3 Speed Sequential Transmission with Changeover


A couple of years ago, I was building a MAN LE with the sole intention of creating a new gearbox.  The tried and true changeover with clutch gears is a great system, and works well in a lot of situations, but I had been disappointed with how it functioned in trucks.  Particularly with the neutral.  I could not have my trucks roll backward.  There had to be a better system.  There were four things I wanted to address:

First, each gear-change had to move seamlessly from one gear to the next.  No neutral.

Second, it had to be easily controllable with power functions.

Third, it had to be sequential.  No first to third gear shifts.

Fourth, it had to work.  Every time.  With no slipping.

The first goal was easy to address.  I came up with a simple sequential gear box, that would move between three ratios all spaced one stud apart.  In order to get to gear three, you had to go through gear two.  To make sure the gears would slip into sync every time, I chose the double bevel gears as the change over gears.  You can see in the video how they slide into gears pretty easily.

The second goal was the most difficult.  I have stuggeled with finding a solution that would allow a motor to move from one great to the next without “overshifting.”  To many designs require you to stop the motor so the gears are perfectly meshed.  After looking at a design from ATRX, I had an idea.  I needed to use the pulley wheels to move the gearbox in three steps.  So, how could I get the pulley wheels to stop at three spots around a half a rotation.  The pulley wheels would be connected via a 24z gear to a differential.  Each side would have M motor, with stops for half a rotation.  One motor would move a half a rotation, transmit the rotation through the differential which would turn it into a quarter rotation, moving the pulley wheels a quarter rotation as well.  One motor would shift from gear 1 to gear 2, then the other motor would shift from gear 2 to gear 3.  It was sequential, and it would only allow you to shift to the adjacent gear.

Finally, it worked.  Every time.  No missed shifts.  I have made a couple of modifications to the gearing and structure to make it a little more compact and with better ratios, but if your looking for a new gear box to use for your next MOC, this might be the ticket.

See the full gallery here.

Used in my Freightliner M2, MAN LE, and ZIL 132.

Mack Marble 5T


I confess.  I took the bait, and started on the 2012 You Design It, We Build It before the final rules had been confirmed.  I should know better.  After all my schooling, you would think I have a good idea about how to follow directions.  The first direction is, wait for directions.  But, with all LEGO building, I enjoy what I am creating, and so even after the rules and directions have been given, I still want to contribute to the LEGO community.  So, my next MOC is another Trial Truck, built with the intention of being easy to play with, easy to build, and tough enough to handle child play.  All with instructions, so you can build one.

See Instruction Page

I built this model based on what I thought could be improved on set 9398.  While this new set was a great step forward for the LEGO company, I felt there where a couple of changes that should be made to make the model a better off-roader.  Because I was working with the assumption that this would be something LEGO would produce, I gave myself a couple of constraints.  First, the model had to be less than, or equal to, the cost of 9398.  Second, the model had to have improved off-roading skills.  Third, the model had to have easy playablity, so the drivetrain had to be reliable, the battery should be easy removable, and it should be easy to drive.

I started the frame before the axles.  I placed the battery box directly over the driveshaft.  An XL motor was place behind the BB and three 16z gears above the driveshaft.  One 16z gear went up to the fake motor shaft.  The driveshaft would connect front and rear to the two axles through the new ball joints from 8110.

I then built the two axles, starting with the rear.  To keep the speed of the Mack similar to the 9398, I would gear down the XL motor to about 1:4.  The driveshaft came out of the ball joints and connected to the differential.  I chose two 12z/20z gear sets as the final reduction.  This would keep the driveline a little stronger, and help keep various axles from working their way out of the gears, much like the design of the 9398.  The final gearing was 1:3.89.  It’s not a stump puller, but it could still move up most hills.

The front axle was a little more tricky.  Basically, it had a similar setup, with a PF M motor placed on in it to work the steering.  This was by design.  To keep the driveline reliable, and limit the failure of steering, I kept the steering part of the axle, rather then having components placed in the chassis, and then connected via a shaft to the front axle.  The steering is a little quick for my liking, but it works flawlessly.  To understand more about the axles, check out the instructions.

