Friday, October 30, 2009

TBs TechChallenge, 2009 - Reverse 8046 (Helicopter)

Many of you should remember about the hype [1] we observed about one year ago, when the images from the 8259 Mini-Bulldozer first appeared.

Since then, I had the idea to repeat it in a planned manner. So, I made a proposal which was very well received and this year, with the sponsorship from the LEGO Technic team, we decided to launch a challenge based on the same idea.

For an "official" (or should I say "sponsored") challenge, we are restricted to release models that do not include new parts. The only 1H2010 small model fitting this criteria is the 8046 (helicopter).

So the challenge TBs has for you, is exactly that!
Reverse and build your own LDraw reproduction from the 8046 main model.

Even so, it does include some other parts not new, but still recent ones and not yet available from LDraw official library. Some were already added to the LDraw Parts Tracker (repository of not yet official parts submitted to LDraw Part Library) and some others were not.
Luckily we got the precious collaboration from Philo, who have designed those missing parts for us and which he made extremely fast and very well done as usual. Thanks Philippe!

So, in case you miss some required parts in your MLCad program or similar, we advise you to look for them into the Parts Tracker list. There you will find for instance:
  • The hook (30395, x154) [PT, BL]
  • Technic, Panel Fairing # 5 Long Smooth, Side A (64681) [PT, BL]
  • Technic, Panel Fairing # 6 Long Smooth, Side B (64393) [PT, BL]
  • Plate, Modified 2 x 16 with Angled Side Extensions and Hole - Rotor Blade (62743) [PT, BL]
  • ...

Don't forget to download also the correspondent required subparts, or to make it easier if you prefer, to download and install the entire Unofficial Part Files at once.
In case you have difficulties with the LDraw unofficial parts and need further help about this, you may find handy some of the recently tutorials here published at TBs [2, 3].

As in every contest, there might be some rules defined, that will help us also later, do determine who's the winner contestant.

Challenge Goal:

  • Reverse engineer and reproduce in LDraw format, the challenge proposed model.
  • The reproduction should be exact (form, color, part list and type of parts used).

Challenge Participation Rules:

  • Every contestant should submit their participation in the form of one LDraw file.
  • Each submission must include one single model only.
  • Contestants should also include one render image from their model, with a minimum resolution of 800x600.
  • The contestants are allowed to submit two individual participations maximum.

  • The flexible parts in the model should be reproduced accordingly. Reproduction should be as close as possible to the original.

  • All the submissions must be sent by e-mail, to the TBs mailbox setup for the purpose of this challenge, with indication of the applicant identification (full name), postal and e-mail addresses.

    Challenge mailbox: challenge2009[at]

Classification Criteria:
  • The winning participation will be the first sent submission, that exactly matches the: form (parts assembled in the same way), part list and colors from the LEGO official model being reproduced.
  • If none submission fills all the criteria above, it will be selected the first submitted that gets closer to the different criteria with this order of importance: form reproduction, part list, color reproduction.

  • All the submissions must be sent to the mailbox above indicated, before the 15th of November 2009, 24:00 CET *.
  • The organization reserves the right to extend the participation period, if there is a reasonable justification for that.
  • Results are expected to be published on CW51 (before Christmas).


  • The winning submission will be awarded with a set sponsored by the LEGO Technic team.
    The prize will be the 1H2010 sensation (8049, Tractor with Log Loader) signed by Lars Jensen who is the LEGO designer author from this set.

  • There might be something additional as a surprise for you, but I'll keep it for a later opportunity.


  • At the event of any possible leak with further credible details about this model, during the participations submission period, any posterior submissions will not be considered for this contest purposes.
  • Any eventual issues not foreseen in these contest rules, shall be evaluated and decided by majority of the TBs editors.
  • The organization reserves the right to cancel the contest at anytime, if participation quality levels are not getting satisfactory.

Take part in the fun!
And do not forget... this unique prize can become yours.

*) Use the link to find the correspondent local time, for your Time Zone.


sunsky said...

Nobody made any comment yet ?
Everybody is busy building 8046 LDraw file ? :)

I am not used to LDraw and so I am just trying to build with real bricks now.

