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]technicbricks.com

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.

Schedules:
  • 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).

Prize:

  • 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.

Exceptions:

  • 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.

LDraw Tutorial - Part 3

Quick unofficial parts with LDView.

Following Jetro's great article about grabbing parts from the LDraw Parts Tracker, I'd like to make a small addition.

One of the programs in the LDraw Installer you can choose to install is LDView, a fast 3D viewer for LDraw files. However, the version included is quite old, and it's better to avoid installing it, and instead choose the separate, newest version from its site.

Why do this? Because the newer versions have, among other nifty stuff, a very useful feature: automatic part downloading.

So, what does it do? In a nutshell, LDView tries to download from the Parts Tracker anything you require to view a model and you don't already have.

LDView parts downloads go in the "Unofficial" folder. But, like Jetro wrote, if you want to use them in your models, you'll have to do some text editing.

Since some MLCad installations don't include the "MLCad.ini" file, you may download the latest version from Holly-Wood's site (by the way, there you can also find another great tutorial about configuring MLCad for unofficial parts). Then, once you have the file, you can do the editing to tell MLCad to search for parts in the "Unofficial" folder.

Once you have the file set up, you may save it and close it. Now, all you need is to download, install and run LDView. You can then tinker with the settings, but the defaults will do nicely for downloading parts you need.



When LDView opens a file that requires a part that isn't already on your computer, it will try to download it, as well as anything that part requires. Notice the bottom-left corner on this screenshot.



There you go! Now, if you open MLCad (if you already had it open, you'll have to close it and open it again for it to re-scan the parts folders), you'll see the new part(s), waiting to be used in other models you create.



Note that, if LDView tries to download something and it can't (your Internet connection is down, for example), it disables the automatic part downloading, and you have to re-enable it again.



If you want to be able to use a part that isn't already in an LDraw file you have, the process is a little bit trickier: you'll still have to find the part yourself on the Parts Tracker and download it to the "Unofficial" folder. Only then you can use LDView to open the part file as you open any other LDraw file to get anything else it might need.

This is the way I do it; you may find some other method that's more comfortable to you:

Let's suppose I want to reproduce the die Fernando told us about. For that, I'll need the new small frame, which (at the time I'm writing this), still isn't an official part.



First, if I don't already know the part number, I try to search for a LEGO set that uses it. The 8265 Front Loader has it, so I go to its inventory on Peeron, and note the part number: 64179. Then I go to the Parts Tracker and search for this reference.


(note that, in some cases, the part numbers on Peeron and the Parts Tracker may not coincide: in this case, you may try searching for the part name instead)

Luckily, Santeri Piippo already modelled this part and uploaded it to the Parts Tracker. The part page reports that it needs other unofficial sub-parts, which in turn may need yet more sub-parts, and so on. But I don't need to worry about all that: that's LDView's job. I click "Download", and then choose the "Unofficial\Parts" folder, the one that was configured in the "MLCad.ini" file earlier.



Next, I open the part in LDView. It reports it's trying to download all the necessary sub-parts and saving them in the right places. When it finishes, it shows the finished part.



Now, what happens when I run MLCad? Voilà, the frame is there, all ready for some serious virtual building!



Let's see what comes out of your virtual beams and gears! Cool

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TBs TechChallenge, 2009 - Heads-up!

We have been working hard preparing this...

The 1st TechChallenge is about to begin!
Don't forget to check out TBs tomorrow (2009.Oct.30) at 16:00 CET*.


Join the fun and apply for a cool prize.
*) Use the link to find the correspondent local time, for your Time Zone.

LDraw Tutorial - Part 2

Do you miss parts? In this second part of the tutorial you will learn how to solve this problem.

In the first part of this LDraw tutorial we had a look at the basic options of one of the fundamental tools in the LDraw universe: Mike’s LEGO CAD or MLCad, created by Michael Lachman toward the end of the 90s. Despite it being a relatively simple program to use it has many options that make it possible to create advanced constructions with the LDraw parts library.

If you have already started to tinker with LDraw, maybe trying to document your own MOCs you will probably have run into some minor problems. One of them no doubt related to the fact that you couldn’t seem to locate the part you need.


