Saturday, March 29, 2008

TechnicBRICKs is at LAMLradio!

Imagine which was my surprise when some days ago, I received a mail from James Wadsworth asking if someone at TBs would be interested to be interviewed at LAMLradio and talk about the blog, among other topics. Cool!

LAMLradio is a 'LEGO Talk Podcast' on the blogosphere (The only show devoted to the greatest building toy in the world, LEGO!). It promotes interviews with MOC builders, webmasters of LEGO sites, and general LEGO news on all the greatest themes, from Star Wars and Indiana Jones to Castle and Space.

Off course I accepted, and it was a great experience!
It is now online, for you to listen us.
There we spoke about:
  • An introduction to myself... :P
  • What is ThecnicBRICKs all about
  • Why I like to build, in the TECHNIC theme
  • And a little bit about the LEGO community in Portugal (PLUG)

Don't forget to listen there, despite I've embedded part of the podcast player code below just for fun, as well as many other interesting interviews LAMLradio podcasted.
Thanks James for inviting TechnicBRICKs . It was a pleasure to be on "air", with your great LEGO Talk Podcast!

Note: LAML stands for 'LEGO And More LEGO'.

icon for podpress LAMLradio #30 - TechnicBRICKs: Download

Friday, March 28, 2008

Week TechVideo, 2008 #13 - 3D LEGO plane animation

In the sequence of a previous post [1], this week just another great raytraced animation. A 3D LEGO TECHNIC Plane, this time.

According to the author (Anthony Young) this animation was modeled with 'Autodesk 3ds Max', rendered with 'Brazil Rendering System' and post produced with 'Adobe After Effects Pro'.
The render time was approximately, 2 minutes per frame on a Pentium 4 2.6.

Although it would be interesting to know, how much time this project took overall, as I imagine there was much more work to do then just individual frames rendering...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TBs TechTips 013 - Application of ZNAP flexible axles

Maybe many of you haven't seen before, the part on the image below. It is a flexible ZNAP axle (x334c01) with 26L length (2L and 5L, usable at the ends).
It is similar to every other TECHNIC axle (rigid or soft), but with the characteristic to be strong and simultaneously flexible. It is made of steal and has a thin transparent plastic cover.
This part appeared at just two ZNAP sets in '98, so it turned already to be a part not easy to find.

If you don't need to apply to much load or torque, this could be an elegant solution also for TECHNIC, to transmit rotational movement between not aligned joints, either in parallel axles or not parallel but also not intercepting axles.
Unfortunately, LEGO just made one length (26L) of these, despite too short lengths may be not feasible at least with an identical construction.

Despite some doubt this could be a reliable and strong driving method, Jennifer Clark made some experiments, which claims to be quite successful and described them on this page (bottom section) at her 'LEGO Construction Site' already referred before at TBs [1].

The principle could be also applied to transmit rotational movement in a flexible and compact manner, for constructions like the existing boom and jib on the new 2008 Excavator (8294). This again, if not too much torque is required.
Parts like these, could constitute a solution to deliver torque into the Linear Actuators, without using sequences of rigid axles and Universal Joints, where the path to install those might be not easily available.

The alternative use of soft axles would just work for very low torque applications, because both ends will slide when inserted at parts like axle joiners (either + or x hole).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New PF handset (LEGO 9V Train Communication III)

This is mainly a LEGO Trains topic, but which also relates with Power Functions (PF) and so with TECHNIC.
A new and last LEGO Communication, came up at Eurobricks, regarding the coming new LEGO Train system for 2009.

"LEGO 9V Train Communication III

Dear all,

As promised in the second communication from the 6th of December last year, we will give you the latest information and decisions regarding the development of the new train system based on LEGO Power Functions.

We are still working on the final details and doing a lot of testing of the new Power Functions elements; however, we are again able to give you some more details.

First - we will not change the gauge of the rails so there is no need to be afraid that the L gauge will disappear.

