Saturday, March 31, 2012

LEGO patents, a way to look into the future?...

It is not the first time we take a look at LEGO patents, here at TBs . Before I've searched at the US Patent Office through the Google patents search engine, but this time we took also a look at the European Patent Office, Espacenet.

If you want to look for LEGO patents, you may search for 'INTER LEGO AG' or 'INTERLEGO AG' in the Applicant field, or 'LEGO AS' for the most recent patents (and many of the older ones as well).

Question here may be "Is it a way to somehow peek TLG future products?". The simple answer is - Hardly!


We can find many patents on modern LEGO Technic elements, whose inventors are some of the best know LEGO Designers from us.

Markus Kossmann, claimed several of the modern Technic Panels (64392, x1979, 64681, 64683). These patents are not much elaborate and consist in a set of drawings only. Hence they claim for "The ornamental design for a construction set element of the present design". The patents always refer to the side A of the respective panel, as the side B is just a symmetrical form of the same design. Markus also filled patents for the newest LEGO Technic frame elments (64178, 64179).
Interestingly none of these cover any of the unreleased prototype elements we have had opportunity to find so far (1 x 3 x 11 Panel Plate, 7 x 11 Open Center Frame). Probably unreleased elements do not use to have patents filled to protect their copyrights!?
Also the patents' Fill Date coincide with the year where these elements appeared in sets for the first time (2009). Guess these became visible only after a certain time, hence not helpful for a preview of what TLG would released ahead.

Anders Gaasedal (designer of 8043, Motorized Excavator), is also the author of some other LEGO Technic elements, according to the respective patents. The '1 x 5 x 11 Panel Plate' (64782) and the 63869 and 87408 connectors.

Gaute Munch, Technology Product Manager at LEGO System A/S in charge of PFS development, has also some interesting patents...

  • One patent that describes the PFS itself (WO200713757)
  • Another describing the LEGO WeDo elements (WO2009047225) - This one filled one year before the release of the first set (9580, WeDo Robotics Construction Set)
  • And imagine, the RCX itself (US6939192, US6902461) - Apparentely filled much after the first release...

Interestingly Gaute et all, published other two patents about Function Bricks (US7708615, US20110151743). While the first one illustrates some known bricks, the later one extends the concept and introduces communication by means of light signals.


Does this enlighten us about eventual future products? The future will answer us!...


While we wait to see... one may spend the time reading some of the many other LEGO patents available online.
I'd recommend one that describes the mini Linear Actuator (92693c01) and its innovative clutch design (WO2011057640, A toy building set with an overload-safe linear actuator).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Week TechVideo, 2012 #11 - LEGO Cylindrical Cam

Simply genial as always! A new idea from Akiyuky - A Cylindrical Cam made of LEGO elements.

As the "cylinder" cam profile starts to rotate, the follower moves in one direction. When the follower reaches the limit then it moves back without needing to change the direction of the cam rotation.

See how to make one, in the video below.



This was just a great combination of Technic and LEGO SYSTEM elements, used to achieve the intended linear back and forth effect.

These unusual cams are normally composed of a cylinder which has a groove cut out on its surface and it is in this that the follower runs up and down. This type of cam can be seen in some old clock mechanisms and still in modern sewing machines just as an example. Machines that perform repetitive movements often use a cylinder cam profile.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TBs TechPoll 29 (Results) - 2011, 4th Quarter - Favorite week TechVideos

TBs poll for '2011, 4th Quarter Favorite week TechVideos' is now closed, and almost 300 have voted during the past two weeks.
Poll objective was to let you choose your favorite videos, from those highlighted here every week at TBs 'Week TechVideo' category, during the 4th quarter of 2011.




And the winners were,


#1- "Week TechVideo, 2011 #51 - Single motor Brick-Sorting machine", by MisterFitzGibbon





#2 - "Week TechVideo, 2011 #45 - MINI Cooper Mark I", by Sheepo





#3 - "Week TechVideo, 2011 #41 - JCB 3CX Backhoe", by Daniel Martz




Congratulations to the producers of the most popular videos among those featured here during the 4th quarter of 2011!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week TechVideo, 2012 #10 - Sequential 6-speed LEGO gearbox

Today I'd like to show you a 6-speed sequential type LEGO gearbox, made by YT user haRtV70R, that I've found only a few weeks ago.
He refers to it also as a Tiptronic transmission but this term is often used erroneously, hence I'd simply call it a manual sequential transmission. The Tiptronic term refers to torque converter automatic transmissions that incorporate a manual upshift/downshift feature, which I do not think to be the case here, despite we can't see any inner details from this design.

Although the internal gearbox design is not disclosed in the video, I find the overall solution quite interesting.