Increasing the LDraw library

Although there are thousands of parts in the LDraw library, after a basic install you will soon find you miss some parts. It is quite likely that the part you are looking for already exists for LDraw. So why isn't it in the library you have just installed? This is due to the fact that each year LEGO produces new parts, and although these parts are gradually translated to the LDraw format, the construction process and the approval of the new designs by the LDraw foundation take time.

For some time the LDraw foundation didn’t release new part updates due to some legal restrictions related to the ownership of the virtual part definitions, but finally towards the end of 2008 an update was released and this year 2 new part updates have been presented. More are bound to come out as time goes by*. You can find these updates on the LDraw.org website [1]. They come in two formats:

  1. A windows executable. Provided you didn’t change the location of the LDraw parts library on your computer it is as simple as downloading and double clicking on the file. You only need the latest version of this executable file as it contains the full library of official parts.

  2. A zip file. This file can be used on any OS. First you need to unzip the file in the appropriate location (for Windows directly in C:\LDraw – you can also extract it somewhere else and then cut and paste it into this location). After that you need to either run MKLIST.EXE (which is located in C:\LDraw) or tell MLCad to scan for new parts (File > Scan Parts). MKLIST.EXE will ask you whether you want to sort parts by [N]umber or [D]escription. Type “N” and hit enter. It will probably complain a couple of times about filenames that are too long, but all you need to do is hit enter until the window closes by itself.

Another reason why a part may not be available is that parts (and their subparts) must be certified (basically this is a quality inspection process) before they can be made available officially. However, many as yet uncertified parts are available as unofficial parts. As a general rule, these parts are well designed and won't give you any problems when building a model, but there is a minimal possibility that the parts may be revised later on so the LDraw foundation advises that you use these parts at your own risk. Since these parts may be altered before they are approved, it is good practice to include them in the designs they have been used in. You can use MPDWizard to do this in a very easy way, but more about that later on.

It is becoming standard practice not to mix unofficial parts with official ones, but rather to place them in a separate folder named “Unofficial”.

Both if you want a single unofficial part or would like to get all of them at once, the first step is to visit the LDraw website and more specifically the Parts Tracker. There you can download the individual parts you need or a Zip file with all the unofficial files. This file is updated regularly to include the latest additions and the changes/improvements that have been made in some of the existing files.

If you decide to download only the parts you really need you should follow these steps:
  • Locate the part you are looking for by typing its number in the search box at the top right of the Parts Tracker page and click 'Go' (for example 32030).
  • Once you have found the part right-click on the 'download' link you will find right under the name of the file you are going to download and save it in the location mentioned just before that name (in this case it says Unofficial File parts/32030.dat which means you should save the file in the ‘parts’ folder inside the LDRAW folder where you installed the library. It is becoming standard practice not to mix unofficial parts with official ones, but rather to place them in a separate folder. If you decide to do so make sure to read the paragraph below about the “Unofficial” folder.)
  • Check if the file has any dependencies by looking under the heading “Required (unofficial) subfiles” and save each of the files that appear under this heading in the location specified in the name. Some of the files may already be present in your installation, but you need to check and make sure (just download and overwrite).
  • Before you can start using the parts you need to update the list of parts of your LDraw. Traditionally this was done in MSDOS, but fortunately it is also possible to do so inside MLCad. To do so, open the application and go to File > Scan parts. It may take some time to do a complete inventory of the parts on your system, depending on how many parts you have and the speed of your computer. After that, a window will open informing you that new parts have been found and asking you if you want to write a new Parts.lst file. Click on 'yes'. You can now start to use the new parts.

If you decide to download the file that contains all the unofficial parts you will have to unzip it inside your LDraw folder and follow the last of the steps above.




A word of warning

If you keep official and unofficial files separate it may happen that after an official update is released some files are duplicated: once as unofficial and once as official. In rare cases an unofficial file may be an update on an official file that has not been re-released yet, but usually these duplicate entries mean you should clean up your unofficial files folders. Unless they contain elements that did not come directly from the parts tracker, you may want to completely purge these files and re-download the full unofficial zip-file which will have been updated to reflect the changes. Remember to re-scan your parts library every time you make a change to it.


