?
Andrew Woodman: The whole process took almost two ages: From the development of initial design ideas concerning the concept in winter 2013 to the final approval of the model by Porsche in fall 2015.
Uwe Wabra: When we started our initial drafts in 2013, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS project remained top secret. Therefore I had to build the first LEGO version using photos of the camouflaged prototype of the original from the internet. The first LEGO prototype was ready in a matter of weeks.
Andrew Woodman: We presented the result of the first model to the design team of the 911 GT3 RS at Porsche and discussed the basic technical functionalities as well as the shape of the body. On the basis of this feedback we designed the next model and simultaneously started with the development of the wheels rims which are an important part of the legendary design of the car. Afterwards we visited the Porsche Development Center in Weissach as well as the Porsche GT workshop area. During intensive working phases we worked out the elements and details of the car and perfected them. The final step was the approval by Porsche.

Did you experience a special moment during the development phase?
Andrew Woodman: During our visit at the Porsche GT workshop area we could see a preproduction 911 GT3 RS complete and finished in lava orange. This was the first time we saw the car in color – all the others had been black which made it difficult to see the proportions and details of the car.

How many persons were involved in the development process?
Andrew Woodman: Several persons participated in the development of this model: Among others, a graphic designer started working on the required decorations and stickers. In the meantime model designers worked further on the styling and on the development of particular components, for example the gearbox.

What were the challenges during the development of the LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS?
Andrew Woodman: One of the biggest challenges for us laid in designing an element that works on the 911 GT3 RS, but also in general with all others LEGO Technic elements. Furthermore something that could work in our system for years to come.
Uwe Wabra: It was important to integrate as many of the advanced technical functionalities from the real 911 GT3 RS as we could. The steering and suspension were difficult enough, but our biggest challenge was the creation of the functioning double-clutch transmission with gearshift paddles.



Now is my take

Well... the car looks amazing and is expected to feature quite nice features as advertised above, and already expected since we got to see its "spy pictures" taken in this season Toy Fairs. The curves, the proportions, the color, all seems to fit incredible well with the original from the Stuttgart manufacturer.

Although what I'm most enthusiastic about is the cocktail of new parts that seems coming with this one, new cool rims, new 11x7 curved panels, new fenders, this to talk about what is visible at the moment.
And if that was not enough, another set of parts will make their orange addition to the inventory (flex axles, panels,...).

For the rest of the descriptions you can find some more illustrations in the picture below.



As it seems, no more, no less... the first true LEGO Technic Supercar after 8448 Super Street Sensation from 1999!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Was 42054 steering mechanism uncovered?

In the months preceding the release of new Technic models it is usual that some curious minds try to decipher the most hidden secrets about their mechanics.
And one of the most intriguing aspects related to the new 42054 Class Xerion 5000 TRAC VC, is the control of its steering modes combination (2WS, 4WS and Crab Steering).
We have seen it working at some videos from the model unveiling at recent Toy Fairs, but there was too few clues on how this was designed except there is a stick to switch modes when moved into three existing side-by-side slots.

Barman (barebos) made a guess exercise to find which mechanism could be in the heart of this Xerion, that's responsible to control the advanced steering modes. He came up with some amazing stuff and presented it to us in a cool video.




In a few months we will have the opportunity to see how accurate his guess was .

Monday, February 1, 2016

LDraw All-In-One-Installer 2015-02

Willy Tschager  (LDraw.org Content Manager) has just sent us the following message:


An updated version of the LDraw[1] All-In-One-Installer, in short AIOI, has been released. 

The AIOI supports Windows XP (Home and Pro), Windows Vista or higher (all versions). On 64-Bit Operating Systems it will install in the "Program files (x86)" folder. The Installer will NOT run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT Ver 4, 2000, or XP below SP2. 
It contains the following changes:

Upgraded to LDraw Parts Library 2015-02
Upgraded to LPub3D 1.3.4.591.2
Upgraded to LDCad 1.5
Added LSulpt 0.5.0
Added tons of OMR-Models
Lets you decide the location of the LDraw parts library
You can download the AIOI from: 

Home > Help > Get Started > LDraw All-In-One-Installer 

Many thanks to all the programmers who contributed to this release. 

Willy Tschager 
(LDraw.org Content Manager)


[1] LDraw is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes. You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations.


I have been building quite a lot with LDCad and using LPub3D to create instructions and a lot of improvements have been made to the programs over the last fe months. If you don't already have these programs installed be sure to update them, either using the AIOI or doing so manually one by one!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

2H2016 Technic Sets - Part II

As I mentioned in my first post on the 2H2016 Technic sets, each new toy fair reveals more details of the upcoming sets, and the Nuremberg Spielwarenmesse has been particularly generous in the amount of information that was revealed.

