Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week TechVideo, 2011 #43 - 4-Speed Compact Gearbox

Most likely, some of you might have seen the 4-speed compact linear gearbox by Sariel

MisterFitzGibbon took up on this design and developed a very clever add-on, to change gears with one single motion. Every 90 degree turn, it sets the gearbox one speed up or down. 



Somehow this made me recall one other video where a Geneva mechanism was applied, to command a switch box and select one function..

Friday, October 28, 2011

Have you installed LDraw yet?

The launch earlier this year of the All-In-One-Installer (AIOI) for LDraw put an end to many years of waiting for an updated version of the LDraw installer. Both here on TBs , in HispaBrick Magazine® and in many other places tutorials and other explanations on how to install an up-to-date version of the most imprtant LDraw related tools have been published, but the AIOI is no doubt the better solution.
The AIOI includes the most important LDraw tools as well as the latest version of the LDraw part library and come with a very easy to use interface. A few months ago I interviewed Willy Tschager, the creator of the AIOI (you can read the interview in HispaBrick Magazine 011) and he explained, among other things that the installation interface is available in several languages.

Currently the available language are:

LDraw.org provides the following information about the AIOI:

The AIOI supports Windows XP (Home and Pro), Windows Vista (all versions) and Windows 7 (all versions). On 64-Bit Operating Systems it will install in the "Program files (x86)" folder. The Installer will NOT run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT Ver 4, 2000, or XP below SP2. If your version of Windows is different, follow the install instruction at http://www.holly-wood.it/mlcad/install-en.html.

 The following library files and applications are included in the AIOI. Note that newer version of each application may be available as this installer was created for the release of the latest LDraw parts library update, which happens twice or three times a year.

Library or Application Name
Type
Installed by default
Parts library
X
Editor
X
Viewer
X
Publishing tool
X
Editor
.
Add-On
.
Sticker Generator Generator
.
LGEO Parts Library POV-Ray parts library
.
LDGlite Viewer
.
POV-Ray 3.6 Renderer
.


You can download the AIOI from LDraw.org

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TBs GuestBlogger 03 - Are Trains Becoming Technic?

It was just a few days ago, that RAILBRICKS 10 was issued. Besides the fantastic material that we are already used to, this edition also features an article by Didier Enjary (renown French AFOL), where he discusses the idea "Are Trains Becoming Technic?"
Being this a Technic related topic and given the difference between the audiences from TBs  and RAILBRICKs, we saw no potential conflicts and decided to include the same article here, with the category 'Guest Blogger'. 



I do not know if this is the case for everyone, but for me "Technic" is a very specific set of LEGO parts and models. "Technic" elements are parts with axles, pins and holes. Beams, gears and connectors are Technic parts. Bricks, plates, tiles ans slopes, unless Technic-ally modified, are not. They are System parts. I have to underline that the LEGO Company do not make such a differentiation.

Technic models make an heavy use of Technic parts. For me, Train is not Technic. They had their own 9V System motor, different from the 9V Technic motors.



But things are changing. The new train motor comes without wheels, and you can attach any part coming with an axle hole. The train wheels have an axle hole. Train wheels are Technic parts.



"Train wheels are Technic parts."



This minor change does not make trains Technic models. As previously said, Technic models make heavy use of Technic parts. That is not the case here. However, the new motor and wheels are not the only Technic parts that an official LEGO train model can use.

The idea to motorize LEGO trains with Technic parts (motor, beams, gears and axles) is not a new one. Basically, it consists in a gear train incorporated in the wheel truck (bogie) as demonstrated by Brickshelf user BUCHI [1]. The wheels are driven through the truck's vertical axis  by a motor placed in the engine’s body.



To implement this in the space of a regular LEGO train truck, a 4x8 box, is tricky. Moreover, the mechanical design of this build has an intrinsic flaw. A side effect - a torque between the truck and train base - causes derailments on switches. However, with this method of Technic-ally motorizing LEGO trains, you are not limited to the two-axles train motors and you can create a variety of axle configurations in shape and size. You can even use all kinds of larger wheels, such as those from third-party companies like Big Ben Bricks.

Technic motorizati on is not easy to set up, and may appear unusable for modern trains, but it is an interesti ng idea for steam trains where the truck is not articulated. The Emerald Night Train (10194) is to this day the unique example of such a Technic-ally motorized LEGO train endorsed by The LEGO Company.



So, you can motorize a train with Technic parts. But that does not make the train a Technic model. Technic is all about function.

