Monday, August 4, 2014

TBs TechReview 35 – 42030, Remote-Controlled VOLVO L350F Wheel Loader

Set reference: 42030                                                                                                                                                               
Set name: Remote-Controlled VOLVO L350F Wheel Loader
Theme: LEGO Technic
Release date: 2014.Aug

Number of parts: 1636 (plus spares)

LEGO Designer:  Uwe Wabra (UFGE)

Model under review: Main model
Weight:
Without batteries - 1.895g (4.18lbs)
With batteries - approx. 2.075g (4.57lbs)
Approximate set dimensions:
Length
   Boom low - 59,0cm (23.2")
   Boom half lifted / bucket maximum reach - 64,5cm (25.4")
   Boom maximum lift / bucket up - 52,0cm (20.5")
Width
   Bucket - 18,3cm (7.20")
   Wheel base - 17,3cm (6.81")
Height:
   Boom low - 23,2cm (9.13")
   Boom maximum lift / bucket up - 38,7cm (15.2")
Approximate box dimensions:
Height - 47,8cm (18.8")
Width - 57,8cm (22.8")
Deepth- 12,0cm (4.7")

Stickers: Yes
Numbered bags: No
Building instructions: 1 book (324 pages): 1/1
B-model: Remote-Controlled VOLVO A25F Articulated Hauler - Building Instructions available online only: 1/3, 2/3, 3/3

Recommended for ages: 11 - 16
Building difficulty level: High+
Estimated building time*: 5h - 8h

Price range**: 209,99 - 249,99€ / $US 249,99
Price per part**: 12,8 - 15,3 Euro Cents / $US 0,153 

Inventory (Bricklink): Link
Other user reviews (Brickset): Link


*) Estimation range between experienced and beginner builders.
**) Prices based on lego.shop.com, which are country dependent.



The 42030 Remote-Controlled VOLVO L350F Wheel Loader is the largest Technic set in the 2nd semester, hence the LEGO Technic flagship for 2014. As the name tells us this is the result of a partnership between TLG and VOLVO CE to produce the the third licensed model in LEGO Technic history if memory is not betraying me.

"After a joint Volvo/LEGO project, in which LEGO Technic elements had been used to create a production line concept demonstrator at Volvo, a friendship struck up between Volvo engineer Johan Sahlström and LEGO engineer Anders Gaasedal Christensen. Thanks to their prompting, the idea of cooperating on an actual Volvo model was born, and the first L350F will roll out of the factory in Billund, Denmark in August this year." 

This is a quote from the VOLVO CE Press Release earlier this year at Conexpo 2014, from where we learned how JohanS (SuperKalle at EuroBricks) and Anders Gaasedal (Goose Valley, designer of the 8043 Motorized Excavator a few years back) helped to turn this proposal for cooperation into reality.
It all happened in the sequence of the development for a brick based Production Line Demonstrator at VOLVO, where one fellow member of my LUG was also involved doing his graduation thesis, and later another TBs crew member got involved as well - Just to emphasize how small and global this world seems to be...

After all it turned into Uwe Wabra's responsibility to design the L350F LEGO version, and we are just going to deep dive into the details about this model.

Still about the license topic it is not clear at all, whether some of the parts is paying the other for the license, turning this set more expensive because of that. Although my wild guess goes for this being a no money deal.


1. THE PACKAGE AND CONTENTS

This set arrives in the typical LEGO Technic flagship card box with the lift-up cover. It is the way LEGO found to have extra space to show all the functions and details typical from the biggest flagship models.
However this time the box turned to be quite bigger than usual. It kept the same width (57,8cm) and height (47,8cm) dimensions but depth was increased to an incredible 12cm (a 3cm increase).
This is motivated primarily by the new bucket included, which is the larger LEGO Technic element ever made but this is not the only reason. The bucket itself doesn't fit inside the 9cm depth of the previous box but also wouldn't need it to increase up to 12cm. Although the LEGO boxes sorting method for distribution, forces these to fit within certain predefined sizes, and it happens the next available size to be the one used here (the same as used e.g. for the 10224 Town Hall). With no surprise it means that you will find a quite considerable empty space inside the box, given that this is 30% larger and the set includes about 63% of the elements of 42009 Mobile Crame MK II released in the previous year (1636 vs 2606 parts).

Below a 3/4 perspective from this box side-by-side with the 42009 one, to highlight the significant volume increase.