The “Unofficial” folder

Because unofficial parts may change and sometimes use uncertified subfiles, it is a good idea not to mix them with official parts. To this end it is becoming standard practice to place unofficial files in a separate folder inside the LDraw tree. This folder contains a copy of the directory structure the official parts are placed in, which is the following:

C:\LDraw\P
C:\LDraw\P\48
C:\LDraw\PARTS
C:\LDraw\PARTS\S

So the unofficial files are stored in:

C:\LDraw\Unofficial\p
C:\LDraw\Unofficial\p\48
C:\LDraw\Unofficial\parts
C:\LDraw\Unofficial\parts\s

Before you can use the parts located in this “Unofficial” folder you need to inform MLCad of its existence. In order to do so you need to make a few small changes to the MLCad.ini file, that is located at C:\LDraw\Apps\MLCad. You can open the file with a text editor. Near the end of the file you will find the heading [SCAN_ORDER]. You need to add the following lines under this heading:

3 = SHOW Unofficial\Parts
4 = HIDE Unofficial\P

If the location of your LDraw folder is anything else than C:\LDraw you will have to substitute for the absolute path of the location of your installation.

Later versions of MLCad.ini already come prepared for this change and you may simply have to delete the semi-colon at the beginning of the line to enable the search path for MLCad. The numbers at the beginning of the line should be the next available numbers for the list in your MLCad.ini. For example, if you already have 4 lines, simply change the numbers to 5 and 6.


A note about part numbers

How to know what part you need? You probably know what the part looks like and you may have an idea of how it may have been named, but part numbers and names aren’t always that obvious. When you order a replacement part from LEGO you need to use the 7 digit part code you find in the inventory which is usually at the end of the first instruction booklet. However, this number identifies a specific part in a specific colour and this code is not used by LDraw where parts are not related to a specific colour. On some parts you may have seen a 4 or 5 digit number ‘engraved’ in the plastic. This is the number LDraw uses. If you can’t find the number of the part your best option is to go to Peeron or Bricklink and identify the part in the inventory of one of the sets that contains it. However, the naming conventions of Peeron and BL aren’t the same and neither is the part number in every occasion (this is especially true of older parts). To make matters worse, LDraw doesn’t follow either one of these conventions but rather has a convention of its own. In rare cases a part may have a different number in all three systems, but usually LDraw concords with at least one of the other inventory systems.



*) Upon announcing the second LDraw Parts update for 2009 Chris Dee mentioned there is a third update in the making – http://news.lugnet.com/cad/?n=16421

LEGO Power Functions RC Protocol and RC Receiver, updates

Today LEGO Ambassadors received information about the long waited update, for the LPF RC Receiver and also the respective RC Protocol document.
Below, the official announcement from the Power Functions Product Manager (Gaute Munch).


The LEGO Group has released a new version of the LEGO Power Functions RC Receiver (identified by a short blink on the green LED when power is connected).

The new version of the RC Receiver supports all functionality of the LPF RC protocol and we have added a command to access the extra address space.


We are hereby offering you an updated version of the LPF RC protocol documentation.


Please feel free to use any information from the protocol document for personal, non-commercial use only, provided you keep intact copyright, trademarks and other proprietary rights of the LEGO Group.



Gaute Munch

The LEGO Group



While not mentioned, the question now is to get confirmation whether:

  • the previously detected failure about the 'single pin mode' was also fixed with this release or not? (expected but not yet confirmed)
  • the new element will get a new product code?
  • immediate orders of product 8884 to S@H, will be already dispatched with the new version of the affected element, or if there is still stock of the old element to exhaust?

...clarification request addressed to TLG.


Meanwhile you can download the new LPF RC Protocol document (version 1.10).



Edit #1:
Below the clarifications provided by Gaute Munch, to the questions raised.
  • The new version of the RC Receiver supports all functionality of the LPF RC protocol including ‘single pin mode’.
  • The product code is the same #8884 – the new item numbers are 4566735 (8884-1) and 4566756 (58123c01).
  • Orders through LEGO shop online for #8884 will provide the new version.

Last Update: 2009.Oct.30 10:10 CET



Edit #2:
Some time later it was found that the documentation originally released (version 1.10) was incorrect, and it was replaced by an updated document (version 1.20), which the one that describes the protocol implemented with the RC Receivers currently in production.

