Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bridge made of LEGO bricks

There are people who make bridges out of dry spaghetti, others use LEGO bricks. Members of the Perth Adult Lego Society in Australia chose the latter. The bridge is 14 meters long (42 feet) - if it can hold its own weight it will be a world record.

(Via Brothers-Brick)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lego gadgets

We cannot live without our gadgets. But if they are with us all the time, why not make them from Lego bricks?

Another sixteen gadgets inspired by Lego here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pinball from Lego

This pinball machine was introduced at a LegoWorld exhibition a couple of years back and I have found it now.

Of course pinball needs a round ball, so it was not made of Lego but everything else was. The creators have used 20000 bricks. It works with a 50 Eurocent coin, it does not accept other coins. The player gets 3 balls but there is a lot of chance to get extra ones, for example by landing in the black hole or get all letters from the P-I-N-B-A-LL sign. Rotating arms and auto-kickback make the game more interesting.

The game is controlled by 13 RCX units (Mindstorms computers) and all of them were needed because one has only 2 inputs and 3 outputs. 4 controls the display, 6 the point collector, one the flippers, one the new balls and one the auto-kickback. The table contains 50 lights and 24 motors.

The creators claim it took 300 hours to assemble. You can read more here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

8297 Off Roader

From the bigger Technic cars we have already covered the 8880 Super Car, now let's see a less aged set. The 8297 Off Roader came out last fall and can be bought as we speak. The model is somewhat different from its line of blood because it contains electronic parts - but let's not jump forward.

The car is entirely made of studless bricks. In the front we find a V8 engine that is connected to the rear wheels via a single differential. The front wheels have steering and all four wheels include a double wishbone suspension. The doors open upwards with the usual pneumatically damped springs. It could be nothing unusual so far, it is at the same level as a 8458 race car.

However, this is not the end of the story yet: the car contains an elertrical system. When we turn it on we can see the headlights turn on immediately: a first in Lego, this car contains white LED parts. This is only beginning though, the car contains a motor as well. No, it does not drive the car, it would be way too weak for that. With a switch we can opt to drive the winch in the front. The photo below shows the motor and the main switch on the top behind the cockpit.

The most interesting feature of the set is that the motor can be used to adjust the suspensions of the car up or down. Flip a switch (on the bottom of the car, the tip can be seen on the photo above) and push another (in the middle on the side behind the cockpit) and the motor moves all suspensions of the car up or down.

The yellow end of the spring moves up or down around an axle that reaches to all four suspensions. This needs a lot of mechanic parts, as can be seen on the photo showing the bottom of the car.

All in one 8297 is a good set especially because all these interesting things are packed into a set containing less than 1100 pieces (the 8880 has more than 1300, for example). As usual there are more photos in the album. Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Tegla for letting me test their wedding present.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vokswagen Beetle hot-rod

Mad Physicist took his VW Beetle this time to rebuild it as a hot-rod, quite popular in the US. The bodywork is mostly the same but the mudguards are gone, the suspension is lower, the front wheels have moved ahead and the roof is lower too - just like with a real one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Lego Architecture sets

After the first sets from the Lego Architecture series there are some details available about the next ones. They present the works of famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and have more bricks than the previous sets.

21004, Solomon Guggenheim Museum:
21005, Fallingwater:
The new sets are the result of a cooperation between Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and Lego.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mustang from bricks

Yesterday I have finally got all the missing packets containing Mustang parts. Of course I started building the Great Masterpiece immediately. This is the result:

I am quite happy with it. Of course I got new ideas while building it, for example I have realized that I could have made the interior of the door from tan colored panels. Maybe next time...

Until then some statistics:
  • total time spent: approx. 6 hours
  • total money spent: apporx. 40 USD
  • waiting for the bricks: 10 days
  • number of bricks: about 200 including the roof (not yet visible)
More images in the album. And a video:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

History of the big Technic cars, Part II.

(previous part, next part)

I owed you the next part of the Big Technic Car story for a long time. Here it comes.

The line of flagships was simple and logical from the beginning (1977) right until 1999: a single flagship, the throne was always taken by one of the the four cars introduced in the previous part. They were the largest Technic models and since they followed one after another there was no competition amongst them.