And here also the unfolded views from both the box exterior and lift-up cover, where we can see many details about this model as usual. Namely the set of PF elements included with this as well as the model functions and how to control them with the PF remotes included. It is not that readable here but notice the original box makes reference to PF IR receiver V2, while the version actually shipped is the V1.
This was a mistake to be be fixed in the next box productions and the LEGO Technic team also mentioned the V1 receiver choice was made on purpose. V2 was primarily developed to fit specific demands of the Crawler (9398, 41999) PF setup (2L + 1Servo) while V1 better fits the present set (1M + 1L + 1XL +
1Servo). Besides no more details were given, they should know what they're doing!
But now I'm wondering why LEGO Trains started to include V2 Receiver? Is it also better suited to work with the RC Train Motor? Will these continue to ship with V2 Receiver, or will they switch back to V1 as well? Somehow this story doesn't seem explained enough...



Without surprise we can also see the new bucket was used as the usual 1:1 scale element, to highlight in the top side of the box, due to its peculiar size.
In the rear side of the box we can also appreciate the alternate model proposed for this set, which is another VOLVO machine. A four wheeled VOLVO A25F Articulated Hauler which caused some controversy among the community fans because unlike previous versions (e.g. A25E) there is no real evidence of this one to exist in real life with one single rear axle, instead of the standard version with two-axle and six wheels.
The box also features some of the physical characteristics of the real life L350F and A25F machines, for comparation with the respective models.


Something that I was expecting and seems no longer in TLG plans was an App with building instructions for tablets like we got in the first half for 42022 Hot Rod. And I say no longer because there is no reference to this in the actual box anymore. Although it was in preliminary images from the 42030 box...
TLG is quite paranoiac about leaks from watermarked images with preliminary information about their new products. However this time the images are from the boxes they have shown themselves at the Toy Fairs in the beginning of this year, where we can see clear references to digital media with instructions for laptops and tablets, inclusive with references to the 'Apple Store' and 'Google Play' in the box and one image of the L350F portraid in the display of a tablet device.



Unfortunately it looks there is no way we will get these anymore and we should remain with the usual PDF files as the only digital building instructions media for the main and alternate models. Still hope this is not a complete step back and that we may see these returning with the next season and smaller sets.
Guess the main problem could have something to do with the large size of this set and readability difficulties on the mobile device displays, or the high efforts which are currently necessary to spend in order to guaranty the tablet applications work properly with a reasonable range of devices and screen sizes/resolutions available in the market.
Another possibility is the full set of app developers being allocated to other mobile device app projects, like LEGO Fusion.


Now let's open the box, and once done this is how the box and its content looks like. Also a view on how the new bucket fits inside confirming this is not the ultimate reason for how much the box size has grown, as it was already explained above.



And now taking the content outside we start with the building instructions book and the sticker sheet. Because this a large set, both come inside the usual bag with protective card board.



The building instructions book format has now turned into a single book bound with glue in the spine, rather than staples across several and smaller booklets. This is a good return from old memorable building instructions from sets like 8448, 8466, 8461 or 8455 (to name a few if not all), which was also re-introduced last year with the later production batches from 42009 Mobile Crane MK II.
This looks nicer and turns easier to store and manage your building instructions, preventing to loose some random booklets from a set. It may turn a bit more difficult to keep them open at the right page while building, but it won't damage easily if you force enough to keep it straight over the table.



From the inside I'd highlight two images. One illustrating this is not a model to be played outdoors as any other LEGO Technic set, besides that in front of a model from a building machine you may get tempted to do so (at your own risk...), and a nice image with the real L350F back-to-back with its LEGO counterpart.



Now the above mentioned sticker sheet which turned to be quite unusual as it includes two different subsets of stickers for the main and alternate models.
Better to buy two boxes if you want to try the stickers on both models, without needing to discard the first ones before applying the second set of stickers. Although I guess most of you do never apply the stickers on Technic sets.



And finally the main content of the box which are of course the parts required to build the model.
There are 14 main non numbered bags included together with several loose parts - individually bagged PF elements, the yellow wheels, the so called "Unimog" tires and the huge brand new bucket.



2. THE NEW PARTS

The main star in this set might be the new bucket which is likely also the main responsible for the LEGO Technic team not delivering us any other new elements in this second half. It looks like that the design complexity or the costs from the huge mold and a few parts in new colors, might have burned all the remaining Technic budget for element changes this year...

As seen below the bucket is extremely large and with its characteristic upper grille, it got a very specific design totally faithful to the L350F VOLVO original. While this may constitute an unique aesthetics advantage from one perspective, it can also diminish its general use potential to some extent. Hence I foresee we will see many large wheel loaders and even more weird backhoe MOCs using the spade nose bucket in the future and looking like the L350F...

