Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TBs TechPoll 04 (Results) - Which type of new PF elements, would you like to have next?

TBs poll for 'Which type of new PF elements, would you like to have next?' have finished, after three months running and above 900 votes. See poll screenshot below, for the results.



It seems everybody is eagerly waiting to have new PF parts and surprisingly more than half are with the idea of a 'PF Electric Pneumatic Valve' (whether it is feasible in a reasonable size or not...).
This was a surprise for, because I imagined most of you would vote for a PF 'S-Motor' at first, despite many have voted in both for sure.
It was nice also to find out that an hypothetical 'Integrated Pneumatic PF Compressor', is a fairly well desired part, despite the idea for such kind of element being criticized by some (too much specialized part).


Results came mostly around the proposed PF parts on the original poll. However some of you voted in "...other" and came with your own proposals, either in post comments or directly to me via e-mail.
So I'd like to summarize below, some of the PF gadgets which you came up with guys (for a more complete listing, read comments made to the original pool):

- Age van der Ploeg
"Instead of controlling a motor: controlling a double action switch:
pushing controller forward : activating or deactivating switch A
pushing controller backward: activating or deactivating switch B"
If I understood the idea correctly, believe this to be an unlikely part to get as it may already be achieved with independent controls.

- Age van der Ploeg
"A good thing should be a LEGO developed sound block. Being able to not only produce a range a different sounds. But also an import option should be possible to import sounds in the block. The output should be triggerable. For example the faster the truck drives the louder or higher/lower pitch of the sound. The ultimate would be the possibility of speach ( kind of NXT like ) robot possibilities."
It looks cool, but probably not with the functionality you mentioned. Features like import of sounds, pitch control and speech seem to me, more targeted/feasible for an environment like the NXT.
However we don't know yet, for instance what the new WeDo platform will allow to control from the PC.


- Gavin Lock
"a compact gearset with a very high gear ratio in a small amount of space.
For example, most rack-and-pinion steering system using an 8-tooth gear have a total range of less than 1 revolution of that gear to turn from all the way left to all the way right. To gear a PF motor down to that range takes a lot of gears at the moment, which takes a lot of space. A compact, high ratio gearset would fix this and other problems."
It seams the idea here is to have something like x186 from late 70s, but with a design compatible with new PF motors. Interesting but unlikely I believe. At those times, motors were more rotative and actual PF motors have already some internal gear reduction.

- Gavin Lock
"Although - for steering specifically, a PF servo (with analogue sticks on the remote) would be reeeeeaaalllly nice :)
I want both of these, the gearset AND the servo. I can't decide which I want more, though.
"
Indeed!

- AVCampos (PT)
"Radio Communication. Bluetooth would be great (and a way to cater kids fans of computers, like LEGO tried to do with some TECHNIC sets), but maybe, because of licenses and such, the end price of the pieces would be too high. Failing that, why not re-using the Cybermaster protocol, just like current PF communication re-used infrared?
IR is cheap but has the huge disadvantage of line-of-sight: people operating big PF train layouts have to aim the remote for the distant train, and at an exhibition I had to do some gymnastics to be able to control my PF Bulldozer with a lot of people between me and it."
Liked the BT idea and integration with PF, but guess this is not feasible cost wise to be enough profitable for TLG.
Also BT is not so easy to work sometimes, as it should be. Who have never had problems setting up a BT connection...

- Parax (UK)
"I was thinking... a combination compressor switch unit is what is actually required... That would give air to one of two outputs, depending on voltage direction. (a built-in pressure cutoff would make it perfect!) that way effectively a Pole reverser switch can control one (or more) cylinders in both directions. Or two Pneumatics devices from one remote receiver.
The built in cutoff would mean it could be left powered without needing a mechanism to sense and switch. (if the pressure was adjustable via grub screw it would be better still!)"
Guy, you are even crazier than I do... :)
Guess it would be unusable big for usual applications... :P

- Parax (UK)
"As for Motors I would also like to see a micro motor with the same form factor as the end of the LA, (that could accept the LA adapter) or be directly attached to the LA."
And I would love it gets available with something like this too. Not the gearing down, but that it changes the axle direction in a very compact and effective manner.