On the rechargeable battery box we have been working to get the best compromise between size and power. It has been decided that we will use a powerful Lithium Polymer battery and the size of the box will be 4 studs wide, 8 studs long and 4 studs high - this should fit in most of the trains.The already existing standard LEGO transformer will be used to recharge and as the power supply.

The existing Power Functions RC Receiver already has integrated speed control. To enable the use of this we will make a newly designed RC handset with speed control capability.

All the above new Train related Power Functions items as well as the current battery train motor (with cross axles and wheels) will be available separately through LEGO Shop@Home before the Summer of 2009.

As you know we arranged a train workshop in November 2007 where ten AFOLs from around the world: Denmark, USA, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and United Kingdom participated, built with the prototype elements and also looked into ideas and possibilities for new train designs using the Power Function elements. Based on the outcome of this workshop and all the other fantastic input we got from the AFOL community over the last 6 months, our designers worked on the first train set using the new Power Functions system. This set will be truly aimed at the AFOL community to acknowledge the importance of the adult LEGO hobbyists in the LEGO train world.

This communication will be the last one regarding the transition from the 9V train system into the new Power Functions train system. Due to all the very valuable AFOL feedback we are far down the road with the development of the new elements and also the new train set. We appreciate all your efforts through this transition which we expect to be fully executed in 2009.

Stay tuned for the new LEGO train system coming in 2009.

Tormod Askildsen, Head of LEGO Community Development"

As main relevant information, we got to know that:

  • New PF elements will be released,
    - Rechargeable battery box fitted with a powerful Lithium Polymer battery. Box size will be: 4x8x4 studs (WxLxH).
    - Newly designed RC Handset with speed control capability.
  • Current PF RC Receiver already has integrated speed control which was already known [1].
    Hope LEGO will then release these elements fixed, regarding the already admitted 'single pin mode' problem [2].
  • Already available standard LEGO transformer will be used to recharge the batteries.
  • L gauge will not disappear, so rails gauge will not change.

I'm glad to see, that the new PF Handset with speed control is close, which certainly will be of great application into TECHNIC designs too. ;)

All the above new Train related Power Functions items will be available separately through LEGO Shop@Home before the Summer of 2009, which also is very positive.
The same will happen with the current battery train motor (with cross axles and wheels), which I believe will replace the set 10153. This makes me to presume, the current 'RC Trains' motor will be also the motor to be used with the new LEGO Train system.

A new LEGO train set, should come in 2009.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Week TechVideo, 2008 #12 - Theo Jansen (Kinetic Sculptor) creations, made with LEGO

Too much in the sense of previous post...

A lot about Kinetic Sculptures, based on the developments from Theo Jansen, and LEGO TECHNIC implementations of his models.
Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist born in 1948 and a Kinetic Sculptor. He builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals and are able to walk using the wind, on the beaches of the Netherlands. His animated works (almost hypnotic to watch) are a fusion of art and engineering.
Read the interview with the artist who believes these "animals" may live in the beaches after is dead.
Also someone referred to him as "A Modern-Day Da Vinci Genius", and so the relation suggested on this post's first line. ;)

Essentially these sculptures are like robots powered by the wind only. However unlike these, some others tried to mimic Theo's designs with LEGO TECHNIC models, but powered with one or more 9V motors. Well, not all, see ahead. ;)
Below the most known TECHNIC implementation by Chris Magno (on the left), together with a magnificent BMW commercial with Theo's original (on the right).

Chris presented his creation, last October at LUGNET, and have several photos at his Brickshelf folder with instructions, for his implementation of TJ's leg. Philo made his own implementation (see the video from his website) and someone tried to make also one that moves with the wind, but well... it moves however can't walk for itself.
If you look for, certainly will find more implementations like these, existing in the net.

From left to right: Chris Magno's TJ walker; Philo's TJ walker; The wind moving version (once the author doesn't have parts enough, it has legs at one side and wheels on the other).