Question here is why to invest in such a large bucket which has a very limited use? I'd say that due to its specific design it may serve this specific model and some MOCs but nothing more. Not even if TLG decides to develop a gigantic Backhoe Loader (very doubtful) this bucket will fit properly.
Similar result could have been easily achieved with the use of several regular and discrete beam/panel elements. Only the "license" undergoing with this VOLVO wheel loader and the need to add a special authenticity to this prominent element in terms of aesthetics, may barely justify such a new element design.
Otherwise I would have preferred a thousand times a new large bucket (but narrower) for the 8043 Motorized Excavator which ended using one from the existing assortment and not very adequate. With a new design and lower weight it could also have contributed to avoid one of the major flaws in the LEGO Technic design history due to a faulty design from the original Linear Actuators, which lead TLG to stop thousands of already packaged units ready to ship into the market.

In the same line of thinking why not a specific mold for the blade in this year's bulldozer or the previous larger one (8275 Motorized Bulldozer)? At least we don't have none of such parts yet in the assortment...




From the images below you can also perceive how large the bucket is, together with its predecessor used for instance in the previous wheel loader (8265 Front Loader) and also in the above mentioned excavator (8043).
The bucket measures 183mm wide in its largest part (bottom), which is 10mm wider than the wheel base, as it makes all the sense for an Wheel Loader.
Another aspect to mention is the spacing for the mounting pin-holes has increased from 2,5L to 4L (center-to-center) and the new version also assumed a vertical position. This eventually may have proved more adequate for the lifting arm geometry.
Their width also increased from 1/2L to 1L for the first time, and the horizontal inner spacing decreased from 5L to 3L. Bigger size and higher loads to lift may have contributed for some of these changes.




Furthermore and still talking about new elements, and also because we have seen one other very useful element introduced this semester in some non-Technic LEGO sets (Element ID 6073231 | Design ID 15100 Technic pin with friction ridges lengthwise and pin hole), I wonder if there was absolutely no chance to include some with any of the 2H Technic sets...


3. THE PARTS ASSORTMENT

As every other flagship this also includes a very large amount of parts, although not as massive as in some other previous flagships. Rather this one has got a remarkable set of PF elements which made the final price tag.

You won't find in this box any specific elements to build models with pneumatics, suspensions, switch boxes or even tracked vehicles. Although it includes a diversified assortment with frames, portal hubs, linear actuators, reuses the 8110 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400 huge tires and of course it includes plenty of beams, pins and connectors always very useful for any Technic build kind.
Of course the main gang are the PF elements included as mentioned above: 1 M, 1 L, 1 XL, 1 Servo, 1 Battery Box, 2 IR Receivers and 2 IR Remotes.

The whole set of PF elements included is reproduced below.



Although there are no new parts in addition to the L350F bucket, there are few elements in colors which were never released before and a few other highlights which are worth to mention.


Elements in colors never seen before



Both molds of the 56mm D. x 34mm wheel hubs (Design ID 44772 and Design ID 15038) where never released in yellow before. This fact has been stimulating the imagination from many builders of construction machinery up to now, but these will get the so desired hubs in yellow from now on.

The engine blocks (Design ID 2850b) also got green for the first time, due to the fact that VOLVO uses green engines and this being very characteristic of their machines. Like the new bucket this is something that I guess won't be as useful for other models and MOCs as the yellow wheel hubs. Probably we may not see them again, like older releases in Trans-Clear and DBG (also released just once with 8435 4WD, back in 2004).

There is an element (Design ID 11478 Liftarm 1x5 thin with axle holes on ends) which we have been used to see in black (Element ID 6030286) is now introduced also in Technic sets with LBG color (Element ID 6029206). Here it might have occurred due to the release of such color for the latest Star Wars AT-AT. Besides the same part appears in 1H Technic sets in black (thus still in production) guess the new color was here introduced for the diversity sake.
Six of them are used in the whole set, always next to other LBG parts or at least non black. However always in the bottom side and not easily visible, hence the color change was not necessary at all, just because of this set.