Last Update: 2012.Jun.30 00:30 CET

Monday, October 26, 2009

TBs TechTOC 07 - CROWKILLERS

There is no other possible title for this post... than the well known name!

...Which hard-core Technic fan, doesn't know about his work on amazing cars from these: BS folder and MOCpages?
Nevertheless a big miss here at TBs up to the present day - I should punish myself for not having written about him and his creations before, but I was felling it was somehow a challenge and wanted to spend sometime with it. So it has been something always pushed for the "next" week...
This in fact just made my job harder, as the longer I postpone it, the more will be the cars that I'll have to look in.
So finally here it goes!

Paul Boratko (aka Crowkillers) has been building large LEGO Technic Supercars, for years now.
For many he might be considered like a Master or even God, due to the high number and quality of Technic Supercars he built with LEGO bricks. A largely deserved recognition I'd say.

I always questioned myself where to start and if I should focus on a single model, or give an overview from his extensive work. So I decided to go for both at last.



Recently LEGO have introduced the Lamborghini license in the Racers theme and many of us are guessing, they maybe releasing next a large Lamborghini car to succeed the previous Ferraris (8653 Enzo and 8145 GTB Fiorano) in this theme.

By coincidence or not, in his most recent work, Paul made his own 1:10 scale Lamborghini Gallardo version. Delight yourself!






A red car, which is not a dominant color for this Italian car constructor, but since Paul decided to make extensive use of the new Technic smooth panels, this should have been a "must be" decision. It is the only color for which we have all these panel variants available to the moment.

As for the technical data it includes:
  • AWD with 3 differentials
  • V-10 engine
  • Working HOG steering
  • Opening rear engine compartment
  • Opening doors
  • Completely studless design
  • Over 1300 parts were used in this model

At a 1:10 scale with LEGO and functional details, something had to be sacrificed. In the present case it was the gearbox and working suspensions, which remained out of this model.

One common characteristic of some Paul's cars is the extremely high part count and detailed chassis made of bricks. This could sometimes make them to have a bit less Technic look, for some. However the usage of the new Technic panels in this Gallardo model, give it a different look from what's usual in Paul's models.
This is probably the Paul's car which looks closer, to the design style actually in use by official Technic models made from TLG. And also probably one of his lowest part count cars.

Many other photos from this Gallardo model can be seen at Crowkillers' Brickshelf folder.
Inclusive a near stepwise series of photos, with a kind of building instructions or modules, for those who may want to attempt his own replica.

But you don't have too!... Just because Paul is actually auctioning this model at ebay (click on the ebay logo below and get something to dream with...).





One point is that the cars from this segment are all but true LEGO Technic Supercars, like in the old Technic days, for the frustration of many... At least those who have been demanding a new Supercar from TLG, since '99 or '01, if we admit to include the 4x4 Off-Roader (8466) in the same category.

In this segment Paul has an extensive work, of many other amazing cars, he has been building since some years.
All of them in the truly Supercar class segment, with all that's required and optional:
  • Up to V12 engines
  • Up to 6+R transmissions
  • Full working wishbone suspensions
  • AWD
  • HoG steering, plus functional steering wheel
  • A diverse style of opening doors
  • Flip up headlights
  • Detachable bodies
  • What else?...

There are many magnificent details into Paul's work and it is not easy to select just a few. So let me highlight two of his models, from different enough separated periods in his "career".


Deluxe Supercar buitl in 2006. Completely studless chassis and body, damped shock assisted opening doors, hatch and hood, AWD, 5 speed tranny with reverse, HoG steering and flip up headlights.



Studless Concept from 2009. innovative body can be removed as one separate unit, 5 speed plus reverse, full suspension, HoG steering. Chrome plated wheels by www.chrometechusa.com


...and just remember in images, some of his other admirable cars.




However Paul's work, doesn't resume to the Supercars. There are also many interesting replicas that he made, from motors of famous cars. So I leave you with a few images from them.


Corvette LS6 V8, Lamborghini Diablo V-12, Dodge Viper V-10, Mustang Cobra Supercharged V8, Ferrari F430, one Custom V12 engine and another version for the Corvette engine.



Tremendous work, isn't it?
Enjoy and excel!

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