Every participants cheer up !

sqiddster said...

hmm, my only big concern is how to make the flex axles like... that? I have no clue about 3D part modelling

arezey said...

Flex axles can be synthentized (sp..) with LSynth - see

Cool compo - *pushes 57565.dat aside and starts working on this...*

arezey said...

Oh, dah, it does leave a "comment removed by author" message when you delete it.. suppose it's not the Right Way when correcting bad word usage is in question... I'm new to blogspot so please forgive :-)

Conchas said...

I removed it for you! ;)

Santeri said...

Ah - great, thanks! I assume that the one that is the most accurate representation of the Helicopter wins - but what happens if for some reason you get two alike or equally accurate entries?

Conchas said...

A explained in the rules, wins the first to present an EXACT reproduction.

If none, then wins the one getting closer, based on the criteria written.
- Reproduction (parts in the right place)
- Partlist (closest to the correct partlist)
- Color Reproduction (right colors in the right placed)

Flexible parts not modeled correctly, does not count in the reproduction criteria.

Blakbird said...

Done. You've got mail.

RjbsNXT said...

nice one blakbird! looks exactly right as far as i can see ;)

arezey said...

Already?! I just got started... :-D

Blakbird said...

@ RjbsNXT

It **LOOKS** exactly right, but there are a few details that are impossible to determine from the pictures since there is only one angle. That means I had to guess and we'll see who guesses closest to right!

Jacob said...

Oh well, I don't have a chance at this. I look forward to the next (building themed ;] ) challenge, though!

RjbsNXT said...

i guess TLG confirm the winner then.. or does TB have the actual set?

AVCampos said...

Whoever wins, I hope he/she posts a picture of the unique box! :)

And good luck to everyone! Remember that submission speed only counts if there is a draw in accuracy, so take your time and do it as well as you can. :)

Dryw Filtiarn said...

Submitted my entry as well. It's quite hard though to tell/guess how the winch is attached. I tried the best I could, but if it's right? No clue to be honest.

We'll see.

Conchas said...

TB do not have the actual set yet.
But will receive the instructions, in the beginning of December.

So till then, there is no chance to know who have scored it, or not.

arezey said...

Can you post the building instructions when you get them?

Conchas said...

Probably I'll get them in paper, but otherwise and if I get permission, I'll share the file.

Nevertheless it shouldn't take too long after that, for TLG to make them available, as it has happened lately.

Now I also see why was everybody so quiet yesterday, about comments...

It looks guys didn't want to loose time and took the challenge immediately. ;D

Anonymous said...

Your 3L axle with stop has the wrong color.

RjbsNXT said...

I didn't even bother trying when it came to this challenge ... I am ridiculous at LDraw lol , and the speed blakbird posted his I have no chance

Good luck to all competitors :)

Conchas said...

I realized there might be an issue with this yesterday, after publishing the post.

The fact is that we are not yet sure about the color, and must think about an exception to deal with this.

In fact I should add to the regulations something like: "Any eventual issues not foreseen in these contest rules, shall be evaluated and decided by majority of the TBs editors".

Conchas said...


nothing guaranties the others, that the options and guesses from Blakbird, are the most accurate.
So till the end, everyone has a chance here! ;)

RjbsNXT said...

I have a trick up my sleeve bbut I am just so terrible at LDraw XD

I might have a go later today when I get all my other stuff done

arezey said...

Dah. I just can't figure out how the main part of the helicopter is done. I fear I can't enter. :-(

"Nevertheless it shouldn't take too long after that, for TLG to make them available, as it has happened lately."
They came out roughly a month after release - it's a little 'too long' to my liking.. ;-P

sarafiel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarafiel said...

I try to this mission. Thank you TB!! It is very funny mission.
( ^o^)=b

Conchas said...

I got it!

Even instructions, you have included!... ;D

Good work!

Philo said...

A very interesting challenge indeed. I won't participate since I know this contest for some time, and it would be unfair... but I built a physical model of the helicopter, I think I got everything except the key of this contest: the winch. I have yet to figure out a good solution!