There are still some other parts which are currently not that common due the few sets where they have been released so far. It is the case of:
  • Green 9L and 13L Beams were first introduced with 42008 Service Truck in 2013 and now reused with this set.
  • 6L Thin Liftarm in yellow was released in 2000 and reappeared again with several Technic sets in 2014, including this one.
  • The huge tires only released before with 8110 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400 has already mentioned.
  • There is one black 11x3 Curved Technic Panel (Design ID 11954 | Element ID 6031916) which was released only once before, with the EV3 Expansion Set (45560) from LEGO Education, hence still a rare element.
  • Yellow Technic Connectors #5 (Design ID 32015 | Element ID 4107068 ) and #6 (Design ID 32014 | Element ID 6072968) have been not present in Technic sets for awhile, although they were released in a few other sets.
  • The black Technic Cam (Design ID 6575 | Eelement ID 4143187) also did not appear in a Technic set since 2006.
  • And 15 additional axle/pins (Design ID 11214 | Element ID 6051356), which are rapidly becoming a standard in Technic sets and certainly the best among newcomer elements in the 1H14.


4. BUILDING EXPERIENCE

The building process begins with the pendular rear axle which starts taking shape after a few building steps. Here already with the beginning of the steering articulation.


Axle oscillation is achieved with the small turntable which here gets one new utilization in official sets. It is interesting as I've seen a similar setup before, with the small blue turntable (Design ID 32273c01) now very rare. Although this had only half-pin connections which turned quite fragile for pendular suspension applications.

Inside of the axle we can see one differential which is a natural consequence of this being a 4WD vehicle.

Notice the the portal hubs initially developed to provide higher ground clearance, here also being used in the horizontal for the first time in a Technic set, and proving the versatility of this element.
We can see it was used the maximum gear reduction possible with existing LEGO Technic gears, inside the portal axle frames (24:8 or 3:1), which is also a first for use of this element into official sets. Here it maximizes torque and reduces the speed which is still delivered in good amount as we will see later on.
This group also represents the propulsion module and final drives from the real machine and here comes the first opportunity for an improvement regarding authenticity - just if the Designers had chosen to develop a new element.
The real L350F final drives use planetary-type heavy-duty hub reductions instead of something similar to this portal thing. It may look similar but that's definitely not the same. Also a new specialized element for a planetary axle would be of great need and use in LEGO Technic models.

As final remark for this picture, notice the thin 4L liftarms attached to the top of the axle which are there just to limit its pendular travel.


Ahead and already with the rear and front sections of the chassis connected through the pivot articulation, the model will look like this. Although the wheelbase won't give you a precise idea of the overall vehicle dimension as it will extend backwards and the beams in the front will fold up (bucket will come in that space).

Notice also the differential in the front axle and again the portal axles placed in the horizontal (reduction is of course the same).



Then we proceed with the articulation mechanism. This is worth to mention because of the Technic cams usage - apparently this is the way to build with 3 axle holes in a row. These are necessary to achieve the displacing movement that will force the rear and front sections to steer, by rotating the center axle.



The mechanism turns about 30 degrees in each direction which makes a total of 60 degrees, whilst the PF Servo motor gives us 180 degree amplitude. This 3:1 reduction is achieved with no gear reductions involved, but with a four-bar linkage mechanism. Of course this is only possible because of the presence of differentials in each axle, which allow the wheels to adjust as the model steers without intervention of any horizontal dragging forces on the wheels.

Next picture shows the steering (PF Servo) and driving (PF XL) motorization already in place.



This was probably the second biggest chance to improve this model. As you will see in the demo video, the steering turns to be quite jerky, because of the sudden behavior of the PF Servo motor. IMO it would have been more authentic to use a Linear Actuator based steering and likely it would have worked a lot smoother although not so fast. In the end I guess there was a bigger will among the Technic team to give some new use to the PF Servo motor, but we will come back to this later on.

Now it is time to proceed assembling of the VOLVO green engine, a straight six-cylinder D16E LAE3 as photographed below.
There are three white connectors at one side which represent the engine oil filters. Because they are apparently not all the same size in the real engine, I would have preferred to see one of this cylinders done with a white 1x1 round brick for authenticity sake. Don't know whether the addition of one different element to the part list and packaging process would increase the production cost and needs to be accounted in the model development budget, but guess so. Don't know either whether this was the reason for not doing it, but at least the pinhole/stud connection is not an illegal technique and thus not an excuse.
Although I've seen several images for the same motor and don't know whether they all look the same.



Below and already some pages ahead this is how the engine looks like with the PF battery box underneath.



After having installed the Infra Red receivers, the PF L and M motors that will control the bucket and the three linear actuators in the front, this is how it looks like. Notice the amount of cables connecting motors, the IR receivers and the battery box, but don't worry! These will be easily buried inside the fairing panels some steps ahead.

The M and L motors have meanwhile been installed as well. The L-motor which is more powerful will control the bucket lift and the M-motor will do the job for the bucket tilt, that won't require much torque.



From the pictures below you may get to see some more details about the mechanism that transmits movement to the lifting linear actuators.