Esben Kolind agrees and shows us how to build a train with automatic doors which open at the station [2]. This function uses Technic parts, such as axles, gears and usual connectors, but more impressively, makes use of the universal joint to operate all the doors with one single motor, in a very compact and hidden mechanism.



"Technic is all about function."



In fact, Esben has for long been a supporter of functions in trains, as demonstrated here on a previous sliding-door study, integrating PF lights, motorized doors and folding step.



Still, the train is not a Technic model. Technic is also about structure. Trains are made of plates and bricks, not from beams and liftarms. But some people are open-minded (at least more than I used to be). That is the case of Tim Gould, who once shared this flat car (which you can download the build instructions from the RAILBRICKS website).

From the Bill of Material, it is seen that almost 75% of the parts are of the Technic kind (only 6 different parts have studs). The result is quite convincing, and is as realistic as a LEGO model can be, and it is a true Technic model.



Examples of everything Technic are out there: structure, function, and motorization. A LEGO Technic train is possible even at the width of 6, though I do not think this is an easy task. Technic models are, in general, bigger than the usual 6 or even 8 wide train - and I do not think the theme will become mainstream. I do know, however, that creativity and imagination are limitless.

"A LEGO Technic train is possible..."



Article by Didier Enjary in RAILBRICKS 10.
Pictures and Photos courtesy of BrickLink and BrickShelf.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week TechVideo, 2011 #42 - Meet George

Name George seems to be actually quite popular among LEGO characters... but lets talk from another George.

About a year ago my attention was drawn by a Giant LEGO robot. It combined large scale technic building with the use of MINDSTORMS and Pneumatics. The project looked really interesting and got me thinking about the limits of Technic constructions, especially with regard to size. It is not that hard to make large solid and strong Technic structures, but the problem of this kind of structures is that they tend to get very heavy... and that is exactly what happend in this Giant LEGO robot. So much so, that for example the weight of the arms made it extremely difficult to do anything with it: motors and gears were strained to their limits with just the wieght of th arms themselves.

Even soo and despite the poor quality of the pictures, the project was a good looker and got quite some attention.



Learning his lesson from the initial complications, Burf2000, builder and programmer of the Giant LEGO robot now presents us with George. In the following video you can get a basic idea of what his robot is capable of.



The George in the video is already version 2.1 - as is natural with any construction there are some complications you don't run into until you try to do certain things with it. For the moment George is controlled by a PSP controller, using the PS2 Mindsensor wireless connector, but the project should evolve into George becoming more autonomous and possibly even having a couple of friends to interact with.

You may find additional photos from George's album, at flickr.

Friday, October 21, 2011

LEGO Community Survey - October 2011




I have once again been asked to share a survey with you:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AFOLOct2011


LEGO has been posting quarterly surveys for some time now. The last couple of surveys have been quite repetitive and with no other apparent purpose than to comply with the need to put out a quarterly survey, but this time things look a bit more interesting.

I have already taken the survey and there are a couple of things I'd like to comment.

For starters there have been a lot of complaints about the aggressive colours: true, yellow and red are very LEGO, but some of the lists make you want to put on your sunglasses, so be warned :D

Also, this survey asks about you involvement in on-line communities, both LEGO and non-LEGO (from Facebook to EuroBricks). There is no clear insight into why certain communities have been included in this list (Bricklink even twice) and others, like TechnicBRICKs haven't. It is a pity there is no option to add information on the community of your choosing, but this fact has been brought to the attention of LEGO and I will get back to you with any feedback I receive.

Finally, and this has been the subject of some comment on the Ambassador forum, it appears there are quite some AFOLs out there who do not know what a LEGO Ambassador is and that their community has one. I am pretty confident that the TechnicBRICKs readership know they have an Ambassador and that they can contact him (me) with any questions or concerns they would like him to convey to LEGO. The reason this survey is posted here is because the Ambassadors were asked to post it in their respective communities, and TechnicBRICKs has a LEGO Ambassador.

Just making sure you know/remember.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Details about the new Mini Turntable

Yesterday, it was the opening day at LEGOWORLD 2011 in Zwolle, and of course we got news without any delay.
One picture of the new mini turntable appeared, that dispels any and all doubts about its size, aspect and functionality.

Presenting the new turntable for 2012!



There is absolutely no doubt that it has indeed 28 teeth, and it turns out that the speculation presented together with the pictures for 1H2012 sets was right in terms of attachment points. Also we can clearly see, from the above picture, how the turntable’s upper and lower parts attach to each other.

I hoped the new turntable would be more useful if it had a pin hole going through it instead of an axle hole or simply nothing, but it turns out the LEGO Designers are much more ingenious than that. Instead of a round or cross hole, the turntable has a square hole! This not only allows for one axle to transmit movement through the turntable, like with a round hole, but opens a lot of other possibilities like those suggested below (sorry for the quality of the images, I seriously lack the LDraw element modeling talents).