Through a little trial and error, I connected the suspension, and tweaked it so it would function in a way that was robust, and allow for great movement.  I am still not pleased with how it turned out aesthetically  but it functioned without problems, it supported the model well, and allowed for sufficient articulation, so I left it.

I then added a simple body, a basic rear bed, and added some engine components such as exhaust,  intake, and a simple turbocharger behind the fake motor.  When I was done, I noticed the cab looked a little like an old Unimog.  This seems to be a theme with me, as I love the look of the Unimog.  On the other hand, I do not like the look of too many cabover truck designs, as such, many of my trucks have the slight setback cabover design that is very similar to the Unimog.  My T55 is like this, and this is why I have built so many Unimogs.

The model worked well.  the suspension and stability was perfect.  The truck was stable, and did not roll over, all while being able to handle various terrains.  The gearing was sufficient and would be great for a playing child.  It was easy to change out the 12z/20z gears in the portal axles to a 8z/24z setup which made the truck a little more strong.

It would be a great model for many LEGO fans due to cost, reliability  stability, and playability.  So I have posted instructions for people to enjoy the model as well.  I think it would have been a great LEGO set, then the rules were released.

Next time I’ll wait for the rules.  Thanks for reading.

Full gallery is here.

International FTTS


It has been a little quiet in Thirdwiggville for the last month.  I have been working on a project that is taking a lot of time and resources, so my posts have slowed, even though my building has not.  But just wait, it’s going to be awesome.

Last summer I wanted to do another Trial Truck that would utilized some features I have never used before.  I wanted something complicated to see how it would work.  I wanted a model that would use four wheels steering, independent suspension, and have a simple two speed gearbox while being low to the ground.  After spending some time at the Chicago Autoshow, I saw a FTTS concept, so I thought this would be a great vehicle to model for this next truck.

This model would be built around an independent suspension.  After seeing it used so effectively in a truck by ATRX, I wanted to give it a try.  Each of the four wheels would use a simple double a-arm set-up with a wheel mount attached at the outside.  The wheel mount would house the portal axle and connect the steering linkage.  After a couple of different designs, I also decided the wheel mount would also connect the the shock absorbers.  This was a little unorthodox, as most independent designs mount the shock absorbers directly from the frame to the a-arms.  I did this for two reasons.  First, the model would be heavy, and I could not get the support I needed when the shocks were connected to the a-arms.  Second, and most importantly, I noticed too much suspension flex when the shocks were mounted to the a-arms.  The force applied to the wheel would go up the wheel, to the wheel mount, through the pivot, halfway down the lower a-arm to the shock.  LEGO is relatively stiff, but all these steps complied too much flex.  I would not have it.  I mounted the shocks on the wheel mount, and created a simple MacPherson strut set-up.  This worked well, as it allowed for full steering movement, long suspension travel, and adequate support of the truck.

The front and rear suspension axles both had a PF-M motor driving the steering.  Each were on independent PF channels connected to a single 8878 Battery Box to allow for individual steering, crab steering, and to solve steering drift commonly problematic with four wheels steering vehicles.  Both axles were connected with dual drive shafts running the length of the truck.  One drive shaft would then connect through a simple two speed gearbox to the PF-XL motor.  The final gearing was 1:6.2 and 1:10 for the truck.  This gave the truck sufficient top speed, with an effective crawler gear.  The Battery Box used for the drive motor and the gear shift motor was placed directly behind the front suspension, and in front of the drive motor.  This placement was perfect for stability.  It helped give great traction to the front wheels, kept the center of mass low and to the center with a slight forward bias.

I then finalized the model with a simple removable body built on a Technic frame.  While the hood was little high, and the rear body a little too short, it looked pretty close to the rear FTTS.  Fans seems to like the look, as it is still one of my more popular model.  See the full gallery here and the Work in Progress gallery here.

The model was a lot of fun to drive, and due to its squat design, it was very well planted.  The truck did not want to role over.  I think it could have used a little more suspension travel, and having four wheel steering was crucial to give it some maneuverability that was lost due to the suspension design.  The gearbox was flawless.  The truck did have some trouble skipping gears at the portal axle.  It seemed to happen when a single wheel was over-stressed as the driveshaft could have used stronger bracing in each suspension unit.  This placed a lot of strain on the particular wheel.  So would I do the independent suspension again.  Maybe, but it would need some strengthening and redesign.  Maybe it’s time for another truck like this.