Building instructions proceed with the fairing panels and engine access doors, the rear mudguards, the ladder and driver's cabin. L350F is taking its final form! Here it is how it is getting to look like.



The IR Receivers are nicely hidden in the rear section but still in good location to receive the remote signals very effectively.
The top of the rear section is perfectly flat while there is small slope on the real model. Eventually this could have been improved too, but I won't be saying it would have been easy.

Next task was to build the loader liftarm system with its Z-bar linkage. This design is specific for a loader this size class and it is a field-proven geometry for high lift capacity.



After the front mudguards, wheels and bucket installation, it's all done and this is how the final model looks like.




And this is all we remain with. It always surprises me to see some parts like axles among the leftovers, which made me think if I missed something in the build process...



This set was built online in a Google Hangout on Air session and you can see the recording of the live streaming here. Although and since I guess you may not have 7+ hours to waste with this, here it is also the time-lapse video for an accelerated view.



No one builds faster than this!...


5. FUNCTIONALITY AND PLAYABILITY

This is a fully motorized model and as you may have already understood, this model function's are:
  • Driving (motorized, PF XL)
  • Articulated steering (motorized, PF Servo)
  • Bucket lift (motorized, PF L)
  • Bucket tilt (motorized, PF M)
  • Rear pendular suspension
  • Five engine access doors
  • Fake engine

Let's see some of them in more detail:

Driving

This model is characterized by a 4WD transmission. It uses one differential at each axle but no central differential which we have seen in other 4WD LEGO Technic models. Somehow it would be also a non-sense given the non-linear velocity changes introduced by the articulated steering  u-joint in the main shaft.

Overall reduction from the XL motor to the wheel hubs is 21:5 or 4,2:1. The end result is a very pleasant speed which is nice to play with and neither it feels too fast nor to slow for indoor play.
Although the gearing relations in the portal hubs can be easily changed to a lower ratio, incrementing the speed but simultaneously reducing the torque and crawling capability. Wheel loaders use to operate in mostly flat surfaces though.

As explained above the drive function relies on two differentials, one at each axle as we can easily see from the bottom view.



If we look closer at each one, we will notice a double thin beam assembly underside. I don't remember to have seen this at any previous LEGO Technic models using differentials and guess this was put there to protect them from the underside.
Since this is a construction machine and it is expected it to dig large and small debris, and travel over them, this is the probable reason for such protection even though this is not supposed to be played outdoors. Any small piece entering there could lock or damage the differential.



Steering

As the typical large scale wheel loader, this one also features an articulated steering. Instead of a more realistic steering achieved with one or two hydraulic cylinders (or linear actuators which are the typical substitutes in motorized LEGO Technic models) the designers decided to use the PF Servo motor.
Although the PF protocol and the servo motor allow for 7 step PWM control, designers decided for the standard IR bang-bang remote which does not support the same. This added to the fact that PF Servo moves from its center position to full left or full right almost instantly made the steering function of this model quite jerky and considerably unpleasant in my opinion.

This could be easily solved by using the IR speed remote from LEGO RC Trains, although we never saw one included with a LEGO Technic set for some reason. Don't know whether this is because of its higher cost or because it is also not very convenient to use specially if you aim for a fast control, or any other reason?
Although I know it urges for TLG to develop an absolute PF speed remote with one stick (X&Y) or two sticks (X+Y) being the first configuration my preferred one. This is a must to improve the play experience for many Technic models, if TLG wants to deliver on one of their most important values (playability).
Such remote would be perfect to smoothly operate this Wheel Loader. More specifically its driving functions (drive + steer) as PF remotes always come with two outputs (A and B). Or else let's pray for this Kickstarter initiative [1, 2] to succeed!...

Furthermore I noticed the steering behaves a lot better when the bucket is fully loaded (approx. 1Kg), than when it is empty. The jerky effect decreases considerably in such circumstances.
Although I assume kids will play with L350F unloaded or with low weight loads most of the time. Hence this should have been subject to some extra attention during the design process and eventually a linear actuator steering based mechanism should have been considered, if a more suitable remote was not in the radar as it was the case.

On a more positive note, with a direct axle to the steering mechanism, the steering wheel in the driver's cabin also turns as we steer the vehicle. It doesn't turn more than 90 degrees once there are no gears involved in this connection but just a direct connection which mimics the servo rotation range. 


The bucket lift and tilt

Bucket movement is done be means of a Z-bar linkage like the real model. The conjugation of this together with the geometry of the bucket attachment points defines the extension of movements the bucket can achieve.
Looking at the catalog specs of the original, I dare to say the Technic model follows it very faithfully.