So let's have another look at the list of new sets.


  • 42051 - Airport Rescue Vehicle


Technic Factory has the following to say about the set:

Lego Technic 42051 Airport Rescue Vehicle (cancelled)
This set was planned for mid-2016, but it has been cancelled and will never be produced. It was a big airport fire truck, with red color, modern style, arm with water canon which could be lift up and oriented. 6 wheels with 4 wheels steering and lots of details also: lights, mirrors, few stickers… Seats were designed with new white panel parts, like wing of set 42045 Hydroplane Racer.

Parts : approx 1100, without Power Functions or Pneumatic
Initially Estimated Price : USA: $74.99, Europe: 64.99€, but it will not be sold.

I always find it curious when this level of detail is presented for a set that apparently has been cancelled. We'll probably never know why, but from the description of the set, the set wasn't quite as exciting as the remaining sets for the second half of this year.


  • 42053 - Volvo EW160E
The set description was sufficiently specific not to leave much doubt about the look of the model, but a picture is worth a thousand words:


 Additional information that has been published so far includes:
  • Pneumatics System V2 - We appear to get a new part in this series: the pump has a wide plastic collar and no spring is visible - it appear to be encased inside the wider plastic collar.
  • Power Functions Upgradable - this makes me think there will indeed be a small pump included in the set so you can build a small compressor to power the pneumatic functions.
  • Lifting Cab - a very nice detail. The cab is lifted with a worm gear that is operated with the 12T double bevel gear you can see right behind the cab (with the red 2L axle in the centre) so it will stay at any hight you adjust it to.
  • Extendible Outriggers - and they will actually support the model! All four wheels off the ground for increased stability when operating the pneumatic functions.
  • Piece Count: 1166
  • Alternate model: Volvo L30G
And if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video of the actual set is pure gold:



Do you still want more? This is a picture of the back of the box that shows the secondary model:




  • 42054 Claas Xerion 5000 tractor
Let's get right to it. Front box art:



  • Piece Count: 1977
  • WHEELS and RIMS!! The large heavy threads are fantastic (wheel size indicated is 107.4)and the closed rims are perfect for the model
  • Includes an LPF "M" motor and battery box. 
  • Mini LA for the arm and outriggers/stabilisers under the arm
  • The panels at the front simulate the counterweight that can be adjusted in height
  • I don't remember seeing ribbed 2x2 round bricks in brown before. They look much more realistic than the smooth ones.
Rear box art:


  • The "second model" is built only from the parts of the manipulator on the back of the tractor. While it does make sense (and has been done before, e.g. in the Unimog)
  • The graphics in the lower left corner give some interesting details about the steering capability of the model: it has crab steering and parallel steering.

Also for this model there is a video showing all its capabilities. I particularly like how the cab rotates 180 degrees, and the 3 steering modes are an indication of the fantastic engineering that has gone into this model:





  • 42055 Bucket Wheel Excavator
The largest of the Technic sets for 2H2016 isn't just "over 3000 pieces", it has a whopping 3927!


  • From this and other pictures it would appear the set includes a pack of small round bricks for the BWE to pick up/move to the included white truck.

  • A single PF "XL" motor to power te entire set
  • An exciting new curved rack (90º) that is the base for the ring of buckets at the front. There appear to be 36 teeth on each segment making for 144 teeth in a full ring.

The same part is also used to set the angle for the second transporter belt and for the turntable so there are a bunch of these new parts in this set!

  • The above image also shows the battery box used as a counterweight in the top arm, followed by three function selectors. There is also a red function selector further down (right behind the curved rack that guides the secondary transporter belt) 
  • Beautiful dark panels!
  • LAs allow the arm to go up and down. They are controlled with the black 12T gear you can see just below the base of the LA in the above picture
  • Even so there are no less than 3 additional functions going from the top of the model to the bottom:

But wait, there's more. We also have an image of the back of the box:


As the pictures at the top show, this model is capable of separating out 1x1 round bricks and 2x2 round bricks (obviously included in the set). This model can also

  • move forwards and backwards on the tracks it has underneath. 
  • The inclination of the left conveyor belt can be adjusted and 
  • the right belt can be moved from side to side horizontally.

Here's a video of the BWE in action:



To be continued...


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vrromm!...

So it seems the secret project was not so secret after all!...

Jim just posted a couple of pictures at EB from an IP car, Porsche branded which seem take from some Toy Fair as we see the typical TLG exhibition turntables and the elements with the correspondent set number (42056 in the present case).

As we can see it is a 1:10 scale model and it looks gorgeous except the anticipated price... If correct one can say that licenses may hurt your wallet!




