21305 Maze – Original Model Comparison

When I first found out my marble maze would become an official set, after all my excitement had died down, I really started to wonder what changes would be made to it.

The model was quite large, larger than any of the previous Ideas sets. Would they need to reduce the part count? Would they make significant changes to the overall design? What changes would be required for the model to meet The LEGO Group’s design guidelines (a glimpse of which can be seen in this document created by designer Jamie Berard)?

I put together a video discussing some of the major changes that were made to my original model, and you can read more about them below as well.

I knew my original model had some shortcomings, especially with respect to strength. In particular, many high stress areas were only attached using stud connections, which would work themselves loose over time and eventually fall apart. Definitely not official LEGO set material.

The official set was designed by veteran designer Steen Sig Andersen, so I should have realized I had nothing to worry about. I was excited, impressed, and a little relieved, when I first saw the final design. The overall look and feel were retained, the tilting mechanism and control system were pretty much identical to those in my original model, and Steen had reinforced all of the major weak points of the model. Awesome!

Of course, it was inevitable that some changes were made. The ball container and travel locking mechanism, for example, were simplified and streamlined. I was really impressed with Steen’s solution for these features, and I thought the way the ball container was incorporated into the locking mechanism was ingenious. My original travel lock also had a tendency to detach itself, which didn’t actually make it very effective.

The mazes were also simplified. Gone were my fancy walls on the standard maze, built using Technic beams on their sides, which, if you delve into Jamie’s document above, you will find are all ‘illegal’ connections. By using standard bricks for all the walls, it also means it is a lot easier to share parts between maze designs.

My original mazes were also one plate thicker, with deeper holes to fall into, but they were also more part intensive and harder to build as a result. The official mazes are simpler, easier to build and much lighter, which results in the control system being much more responsive.

There are a lot of other smaller differences as well. The control wheels are gears, as opposed to the rubber tires in my original model. Most of the buildings in the medieval maze are simplified versions of my originals, and that maze itself is slightly different. The support platform that the maze rests on in the inner tray also runs along the entire interior, making it much stronger.

There were some concessions made as a result of these changes. The shallower holes in the mazes means that in some cases you can get the ball rolling fast enough to roll right through a hole. Some of the structural changes also resulted in the tilt frames being one brick lower, which is the main reason for the uneven tilting I mentioned in my previous post.

I am really pleased with how faithful the official set is to my original model, and quite impressed with most of the changes. I actually prefer to play on the official set now, which I guess really says all that needs to be said. A huge thanks to Steen for turning my original concept into such a great model!

Maze Comparison

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EV3 Egg Decorator

With Easter just around the corner I thought it would be a great time to dust off my EV3 and build an egg decorating robot. These machines, commonly referred to as Egg Bots, have been around for a while. In fact, an early version dates all the way back to 1990! Since then, many versions have been created, some scratch built and some others using LEGO Mindstorms. I really enjoy the challenge of designing my own models, so here is my version, the EV Egg Bot! Instructions, program file, and notes for building your own can be found below. Other than the eggs and marker, all the pieces you need to build this model come in the EV3 Home Edition kit 31313.

Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw File

The motors should be connected to the ports as follows:
Port A – the large motor that turns the egg
Port B – the medium motor that raises and lowers the marker
Port C – the large motor that moves the arm from side to side

Operating the EV Egg Bot is pretty straight forward. Once the program is running, you can use the left and right buttons on the EV3 unit to scroll through the available patterns and select the center button to ‘print’ it. Before decorating you’ll want to make sure the marker is about .5 cm/.25 in above the surface of the egg. I’m using standard Sharpie markers, but I think any felt tip marker that can draw on an egg will do.

The video should give you a pretty good idea of how it all works. Feel free to delve into the program file to design your own patterns!