Interesting are also the simulations made on the TJ's leg geometry and parts proportion to make it move smoothly and without significant balance. See a few videos below,

From left to right: Simulation CGI with Softimage|3D and Adobe After Effects; Mechanism simulation made with The Geometer's Sketchpad 4; An horse variation from

The flatten and wider the curve described by tip of the leg, the better it would behave.
At his website, Philo described how he simulated it using Euklides 2.02 geometry freeware.
On the other way you can try it yourself easily, through the controls on the interactive flash animation below.

Original from,

And finally some other videos of Theo Jansen's creations.

From left to right: Animaris Rhinoceros; Strandbeest; A Theo Jansen lecture.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stretch your Brickverse! Get inspired by Leonardo

I've titled it "Stretch your Brickverse", but should have I used "Stretch your Techverse"!?... either way,

In order to celebrate TBs #100 post, after a bit more than five months, I decided to dedicate it to a genius of Engineering and Technique from the ancient times.
Yes... I'm talking about Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote many codices plenty sketches with technical information about machines. Some of those not yet today fully understood regarding their objectives and functionality or working principles (not to spoke about the master incursions at other domains, like the arts, architecture and medicine. See his biography here and here).

Have found the Leonardo3 website, which describes a lot of his advanced ideas and projects. True masterpieces for the time (15th/16th centuries).
Imagined this could a valuable resource of ideas and information for many LEGO TECHNIC fans and builders out there.
I'm pretty sure several of us will find inspiration for some new models, among the more than one hundred of Leonardo's inventions referred and illustrated in this webpage.
A few examples below,

From left to right, top do bottom: Self-supporting Bridge, Lantern or Cage Gear, Aerial Screw, Catapult, Water-powered Saw, Paddleboat, Gearbox, Self-propelling cart, Odometer.

The "Leonardo3" project is based around the central figure of Leonardo da Vinci. Its intention is to create virtual reconstructions of the environments, objects, instruments and laboratories in which some of the most significant ideas in the history of technology were conceived and developed.
Leonardo3 (L3) is an innovative media company (research center and laboratory, creation of exhibitions and museums; editorial, television and multimedia projects; publishing house). L3 is to study, interpret and make artistic and scientific heritage available and enjoyable to the general public through the use of innovative techniques.

Leonardo3 as been promoting exhibitions around the world to show and demonstrate the Leonardo's genius creations (see more

What 'Leonardo3' stands for...

"In our work, we place particular importance on three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions, hence the “3” in the name Leonardo3. At present, L3’s research laboratories and all our production work (physical and three-dimensional models, books, multimedia aids, documentaries, exhibitions and museums) are dedicated to the work of Leonardo da Vinci and our results have aroused wide interest all over the world.

"The name 'Leonardo3' comes from our years of research, research intended to combine the two-dimensional world of Leonardo’s manuscripts with the third dimension of virtual and physical models. It is Leonardo3’s aim to unite research with the popularization of history and science through the use of modern equipment and “entertaining” ways of studying and analyzing history: in a word, 'EDUTAINMENT', which blends the world of EDUCATION with that of ENTERTAINMENT

Build and enjoy! ;)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

TBs TechNuggets 03 - An old Linear Actuator patent from InterLego AG, and more...

In the sequence of posts [1] and [2],...

Having found at USPTO a lot of LEGO Patents online, filed by Interlego A.G. (Switzerland) as Assignee, I started to look more in detail at them and found somevery interesting info from which I'll give an example, here below.

As it as been discussed in several posts here at TBs, there are a few upcoming TECHNIC sets for the 2nd half of 2008 which will bring a new Linear Actuator TECHNIC part. These (shown below) are the Excavator (8294), with two LAs and the Telescopic Handler (8295), with one LA.

Imagine which was my surprise when I found an Interlego patent filed back in 1985, about a very similar idea.
This patent (4.998.903) describes a 'Toy Actuation System' that mimics hydromechanical actuator components in a toy model. A ram to be more precise.
These elements include actuating units comprising each a cylinder casing and a piston rod slidably arranged therein and displaceable by a threaded spindle in engagement with the piston rod. Rotary motion is transmitted to the threaded spindle by a flexible shaft having plug-in connectors at both ends. See more details an images on the excerpts below.

