Friday, November 30, 2012

TBs TechTalk 10 - Designing set 9398, 4x4 Crawler (Part I)

[Part II]

As you know Niels Hendrik and Jeppe Juul Jensen, are currently the respective Marketing Manager for LEGO Technic Product Line and the LEGO Technic Design Lead and TBs bloggers team wrote a set of questions to send them regarding this year's Technic flagship (9398 4x4 Crawler).

So, here it is the first part of the interview.

Hi Niels, Hi Jeppe, Thanks for having accepted to answer another interview for TBs . Let's talk a bit about this year's Technic flagship, the Crawler, the design of it and the Technic Challenge you raised around this.

TBs: Was this type of model (9398) inspired by the many and quite popular trial truck competitions, as organized by some groups of fans?

JJ: We always get inspired by what the fans are building, so yes, this was also part of the inspiration behind the 4X4 Crawler. We also wanted to give you something different than before and the Servo motor was of course a must in a model like this. We just thought that a servo motor would be the next natural step in the Power Functions platform - and that also spawned the idea behind the 4X4 Crawler.

TBs: Both the Unimog (8110) and Crawler use the specially developed portal axle elements. Did these elements have an influence on the decision to launch the Crawler right after the Unimog, so the production numbers of these specific elements go up and cost down as soon as possible? Perhaps it was already decided to do a Crawler the year after the Unimog, already during the development of he Unimog? When was this Crawler decided on?

JJ: Well, it has been a very long process to develop the 4X4 Crawler. I think we started more than 3 years before the actual launch of the model. So the 4X4 Crawler was actually developed while the Unimog and its element was being developed. As always we experiment with all our new elements during our development and when the portal axle was developed, it just turned out that it was a perfect fit for the 4X4 Crawler. So the model came out of our ongoing concept work in the design team and it was decided to launch it when we succeeded in making a concept model that lived up to all of our expectations to that kind of model.

TBs: Similar questions could be asked regarding the Unimog tires, but those were not used in the Crawler - Any specific reason, or it was just their profile/tread that was not the most suitable for such type of vehicle?

JJ: The Unimog gave us the possibility to develop a XL truck tire, which we were very happy to be able to offer to our fans. We decided that the "balloon" style tire would be the correct ones to use for the 4X4 Crawler to give it the most authentic off road look.

TBs: Can you tell us a bit about the level of symbiosis or stickiness in the design of the new PF elements and the Crawler itself? Did you just triggered the developement of something that was in the PF shelf, or were both ideas developed together?

JJ: Well, we needed the Servo and the Large motor to do the 4X4 Crawler. Theese PF elements were developed during the development of the 4X4 Crawler - because we now had a product to put them in. So, the basic concept of a servo motor and a motor in between the Medium and XL motor has been thought out years ago, but the actual development of them was inititated becuse of the 4X4 Crawler development.

TBs: Has it been considered to use already existing PF motors (e.g. XL motors)? Why weren't they used instead, in the end? Although one thing is granted for sure in our pov - Every excuse to get out some new PF elements is always welcome!

JJ: Yes, we also enjoy developing new PF elements! We did try out many different motor configurations during the development of the 4X4 Crawler, but we decided to go for the concept of using two Large motors as this gives the model the perfect balance between torque, speed and power consumption - and by that also amount of playtime. We also have to develop a model that really delivers on high integration with the rest of the elements (power train elements etc.) so that we don't exceed the individual elements' stress levels. On that point the Large motors are also spot-on!

TBs: Do you have any tricks that you use to ease your job as LEGO Technic Designer, that you think worth mentioning to share with Technic fans? For instance I can imagine something like using a set of somewhat worn out Technic pins, to help you building all day long without hurting your fingers.

JJ: Good question. No, we always build with the newest production elements to get the right feeling of the end result/building experience in the finished models and keep track of our own element quality. I guess we just develop a thicker layer of skin on our fingertips! But we do use some tools, like a set of special pliers to pull out elements and a down-sized cross-axle to push out other cross-axles to save our fingers a little bit.

TBs: In the new sets design process, what does a LEGO Designer do when he finds that he needs to replace some parts which are laredy laying deep in the design? - e.g. imagine you found to have used a beam that's longer than what's really needed and now you need to disassemble most part of your model if want to replace it?