Thanks for reading.  Something big is coming.

CAT D5K


Construction equipment was pretty much designed for LEGO Technic.  I learned this while designing my MB Axor Refuse Truck.  Yellow bricks are pretty popular and accessible, the equipment usually has many functions which can be replicated, and working models with power functions can be made to reenact various construction projects for great playablility.  After finally getting some large track links, I figured it was time for me to do a bulldozer.

I wanted to model the CAT D5K for a couple of reasons.  First, it used a two wheel track for each side rather than a three wheel track for each side.  Second, I wanted to do something by CAT.  Third, I decided on the D5K because for dozers of this size I think it looked the best due to its stance and overall balance.  Plus, when I started looking at the scale of the dozer I was to model, I learned the D5K would work best with the parts needed such as the tracks and blade, and work with the internal space allowed.

The base D5K really only has three functions: drive, blade lift, and blade angle.  I had no intention to add a ripper, because, frankly, I ran out of space.  Space became an issue very early.  I had 9 studs to work with between the tracks, and I needed to add four motors, a dummy motor, a battery box, and two receivers, all while retaining the appropriate look.  All the gearing had to be compact, and the linear actuators needed to be placed efficiently.  The real D5K has a manual adjustment for the blade pitch, but all of my designs left something more to be desired, so I took it out.

Both tracks would have their own motor, and I wanted to link them to a dummy engine, which required a differential.  I connected the motors directly to a worm gear which drove a 8z gear.  This gear was on the axle for the rear drive wheel, and connected on the other end to a differential which connected both drive wheels.  This differential functioned as a power take off for the dummy motor in the front of the bulldozer.

Two more motors were placed under the dummy motor.  One connected though a 12z/20z gear reduction for the blade angle.  It proved difficult to supply power for the blade angle function through the blade tilt pivot without taking up too much space.  The second motor was used to adjust the blade height.  After a simple reduction, two mini linear actuators were used to move the blade up and down.  It worked well, and was plenty strong.

I added the battery box under the driver’s seat, and placed the two IR receivers in the top of the cab.  It was not optimal aesthetically, but it seemed to work well for control.  And again, I just ran out of space.  I worked on the body, gave the model a working hood, and built a cabin.

The model worked well, but building with tracks is always a little bit frustrating.  Like it or not, LEGO plastic will never be fully smooth, and this is compounded with the track system.  Also, I found that the dummy motor would lose its connection to the drive wheels, as the axles connecting to the differential would slip out every once and a while.  This seems to be a commom problem with Technic builders, so we will see if the new axles will help.  I liked the size of this model, and it had a good amount of functions.  Now I need to use the tracks for something else.

Maybe another tank.

The full gallery may be found here.

Rumble Bee


It has been six years since I bought my F1 Wheels and Tires.  I bought four, and I paid a lot for them.  To date, I have used them once in my Red Sedan; and only two of the four that I own.  For some reason, I decided I needed to use them again and I wanted to do a small little project.  I was recently reminded about a childhood video game P.O.D. racing, and thought the car I was designing would fit right into the game.

The car is a simple design; a drive motor, a steering motor, a battery box, and a receiver.  I knew I was going to design a three wheel car.  I wanted to have the rear wheel driven by a PF XL, and a single PF M with a simple return to center system for the steering.  After a couple of designs, I decided to place the PF XL motor in the hub of the single rear wheel.  I tried a couple of designs to gear the motor up for a little more speed, all with various locations in the car.  Nothing worked as well as I wanted.  The speed was sufficent, and placing the motor in the hub allowed for a super short wheelbase.

Because the PF XL was place in the rear, I had a lot of space for the rest of the Power Functions equipment.  I placed the battery box directly in front of the rear wheel right at the bottom of the car.  The front steering axle was place next in front of the battery box.  The car had a short wheelbase of only 18 studs.  On top of the battery box, I placed the PF IR reciever and the PF M motor which was for the steering.  The steering motor passed an axle straight through a Spring Loaded Connector to move a 3L liftarm which connected to the steering rack with a 6L steering link.