The video shows the sequential gearbox being exercised while the power is transmitted into this, by a V8 pneumatic engine inspired on LPE Power V8 Engine. Nice decoration added with the yellow panels on the top, though.
If you have the interest, you may also find at other videos from the same author, how his V8 LPE performs [1, 2].


Some weeks later, haRtV70R also included a set of modifications to add a Reverse, turning into a '6-speed +N +R' sequential gearbox type. See the demo on the video below. Here with the input shaft, driven by a PF M-motor instead.



The usage of one NXT servo to precisely control the gearbox up/down shifting, is indeed the cornerstone that makes all the difference to this electrically controlled sequential gearbox.
The motor looks very well integrated into the gearbox design! Unfortunately its size is rather huge - Definitely we need something smaller for the same functionality, with less torque probably as it is not really needed here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

TBs TechTOC Recall 02 - Rolling Ball Clock, by Bob Kojima

After ordering my new Gear Box t-shirt (courtesy of Crowkillers) at BrickShirts.com, I come into conversation with Bob Kojima to realize we was the author of an old model build back in 2004 - A Rolling Ball Clock, based on the Arrow Handicraft Deluxe Rolling Ball Clock [1, 2] that was popular in the 80's.



Bob writes about his clock, at his YouTube Videos (The original, and the new one above):

"To tell the time read the hour from the 3rd row of balls. For the minutes add the 1st and 2nd row of balls together.
On the first row 1 ball = 1 minute. On the second row 1 ball = 5 minutes.

My friend Chris Scheuerman asked me if I had ever seen a rolling ball clock before. He told me that he just got one and that I should come take a look at it and try to make one out of LEGO. I never did go over and look at his clock. In fact my clock was built strictly from pictures found on the web. I have never seen one of these clocks in person. I spent about 2 months making this MOC and 1 month fine tuning and debugging.

The ball holding, balancing, tilting, and logic was simple to make. It did take a few Bricklink orders to get enough ribbed tubbing and soccer balls. The lift mechanism is what stumped me. I thought about it for about a month before I came up with a design that I thought would work. It still took a lot of tweaking to get it to work correctly. The real clock has a rotating arm that lifts the balls up to the top. I was originally going to copy the same rotating arm, but I would have needed a very long arm because of the height of the ball logic. So I went with the chain lift mechanism. It turned out very well.

During debugging improvements were made like adding extra guard rails so all the balls would return to the ball holder and not the ground. One problem that I have not solved yet is the lift mechanism is not 100% accurate. Very rarely, 2 balls are lifted at the same time or no balls are lifted at all. But i think that the no lifts and the 2 ball lifts even then selves out because after running for 3 days at Brickfest PDX it was only about 1 or 2 minutes off."


You may find several photos from Bob's clock and LDraw building instructions at his BS folder.



When I first saw this old school LEGO clock it was "unfortunately" not the original design by Bob Kojima, but the adaptation of this model done by Philippe Hurbain. Philo's main modification was the addition of a RCX to obtain good long time stability, resulting into less than 1 minute drift over 24 hours.

Although it was not an easy task to make this contraption to run as intended... In Philo's words, 
"The problem should have been very simple: each minute, start the elevator until a ball is detected by one sensor. Unfortunately, my first try over a several hours period showed me that my clock was fast, several seconds each hour! After eliminating all mechanical possibilities (two balls at a time, or an undetected ball), I concluded that my RCX itself was fast... To make sure, I finally put a frequency meter probe on RCX crystal, and indeed it oscillates at 16.03 MHz instead of 16.00 MHz. So I finally added some code to wait for 6.92 seconds each hour."

Hence the problem was solved with some additional NQC programming code.



If someone decides to change this design to count seconds instead of minutes somehow, this could also turn into a great GBC module!...
Well... it was done as you can see from the comments page to this post. See the module that got inspiration from those above, here and here (This is the best footage of the module that I've seen, but it may take a long wait to start streaming. Jump at about one third of the film where it all starts).
Don't know who was the author, though. Maico Arts, member of De Bouwsteen and BeLUG was the author of this module.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Would you like to control your PF models, via Bluetooth?

Would you like to control your LEGO Technic PF models, from your Tablet or Smartphone devices via Bluetooth interface?

There is a team of individuals working on a concept to do so and they asked me if I could raise some visibility on their project. Why not?
They are not the first to think about it, but may be they become the first to produce it!?...

It is the "Core" project and idea is to produce a device that communicates via BT with your Tablet, Smartphone or NetBook and allows to control up to:

  • 3 PF devices with proportional control (motors, lights,...)
  • 5 PF devices with non-proportional control (motors, lights,...)

Preliminary specs, say the module should provide 1A current and also includes a Gyrosensor ±2G for tilt, shock and fall detection.
On the remote side you will have a 360º fully proportional controller and several customizable buttons for different settings.

You can see their presentation from the media material below.