JJ: We have two choices. Break it apart to change the elements - or build a new copy/version of the model. And we do both a lot. Because we are not limited in how many elements we can use during a day, we often just build a new copy of the model and do the changes needed, while considering what else to change in the design. It is not uncommon to build 40-60 versions of a model during the development phase.

To be continued!... Next Monday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TBs Tech Review 19 - The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide

By now I doubt anyone reading this forum hasn’t already heard of “The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide”, a book written by Sariel, a LEGO Technic builder who has been featured many times on TBs , and published by No Starch Press, who have an impressive catalogue of LEGO related books.

Impressive as that catalogue may be, this is only the second ever LEGO Technic book to be published (the first being Yoshihito Isogawa’s Tora no Maki, which was published in three volumes as the “LEGO technic Idea Book” series). You might say there was a gap in the market, and The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide is here to cater for it.

Before I go into the book in more depth, a short word about what it is not. The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide is not an instruction manual to (re)build Sariel’s great MOCs, nor is it a repository of ingenious uses of different combinations of Technic elements.

For the first the best you can do is take a long hard look at the images and videos available on Sariel’s website. Alternatively there are other great builders who offer building instructions, either for free or for a small fee.

For the second, there is Tora no Maki, a treasure trove of ideas I have enjoyed very much, and the printed version, the LEGO Technic Ideas Books, are an asset to any Technic builder’s library.

So what makes this book different? Well, for starters, even in the areas that might at first glance look vaguely similar – a description of LEGO elements and some simple techniques of combining them – the difference is huge. Isogawa’s approach is visual, showing you the pieces and how they combine. Sariel goes a crucial step further. He explains  what happens when you combine elements; what is needed to create rigid structures, how to reinforce them, how to overcome the even vs. odd collision that invariably comes from using studded elements in conjunction with studless pieces, or what is the maximum angle at which a universal joint can work at its full potential.  And this is just in the first few chapters (Part I) that cover the “Basics”. After that first section the book really takes off.

Part II, "Mechanics", takes a closer look at gears, chains, pulleys and levers to transmit force. Many of the mechanism that are presented are too complex to easily rebuild from a single image and so a number of short building instructions are included, allowing you to build along with the book and see first hand how these mechanisms work.  Also included in this section is an overview of the Pneumatics system (including building instructions for a simple pneumatic engine, auto-valve and compressor) and a very practical look at why things fall apart and how to effectively reinforce them, starting with simple bracing techniques and moving forward to load bearing structures and trusses.

Part III bears the title “Motors” and provides a simplified review of LEGO motors and their strengths and weaknesses, followed by a overview of the Power Functions elements, including the Linear Actuators. Again some building instructions are included for modifying the two PF remotes currently available.

Whereas in the first 3 parts you get to build a number of small mechanisms, in Part IV we move on to “Advanced mechanics”. In the following chapters, much of what has been explained previously is put to use in the larger assemblies required to build Technic vehicles. The first chapter, for instance, deals with steering.  After covering the basics, it explains what Ackerman steering is and how to build it for vehicles with more than two axles or with several steering axles. The chapters dealing with suspensions (for wheeled and tracked vehicles) not only explain the different suspension systems, but include detailed building instructions for different kinds of suspensions.  The same can be said about the chapter dealing with transmissions that includes building instructions for a number of different gear boxes.

The final part of the book (Part V, entitled “Models”), includes the excellent tutorial on scaling and provides an open invitation to put all the knowledge acquired through reading the preceding chapters to use in building your own MOC.

This book most certainly isn’t a “guide to rebuilding Sariel’s fabulous MOCs”. If what you are looking for is building instructions, this is not the right place. This book however provides you with all the necessary tools to start building your very own Technic MOCs, including a large number of very helpful instructions for the individual mechanisms that you may want to include in them. 

Technic is about learning to solve your own (mechanical) problems, and The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide provides you with a sound basis, as well as a useful reference for getting to know your elements, learning how to combine them in sturdy, useful mechanisms and combine them into your very own Technic creations.

Monday, November 26, 2012

LEGO Power Functions incompatibilities

Some of us have been behind the scenes for a while, dealing with the latest issue found on the LPF family...

At mid October a Polish AFOL found one potential problem with the new PF V2 Receiver (released with the 9398, 4x4 Crawler) when there are two PF M-motors connected to one of its outputs.

The issue can be put shortly like this - When two or more Medium motors are connected to a single output of the V2 Receiver (no matter which one), they often make a squeaking sound instead of starting, and only start after some time, or if forced by hand. Even after they finally start and then stop, the problem occurs again.