The lift function relies on the linear actuators that move the boom upwards and downwards. Like in previous LEGO Technic flagships (8043 and 42009) there is here a twin setup with one Linear Actuator at each side of the Loader.
Maybe you remember there was some polemic at the time around these former models, because the respective designers have installed the linear actuator driving gears in a symmetrical setup which may look nicer but arguably is not technically correct and lead to small differences between each side when the boom travels its full range.
I bet someone in the design team had listen to us, and at 3rd attempt they finally made it right. The driving gears have now been placed in the same side of the liner actuators' bracket at both sides of the model.



Loading capability

In terms of capacity to lift loads I've been reading about different specs from official sources. While the LEGO Technic L350F promotional video at VOLVO CE lists the lifting capacity at 1,66 Lbs (0,750 Kg) their Press Release at Connexpo 2014 and VOLVO CE Spirit Magazine both mention the lifting capacity at above 1Kg.
While this is a bit inconsistent, my own experiment with 0,900Kg went with success and no grinding linear actuators. At 1Kg things become a bit different as you can see from the demonstration video below.

If we observe the model dynamics we will find the overall model weight of 2.075g distributes between approx. 525g in the front axle and 1.460g in the rear axle, when the bucket is fully lifted (empty or unloaded) and with batteries installed.
As a matter of fact each 250g loaded in the bucket will produce an extra force in the front axle of about 400 to 600g as measured in a kitchen scale, because of the momentum produced. This depends on the boom lifting angle a bucket tilt. Maximum force is reached well before the bucket reaches its highest position.

Another demonstration of the great power of the Z-bar linkage geometry and the boom in this model is the easiness with that it lift its own weight. Although the most of its weight goes on the rear axis as we have seen above.


The inverted slope design of the rear bumper is an apparent fit in regard to this maneuver, although even the chassis bottom seems to have been designed to allow this.

There is a lot of gear crunching at the Linear Actuators brackets, when these reach their end course or when the load goes above the limits. These seem to kick in even before the LA built-in internal clutches. There is always a compromise but LA clutches start to seem too hard. If they would be too much softer they would actuate at much lower loads too, which would be a good thing as well...

So the question that I leave here is, would it be possible for LEGO to develop a smaller and reliable clutch gear


Servicing

As any real machine we should be able to access the engine compartment for servicing and so it does the LEGO replica as well. There is a total of five independent doors that can be open for this purpose.

One on the rear side that immediately reveals the green six-cylinder D16E LAE3 engine and the respective cooling fan.


And on each side the access is split in two parts.
An upper door made with one 11x3 curved panel and one beam, which we open vertically by pushing a towball on its surface. Because the towball is very close to the pivoting point it is not the easiest thing to use, but still effective.
And one horizontal door that moves only after "opening" the rear mudguards. These open by pulling them in the rear and pivoting outwards. A pin connection needs to be released which is quite unusual but comprehensible in this situations - We do not want the mudguards to open easily while driving the machine. Now we can also open the lower door that gives access to the engine bay.
By opening the lower and upper doors simultaneously we end with a much larger access of course. If accessing from the side in the right we immediately see the three white filters on the engine side. Easy servicing!




Unlike the real machine, the juice that makes this moving is not a diesel tank but the PF battery box full of electricity.
Then we need to service this from time-to-time, to change batteries. Here the designer has used a nice and unusual solution where the battery box does not come out alone, but together with part of the chassis or the rear bumper where it is strongly attached.

The replacement is fairly easy. We just need to remove two axles with stop and red bush from the underside, and pull the long black pin with stop bush to open a small rear door and detach the PF plugs from the battery box. Then we just need to slide out the whole block containing the battery box and open it as usual to replace the batteries inside. The replacement of the whole battery box if it happens you to have one filled with charged batteries, is not so easy though!


Although this is an easy operation, there is not reference or illustration in the manual on how to do it. I must confess that the first time I had to replace the batteries I ended disassembling far more than needed for the task...
Which makes me believe that one more page in the instructions with indications on how to do this, would have been more than advisable - Meanwhile someone told me this was added to the building instructions available online and indeed it is! (eventually this may come out in future print jobs too)


The cabin

Apart the moving steering wheel and the adjustable rear view mirrors there is no other functions or dummy functions connected with the cabin, which is a pity and sounds like another missed opportunity for a model this size and complexity.
We lack the presence of openable doors, seat tilt adjustment or any fake levers for the operator to actuate as we have seen in so many other Technic models. These should have been perfectly doable, but now lefts for you to MOD the original if you feel like doing so.