We can pass a free-spinning axle, as expected.



We can use a Technic Pole Reverser Handle or equivalent element to lock the turntable to a concentric axle, so that we don't have to use the outer teeth to rotate it.



We can pass up to four pneumatic tubes; however, this many tubes on such a small diameter may easily over-twist.



We can pass the piston of a pneumatic cylinder, linear actuator or their mini versions, which have parts with a square cross-section. The mLA, in particular, seems especially appropriate for the task.



We can have a U-joint, axle joiner or other wider-than-axle elements partially inside the turntable.



We can pass a standard beam, possibly for some kind of structural reinforcement.



Of course, there’s also the mechanism on both the 9391 Mini Crane and the 9397 Logging Truck: an axle goes through the turntable’s supports and ends in a 12T gear, which meshes directly with the turntable.



Sometimes, new elements appear to have very specific purposes and narrow niches of application, but this new element will surely come in handy in lots of situations!

Monday, October 17, 2011

LEGO WORLD Record Attempt

October 19, 2011, the biggest LEGO event for kids begins: LEGO WORLD

This year there will be something special!
An international team of builders will try to set a new LEGO record. They are going to try to make a Great Ball Contraption of more than 94 modules.
You can read all about the LEGO WORLD RECORD attempt on October 21 in Zwolle (the Netherlands) on www.legoworldrecord.com.


In the meantime I'll let you with a video from the GBC display that was exhibited at the last LW event, in Copenhagen, running with 93 modules.



But as usual, Im sure LW will bring us much more great news and models for our delight.
Stay tunned!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week TechVideo, 2011 #41 - JCB 3CX Backhoe

I remember to have seen images from this model while ago, which was presented at BrickFair '11 and BrickCon '11. After a few modifications, it was only this weekend that its author (Daniel Martz) published the respective video at YouTube and made a presentation post at EuroBricks.




It comprises an amazing set of functions and active elements for its size.

Functions:
  • Drive: 2 XL-motors
  • Steer: 1 M-motor
  • Boom: 1 XL-motor
  • Gearbox Mode Switch: 1 M-motor
  • Dipperstick: 1 M-motor *
  • Dipper: 1 M-motor *
  • Dipperstick Extension: 1 M-motor *
  • Boom Slew: 1 M-motor *
  • Right Stabilizer: 1 M-motor *
  • Left Stabilizer: 1 M-motor *
  • Loader: 1 M-motor *
  • Loader Scoop: 1 M-motor *
  • Working steering wheel
  • Fake I4 engine with moving pistons and fan
* Functions operated through gearbox


Specifications:
  • 3 XL-motors
  • 6 M-motors
  • 2 Battery Boxes
  • 5 IR Receivers
  • 3 PF Extension Wires
  • 1 Set of PF LED lights
  • 11 Linear Actuators (1 Mini)
  • 4 Wheel Drive with center differential
  • 8 Output Gearbox
  • Pendular front axle
  • ~5500 parts


Probably one of the most innovative ideas introduced within this model, it was the way to build really large wheels, which are not available from the LEGO assortment of elements.


Finnaly I know what the axle-holes on the sides of the new 8051 Motorbike wheels, can be used for...


You may find a lot more pictures from Daniel's Brickshelf folder and Flickr photostream.



This guy has also been creating some other great models! Some to be featured here in future posts, most certainly.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New images and B-models for 1H2012 sets

Today, finally, the first non-“Confidential” pictures of 1H2012 sets have surfaced! Also, for the first time, we can see what the 9397 Logging Truck looks like. Not only that, but we also get to see what are the B-models for most of the sets (the Logging Truck is again late to the scene). The pictures surfaced at SeTechnic, where you can also find some comprehensive comments regarding them (English translation here). Here is what we can expect from next semester...

9390 Mini Tow Truck


Those who can’t afford an 8110 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400 can now have the “zipped” version! On a departure from the tradition of entry-level Technic sets, this one isn’t based on a worm-screw-on-8T-gear mechanism, but instead features functional steering. This, allied with its building simplicity and low price, should provide lots of driving fun for kids and not-kids. For older FOLT’s, more abundance of orange elements is always welcome.

B-Model: Buggy or Formula 1 Car

Too bad the B-model is not a snow plow in the front, built from the cargo bed and the winch... but I guess it’s only a matter of time before someone somewhere makes this modification. I don’t know whether this vehicle is a buggy (large wheels, raised rear suspension), or an F1 car (no cockpit, the 20T gear placed like a driver’s helmet, front and rear wings). Anyway, this model’s function is also steering.