For now they are doing some research and marketing, for which they would like to have a few answers from you in order to make it fit with most consumer needs.
Please spend a few minutes answering this survey, as the "Core" Team is willing to gather as many answers/info as possible!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Building Instructions for 9397 Logging Truck, now available at technic.LEGO.com

After some delays, mistakes and some temporary alternatives... the building instruction books for 9397 main and B-model, are finally available from technic.LEGO.com.

Below you have the direct links to download all the instruction books,




  • 9397 (B-Model - Container Truck with Snowplow)
    Book 1/2 (19,32MB)
    Book 2/2 (19,72MB)




Happy building!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week TechVideo, 2012 #09 - RC Ferrari 458 Italia 1:10

Likely we can't call it a LEGO Technic supercar, because it doesn't have many of the features we would expect to be on such a car, like suspension, gearbox and even a piston engine on its first version.
But it is a 1:10 scale RC car, so the normal HoG for hand steering was replaced with a motorized return-to-center steering and the V8 piston engine gave its place to a couple of XL-motors and PF battery boxes (which look like a huge motor block while seen from the top).

Above all the aesthetics was exceptionally crafted all around! And there are also 6 pair of PF LED lights for the front and rear lights which make it quite distinctive. Specially for the headlights which are very characteristic on 458 Italia.



The work made with the panels and some SYSTEM elements, is quite impressive at some points and the opening doors are very well integrated. As far as I can see the seats and dashboard have also superior design. Can't figure out if it is possible to open the front hood, though!
The new/old panels mix style might not be the official way to build, however it produces some nice results here.

Brunojj1 (the author) mentions the IR control doesn't function very well outdoors, but at least in the video it seems to perform pretty well.


Because some have claimed for an hand steering and V8 piston engine version, Bruno also made it together with some other modifications in the body work.



I'd say the aesthetics was improved even further. I've specially appreciated the modifications done at the roof level and immediately behind the doors.

Additional photos from both versions, can be seen at Bruno's Brickshelf account. Respectively here and here.


Well done!

Friday, March 2, 2012

9397 Logging Truck, now available from shop.LEGO.com

The new Logging Truck (9397) is finally generally available and also selling at shop.LEGO.com for most of the countries where this service is available (other countries should follow shortly).


9397 - Logging Truck


Read below this set description, as shown at LEGO website.

9397 - Logging Truck

Clear a path for the massive LEGO® Logging Truck!
The massive Logging Truck is ready for some serious lifting action! Use the LEGO® Power Functions control box on the side of the truck to lower, raise and turn the motorized grabber arm, or to extend the outriggers. Then turn and open the claw to lift even the thickest logs. This huge model also features functioning steering, opening doors and hood, and with a detailed engine bay with working piston engine, it’s like the real thing! Rebuilds into a container truck with snowplow.
  • 2-in-1 model: Rebuilds into a container truck with snowplow
  • Features LEGO® Power Functions to move the claw arm and extend the outriggers
  • Claw arm turns, lowers and raises
  • Hood opens to reveal the detailed engine with moving pistons
  • Steer with realistic controls that really move the wheels!
  • Lower the rear wheels and tip the truck’s container!
  • Raise and lower the snowplow!
  • Tip the container truck’s cabin to check out the moving pistons using LEGO® Power Functions!
  • Measures 14” (36cm) high, 9” (23cm) wide and 20” (50cm) long
  • Container truck with snowplow measures 9” (22cm) high, 6” (15cm) wide and 22” (56cm) long



Then find and compare the current prices at your country, from the table below.


Country
Currency9397



Logging Truck




AustriaATEUR119,99
BelgiumBEEUR-
FinlandFIEUR-
FranceFREUR119,99
GermanyDEEUR119,99
IrelandIEEUR119,99
ItalyITEUR109,99
LuxemburgLUEUR-
NetherlandsNLEUR-
PortugalPTEUR114,99
SpainESEUR114,99




AustraliaAUAUD-
CanadaCACAD179,99
Czech RepublicCZCZK2899,00
DenmarkDKDKK-
HungaryHUHUF35990,00
New ZelandNZNZD-
NorwayNONOK-
PolandPLPLN549,99
SwitzerlandCHCHF169,00
SwedenSESEK-
United KingdomUKGBP99,99
United StatesUSUSD139,99
KoreaKRKRW119,99



In the meantime if you are already waiting for your order to arrive, you can at least start looking at the respective building instructions available for download at technic.LEGO.com.


Below you have the direct links to download all the instruction books,



Building instructions for B-model are unfortunately not yet available for download, but I bet they will, pretty soon.



Finally, remember the shop.LEGO.com ads on the right column, are the most convenient way to purchase the sets of your preference, and support this blog.

LEGO TECHNIC New for 2012


Happy shopping!

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