EV Egg Bot

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21305 LEGO Ideas Maze

It has been a long journey, but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Almost 4 years ago I submitted my Labyrinth Marble Maze project to the LEGO Ideas website, with vague aspirations that some day it might be turned into an official LEGO product. Well, that day has finally come, or at least will be coming soon. On April 1st, LEGO set number 21305, Maze, will be available for purchase.

Even better than that, at least for me, is that I have received a pre-release copy of the set! I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I’ve put together a video to give you a sneak peak at what’s inside and how it works. You can also read some more of my thoughts about the set below.

Mazes

The set includes instructions for building two different mazes, though you can’t build them simultaneously, as they share many pieces. The ‘standard’ maze is the same layout as the original one in my project submission, and is actually quite challenging. I think it took me several practice sessions when I originally designed it before I was able to successfully make it to the end. The ‘medieval’ maze is inspired by my original submission, and includes two possible paths through it. It is a bit easier than the standard maze, but still provides a bit of a challenge, especially the final move to get into the castle. It is also a bit more visually interesting than the standard maze, as it includes more decorative elements.

The instruction booklet also includes photos of more inspirational mazes, which I designed, that can be built using the pieces in the set. Most of them are designed so that their level of difficulty can be varied by adding or removing the 1×2 log bricks used for walls. The photos are clear enough that you should have no trouble building any of these mazes, but I will be posting instructions for them in the next few weeks. I will also be posting instructions for more mazes which I have designed since then. You will be able to find all of these over on the Maze page.

Of course the real excitement of this set is the fact that you can design your own mazes, and as you include the pieces from your own collection these mazes can become more and more elaborate. I’m really excited to see what people come up with.

Frame

The frame is essentially a two axis gimbal, controlled by two wheels on adjacent sizes of the model. The internal control system is a linked set of control arms, and is largely unchanged from my original project. It is simple, robust and reliable. It is fairly straight forward to operate, but it will take some practice to develop the dexterity to finely control the movement of the ball. Keep in mind that a light touch will serve you a lot better than large, wild movements. Controlling the game is very much a learned skill, so the more you practice the better you will get at it.

The set includes 4 balls, which are stored in a small box that can be placed in one corner of the frame. When the box is put away, it snugly fits the space between the tilting frame and the base of the model. Combined with a block in the opposite corner which does the same thing, this locks the maze so that it cannot tilt, and secures it for travel.

Changes

There are a lot of small differences between the official set and my original model. I won’t be going into detail about all those differences here, as I will be dedicating another post and video to just that topic alone. Most of the changes made were structural, to give the model the strength and stability required to become an official set, and I’m really pleased with most of them.

One side effect of some of these changes is that the tilting is not uniform in each direction, which I illustrate in the video. As I mention in the video, this doesn’t really affect the game play, but it was something that I paid special attention to in my original design, and it’s hard to say if it will affect some people’s enjoyment of the set. So far in my tests I haven’t noticed it while I’ve been playing. Regardless, I will be putting together a tutorial for a modification for balancing up the tilting, which I will also be posting in a few weeks.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’m very pleased with how the set turned out. I can’t really give an honest assessment of the set itself, since I’m way too tied up in it. I imagine your interest in the set will largely be tied to your interest in the game itself. At the very least, I think it is a unique entry in the LEGO universe, and a welcome change from the licensed products that seem to receive a lot of attention these days. I hope you enjoy playing with it as much as I do.

Maze Set

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Earth, Moon and Sun Orrery

I’ve wanted to build an Orrery out of LEGO for quite a while now, and a couple of months ago I finally sat down and started putting one together. I mainly focused on the movements of the objects, paying close attention to the rotation of the Sun and Earth, and the orbits of the Earth and Moon. Clearly the relative sizes of the objects, and the distances between them, are not even remotely to scale. You can see it in action in the video, and you can find instructions for building your own down below.

As far as accuracy goes, it’s not too far off the real thing. Each rotation of the crank represents one day, and the Earth rotates once with every turn. The Moon orbits the Earth every 28 days, the sun makes a full rotation every 25 days, and the Earth orbits the Sun every 375 days.

Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

Some notes on the construction.

For the large turntable, I’m using the newest 60 tooth version. You can use the older 56 tooth version, which is slightly smaller in diameter, you just need to use a 12 tooth double bevel gear instead of the regular 8 tooth gear to drive it.

When assembling the various gears, it’s important to make sure everything rotates freely. That is, don’t push the gears onto the axles too tightly, otherwise there will be a lot of friction between the gears an the Technic liftarms beside them.

The model can be motorized by replacing the crank with a gear and attaching a Power Functions motor to it.  There are many ways to do it, but I’ve posted a couple of pictures of how I did it below.

Orrery

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Clockwork Heart

For Valentine’s Day this year I decided to build this clockwork heart, full of gear spinning action and a little steampunk flair. You can see how it works in this video. Building instructions, and some construction notes, can be found below.

Clockwork Heart Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

If you don’t have the relatively new long Technic axle pin (the only black piece in the instructions), you can just use a 3 stud long Technic axle with a stud on the end to hold those gears in place (like many of the other gears already do).  The newer piece just results in slightly smoother motion.

Towards the end of the video I show how it can be motorized by attaching a Power Functions M-Motor in the back, but you can also attach the motor to the same axle attached to the crank in the same way. You will want to be able to control the speed of the motor though so that it doesn’t spin so fast. You can do this using the IR Receiver and Speed Remote Control, or using the Rechargeable Battery Box, which has a built in speed control.

Clockwork Heart

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Children on a Seesaw

I decided to try and build another model using my LEGO escapement mechanism, and came up with this model of two kids playing on a seesaw (or a teeter-totter, as it is often called).

There are a couple of differences to note between this model and the model of the cow jumping over the moon.  For example, in this model the seesaw itself acts as the pendulum. I have also introduced a 3 to 1 gear reduction between the escapement gear and the spool letting out the weight. This results in a run time that is 3 times longer than it normally would be (15 minutes for this model), but also requires that the weight be 3 times the mass in order to exert the same forces on the escapement arms. Of course, this could be expanded even more, with further gear reductions or the introduction of pulleys, to produce even longer run times.

I have put together building instructions for the core escapement mechanism, if you would like to see how it is built, or even try to incorporate it in your own models.

Escapement Mechanism Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

Note that the performance depends heavily on how freely the pendulum can swing and the escapement gear can turn. Try your best to align all the Technic components to minimize any friction in the system.

Seesaw Whole

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The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

Over the last few weeks I have been experimenting with building escapement mechanisms out of LEGO pieces. Traditionally, an escapement mechanism is used to power the timekeeping device of a clock, but I wanted to try and use one to power a LEGO model. I decided to build a model of the cow jumping over the moon, from the traditional English nursery rhyme.  Here’s the video of it in action along with an explanation of how it works.

There are actually a lot of ways to build an escapement mechanism using standard Technic gears (and if you search YouTube you will find a lot of videos of them). I wanted to do something a bit different, and try to build the gear itself out of LEGO pieces as well, which you can see in the video and the pictures below.

This model will ‘run’ for about 5 minutes before the weight has to be reset.

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

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Happy Holidays!

Looks like Santa has been bulking up a bit too much during the off season. If you celebrate Christmas, hopefully this doesn’t happen at your house.

Happy holidays to everyone from Kristal and I!

Christmas 2015

And here’s a full shot of the vignette.

Christmas 2015 Full

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Skating Penguin

This is Kristal’s latest model, a kinetic sculpture of a cute little penguin skating on an iceberg.

It uses a pretty ancient mechanical device, called a Trammel of Archimedes, to achieve the motion. In recent times variations of this mechanism have been sold as toys and novelty items, often labeled as ‘Do Nothing Machines’, but it can actually be used as a drawing device to create perfect ellipse shapes.

I have put together instructions for building the penguin and the Trammel of Archimedes, which you can find below.

Skating Penguin

Penguin Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

Trammel of Archimedes Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

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