Monday, January 31, 2011

Pneumatic control for NXT

On my regular visits to website, to seek for new developments, I found today a new product on the go, in their "Coming Soon ..." section.

Yes, a pneumatic control device for NXT!

Mindsensors commercializes several RC servo kits to use with NXT, for long. But this is going to be a Servo Operated Pneumatic Valve to be controlled from NXT using their new NXT Servo controller (NXTServo-v2).
The kit will include the valve, servo and necessary hardware and instructions to assemble the valve. When compared to other mindsensors servo kits, it is not much more than the RC servo with a specific mounting plate that allows to fix one pneumatic valve, and a special horn plate designed to pair with the valve lever movements.
It is however not indicated when the new kit will become commercially available.

It is not yet the integrated PF electro-valves, that I keep dreaming with... nor nothing we can't build with LEGO Technic discrete parts, but still an interesting new development for those willing to integrate MINDSTORMS and pneumatics!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week TechVideo, 2011 #03 - Light FX

RoboticSolutions, the authors of CubeStormer, have uploaded a new video featuring the "LEGO PF 3D Light Show".

Built with LEGO Power Functions elements, it is a 3 axis rotation device which can produce some stunning lighting effects.
The six IR channel remote allows for independent control of each axis and the RGB set of LEDs.

When I first saw it, thought that the NXT Color Sensor might have been used to produce the light effects. However immediately after, I realized it was not the case, but some discrete electronic LEDs were used instead.
It is a construction entirely PF based, thus not having any kind of MINDSTORMS control.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

8070 hits the shelves at Argos, UK

As you may have seen from Alexandre's post below, the new 8070 Supercar, hit the shelves in UK.
I got the news this morning by mail from Huw (who runs the indispensable The new car is an exclusive from Argos in UK, where immediately he also went to buy one exemplar from the local branch.

From all the reactions we can find online, the mails and Gtalks I got today, it seems everybody is running into a kind of hysteria about this long waited model, and its little new part.

Below some better quality scans from the partslist, in the model's building instructions (got via Ryan).

There we can see listed the new 'CV Joint Axle' below, which together with other already existing parts [1, 2], offers new and more compact ways to build suspensions or even a new possibility to build U-Joints.

Namely this brings realism and the possibility to design realistic suspension arms on smaller scale vehicles, by recessing the pivot point by 1L, when compared to the traditional 3L U-Joint.

This is exactly how the new part is used at 8070's rear axle, next to the differential on each wheel side. See it in detail from the pictures below, kindly provided by Huw.

Coincidence or not, this new part looks exactly like the one designed and proposed by Barman, already in 2009.

Meanwhile junglistjoey has published online, some photos and one still unedited video from his new 8070.

Loving it!...

See more:

Guess there isn't much more secrets to reveal about this set.

B-model and parts inventory for the 8070 Supercar

Live images of the 8070 Supercar have started appearing. Eurobricks users "junglistjoey" and "patey" have bought Supercars and shared some new photos of the set's box, parts, and inventory.

8070 Supercar A-model8070 Supercar B-model

We can now see that the B-model instructions aren't included in the box and instead must be downloaded from the Technic site, and what the Hot Rod B-model does. As we already knew, it has steering, suspension, a V-8 engine, and opening "suicide doors". From the back of the box, we can now see the doors, like on the A-model, are opened by the Power Functions motor (although both at the same time, not individually). Also, the main novelty is that it also has a motorised convertible roof, actuated by the same motor. The two functions are switched from a lever by the steering wheel.

8070 box rear

From what I could see, the inventory doesn't include any relevant new parts. I was kind of hoping mLAs would be used for some of the mechanisms, but it appears they were achieved using only "traditional" construction methods.

8070 box contents 1 8070 box contents 2 8070 inventory 1 8070 inventory 2

It includes, among other stuff, four black Technic Steering Arms with 4 Ball Joints and their corresponding Technic Steering CV Joints, which are always good for MOC's. There is, however, a new part I have never seen before...

New part for 8070

It appears to be designed to fit on the existing CV Joint. Maybe it's a simpler/cheaper alternative to the Steering Arm with 4 Ball Joints, for suspension assemblies where steering is not needed. But the set already comes with four Steering Arms with 4 Ball Joints, one for each wheel, as well as four CV Joints... so where is this part used in? Huh? The only explanation I see is that either the A-model uses one kind of suspension assembly, and the B-model uses the other.

Not much time left before this beauty reaches all hands that are waiting for it! Expectation

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TBs TechTalk 04 - Designing set 8043, Motorized Excavator (Part III)

[Part I], [Part II]

Today the last part of the interview with Anders Gasendal (AG) and Ricco Krog (RK), about the design of the 8043 Motorized Excavator.
And so it continues...