1999 marked the start of changes with the introduction of 8448 "Super Street Sensation". This set broke the tradition in several ways. For the first time the bodywork was made of studless bricks, with the chassis was made of old-style bricks but well hidden. The two types of Lego bricks divide Technic fans since then. The car also started a new trend by focusing on the looks and not only packing features. Unlike the all-wheel drive in its predecessor its V8 engine "drove" the rear wheels only. This was also the first car since the original 956 carrying its engine in the front. The number of gears in the gearbox has increased to 5+1, making it a match for most road cars.

Another first, it was possible to build multiple bodyworks onto the same chassis. As a sports car, it could be built with "gullwing" doors opening upwards or as a "coupe-convertible" with folding roof. As an alternative it could also have an American style hot rod chassis. The doors were opened with pneumatically damped springs.

The lineup has changed fundamentally when a secondflagship, the 8458 "Silver Champion" race car was added. The Silver Champion is in fact a McLaren Mercedes Formula-1 car but it did not carry an official badge at that time. The car emphasises the break with traditions even more: it has less moving parts but a more realistic bodywork including front and rear spoilers. Like all Formula-1 cars at that time, it has a V10 engine and double wishbone suspension on all 4 wheels. It has a differential and steering but no gearbox - its technical content is below the level of the 8865 introduced more than 10 years earlier (not counting the number of cylinders and the bodywork that can be opened).

The diversity was increased even more with the introduction of the 8466 "4x4 Off Roader" set in 2001. If two flagships were not enough now there was a third one. Its size was no match for the other models but in working features it was: besides a V8 engine and the gearbox from 8448 it had an all wheel drive and doors opening upwards. Like the "Street Sensation" the chassis is made of bricks and the exterior from studless elements.

The next set in 8461 "Williams F1 Racer" from 2002. It is basically the rebranded version of 8458: along a blue-white livery and some new parts the biggest change happened in the name: it was an official "Formula-1" licensed product and ran as part of the "Racers" series. The building instructions had about 80% commonality with its predecessor.

The last set is not really a super car, the 8435 "4WD" introduced in 2004. It is nevertheless worthwhile to mention because it sports many working features that would had made it a super car several years earlier. Contrary to its name it had a rear wheel drive with a V6 engine in the front and working differential in the rear. The front wheels had a functional steering as well as an independent suspension. The rear did not have springs at all but the bridge could be bent relative to the body so it made a real off-road impression. This is the first model that did not have any studded bricks at all, consisting of 763 parts altogether. For comparison, the flagship from 1977 contained 590 parts!

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Virtual Mustang

While I am waiting to get all Mustang parts I thought I would make a virtual version. Unexpectedly, getting all the virtual parts was not easy either - the mudguard was neither in the official nor in the unofficial parts of LDraw. I was lucky enough to get some help from gzurti so I have everything now. The result illustrates the difference between images made by LDraw (or POV-Ray to be precise) and LDD (click for more):

Meanwhile I got the first package for the real Mustang - I hope I will get the rest soon as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We have moved!

My apologies for the temporary unavailability of Lego goodness. This have stabilized now - welcome to! Same (hopefully) interesting content, more Lego. Go Bricks n Gears!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mustang at scale

Now that we talk about Mustang - the grand master of pneumatic engines nicjasno published a whole album about the details of his own Mustang. This is much larger than mine and its main task is to test pneumatic engines, but it is very impressive on its own. At about 30 studs wide it is very similar to the details of a real car.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mustang project

Although I am a Technic fan, these days I run into many realistic models. I like cars and aircraft most especially if they are not too large like the mini-Technic models from the Arvos or the cars from the Ralph.

I got so enthusiastic that I started thinking about how I could build something like that. First I considered replicating the excellent Porsche from the Arvo brothers. I did not drop the idea completely but so far it seems to exceed my capabilities. It would take a lot of time to find out how the invisible parts are done and it would take many special bricks like the windscreen ($26 used) or the a rear windows ($15 new), making it expensive.

Building small models leads to different challenges than large ones where the scale gives you much more freedom. With small ones one has to brainstorm about putting each brick to its place, considering different alternatives in many cases. It needs special pieces in unusual colors to return the characteristic features of the original. I have no clue about how pros do it but it seems impossible that they have all the bricks on their shelves in advance in the desired colors (it is worth to take a look at the color chart).