I added a simple body using the orange panels from 8110.  Keeping with to story of P.O.D. I wanted to keep an agressive stance and look to the car.

The car ran well, and was plenty quick.  The steering was sharp and the car was well planted on the road.  I had a good time with the design.  Now I need to come up with another use for my F1 wheels.

The full gallery may be found here, and instructions here.

Freightliner M2


For some reason, I often find myself building two trial trucks at the same time.  While I was building my ZIL 132, I also wanted to try something with floating axles.  The model would use 6 wheels, a 3 speed transmission, and fully suspended live axles.  I also wanted to model the Freightliner M2 Business Class truck as closely as I could.

The model started as my trucks usually do; with the axles.  The second and third axles would be identical, and would be connected with a simple pulley wheel universal joint between the two.  To keep the speed through the universal joints high, and the torque low, I used as 12z/20z gearing after the universal joints, then the knob wheels to rotate the axis, then the normal 8z/24z gearing on the portal axles to finalize the drive.  This also allowed me to keep fewer knob wheels as the second axle had the drive shaft from the transmission pass uninterrupted to the rear wheels.  The final drive ratio for the two rear axles were 1:5.

The front axle was a little more work.  I wanted to have the steering motor mounted on the axle so I would not need to have a steering shaft connect to the front axle.  This proved too difficult, as it would raise the PF XL motor that I was going to use for the drive to high on the truck.  I decided it would be better to mount the steering motor on the frame and connect to the front axle via a CV joint.  Once I made this decision, the front axle became easier.  I used a 1:3 gearing on the portal axles, a knob wheel, and then a drive shaft back to the transmission.  The steering axle would exit just above the drive shaft on the axle to move to the right for the steering motor.

The frame was pretty simple.  Once I had the transmission placed, and the axles spaced, it was simple to place the suspension components, and the shock absorbers.  Each axle had two steering links mounted vertically which connected to a 3×5 liftarm which would activate a shock absorber; very much like Lyyar’s design.  Each axle had a steering arm to keep the axle from swaying laterally.  Finally, all three axles had a number of 9L links to keep the various movements maintained.

The transmission was going to be placed behind the PF XL motor which was under the hood.  The changeover mechanissm would be placed in the center of the truck with the changeover motors mounted longitudinally, on both sides of the truck.  The PF XL motor was place directly above the first axle, and was mounted on a moving frame that was moved by the changeover.  This allowed a moving frame to work its way through the three gears.  The ratios were 1.25:1, 1:1.25, and 1:2.  This allowed for final ratios of 1:4, 1:6.25, and 1:10, which was more than capable for most terrain.  The drive and steering Battery Box was mounted over the second and third axles, and the gearbox 8878 battery box was just behind the changeover in a little box on the bed of the truck.

Finally, like always, a simple body was mounted.  I had a little trouble getting the look I wanted on the front of the hood, as the suspension components kept getting in the way.  I added a bed, covered the changeover and motors, and a couple more details and everything was finished.

The model was not my best driving truck, as six axles do not want to always work together.  The suspensions was supple, and I was getting no drive or steering input on the suspension.  The truck worked well over various terrain, but struggled on some on step obstacles.  The transmission mounting worked well at changing gears, but gears did not have a strong support, and I found they liked to skip at times.  I liked how the suspension worked, but I do not think it brought enough of a valued to use this system again.  It had moderate improvement on dealing with terrain, but it placed a lot of stress on a number of parts, such as the frame, the axles, the driveshafts, and the universal joints.  The next truck will use a pendular set up again.

The full gallery may be found here.

Power Functions 4×4 8081


For most LEGO enthusists, when they purchased the set 8081, they quickly modified the set with a Power Functions drivetrain.  It makes sense.  LEGO models are a little more exciting when they are motorized.  But I guess I went a little backwards.  I wanted to do the fun stuff first, and make the most complicated and compact drivetrain I could make.  I posted the instructions here, and they can also be viewed on Rebrickable.com.

