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.