By doing simple calculations at the several dimensions of this set and its real counterpart we find it to be approximately in the 1:20 scale, the same approximate scale of the old LEGO Technic figs.
So why not try to fit one at the driver's seat?

In fact and just considering the overall cabin dimensions it fits and it is nicely posable in the driver's seat. Although we need to take the steering wheel off and put it back after having sit the Technic fig in place.


Notice that I added also a couple of levers to make it a bit more realistic.


The video demonstration

Now you can you can find most of the aspects that we have been talking about in the video below. Watch to see the model in action, its most positive aspects and failures.



Something else you'd like to know, just drop us your questions in the comments to this post.


6. THE B-MODEL

Being this set the result of a partnership with VOLVO CE where the main model is a machine from the same maker, it would make all the sense to choose another VOLVO machine for the alternate model proposed, and so it was done.

The alternate model chosen is not any another VOLVO machine but one suitable to be built with the parts used in the main model (tracked vehicles excluded), so it can't take more than 4 wheels. The choice fell over an Articulated Hauler which makes all the sense, not only for reusing the same steering mechanism (unfortunately repeating the sames problems with this) but it is also the kind of machinery that fits perfectly the main model, making this (almost) couple a perfect match to be played together. This will simply make you consider to buy two sets, so that you could build both and play with them simultaneously.



Hence the model chosen was the VOLVO A25F Articulated Hauler, and here begins the mystery. No one was able to find any online reference that proves the physical existence of a 4-wheeled A25F hauler.

Unlike it predecessors A25D and A25E which were also made available in a 4x4 variant, A25F seems to be available only in the 6-wheeled version so far.



For some reason VOLVO might have posed their machines so carefully in the family photo, having the L350F hiding the A25F rear axle to give the illusion of a 4x4 A25F.



Don't know whether the 4-wheeled A25F is just a specific vehicle that could be ordered as a customized model, or this is not available at all. Maybe VOLVO have decided to use the A25F model name in the box just to keep inline with the latest revision of their articulated hauler in the market for marketing reasons.

Apart the strange shortening by removing the third axle for obvious reasons also some other decisions have contributed for this model to look so awkward...

Tipper looks unfinished and lacks many panels or something that would close all that holes.
It is virtually unusable because of that which dramatically diminishes its playability. Basically you can load it with a milk or juice package but not much more than that. And what you can load in is certainly something the L350F will have extreme difficulty to dig in...

The A25F engine goes in transverse position, but because the lack of space the LEGO model uses the engine in longitudinal position. As it seems there was not even space to include the fan.

We plan to do also video review of this one, but so far the prospects for a good classification are not promising for this one...


As usual the building instructions to build this model are only available online. See the header of this review to find the download links for the respective 3 building instructions PDF files.


    7. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

    So its time for the final comments which for one reason or another did not fit into the sections above.

    I'd start with a reference to the "gap". Some have been mentioning this as a week point in the design of this model, although I find it not totally fair rather a bit exaggerated. In the images below we can see a side view photo from the Technic model along with a blue print of the original machine, where you can easily realize the gap also exists in the original model. A bit displaced as we can see from another image below, but it is there and it is with similar size.


    Honestly in this case I don't feel the need of any greebling to make it feel less empty, once it is quite faithful to the original, whether we like it or not. Certainly VOLVO will not change it because of us not liking it.


    On the other way I and others also felt the tires used are relative small for the model scale. It doesn't mean LEGO should have developed slightly larger tires specifically to this model. But if they did wish they added a tread more suitable to this type of machinery.

    This is the way I found to further investigate whether tires are into scale or not. As we can see the difference is not very significant. The bigger difference is on the wheel hubs size, where the LEGO version is quite larger than in the real L350F. This cause the LEGO tire to be thinner and this is what's causing the feeling of small tires. Some fans have found their solution to elude this effect, by using black wheel hubs with a smaller yellow cover applied.


    So, this was not really the opportunity for the Power Puller tires to return as some have desired. And they would be too wide anyways.

    Finally I'd dare to say that regardless the stickers always give an extra nice touch to the models and they help to improve realism, aesthetics, etc. stickers in the bucket are not exactly a brilliant idea...
    If this model is intended to be played, even though indoors, stickers shouldn't last in great shape for too long once the kid starts digging everything that stops in front of their loader...


    Maybe a similar printing effect could have been achieved by the molding process itself, once the bucket shouldn't have many other uses than large VOLVO Wheel Loaders anyway...



    The writing already goes too long and for many days... In order to finish this I leave you with some pictures of the large L350F side to side with other recent LEGO Technic flagships so you can better evaluate for its size.