But the comments kept coming from people who wanted to see my model motorized.  So I thought it might be a fun addition.  I added a two PF M motors, a 8878 Battary Box, and an IR receiver.  I tried to keep the modifications simple, so I could easily add the motors to the MOD, and take the system out if I wanted to.  The drive motor was placed on a simple mount that connected to the frame.  The power was fed thought a 8z gear to a 24z gear which then connected directly to the V8 driveshaft.  The driveline was unchanged from the V8 down.  The steering motor was mounted laterally in front of the rear seats.  A 20z double bevel gear drove a 16z gear, then a worm gear moved the final 8z gear which was mounted on the existing HOG steering axle.  I removed the passanger seat which is where I placed the battary box, and created a simple mount for the IR receiver.  The added weight required a new shock absorber, so I added that as well.

The model worked alright.  The drivetrain did well to handle the new power, and I could easily control the Crusier.  The steering motor was a little too powerful for the upside down facing steering rack.  It skipped a little under load, which was a problem over rougher terrain.  The drive motor was a little taxed, so a PF XL would have done a little better.  I guess I could add that, but I am ready to move on to my next model.  Stay tuned.

The full gallery may be found here.

Zil 132


A couple of months ago I was struck by a new design by Waler.  It was refreshing to see a well made Trial Truck based on something a little different.  I wanted to make a model of my own.  Thanks to him for the inspiration, and for the great ideas on the cab and the fenders.

From the beginning I knew this truck was not going to be a serious off road contender, but I wanted to redesign the whole drivetrain.  I decided to go with a pendular suspension for the first and second axle and a trailing live axle for the third axle.  All three axles would have a differential and a a set of portal axles.  The first and the third axle would also have steering linked together.  As is often the case with my trucks, I had the pendular axles held by a turntable with the steering function passed through the turntable by use of a differential.  The second axle was held by a turntable in the front, and the steering differential passed through to provide steering to the final axle.  The drive function powered all three axles and would connect to the transmission and motor in between the first and second axle.

The third axle was a suspended live axle that had a trailing setup created with the new 8110 pieces.  This would allow for rotational and vertical articulation while connecting the drive shaft and giving space to the steering function above.  The steering shaft would allow for movement via a CV joint.  The Power Functions M steering motor was placed in the rear, and used a simple 1:9 reduction.

A Power Functions XL was used for the drive funtion and was placed between the front two seats.  The motor was mounted on a sliding assembly for the gearbox function, much like the design pioneered by ATRX.  I used my three speed changeover design to move the motor through three gears, for a final ration of 1:7.5, 1:4.7, and 1:3.  The gearshift worked perfectly.  While the drivetrain was a little complicated, the gearing was rather simple.  The battery boxes were place above the second axle side by side.  This kept the weight centered, and as low as I could get it.

Finally I added a cabin and a cargo area.  The cabin was straight from Waler’s design, as was much of the fender area.  I used technic panels to create the cargo area, which also gave me a space to place the two IR receivers.  This also hid the two battery boxes, and the wiring, and generally cleaned up the truck.  I created two small doors in the top to assist with picking up the ZIL.  I was done.

Over mostly level ground the ZIL was one of my better designs.  The differentials and steering worked flawlessly to make the ZIL drive easily.  The gearbox worked well and eased the drivetrain over slight irregularities.  But once the  pavement turned to dirt the ZIL struggled a little more.  It was not designed to have too much suspension travel, and this showed.  It struggled on some of the bigger bumps, as the tires would scrape the wheel-wells.  Overall, I was pleased with the design, and was happy with the way it turned out.  It looked great, it was fun to build, and it was a blast to drive.

The full gallery can be viewed here.  Also, a big thank you to The Lego Car Blog for posting this model on their blog.

Mercedes Benz Axor Refuse


I am a big fan of garbage trucks.  For some reason I find the combination of a smaller truck,with many features all with a complicated compaction device is a great basis for a complicated LEGO Technic model.  Plus, trucks are fun.

The hardest part was going to be the rear compaction device, so that is where I started.  I decided to use a Geesink Norba design as it would give me the largest opening for the trash in the rear because the mechanicals would be on the bottom on and the top of the opening.  13 studs wide is not much space.  In addition, this would allow me to have the rear hopper pivot up to let the trash out when it was full.  I would need to have three functions going though the pivoting hopper.  One at the pivot, and two connecting at the base when the hopper was closed.