9391 Mini Crane

Looking at the new pictures, I have lost hope on this set having an mLA for pushing the arms that lift the boom. Nonetheless, this set should sell like hotcakes to MOCers because it features the new mini turntable (more on that later) on a low-priced set. Besides the obvious boom lifting mechanism which thankfully doesn’t look too straightforward, the rotation of the superstructure finally isn’t annoyingly manual, instead using a 20T gear driving the mini turntable. Like the “Minimog” above, I wouldn’t be surprised to see people modifying this model to become a mini 8043 Motorized Excavator.

B-Model: Bulldozer

This is a standard bulldozer, with a mechanism for raising/lowering the blade, and a manual ripper in the back. It leaves the mini turntable unused, free for MOCs if you intend to leave the set assembled.

9392 Quad Bike

This set doesn’t bring much new in relation to its immediate predecessors, the 8282 and the 8262: it combines the former’s chain drive with the latter’s suspension. It, however, has the advantage of premiering the small panels in orange. Like the 8051 Motorbike, its stickers feature racing numbers that can be flipped (66/99 in this case) to account for the upside down panels on the B-model.

B-Model: Buggy

Basically, it’s the A-model’s functions in a different body, minus the cylinder engine. I think this is the first time an official model has a gear completely wrapped in chain links.

9394 Jet Plane

I agree with practically everyone when they say this plane’s nose is UGLY! It looks more like a helicopter nose than a plane nose. The wing sweep mechanism appears to work via the sliding black beams along the rear fuselage instead of using LAs.

B-Model: Prop Plane:

A much nicer-looking (at least from this angle) plane, it appears to have at least functional elevators and perhaps propeller (although, being built from a beam and attached by friction pin instead of axle, wouldn’t be too efficient as one). Maybe its landing gear, like the A-model and the main model of 6745 Propeller Power, is also retractable.

9395 Pick-Up Tow Truck

This is a nice-looking tow vehicle, probably inspired, like many people say, by American designs (in Europe, tow trucks are much more usually like lighter versions of the 8109 Flatbed Truck). At this size, price range and the rest of functionalities, I guess a cylinder engine is practically mandatory. Besides that and steering, the only functions I see are a lifting tow fork and a winch, but, like the 8109, hopefully it hides some other nifty mechanism. Given that the part is commonly available in black, I find it inexcusable that the Technic, Axle and Pin Connectors Perpendicular holding the rear view mirrors are grey instead. I guess the “PB” license plate is a point against the theory that Uwe Wabra is the set’s designer, but then again nobody in the Technic Team has a surname beginning with a B...

B-Model: Loading Truck

This is some really weird vehicle, one I have never seen before... it has a lateral lifting platform, which can then rotate via the blue thick beams. The hole in the back of the truck is too narrow for the platform to lower into it. Also, in this model we can clearly see a red Technic Changeover Catch near the middle of the vehicle; it is likely this element is also present on the A-model, which suggests some other, still unseen function... or perhaps it is just meant to switch between the towing fork and the winch, with optional motorisation via 8293.

9397 Logging Truck

The big one! This could be the lovechild of the 8285 Tow Truck and the 8258 Crane Truck. The levers on the sides distribute the M motor power between the outriggers, the arm rotation, and the two sections of the arm. The claw rotation (using the new mini turntable) and opening/closing have their mechanisms adjacent to them. The arm appears to be smaller and lighter than the one on the 8258, which allows it to use an mLA instead of one of the regular LAs, and, as a log handling arm, looks realistic enough. To round up the spec sheet, there appears to be a inline cylinder engine under the bonnet. Like recent Technic trucks, this one lacks rear double wheels, probably for budget reasons. The Logging Truck's functions, general looks, colour scheme and year of release don't look like coincidence, and it sure could use a white bullbar... A nice homage, indeed.

B-Model: So far unknown

Last but not least: so far the one element we know for sure that will debut next year, the mini turntable. Menno Gorter, who we know for his amazing walkers, has zoomed in and enhanced one of the 9397’s images to better see it (as well as an example of the image editing LEGO does: the claw assembly would never be able to tilt forward from that position):



Like speculated, it has an outer diameter of 28 teeth. I made a quick and dirty LDraw doodle to show what it probably looks like:



Of course, we all hope the middle has a pin hole instead of an axle hole. Lots of future possibilities with this new fella!


Update 2011-10-16: I added a few notes to each of the models, plus a few thoughts about the new mini turntable.

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