Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lego Mobile Crane

I discovered a new acronym the other day - AFOL. No, not ROFL, AFOL. It's for Adult Fan Of Lego. It sounds a bit seedy. Like it might have something to do with porn. Lego Porn, eh? Could be painful. Ever stepped on a lego brick with your bare feet? Now, that is bloody painful.

But let's get a few things straight here. It's not any old Lego. Just the techy geeky stuff. Lego Technic, for example. And Star Wars Lego - an inspired combination of cult toy and cult movie fanchise. Who can resist the little Lego Darth Vader? He's the evil overlord of his little blocky empire. Did you know you can get a pretty darn big Lego Star Destroyer?

But Harry Potter Lego? One franchise too many if you ask me.

Anyhoo, back to the por, er, technical stuff. Today I'm looking at my Lego Mobile Crane. I should add here that I have a deep fascination with real mobile cranes, the yellow things that thunder up the motorway. The more wheels the better. Ever wondered what puts up a tower crane? That's right, a mind-buggeringly big mobile crane.

So when I clapped eyes on the Lego equivalent, I was reduced to a gibbering wreck. And rightly so, for this is perhaps the bestest Lego kit ever.

Start with the simple stuff, like steering. This has six-wheel steering. The fixed wheels are coupled to the six cylinder engine via a proper differential. The really clever parts are the free-wheeling gears that allow an axle to be used for two functions. Due to the limited space inside the chassis, the two axles running fore and aft provide steering, engine movement and stabiliser deployment.

The chassis itself is constructed from fully cross-braced beams, using many, many little black technic pins. The chassis is very strong as a result. On top of this sits the boom turret. Sadly, although it has gear-teeth, the turret is free-moving and positioned manually.

The boom is erected, oo-er, by means of Lego's pneumatic system. The two pistons take some pumping to get the boom aloft, and once fully erect - ok bear with me - I'm trying to think of another word for erect...... hmm... blast... erect it is. Once fully erect, the boom has trouble staying up as the little pneumatic system strains against the weight. So, all show then for the business end of this crane.

The battery box is cunningly disguised as the counterweight, and the motor provides power for the boom and the hook. The three section boom satisfyingly glides out in one motion via tooth and worm gear, while the hook rises and drops as expected on it's thread. The hook was the last component to be fitted. It came as a complete surprise, after three days of assembling a plastic model, to find the hook made of metal.
With the extra weight, it hangs nice and straight. Inside the turret, a lever activated gear switches between boom extend and hook deploy modes.

Little technical touches impress. Like the way the stabilisers lock into position. That the pulley at the end of the boom is pivoted. That the six wheel steering ratio is more acute on the outer set of wheels. Just like the real thing.

Overall, if you're a fan of Lego Technic, or you were a fan, this is an ideal excuse for dad to introduce little Timmy to the world of differentials and worm gears. Hat's off to Lego for a stunning kit.