Finally, I have made up my mind. I have decided to try a Ford Mustang convertible (the current one, not the old one). Decisions so far:
  • I have many bricks (ask my wife) but not enough. The car will be built solely from newly bought bricks not to limit building. I am also curious how much it will cost. Also, I would like to keep it in one piece forever.
  • This makes designing a bit difficult. I have built prototypes for certain parts from the bricks I have but the final car is modeled in LDD because I do not know LDraw very well. LDD also makes some sanity checks like checking if all the bricks are connected.
  • The car will be 6 studs wide. This is small but it allows me to use some special parts like the mudguards.
This is where planning is at the moment. There will be some parts that will look different and I will use other colors too. But the basic shape can be seen.

It seems like $40 will cover the financial side. Ordering was a bit complicated because there are some part I could find only at one merchant, so I had to order from 4 different shops to cover everything.

So far so good. When it is ready it will go to brickshelf and of course I will tell you about it on the blog too!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Explore the Mad Physicist

Ralph probably noticed that we are talking about him and created a nice page to explore his creations so far. If you would like to have more of the pleasure click here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Favorite cars from the Mad Physicist

We already covered airplanes from the Mad Physicist (Ralph Savelsberg) (here and here), let's take a look at his cars (click on the images).

VW Bug and Mercedes "Heckflosse" alias the "Autobahn":

Shelby Cobra:

Ferrari Testarossa:

Tourist coach:

Pontiac Bonneville:

Chevy Impala:

Ford F150:

Chevrolet Camaro from Chicago City Police:

Mercury Sportsman, 1946:
Each single one is perfect. It is worth to take a look at details like the wheels - almost each one of them is different even though the scale is roughly the same. Likewise, the mirrors, etc.

Now I am only waiting for a Trabant... If I stare at these images for too long, I may build one myself...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lego Digital Designer

We already discussed how one can play Lego with a computer instead of real bricks. We mentioned LDraw and SR 3D Builder. Let's go back to the alpha an omega of virtual building now: Lego Digital Designer (LDD).

The most important difference is that LDD is Lego's own official product available for free from Unlike the other apps mentioned LDD is not open source. This is a drawback because there is no way to hack it and insert new bricks for example. This is also a plus because hacking is not required - you just need to download and install it. Another plus is that it is well integrated with other services from Lego. What you build can be uploaded into a public gallery and even bought as real bricks (depending on your country).

Key features:
  • You get a photorealistic view while building.
  • LDD models the physics of elements. You can put bricks only where they fit. They can be rotated or selected based on connections. It does not model rotating gears, though.
  • The ready model can be rotated or viewed between different backgrounds. Since this is built into the app it is convenient, but our images will not be as nice as with the LDraw - Pov-Ray duo.
  • After a click and some thinking it presents you with building instructions too. Handy if you are about to order physical bricks.
I am sure free software believers will not like me but I think LDD is more intuitive and easier to use than say LDraw. If you would like to try virtual building for the first time I recommend LDD.

After starting it you have to choose whether to build from Factory, Mindstorms or Creator bricks. Building from the Factory bricks allows you to order your creation online from real bricks. If you made up your mind, you can choose from half-ready models, starting from scratch or from your own earlier models.

On the left hand side you can choose the bricks - not all of them are available in all colors, this limits building a little bit. Technic elements are very rare, the selection support City-style building most (in case of the Factory bricks).

You can place new bricks with the mouse and rotate them with the arrows. The program helps you to attach new bricks to existing ones. In the Tool Box there are the following tools available:
  • Select. Selected bricks can be rotated and moved the same way as new ones. You can select single bricks, bricks within a rectangle, connected bricks etc.
  • Clone. You can copy without limits.
  • Hinge. You can rotate parts like propeller, arms and legs of minifigs, etc.
  • Paint. If the selected part is available in other colors, you can re-color it.
  • Delete.
  • Screen shot.
With a little bit of practice you can easily get this far:

Once this is done you can go to view mode, rotate it and make pictures:

In Building Guide Mode it even creates building instructions that can be saved as HTML:

When done you can upload your model to (after registration). You can even order your own or others' sets - it is not more expensive than a factory set with the same number of bricks.

Some experience:
  • LDD does not let you build if the bricks do not fit. There are some borderline cases though that fit in reality but not according to LDD.
  • With larger models it happens sometimes that small errors accumulate and some bricks do not fit unexpectedly. For example I have managed to save a design that LDD could not load the next time because of this.
  • Bricks available in the Factory change a little bit over time. It is possible that you could order a set yesterday but not today.
  • Create building instructions may take minutes if the model is large.
  • A "Mirror building mode" would be very useful - SR 3D Builder is better here.
As usual we have more pics in the album. Have fun!