If you ever wondered what’d happen if you were to use LEGO Technic parts, but they were made out of something other than plastic, the [Brick Experiment Channel] has got you covered. Pitting original Lego axles against their (all except steel commercially available) equivalents made out of carbon fiber, aluminium and steel, some of the (destructive) results are very much expected, while some are more surprising.
Starting off with the torque test, each type of axle is connected with others and rotated with increasing torque until something gives out. Unsurprisingly, the plastic Technic part fails first and renders itself into a twist, before the carbon fiber version gives up. Aluminium is softer than steel, so ultimately the latter wins, but not before a range of upgrades to the (LEGO-based) testing rig, as these much stronger axles require also strong gears and the like to up the torque.
When it comes to durability, all except the original LEGO version didn’t mind having plastic rubbing against them for a while. Yet for friction in general, the plastic version did better, with less friction. Whether or not this is due to material wearing away is a bit of a question. Overall, stainless steel gets you a lot of strength, but in a dense (8000 kg/m3) package, aluminium comes somewhat close, with 2700 kg/m3, and carbon fiber (1500 kg/m3) does better than the original part (1400 kg/m3), with only a bit more weight, though at roughly ten times the cost.
On that note, we’re looking forward to the first 100% stainless steel LEGO Technic kit, reminiscent of the era when Meccano came in the form of all-metal components and a bucket of bolts.
Everyone already knows that Lego Technic is pretty rad when it comes to existing, pre-made kits, but there’s also quite a bit of hacking potential left. One such area is the lack of hydraulics in Lego Technic, an egregious oversight that [Brick Technology] simply had to correct. His effort results in a partially hydraulic, fully remote-controlled excavator. Rather than a traditional gear hydraulic pump as you’d expect in a real-life excavator, a custom peristaltic pump is used to move the fluid to the hydraulic cylinders (rams for our British and Oceanic friends).
The undercarriage is (sadly) purely electrical, with a slip-ring providing power to the electric final drives in the tracks, enabling it to spin around endlessly without limitations. Where the hydraulics come into play is in the excavator’s arm, with two hydraulic lift cylinders on the boom, one cylinder to control the stick, and a final cylinder to control the bucket. Rather than a hydraulic switch, the setup is simplified by using a single peristaltic pump per cylinder circuit.
Remote control and power are provided using the rather chonky BuWizz 3.0 Pro, which offers a wireless control link (here controlled using BrickController 2 on Android). Although original Lego cylinders were used, these are only intended for pneumatics, where it’s hoped that the used mixture of water and windscreen wiper fluid will prevent corrosion.
Cars (including LEGO ones) will roll downhill. In theory if the hill were a treadmill, the car could roll forever. In practice, there are a lot of things waiting to go wrong to keep this from happening. If you’ve ever wondered what those problems would be and what a solution would look like, [Brick Technology] has a nine-minute video showing the whole journey.
The video showcases an iterative process of testing, surfacing a problem, redesigning to address that problem, and then back to testing. It starts off pretty innocently with increasing wheel friction and adding weight, but we’ll tell you right now it goes in some unexpected directions that show off [Brick Technology]’s skill and confidence when it comes to LEGO assemblies.
You can watch the whole thing unfold in the video, embedded below. It’s fun to see how the different builds perform, and we can’t help but think that the icing on the cake would be LEGO bricks with OLED screens and working instrumentation built into them.
LEGO are perhaps the perfect children’s toy, at least until you step on the errant brick while walking around the house. Available in all kinds of sets with varying themes and characters, they encourage building and creativity in kids like no other. Those with 3D printers might have considered creating their own specialty blocks, but the manufacturing of real LEGO blocks involves steel molds with extremely tight tolerances far outside the realm of most 3D printers. To print blocks capable of interconnecting in a similar way involves taking advantage of the characteristics of 3D printers and their materials instead, as [CNC Kitchen] demonstrates with these PrintABloks.
The PrintABlok was the idea of [Joe Larson] aka [3D Printing Professor] and is built around a one-unit base block, which has holes on all of its sides, paired with small connecting pieces which are placed in the holes to connect the various blocks to one another. Using your CAD software of choice (although they were originally built using Blender), the base block can be lengthened or widened for printing various different types of blocks, and the diamond-shaped hole can even be added to various prints that aren’t blocks at all. This means that a wide variety of parts can be made, all designed to interlock with the bricks or various other shapes. [Joe] even created an array of themed sets like robots, castles, and dinosaurs and although he sells these more complex models, he released his base set and interconnection mechanism for free and is available for anyone to use.
Another perk of the PrintABlok system is that they are scalable, mitigating safety risks for smaller children that might try to swallow some of the smaller parts. It’s an excellent way to put the 3D printer to work if there are any children around in the house. But this isn’t the only LEGO-inspired build we’ve ever seen, and they aren’t always going to be used to make children’s toys. [Ivan] recently used similar 3D-printed interlocking bricks more in the style of LEGO Technic to attempt to build a human-rideable go-kart.
If you are a fan of LEGO bricks or Rube Goldberg, you should have a look at [Brick Technology’s] billion-year LEGO clock. Obviously, it hasn’t been tested for a billion years, and we wonder if ABS would last that long, but the video below is still worth watching.
Even if you aren’t a LEGO fan, the demonstration of a pendulum clock and escapement is worth something and really shows the practical side of things. Of course, making a pendulum clock that keeps time isn’t anything magic — people have been doing that for centuries. But then more and more elements join to keep track of more time.
You might wonder how the pendulum keeps going for a billion years. Well, honestly, it can’t. But a solar panel charges a battery that rewinds the clock when the drive weight reaches the bottom. We imagine the solar cell and battery would be maintenance items if you expected the billion-year life cycle.
Some will ask why, but we get it. If you must explain why you build everything you do with LEGO, you are doing it wrong. The clock even keeps track of the galaxy’s rotation which, apparently, completes every 230 million solar years.
A camera makes for an interesting build for anyone, because it’s an extremely accessible technology that can be made from materials as simple as cardboard. More robust cameras often require significant work, but what if you could make a usable camera from LEGO? It’s a project taken on by [Zung92], who hasn’t simply made a working 35 mm camera from everyone’s favorite construction toy — he’s also managed to make it exude retro style. Best of all, you can vote for it on the LEGO Ideas website, and you might even get the chance to have one for yourself.
Frustratingly there’s little in the way of in-depth technical detail on the Ideas website, but he does mention that it was a challenge to make it light proof. Even the lens is a LEGO part, and if diffraction-based photography isn’t for you there’s also a pinhole option. We look forward to seeing this camera progress, and we hope we’ll see it advance to becoming a LEGO Ideas kit.
Back in the day, LEGO spaceship sets used to come with these little wedge blocks painted with fake gauges on them. [James “Ancient” Brown] decided that wasn’t good enough. Thus, he took everything he needed for a functional artificial horizon, and stuffed it inside a single LEGO brick. Yes, it’s real, and it’s spectacular.
We featured [James’] electronics-infused bricks some time ago when they first hit the Internet. The basic story is that he managed to cram an OLED screen and an RP2040 into a silicone mold for a LEGO-compatible brick. His first iterations stunned the world, as they ran pretty monochrome animations that brought life to formerly-inanimate chunk of plastic.
Since then, [James] has been busy. He’s managed to squeeze an accelerometer into the brick form factor as well. That allowed him to build a LEGO piece which displays an impressively-smooth artificial horizon display, as you might find in an aircraft. He demonstrates this by putting the instrument on a LEGO craft and zooming it around the room. All the while, the artificial horizon accurately tracks the motions of the craft.