Text not available
Toy actuation system Peter Bolli et al
Text not available
Toy actuation system Peter Bolli et al

Coincidence or not, see the LA application illustrated at Patent page 4. Exactly!... an Excavator like 8294. ;)

So, I do believe this patent concerns with a long dated and original idea, for the actually LEGO TECHNIC LAs, being released.

LAs are applied in reality and with LEGO models, where pneumatics are of no use. Pneumatics tend to have a lot of "bounce" in them which makes them extremely unsuitable for heavy or variable load applications where precision is necessary; and speaking of precision, precise control is impossible.
Internals and working principles for these parts above, should be very similar to the custom ram like (or LA) that Jennifer Clark developed in its All Terrain Crane (Demag AC50-1). See her photos below.

Jennifer used a lead screw (simply a long screw) with a cross axle machined onto the end to allow the connection of standard Lego gears, and this in turn goes into a tubular casing (painted white in the photo) which has a small threaded section at one end and an attachment similar to the LEGO pneumatic cylinders at the other. Depending on the direction it is turned, the lead screw forces the casing upwards or downwards and thus actuates the boom in a manner analogous to the hydraulic on a real crane. Lead screws are not as efficient as hydraulics, but certainly far more practical (and less messy) at used scale!
Read more on Jennifer's webpage referred above.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TBs TechTips 012 - More about Linear Actuators

Returning to the original post about 'Classic and less classic Linear Actuators', we can see that Alex (AVCampos) posted there a comment with another simple and elegant design from himself, for a Linear Actuator (LA), that may haven't got your attention. So I decided to make here a new post with his design together with a few others.

Alex's solution, is more compact and more precise, because there are no half bushes to slide over the axles and the small gears doesn't slip also, by construction. See the render below, which speaks by itself and should be very easy for you to reproduce.

Meanwhile also got a mail from my friend Mauricio (who runs iLegos store at eBay), with his own ideas about the subject. Look at his awesome designs too, despite being just a preliminary test exercise. It's great to see a LA, with such a long rod and PF powered. :)
Something tells me, that after this test, there is more to come in the short term... ;)

...and since we are talking about LAs, take a look on a few more designs copied below and taken from here.

Below also a small video from a TBs reader (Karl Kangur), where he shows its own application for the usage of a LA device.

However I guess most of you are willing to put your hands on the upcoming, integrated LEGO TECHNIC Linear Actuators, like those we can preview on the new Excavator (8294). ;)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Week TechVideo, 2008 #11 - 8660 raytrace animation

If you liked the 'Amazing LEGO TECHNIC raytraced images' post a few months ago, take a look on the video below from the 8660 (Artic Rescue Unit).
A must see and an amazing CG LEGO TECHNIC animation!

Don't know exactly how it was done or which tools were used, but from the author's comments at YouTube it looks like the animation was not done manually, i.e. rotating the moving parts one by one in small steps, to achieve the final animation effect, as I initially thought.
Somehow it seems the tool used, was able to propagate the movement across the gears and into other parts!???
"...I think it is properly rigged to work mechanically. For example, when you set the angle of the top steering wheel all the connected gears are calculated and turn appropriately and end up turning the wheels' steering."

One way or another, it took about 22 days to render the overall video in POV-Ray...
From the above, I guess it was not used in conjunction with the remaining LDraw tools suite.

Meet the LEGO TECHNIC design team

LEGO just created the Design Studio, at their TECHNIC webpage.

There you will,

  • Find the Design Blog, to keep you updated with events and ideas

  • Be able to Ask a Designer. Leave there all you ever wanted to know about LEGO TECHNIC. :)

  • Meet the LEGO TECHNIC design team, at Designer Bios.

    From left to right: NH, Rocco, Kossi, Alfredo, Lasse, Uwe and Goose Valley.
    Lucky guys, these ones!... :P

  • Find the Blog Archive.

  • Find the Building Instructions, for some LEGO TECHNIC models.


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