Anonymous said...

I tink also many people will forget the extra half bush that sits next to the thin 12z gear.

I think the winch will be hold just by a bush on an axle ( rope goes through the bush ).

blakbird said...

@ arezey

At first I couldn't figure out how the main part of the helicopter was done either, but in a way it builds itself. If you start by putting in the pieces you can see from the picture in your LDraw file, as you start rotating around you will see the ways the other pieces have to go in order for it to fit together. If you are familiar with the library of Technic parts, there is often only one obvious way it can work. It is a fun process!

arezey said...

True. But often I can't see that only one obvious way (but I'm building that up!) - which is perhaps the main reason why you'll have a really big lot of trouble finding any models of mine. (if we don't count the red car I posted on a previous comment - it's an anomalic exception) :-)

By the way - how on earth do you manage to make those photo-like renderings? I have tried just about every l3p option and nothing really helps. :?

Parax said...

@Blackbird is that a deliberate error in your model? Are you trying to give others a chance?
I won't point it out just yet!

sqiddster said...

Okay, a couple questions...
first, will we be penalised for slight misplacement of arts (I'm a newbie to MLCad) ie the pins don't fit exactly in the holes. Also is it okay to use 'dark grey' in place of 'dark bluish grey' and 'light grey' in place of 'light bluish grey' ? thanks.

Conchas said...

Yes the new gray colors maybe an issue with MLCad.
For the purpose of this contest, both old and new grays, are Ok!

The precise placement of pins is easy if you define an appropriate grid or enable it. Nevertheless small misalignments are behind the purpose of this challenge and may be accepted is my perspective.

Jetro said...

@Paraz (&Blakbird)
I may have to try to convince Blakbird to give me a hand with a (much) later part of the LDraw tutorial ;D

blakbird said...

@ arezey
The methods I use for my renders are rather complicated and too lengthy to describe here. L3P (or LDview) is only the beginning. I also change the colors, the lighting, and use a High Dynamic Range probe. Maybe I'll do a tutorial some day!

I did not make any deliberate errors. Now you have me worried!!

arezey said...

Blakbird, I do myself see one eye-pointing defect..

About bluish gray colors: light bluish gray (or mid-stone) can be configured quite easily: make a new MLCad model (it can be anything, even one single brick) and save it. Then open it in a text editor and right after the "Unofficial Model" line copy/paste the following three lines:
0 COLOR 71 Light-Blu-Gray 0 163 162 164 255 163 162 164 255
0 COLOR 72 Dark-Blu-Gray 0 99 95 97 255 99 95 97 255
0 COLOR 151 VL-Blu-Gray 8 229 228 222 255 229 228 222 255

Now open up the model in MLCad again and select a/the brick in there. Go into the more colors dialog and hit "Save as default colors" - you can now use the bluish gray colors (as you might guess, it uses color numbers 71, 72 and 151.)

You can also replace the colors in the color toolbar by right-clicking on the color (you might want to use this to change the old gray to light blu-gray and so on, I myself redid the whole toolbar! :) ) Also any part using stone colors (such as the Power Functions) will now appear in MLCad correctly!

Conchas said...

Maybe at the proper time, we can convince Blakbird to write a "Render Pro" post, for the TBs LDraw Tutorial series, as guest Blogger. ;)

blakbird said...

Apparently you guys have better eyes than me, because I stared at the photo and my render side by side for about 20 minutes, and I can't find any differences except that the rotors are rotated to a different angle and the winch is deployed a different length.

sqiddster said...

two more questions :)
first, what about the 3L axle with stud at the back, which we all know is a strange alien colour... what should we colour it?
Also, how in thw world do you do lego string digitally :O

Conchas said...

As Dryw stated today in the respective topic, the color is 'Dark Tan'.

Nevertheless, this part will be accepted in 'Dark Tan', 'Dark Gray' or 'Dark Bluish Gray', since there was no sure about the color, when this contest started.

Al said...