Today after having concluded their own investigations, the Technology Platform Team came-up with one official statement about this issue, signed by Gaute Munch as usual.

LEGO Power Functions V2 RC Receiver

There has been some confusion regarding the new LEGO Power Functions V2 RC Receiver that is released in the Technic 9398 4X4 Crawler. This component is currently only available through the 9398 set, but was not made exclusively for this product.

The V2 RC Receiver is updated with a CMOS motor driver giving less power loss. This is done to improve the user experience with longer battery lifetime and better motor performance. Unfortunately it has the drawback that it is not able to start 2 or more LPF Medium motors at the same output. As I will explain below this is not a problem with the motor driver, but a known issue with the LPF Medium motor.

The raw motor currently used in the LPF Medium motor internally contains a relatively large capacitor (1 uF) across each of the 3 motor coils. This is done by the motor manufacturer for noise reduction.

We knew that this would be an issue with the new CMOS motor driver (DRV8833). Since it can source a very high inrush current the over current protection will kick in sooner (typically after 2,25 us with a current exceeding 3,3 A). At start up the motor driver will first charge the input capacitance. With 2 or more LPF Medium motors at the same output this can trigger the over current protection. It will repeatedly try to start the motors and you will only hear a singing noise.

For many reasons we have been searching for a higher quality solution for the LPF Medium motor and we now have an approved new raw motor. It has better quality commutation and only 1nF across the terminal. An updated LPF Medium motor will be released during 2013.

Backwards compatibility is of very high importance when we choose new solutions. In this case our decision was that the advantages of the new motor driver together with the fact that we would update the LPF Medium motor would compensate for the inconvenience with the current LPF Medium motor.

We hope this is not causing too many limitations to your model creativity.

Gaute Munch

The LEGO Group

We guess the Tech Platform team has been frantically searching for a replacement for the raw Medium motor, in the last weeks.
Although the problem has been identified a the solution as well, we will remain with a legacy of 'not so compatible PF elements'. At this point and thinking on the possible remedy, I can only wish TLG will make the new version of the PF M-motor easily distinguishable from the original version actually in the market.

We had already two versions of the PF IR Receiver (with firmware differences only) and two versions of the large Technic Linear Actuator, which are inconvenient enough to distinguish...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week TechVideo, 2012 #47 - Blending LEGO with real objects

Something different today for a change.
Look at this video where several techniques met to mix digital sculptures with real objects. Using 3D photoscan software and "emerging" 3D printing technology, a 3D print blends with a real stone, to create the illusion of a sandstone block built from LEGO.

Made for the "Make it real" challenge on Instructables.
The most creative use of 3D printing you may have ever seen.

Please avoid sending requests to post specific models on this TBs section.
We understand some of you would enjoy to see your creations featured here, but please understand  that because only one video gets highlighted per week, it is impossible to accommodate all the great MOCs continuously build by the Technic builders out there. They simply won't fit all and that's also not the purpose of this blog (see the header statement).
Many of your MOCs are scanned anyway and listed for later publication when they do not fit immediately. However some remain in the backlog queue just for too long and eventually loose the relevance or the publication opportunity window. As a rule of thumb, we also avoid publishing MOCs that have been featured by their authors or other fans at some other great web places dedicated to the Technic community out there. It doesn't mean that occasionally some won't get published here anyway.

Thanks for your understanding!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TBs TechChallenge, 2012 - Reverse 42002 - Closing Early!

As Barman told us, the 42002 (Hovercraft) set was spotted at a TRU store in Canada. Because of this the TBs team decided to close the TechREVERSE Challenge 2012 submission period with immediate effect, in order to guarantee the contest necessary fairness to all the contestants who had already submitted their guess work.

The closing period was then anticipated in about one week, and according to the challenge published rules.

Thank you! For all those who have taken the Challenge so far!

We apologize for those who may have been working on this and did not have the chance to submit their entry, till the date initially planned. Hope we can start the TechREVERSE Challenge earlier the next years.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Better quality images (same angle) for the TBs TechChallenge, 2012

While we won't get any hovercrafts hovering out there and this year TechREVERSE Challenge lasts, I've went through the cache of my web browser to retrieve the images that have been reported at the Toys'R'Us (US) website. And I'm publishing them here for your convenience (Click over the images to see them in full resolution).