TBs: How many different prototypes did the excavator go through before the final design was chosen? And how much has it changed from the original concept model?

AG: It’s a little hard to answer clear, because some prototypes were developed only partly to improve certain parts. These parts were then later on build in a model with all improvements incorporated. Giving a rough estimate, at least 30 significantly different models has been developed. But in between them, a lot of smaller prototypes on parts of the model were developed.

These are a couple of never seen pictures from the very first 8043 Motorized Excavator model.* On the left: The very first sketch of the excavator and what convinced the Design team members that such a model was possible to develop as product. On the right: The first prototype of the idea with the way the remote controlled gearbox works.

TBs: Is there any element you'd like to exist, that would have helped in the design of the Excavator? If so, how would it improve the model?

AG: It would have been nice to make a specific shovel for this model, but it would only have helped the A model, then we would have to make another B-model, so its always a compromise when you are designing LEGO models, whether it’s System or Technic, keeping elements in a system to make them useful for many different models.

TBs: What limitations do you have regarding the design of new parts? Is there a maximum number of new parts per year or is there a set budget? For instance you have used the same bucket usually used on the large Technic Front Loaders. Did you choose a B-model that justifies this choice intentionally and thus limiting the development costs of a new bucket, more suitable for large Excavators?

RK: Every year during our concept faze we come up with a long list of new possible elements; we then evaluate which elements would be best for the models we are launching in that year. These elements are then presented to the management and they hopefully approve them.

Regarding the bucket, you are absolutely right, we did choose a B-model that justifies using a bucket from a front loader. I think this was the best compromise, had we done an excavator bucket we would have had trouble finding a right B-model.

TBs: When/how do you decide which color a specific model is going to have? Who decides it?

RK: I try to find a color that fits a specific model the best and a color that you would typically find on the same model in the “real World”. The decision it made before we test the concept models. As the Design Manager it’s my decision what color a model has.

TBs: In these videos [1, 2] Markus described the design process behind the 8275 Motorized Bulldozer. This is also the process we often hear about, where kids are involved in tests and where the models are stressed to the limits. He also describes the LEGO Technic design principles of "Authenticity, Functionality, and Challenging Building." We are pretty sure that TLG continues to enforce these principles, the development process and even fosters their continuous improvement. But… how come? Was the Functionality of the 8043 and elements durability properly tested? Are you intrigued that the LA issue off was not noticed during in-house tests. What happened to TLG's own design review procedures? Did the huge complexity of this model somehow cause project delays, and lead you to lower your guard on some basic development principles?

RK: Since the 8275 Motorized Bulldozer, our process has been improved even further. Our model quality is of highest importance for us, we do extensive testing on all our models. The 8043 Motorized Bulldozer is no exception to this. When we were contacted by our consumer service about the problem, it defiantly came as a surprise as none of our models had shown any problems during the tests. I immediately took contact to a couple of fans; they were very helpful and borrowed us their models to look into. When playing with these models, it was clear that the actuators had an internal friction problem which we had not seen before. We right away started up the process of producing new actuators that did not have this friction problem. The new actuators have now been shipped out to everyone that has contacted the LEGO® consumer Service. All sets with the faulty actuators are no longer on the market. The LEGO Technic team is very sorry for any inconvenience this problem has caused.

TBs: Do you have an estimate about what percentage of those that buy Technic are AFOLs? How much influence does the AFOL community actually have on what you guys bring out?

RK: Our estimate is 10% to 15% but mainly in the higher price points. The AFOL community have a lot of influence as we are listening to all the discussions and comments on the different forums. We try to take as much in consideration as possible and at the same time develop models that are cool and attractive to our main target group; the 7 to 16 years old kids.

TBs: Is there anything you can tell us at this moment about what we can expect for next year (besides obviously that we're going to get plenty of good stuff)?

Unfortunately, Ricco did not answer this question! Perhaps he missed it...

Thank you very much for your time Anders and Ricco, we wish you many great ideas for the 2012 sets and beyond. And thank you for the great Excavator! Also congratulations to the entire team, who have brought so many other great sets in 2010.

*) Images published with the authorization of the LEGO Group.
If you use these images, please always link to this post, so that the contextual information isn't lost.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TBs TechPoll 23 - 2010, 4th Quarter - Favorite week TechVideos

Time to run another poll for the videos weekly featured at TBs , during Q4 of 2010.
And what a quarter, in terms of cool videos and models!

In the next two weeks vote for your favorite video(s), among those highlighted during the 4th quarter (2010, Q4) under the 'Week TechVideo' tag.

Bellow is the list with the videos posted within this period:

As usual, you can vote for more than one video!