    LEGO Technic uses a huge variety of scales for their flagships, we already knew.
    And it becomes evident the VOLVO is not using a similar scale to any of those to which it is pictured here with.



    8. THE RATINGS

    Now that's time for a synthesis in the form of Pros & Cons.


    PROS
    • Great assortment of parts in a single kit for a starter
    • All-in-one PF motors assortment
    • Large scale model
    • Unique extra large bucket to create your own models
    • Building is fun and not repetitive
    • Very nice and enjoyable to play with
    • Can lift a very reasonable amount of load
    • It looks very much with the original VOLVO L350F
    • Specific stickers for main and alternate models

    CONS
    • Steering is too jerky and lacking authenticity
    • Too much gear crunching around the Linear Actuators
    • Bucket looks to specific for general use (too much VOLVO L350F)
    • No new parts apart the bucket
    • Most expensive Technic set to date
    • High price per par, although there is a good amount of high-value parts included
    • Stickers for main and alternate models should come with spare parts, so that there is no need to remove stickers if you want to try both models
    • Stickers won't last long in the bucket
    • Missing openable doors and control sticks in the cabin
    • B-model suffers the same steering flaw and looks unfinished
    • B-model instructions not included in the box


      And now my individual ratings upon all the observations done until this point:

      AFC Concept Ratings
      Authenticity  (Does it looks authentic?)   
      Functionality  (Does it has the functions I would expect and do they work right?)   
      Challenging Build  (Is this set building experience challenging and interesting?)   

      Beyond AFC Ratings
      Parts Pack  (Is this set a good parts source?)   
      Parts Innovation  (Are there great new elements included?)   
      Set Innovation  (Is this set innovative in the Technic portfolio?)   
      Set Design  (Does it has some flaws?)   
      Playability  (How fun and easy is it to play with?)   
      Aesthetics  (Does it looks awesome?)   
      Value for Money  (Is this set worth its price?)   


      Overall Rating: Recommended  



      Hope you like the new rating structure.

      6 comments:

      Carer said...

      Wow - not only biggest model of the year but biggest review of the year!

      Thanks for posting. From what I can see of the B model it seems simpler and smaller - enough to think they could have used various left over bits to fill in the sides of the tipper?
      (Also I think the licenced models include Mercedes (Unimog) Ferrari (599, Enzo, F1 x2) and Williams (F1) and now Volvo)

      Fernando Correia said...

      @Carer

      For some reason it took so long to get out... :)

      I didn't count with the Ferraris in the licenses count as technically these were not LEGO Technic sets, but RACERS instead.
      Hence we had the Williams, the Unimog and now the VOLVO, if I didn't miss something else. :)

      NagyO said...

      Why is this fear of the stickers? I think all of the models are looking way nicer with the stickers applied, I really think that only the hardcore MOC builders would like to skip that step. And anyway. I can order the parts without the stickers from BL for a few euros, why would I stare on a model without them, when it looks much much better with them applied? And also, I never would buy a second set just to apply the stickers of the B model, when I can order only that few parts for 10 euro instead of buying one more set for 210...

      Fernando Correia said...

      @NagyO

      I agree the stickers look great when applied. That's the reason I started to apply them on reviewed sets for sometime.
      I'm not so positive about the stickers applied to the bucket itself.
      And definitely that's a good point to buy only the parts where the stickers are applied as extras.

      Unknown said...

      I completed the build, put brand new batteries in yet nothing will work? Why?

      Michael Widjaja said...

      It iis a great set, my son built it. Afterwards realized we had to correct some things.
      , so I share some important tips when building it:

      1. Remote did not work. The lights have to flash on the remote. If not, most probably the left plus side of the aaa battery does not connect. Fix it with putting some aluminioum foil between the battery and the connector.

      2.bulldozer does not go forward even though motor works and the green engine also turns. Check that you used correctly the wheels on page 13, picture 4. There are 2 wheels, and you have to put them in the right position, the top needs to turn the axis, the other one not.

      3. Another thing is once trying to move it forward, it turns the suspension and not the wheels. You have to ensure that the axis in picture 3 on page 32 is not sticking out.in our case it stood out and blocked the differential.

      4. It does not turn left or right. When turning on the batteries, the model turns left by default. The cause is that the servo motor is not aligned properly. You have to align it as shown in page 10 before building it in the model.

      In our case we needed to open it afterwards. Easiest is to take out the top cabin, and the rights side leaving the big parts in tact. For the differential, you can take out from below. Difficult but not impossible.

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