GGGGGAAAAAHHHHHHH! I can't get this LSynth thing to work, the add command button is greyed out all the time! (This is the first full model in ldraw!) I've got the rest of the model built. I am trying but I don't think i'll get it in time. meh!

@ blakbird

Awsome render. At first glance I thought you just posted the actual picture of the set. Nice one!

Al said...

I meant to say this is MY first model in LDraw.

Jetro said...

Have a look at this:

Anonymous said...


I think the axle connecting the rear propeller looks like dark gray instead of black. I am sure this is just because of the lighting, but it may be the deliberate 'error' which Parax is refering to. After all, a dark gray 4L axle (without stop) would have to be a deliberate error.

Mortymore said...

Only now I realised that the image of the helicopter box posted here, has is link to Amazon, so if you need a full big sized picture of it, you have it here:

Good luck everybody

Conchas said...

Thanks Mortymore!

I've just updated the image link on the post.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous- tipping off BB

Best not to give too many clues to BB! let others have a chance! (he has enough Lego already!)

blakbird said...

There is no such thing as enough LEGO. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Actually I could do with a tutorial on how to install MLCad..

ML Cad installs to
LDView Installs to
C:\Program Files (x86)\LDView
Lsynth should be installed in:

Than I need the official parts
and some others individually
and another set of unnofficial parts

then i need to edit ini files..
to include a folder that is a default but doesn't exist...

Then perhaps I can start as long as I dont want the right colours... or to be able to rotate a piece, apparantly there is a helper that needs to be installed where this time??

then I notice I have two of some parts one of others.. sometimes two in different places! oh and a bunch of part not found errors.

This software doesn't know the meaning of continuity! perhaps it needs some standards..

Argh! and I haven't started with placing pieces yet.

sheesh was 15th Nov Long enough?

Conchas said...

LOL, maybe not enough for you this time, if you just started.

But certainly you'll be better qualified the next time. ;)

Jetro said...

Yes, it's a bit of a mess, but they are working on an update of the installer I mentioned in the first part of the tutorial that should include all the latest versions of the important apps. Until then... patience :D

sqiddster said...

I was reading through the comments, and saw that you don't actually have the instructions.
There is a piece which I think would be used for the winch, but it has not been modelled in LDraw... I assumed that you guys had known the partslist and had had all parts modelled (like philo so kindly helped with the four parts mentioned), so I thought that it was not an option.
Any thoughts?
Thanks, sqiddster (The guy with all the questions ;))

AVCampos said...

I guess you can send the file with your best approximation, and mention the part that you don't think is right: when we receive the instructions, you shouldn't be penalised if you're right. :)

Al said...

I am also brand new to MLcad and it is indeed a mess although what do you expect for free !^).

I have got it all working and I sussed the model out quite quickly. However after 4 days of trying I just can't get LSynth to work to finish the model. Thankyou Jetro for the link but regrettably i'm gonna have to give up on this challenge. Good luck to everyone else (and hope you spot that mistake blackbird!) 8^).

Parax said...

squidster I had the same thought! I know exactly What Piece You Mean! but as its not there Im going to use a shorter version!
Think about it! - or try and build it! it might even work better by adding friction!!! did I give too much away?

I would include the optional use of the new part in your submission email!

Parax said...


Part Rotation Tip!

yes rotating a single part can be a nightmare! so group it with some others before you rotate the group. the Rotation Matrix resets when you create a Group so you can then rotate it more simply in just one dimension.

sqiddster said...

Thanks, everyone, but.. I can't get LSynth working properly so I will have to give up on this challenge.
Its a shame, I was so close

I know it's a big ask, but do you think, for the sake of Al and I and others who are not that good with computers, could we just place the end pieces of the flex axles?

Thanks again, sqiddster.

arezey said...

I'm giving up as well - even though I would manage to make the model otherwise (I still have no idea how to make the winch) I have big problems with LSynth as well - it doesn't work under Linux. :-(

Conchas said...

Despite hardly qualifying for the prize according to the published rules (which hopefully you understand), of course your contributions would be welcome.

At least I plan to publish all them here at a later phase, if not too much.

Jetro said...