The dumpster lift would be driven through a knob gear when the hopper was closed on the bottom.  The compation device would be operated with a gear on the bottom and a mini linear actuator on the top.  This mini linear actuator would also function as the opener for the rear compactor.  All the motors would be housed on the bottom, with one motor placed next to thebattery box.  The extractor would be operated by another mini linear actuator using a scissors mechanism to move the ejector plate.

The chassis was constructed with a PF XL in front of the steering axle.  The motor would power both the drive, and the extractor changed by a changeover.  The steering motor is placed on the right of the truck.  On the left, another PF M motor powers both the dumpster lift and the lower hopper compaction device.  All power came from a 8878 rechargeable battery box, through two PF IR receivers, and powered four motors: One XL for drive and the extraction plate, one M for steering, one M for the dumpster lift and lower compaction, and one M for upper extraction and hopper opening.

The model worked well, particularly steering and the drive.  However the extraction and the hopper opening was a little less reliable.  The hopper was too heavy for a single mini linear actuator, and the compaction device was not stiff enough.  It happened to get caught on some of the internal edges on the inside of the hopper.  The next garbage truck will need to be built a little more sturdy.

The full gallery may be seen here.

Kenworth T55


Traction.  It’s all about traction when designing a trial truck.  Because of this, many builders have tried a number of different solutions in designing their own trucks: differentials, gearboxes, various numbers of wheels, various gears ratios, countless suspension designs, and on and on.  So why would it be any different for my trucks?  Every truck I make is a reaction to some set of problems I have encountered with a previous truck.  This is my current solution.

The full gallery is here. Instructions are here.

The Kenworth T55 started as a proof of concept, and turned into a design of a fictional truck.  I wanted to somehow see if there was a way to use differentials in a successful trial truck.  For this to work, two things had to be accomplished.  First, there had to be a way to keep the tires from spinning uncontrollably when they lost contact with the ground.  And second, the torque going through the differential had to be low enough that it would not shred the gears inside the differential when the truck encountered an obstacle.   Could I make axles that had a limited slip differential while having all of the gear reduction at the hub?

Enter turntables.  I have seen some ideas before, most sigificantly from Borec, including this truck, so I went to work.  I designed a mount for the wheels and tires, and placed the universal joint as close the wheels as I could.  Then I used a limited slip differentail design, and sent the driveshaft back to the body.  A simple steering design was used, and the two fuctions passed through the common design of using a differental body through a turntable.

The chassis was designed to keep the weight low, both is mass and location.  As is common, I used the Power Functions XL motor for drive, and I decided to use the 8878 Battery box as it was significally lighter than the other design.  In addition, I would have a drive shaft and a steering shaft running the length of the truck, so the motor and power pack needed to set on both sided of the truck.  Also, because I used the turntables, the drive shaft was very high.  This gave great ground clearance, but I needed to keep the heavy components low.  By having both large components on the side, I was able to keep a short wheelbase of 30 studs, and keep the mass centered and low.  The driveline was complete.

Ever since my GMC 2500, I have held to the belief that a linked suspension is the most efective setup for four wheel trial trucks.  The design keeps all four wheels firmly planned, and does not have the wobbling feel of many pendular suspension designs.  But as is often the case, I ran out of room to place a link rod between the two wheels so I opted with useing the rubber connectors to keep the axles level.    I added a body, and a steering motor, wired everything together, and I was done.

So how did it work.  As you can see in the video, the suspension was effected by the steering and drive shafts.  This further confirms my thoughts on the linked suspension.  Second, the turntables did not really add much.  They added a lot of friction to the driveline, and though they kept the differentials safe because of the tall final gear they did not really isolate the forces on the differential as much as I would have liked.  Third, the limited slip differentials worked well, but still allowed for too much wheel slip.  I ended up replacing the rear with a locked axle, which seemed to work well.  So, for the next truck, bring back the linked suspension, and find a better differential solution.  Maybe then I can find some more traction.