- Anonymous
"Definitely a double acting ( or at least single acting ) 3 stage telescopic pneumatic cylinder.
it would be great to see one of those on a dump truck."
Cool but not necessarily a PF element. Anyway, keep dreaming, as I do. ;)

"If not that than some sort of flexible wire to transfer rotation and translation movement (something like an upgraded FLEX system )"

- Anonymous
"Compessor. Yes I'd love one of those too. Especially one that fits right onto the front of a PF motor.
Double ended pneumatic with spring return central position.
Longer pneumatics.
Smoother/remote/sequential gear change elements/linkages
..."
I'd love these too! At least something to consider and check feasibility, I'd say.


Now lets hope TLG to be taking notes from some of these ideas...

KLOCKI presents "Home Improvement Contest"

Klocki is presenting a building contest where participants are challenged to build some device that helps the daily life at home.

Due to the nature of the subject, contest is definitly oriented to TECHNIC models and MINDSTORMS as well. And prizes are of course TECHNIC sets.

There are four judges which will select the best 10 models to be included into a one week public poll, where the prizes get assigned. They are: Philo, Sariel and two LEGO TECHNIC Designers from TLG: Anders Gaasedal Christensen and Markus Kossman.

Participants should submit their creations till October 31st, 2008.

For the contest rules detail, read here.

Here you may find a series of some previous MOCs presented at Klocki , that fall in the contest "Home Improvment" theme.

Now, its your turn! Get creating and participate yourself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Week TechVideo, 2008 #39 - Diwheel

...just because we have been talking about adders-subtractors and for those who doesn't use to read Klocki (if any... ), here we have today the video from a fabulous diwheel presented there by Sariel and from his own design.




Which could be better, than author's own words to describe is model.

Diwheel is basically a type of bike with two wheels parallel to each other, and the actual bike residing inside the wheels, kept in place by its low placed center of gravity. If you’re interested, you will find plenty of informations on diwheels and monowheels here.

As for the model itself, it’s key feature is an advanced drivetrain. I’ve used a subtractor, that is a mechanism able to add or subtract the speeds of two motors and distribute it independently to two wheels. Thanks to that, the diwheel is able to quickly drive straight and still make precise turns, which would be otherwise impossible with the wheels so close to each other.

The subtractor functionality can be better understood from the explanations on the video shown above. Also you can find more pictures from this diwheel model, at Sariel's BS folder.

Love, those trans-blue lights...



Via, Klocki

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TBs TechTips 17 - Adder-subtractor module with the new 3L differential, by Philo

By visiting the LUGNET TECHNIC section, found a new post from Philo presenting his own design for an adder-subtractor, and it made me to "anticipate" into TBs something that I had also in the queue to write about, since longtime (the adder-subtractor)...

The adder-subtractor modules are frequently used for Dual Differential Drive (DDD) drivetrains [1, pp 136-138] and consists of a tied dual differential gear setup which turns two inputs (lets say 'd, drive' and 's, steering') into a pair of differentiated outputs: 'd+s' and 'd-s'.
This could be for instance used to build a treaded vehicle like an excavator, where two motors are connected to the drive train inputs as described in the first reference I know, about a LEGO TECHNIC adder-subtractor design [2].




One motor (d) drives the vehicle making it to move forward/backward, while the other one(s) makes the steering function, turning the vehicle to the left or to the right. It is the different speed achieved on each tread, that allows to control the vehicle direction.
While motor 's' is stopped (s=0), just the first differential is driven and vehicle moves straight (each tread moves under control of 'd', at identical velocity). If just motor 's' is running, then only the 2nd differential is driven and vehicle rotates in place.
As soon as both 's' and 'd' motors starts to run simultaneously the subtractor comes to action, both treads don't run at the same velocity any longer ('d+s' not equal to 'd-s') and the vehicle turns while running (just like a car).

The great advantage of this setup is that by actuating only motor 'd', you can now guarantee that the two sides of the treaded vehicle run at the same speed, which does not happen with 2 independent motors (they always have a slight power difference). Also, you could use a less powerful motor for the steering than for the driving, if you wanted to save some weight/space in the vehicle.

Below some interesting designs for DDD drivetrains, using an 'adder-subtractor' mechanism. The first two from Sariel different buildings and a last one from jovel (LowLUG, NL) as used in his TechBall vehicle.
The images redirect to the correspondent folders at BS.




These used the most common LEGO gear differential among the several which have been released and the principles described are perfectly illustrated at the video below from leggor3.