@azarey Have you tried Wine?

Jetro said...

If you have followed the steps in the Holly-wood tutorial there's no reason why it shouldn't work. Make sure you set the absolute path to the location of your LSynth install in MLCad.ini and use quotation marks e.g.

%PATH = "C:\Program Files\LSynth"

arezey said...

"Have you tried Wine?" How do you think I run MLCad? :-)

Actually now that I retried it (it has been months since I last tried), turned out that it's because I'm missing the Microsoft libraries mentioned on Clague's page. But the libraries won't install because "it can't find a proper volume for extraction". :?

So... anybody knowing of a zip version of these libraries or anything?

Jetro said...

I know for a fact there are 2 Mac OS X builds of LSynth so it should be possible to create a Linux build as well... (I've asked so let's see what the answer is)

blakbird said...

Nobody should have to quit the competition just because they can't get LSynth to work. If you have really tried everything and can't get it to work, feel free to send your file to me with the LSynth constraints in it. I will synthesize and send it back to you. I promise not to steal any ideas because I have already entered!

Don't forget that even if you can't get LSynth to run through MLCad, you can always launch it from the command line. That's what I used to do.

By the way, I have no idea what the "error" in my submission is, but I won't be changing anything. My entry stands as submitted.

Good luck everyone!

sqiddster said...

Thank you for your amazing generosity, Blakbird :) but mine doesn't even work to set up the constraints :( I suppose it would be cheating to send the model without any constraints?
Many thanks, sqiddster

sqiddster said...

seconds after posting, I saw your error! since you have been so generous I will let you know.
With the tilted part beside the cockpit, the 3L axle is black, not grey :(

Jetro said...

@squidster If you cannot set up the constraints can you explain why that is. Maybe you haven't installed them or cannot find them...

arezey said...

It's here when I figure out what the winch is. I guess I can still try and try to synthentize the flex-axles manually. Or get them synthed with blakbird. (thanks for the offer!) :-)

I guess I can reveal the error I noticed, then... the triple cross block (63869.dat) is the wrong way around.

Philo said...

Arezey, you could also "easily" synthetize the flex axles using

arezey said...

I did have a couple of thoughts about pathtruder, too. It may now be possible that I even finish this one! :-)

Parax said...

Ahh squidster.. you give it all away!! thats the one I had!!
Lucky I submitted yesterday!

blakbird said...

@ squiddster
Go ahead and send me the file without the constraints. It will only take me a couple of minutes to synthesize the axles. Please not you will NEED the LS40.dat and LS41.dat parts from LSynth installed to even see the results. LDView will not download these for you. Make sure they are in your parts folder.

The axle you refer to only looks black in the render because no light is shining in there. I can assure you that it is color 71 light bluish gray!

@ arezey
I can't see anything wrong with the triple cross block.

Conchas said...

It looks you guys, are playing mindwar with BB. ;D

Al said...

Blakbird that is a very generous offer but like sqiddster I can't set up any constraints or anything (I must have followed the tutorial to the letter 100 times, i'm just lost). For you to do anymore would just be plain cheating but thankyou very much.

BTW Blakbird i'm not sure if it's the way you have rendered it but some parts, particularly the rear wing thingy, appears to be white and not grey like you intended it to be!

arezey said...


By the way, what are these constraints I keep reading about? :?

Parax said...

LSynth I did It My Way! from a mix of tutorials heres what I did..

***I cant post the [LessThan] symbol here so I used [LessThan] instead! replace [LessThan] with leftversion of >!***

Install Lsynth (here) I put it in C:\LDraw\Apps\LSynth - And the Visual C++ Runtime files!
Download and unzip the Constraints (here) into the \Unofficial\LSynth\ Folder (you may need to create it!) (Mine is C:\LDraw\Unofficial\LSynth\ )

EDIT The MLCad.ini: (Mine is C:\LDraw\Apps\MLCad\MLcad.ini)
Check the LSynth path, and the scan folders for LSynth (7 on my list) Also check you have the flex axle and the String in the Command List! (String was not on my list) if not add them like this:
1 = SHOW [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>Parts
2 = HIDE [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>Parts\s
4 = HIDE [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>P\48
5 = SHOW [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>Unofficial\Parts
6 = HIDE [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>Unofficial\P
7 = SHOW [LessThan]LDRAWDIR>Unofficial\LSynth