Have a great and challenging fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week TechVideo, 2012 #46 - Feller Buncher

Nowadays we see that everybody builds motorized Technic machines with plenty of PF elements, while the smaller models with manual functions seem to have become almost an exclusive from TLG LEGO Technic Designers.

Thus it was a pleasantly surprise to see a model today, from Kyle (Thirdwigg) who built a mini Wheel Feller Buncher [1] with a few manual functions. Still I dare to say that apart one or another aesthetic detail, this could perfectly have been a small/mid size official LEGO Technic set.

Regardless the frustration denoted by Kyle at his website ( in achieving the maximum number of functions and having to leave something behind after all, I think the result is pretty good and of course there are always some compromises we must face, when working at smaller scales.

A Feller Buncher is a type of harvester used in logging. It is a motorized vehicle with an attachment that can rapidly cut and gather several trees before felling them. Kyle's model looks very similar to this CAT 553C and you can see it action from the video below.

This model features a very decent set of functions for its size:
  • Steering via HOG
  • Functional cutting blade
  • Functional grabbing arms
  • Lifting arm

As the original idea was to isolated the lifting and tilting movements, it just missed the tilt feature that would allow the elevation to happen while keeping the feller blade parallel to the ground.

You can find the full gallery of photos and instructions, from Kevin's Brickshelf folder.

Awesome small model with manual functions. It has become rare!

Please avoid sending requests to post specific models on this TBs section.
We understand some of you would enjoy to see your creations featured here, but please understand  that because only one video gets highlighted per week, it is impossible to accommodate all the great MOCs continuously build by the Technic builders out there. They simply won't fit all and that's also not the purpose of this blog (see the header statement).
Many of your MOCs are scanned anyway and listed for later publication when they do not fit immediately. However some remain in the backlog queue just for too long and eventually loose the relevance or the publication opportunity window. As a rule of thumb, we also avoid publishing MOCs that have been featured by their authors or other fans at some other great web places dedicated to the Technic community out there. It doesn't mean that occasionally some won't get published here anyway.

Thanks for your understanding!

More on the 2013 new Technic elements

Stephan (Splat) was also lucky to receive one of  the 42011 Race Car sets, that Toys'R'Us (US) website briefly had for sale last week and made a nice review through EBs.

Here also some of his pictures from the new parts, at different angles from those posted here earlier.

And even more interesting it is his finding about the redesign of the 8 Tooth gear (3647), which has been demanded for long.

Now it won't slip anymore into the circular recess at each Technic hole. Bravo, TLG!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

See first 2013 new Technic elements

Paul's wife (Amanda Boratko) managed to order a few 1H13 new LEGO Technic sets from TRU online store (US), and today they have received the 42011 Race Car. Just hope they won't get everything they ordered that soon...

Meanwhile Paul took a scan from the BI partslist and some shots from the new parts included with the model.

Below the new pullback motor with a truly PF look (3-wide) and also the new Technic micro panels.

Here the respective element numbers:
  • Panel #21 (Side B) - 6022750
  • Panel #22 (Side A) - 6022752
  • Pullback motor - 6024100

Thanks Paul! Looking forward to see more new parts soon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

TBs TechPoll 33 (Results) - 2012, 3rd Quarter - Favorite week TechVideos

After some instability with the Blogger poll counters, it seems every vote was being counted anyway, as suddenly all them came up. About 200 of you voted and TBs poll for '2012, 3rd Quarter Favorite week TechVideos' is now closed.
Poll objective was to let you choose your favorite videos, from those highlighted every week here under TBs 'Week TechVideo' label, during the 3rd quarter of 2012.

This time we had a clash between one Backhoe and one Excavator, fighting for the first place. Both from the same author (Jurgen Krooshoop, Rhodeslover1) - The orange one, won!

I think it is the first time it happens - Having two videos from the same author in both 1st and 2 places.
I must say IMO, any of the three in the podium, could have been a fair and well deserved winner.

#1- "Week TechVideo, 2012 #37 -Zorex-220 Excavator", by Jurgen Krooshoop (Rhodeslover1)

#2 - "Week TechVideo, 2012 #29 - Super Backhoe", by Jurgen Krooshoop (Rhodeslover1)

#3 - "Week TechVideo, 2012 #28 - HAMM Compactor", by TechyMind

Congratulations to the producers of the most popular videos among those featured here at TBs , during the 3rd quarter of 2012!

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