New fender panels and and rims look very appropriate.

For the size and rumored price tag, I still dream with the possibility of seeing PF 2.0 elements coming live into LEGO Technic sets sooner than expected, with some XL motors that can remotely drive this beast from my smartphone via BLE...

Monday, January 25, 2016

2H2016 Technic Sets

It is Toy Fair season and all the big toy companies are showing off their new offerings for this year. The New York Toy Fair is held from February 13-16, the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg will take place from 27 January to 1 February and the first reports about the 2016H2 technic sets are coming in from the London Toy Fair 2016.

Huw Millingtone visited the fair and paid has posted his observation in several blog entries on Brickset. These are his observations on the Technic sets he has seen:


  • 42051 Airport rescue vehicle was not being displayed


It’s very little information to go on, but a google search returns mainly this kind of vehicle:


The set number is a little odd as is comes before the 42052 Heavy Lift Helicopter. Even so, that doesn’t really provide us with much information, because the Helicopter is a +1000 piece set and the two following sets that have been shown on the London Toy Fair are clearly smaller than the helicopter. LEGO has done a similar vehicle before. In 2003 it launched the 8454 Rescue Truck with 693 pieces and a retail price of around €70 it looks like this new model will be somewhat smaller and/or possible less technically complex.




  • 42053 Volvo EW160E, Looks much like these, primarily yellow and black but with orange accents which looked very smart. It features pneumatics controlled with a pump but no reservoir. I'm not sure how many cylinders. £70





It looks like we will get a wheeled excavator instead of the (for LEGO) more traditional tracked base. I am particularly curious to know is this set will take advantage of the new longer pneumatic cylinders. In addition, while Hew indicates the model includes a (hand) pump, it is not entirely unlikely the model may come prepared to be motorized as was the 8049. You can check out the 2-part review of the model here and here. The second part reveals the possibility to motorize the set with a compressor built with the small pump included in the set.

As for the cylinder count, that again will depend on the size of the model. On the past LEGO has mechanically linked the movement of the second stage of the arm with the closing/opening of the bucket in smaller models, but I sincerely hope the model will feature 3 independent controls, with a single cylinder for each of them.


  • 42054 Claas Xerion 5000 tractor. £120. A pretty faithful representation of the real thing. It's lime green, as you'd expect. It's fitted with a red log grabbing attachment and is motorised. It comes with new wheels which are massive. The cab rotates 90 degrees to enable the driver to get a better view at the back.


Lime green appears to be a favourite LEGO tractor colour. Lime green was also used in the Tractor with Log Loader referenced above, the small 8281 and the even smaller 8260.

The Claas Xerion 5000 was also proposed as a LEGO Ideas model, but only gathered 183 supporters. This version is not likely to anywhere as complex as the model proposed there and given the price I don’t think it likely it contains any motorized functions.



The images of that model do give us an idea of what that rotating cab might look like. The massive wheels are also something to look forward to!




  • 42055 Bucket Wheel Excavator. £180 Oh. My. God. What a fantastic thing! It's absolutely huge! It's the largest Technic model in physical size, by some margin, and also piece count, over 3000. It looks something like the bottom vehicle shown on this page, in that there are two conveyer belts, one lifting material up from the buckets, the other taking it to a nearby truck, which is included. It's hard to estimate the size but it's probably 50cm high and slightly longer. The colour scheme is mostly grey but with a good smattering of yellow beams and dark blue panels. Definitely best in show for me!


The largest Technic set ever, both in piece count and size, by the sound of it. I remember seeing one of these monsters operating in Germany and they are absolutely massive. A single bucket on the bucket wheel can excavate more material than a large dumper truck can hold!



The dark blue panels are again something to look forward to. I’m surprised by the price though. With this kind of piece count I would have expected this to be the most expensive set in the 2H2016 range, but according to all the information I have seen so far, it isn’t…


  • 42056 'confidential super car'. Exactly what this is was not revealed, and won't be for some months we were told. It's about the size of 8880 and we think it'll be black although, like when prototypes of real cars are test driven, it was covered in 'camouflage' stickers to make it difficult to determine what it is. I can tell you however that it comes with a lot of new curved panels, including mudguards, and weighs in at a massive £250! Chris has fallen in love with the set and thinks it could be a Porsche 911 GT, which is certainly possible.


According to another source, the name for the set is 42056 Confidential Technic Ultramotive, which basically means the same thing: one heck of an expensive supercar. Personally I hope this is not another collaboration for an existing model (Porche, MacLaren, or other). It would drive the price up unnecessarily (or maybe that explains the price tag) for a car which in my opinion is the perfect opportunity to take LEGO supercars to the next level, including all sorts of innovative solutions to include technical detail.

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