Now back on topic,... it looks like Philippe realized on someone stating that new 3L differential is not suitable for building an adder-subtractor and decided to give it a try. Fortunately it proved to be wrong and results might be seen here.





It is a fact that the new differential lacks some of the characteristics from its predecessor (read "The new differential" section at this TBs previous post) which may be contributing for this opinion. Also the video below from Philippe, makes everything clearer.




Thanks Philippe for once more sharing with us your demonstrative skills.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TBs recommended on 'The Brothers Brick'

Andrew from... well you know... ('The Brothers Brick') caught me in surprise, today!
He made a listing of 10 recommended LEGO Blogs, you should read and imagine who got there...
Yes, because there is LEGO behind SYSTEM, TBs was appointed as 'should read' for all matters about TECHNIC building and builders.



And in the sequence of this, there was issued on 'The Next Step', also a very positive note about TBs .



Obviously not because of referring us, but I must say these are also great and among my favorite LEGO Blogs for almost daily reading!
Off course together with some of the other Blogs that Andrew mentioned too, like: Klocki, Brick Town Talk, VignetteBricks, MicroBricks, MinilandBricks,... yeh, still can't read that blog in Japanese...

This just makes me upset because lately, the rate of new posts here haven't been what I want it to be, due to some time shortage. But lets continue to work and make LEGO TECHNIC to reach more and more far away!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

TBs TechTips 16 - LA discrete design

Exactly six monts after the original post, let me show you the latest Mauricio's creation.



The finished design for his Linear Actuator (LA), made of discrete elements, is an evolution of the initial experiments shown on the original post.
This would be better called a Track Actuator (TA) as he explained to me. Technically a TA consist of a moving "car", while LA features an expanding/contracting rod. Nevertheless it would be easy to attach a rod (axle or bricks) to the moving "car", turning it into a LA too.

This new design also has now already some months and it was originally planned to be a new product release, on sale at Mauricio's store (iLegos). Then we discussed some design details, the time passed and here it is today...
According to Mauricio, this design was inspired on another LA design suggested by Alexandre (AVCampos), that was also shown before here at TBs on the same original post (the render on the post's top image).

Beauty and ingenious this idea, on how the stop points problem at each LA end was solved, to
force the "car" returning automatically on track after the motor direction is reversed.
No need for the LEGO clutch or switches. The springs make a nice work freeing the motor from any kind of extra effort or overload and allowing the "car" back in movement after the motor direction is changed.
We have discussed small problems on the original prototype reliability, which got also a very simple and effective solution. In the end a small touch with a few orange parts to make it in the spirit and hype of the current PF elements (who the hell, gave this Orange ideia...?).

Below, the results.


Week TechVideo, 2008 #38 - Devastator Tank

This week, two nice videos from duku666, featuring his 'Devastator Tank' both in an hill landscape and forest.




Interesting solution presented on this crawler to build tracks over standard wheels with tires.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More LDraw parts available soon

I’m sure many of you know about LDraw, probably the most widespread fan-made way of virtually (and for free!) representing LEGO models. You can see the kind of stuff that can be made with LDraw in other TBs posts, especially this one and this one.

On 2005, the LDraw.org Team decided to move to a new license scheme for the parts library. This new scheme would allow more flexibility for distributing parts, but required each current part's author to agree to the new license terms. This required analysing each and every of the many thousands of parts in the library, and finding and contacting everyone involved in that part's creation. Certainly a daunting task, as you can imagine; so daunting it took about three years for news on this front to appear.

And what news appeared? Exactly what you can expect. Practically all parts have been taken care of, with only a few that need to be re-written due to the authors not being found or not agreeing to the new license terms. You can see the announcement at LUGNET here.

You may ask: "but what does this represent to the common 'ldrawer'?" So far, not much: although some part names and descriptions have been updated, the new parts pack doesn't actually add any new elements to the library. However, the enormous amount of parts waiting for "official status" at the Parts Tracker is now a lot nearer your virtual fingertips. I'm sure you often had to sift the Parts Tracker in search of some part needed to finish your model, and the work didn't end there: often, that part required an unofficial sub-part, which further required other sub-parts, and so on... Now, we can expect this kind of problem to disappear, or, to consider a more realistic scenario, to greatly diminish: parts updates should be much more frequent now.

So, I want to thank the LDraw.org Team for all the hard work they dedicated to this difficult task, and for all the even harder work in keeping and expanding this excellent way of archiving, showing and sharing our LEGO creations.

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