- This video poll does not aim to select the best MOC, but rather well done videos featuring a LEGO Technic model, a nice video reportage from a Technic subject as part of an AFOL event, or
some cool/innovative thing with interest for the Technic fans community.
- These are videos that somehow caught my eye at some point, thus based on a personal choice, and do not intend in any way to be considered as the best representatives from the work done by the Technic fans.
- Please notice, this is a poll taken for the fun. The authors of the videos here featured are not rewarded, independently of the final rank position they will achieve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

TBs TechTalk 04 - Designing set 8043, Motorized Excavator (Part II)

[Part I], [Part III]

The second part of the interview with Anders Gasendal (AG) and Ricco Krog (RK), about the design of the 8043 Motorized Excavator, has been waiting for you! ...or is it the other way around...
And so it continues...

TBs: Apart from the models mentioned in the introduction of this interview (8291 and 8043), are there any other released Technic models you have designed before, or which had a significant participation from you? Which ones?

AG: I also designed the 8263 Snow Groomer, and of course a very cool model for the 2011 assortment, but I can’t reveal that now.

Any other set from the 2010 assortment? ...This if we can expect you to still have some spare time on top of 8043 development...

I also did the Alternative model for the 8049 Tractor with Log loader, I had a lot of fun designing that model and it is always nice to get a break from the development of the big models.

TBs: Is the 8043 B-model also your creation, or was it designed by another Technic Designer?

AG: The alternative model was designed by me as well. We don’t always do both the main model and the alternative model for a set, but often we do it for the bigger models. The designer of the main models is the one that knows the element volume the best and often has a good idea of what kind of model the elements can be used for.

TBs: Which is your favourite TECHNIC element from the current assortment? Why?

AG: My favorite current element is the new little 3x3 frame 87408 for making angle gears. I think it’s great because it makes a strong angle gear, and it’s very simple to use even for our youngest target group.

TBs: Now that Ricco is not listening to us… if you could suggest a new part to be produced today, can you describe what you would suggest?

AG: I would be reluctant to answer this, as I don’t want to give you any false hopes for a specific element.

TBs: Which is your favourite LEGO TECHNIC set, ever? Why?
Is there any old TECHNIC set that you like so much, it makes you wish you had designed it?

AG: The Motorized Excavator 8043 of course has a special place in my heart. Among the older sets my favourite set is the old 8868 Airtech Claw Rig. Compared to what we can build today it’s of course not the most complex or realistic model. But I remembered that I really liked that set when it came out, it was a truck and it had a cool new compressor and a ‘huge’ crane you could play with for hours.

TBs: If you had the option to choose an old TECHNIC set to return as a Legend, considering all the required parts were still in production, which one would be your choice?

AG: That would be the 8868 Airtech Claw Rig as this I one of my favorite sets.

TBs: How long does it take you guys to design a new set? Do you have a fixed allocation to a project or does it decrease over the year as you hand models over to the next season?
Do you have one year span development cycles or shorter, i.e. do you initiate the development of 1H and 2H sets simultaneously or do you develop them in shorter spans, for each date in your releases calendar?
Specifically looking at the Excavator example, from the assignment until the ready-for-production milestone, how long did it take to develop?

RK: It normally takes about 6-9 months to develop the flagship model, on top of this comes the development of the building instruction and packaging. That means that in order to deliver new models every year, we need to start up both 1H and 2H simultaneously.

TBs: When this model was considered, was it decided from the beginning to be the flagship (the largest and main model in the year’s assortment), or is this something that may change along the process?
For instance, do you predefine the model boundaries, like the price and part count targets? When do you set the constraints, like the maximum number and type of motors to use, for instance?

RK: After testing a number of different models, where the 8043 motorized excavator came out as a test winner, we of course decided that that model should be the 2010 flagship.

The model boundaries are predefined after the building of the first concept model is build, at that time we know if the model is possible or not. There is no maximum or limits on the number or types of elements, what sets the boundaries are both model costs, but also complexity in accordance with age markings, and a certain level of functionalities depending on the model size.

TBs: If you had no such compromises to face, how would the model differ from the retail version?

AG: Functional wise the model has it all, but it would have been nice to add more details, like lights, handles, mirrors, etc.

TBs: With six main remote functions, there could have been several ways to implement them on this model and a different number of motors to be used.
Could you please describe other technical solutions that were considered regarding how to structure the Power Functions motors vs. functionalities? For example, did you consider using XL motors, or putting two motors in the drive train below the turntable?

AG: We did consider a lot of different solutions to make the functions of this model remote controlled. To start from the end, we wanted to keep all the motors in the superstructure to make it possible to spin around and around without destroying any wires through the turntable.

We also considered XL motors, and also a solution where each function had its own motor.
In the end, the current solution offers a good mix of design, size, maneuverability and function.
We also hope that this way of building 6 functions with only 4 motors inspires some of you to build fantastic models on your own.

To be continued...

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