%PATH =C:\LDraw\Apps\LSynth

Next add Lsynth to the MLCad Parts tree (In MLCad of course)
Menu>Settings>Parts tree>tree configuration
Name:LSynth SearchString:[LessThan]LSynth

Then rescan the parts, this is important!
Menu>File>scan parts

The Lsynth tree should automagically be populated with the required constraints a + appears! (if not your mlcad.ini scan paths do not match where you put the constraints when you unzipped them!)

To use the Flex axle you need to Add the command (Menu>Extras>Lsynth>Add Command>FLEXIBLE_AXLE) then use the Type 2 Hose Constraints!

To use the String you need to Add the command (Menu>Extras>Lsynth>Add Command>STRING_HOSE) then use the Type 4 string constraints!

You must have all the constraints between the SynthShow and SynthEnd tags in the parts List!

You can Colour the First Constraint Green Last Constraint Red as it helps to see what you are doing! (its not important but it helps!)

Then when you are done Run LSynth
Menu>Extras>LSynth>Run LSynth


BTW SAVE Frequently! and you'll redo Less Often!

FINALLY I found that LDraw would not display the Lsynth Parts! and since I could not find an ldraw ini, I just copied them into the \Unofficial\Parts\s Folder which did the trick Ldraw could find what it needed and displayed the model correctly..

No Doubt I've done it all wrong! but it worked for me, so it might for you too.


Parax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conchas said...


despite it is absolutely irrelevant from the assembling perspective, also the mold injection mark, is not modeled in LDraw parts.
So it is obvious you won't see it from Blakbird render and any other. ;)

Parax said...

@arezey surely you mean to draw BB's attention here

Conchas said...

@Parax, arezey,

if you are right, that hurts!...

Must take a look into blackbird's file when I get some more time available (I'm going to setup a LEGO exhibition in the next few days).

But surely, I won't disclose anything before time. ;)

arezey said...

Wtf? The two sides of the triple cross block are not at all same - and the one in BB's helicopter is the wrong way around.

Parax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blakbird said...

You guys are certainly keeping me thinking!!

@ Al
Yes, I'm aware that some of the rear parts look white, but they are actually light bley. They only look that way because a light source is reflecting directly off of them. Here is a picture directly from LDView which should give you a better idea of the colors.

@ arezey
Thanks for the image. I actually had no idea that this part was not symmetric. I guess I learned something new! In any case, I don't think part rotation counts as long as it is assembled correctly.

Regarding constraints, these are the parts LS01-LS08.dat. These are used prior to running LSynth to tell it where the ends (or intermediate control points) of the flex part are. Most of the work is involved in getting these correctly placed.

@ Parax
Glad you figured it out and thanks for posting those instructions. Luckily you only need to do the setup once.

Also thanks for the link to the picture. As I mentioned earlier, this is just an artifact of the render. I checked the model file and it that axle is correctly bley.

But the fact that these items are not really errors should not discourage anyone. I can think of one thing I messed up. There are a couple of parts which are hidden in the images which I made the wrong color. I forgot that TLG had made them a new "color coded" color recently and I made them the old color. Maybe this means I'll lose. I guess we'll see!

Jetro said...

Just an update on LSynth - there is no linux version available for the current version but once version 3.1 is launched (which should happen shortly) a tarball will be made available.

b0kY said...

I have just started using LDraw, yesterday, it is pretty easy, but I am killing myself with how to BEND THOSE FLEX AXLES!
Can anyone tell me?

Jetro said...

Read Parax's very short tutorial in one of the previous comments ;)

In a couple of weeks I will post a more exhaustive tutorial, but this will not happen before the deadline of this challenge

Parax said...

Dont just use mine! Hollywoods is very good the pictures really help I just summerised it and covered a couple of missing bits (like adding the string command!)

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