(Written by William)

For the past few years, I’ve been dipping my toes into what LEGO Technic has to offer. All the big LEGO Creator Fairground sets that I like so much have a heavy dose of gears, axles, and other working parts that really showcase what a well-engineered LEGO set is capable of. Combining this with my appreciation of the LEGO Creator Expert vehicles with their own advanced framing and play features, I knew I needed to check out a moderately sized LEGO Technic set.

When I first heard about the #42080 LEGO Technic Forest Machine back in 2018, I must admit I was intrigued. Along with its more unconventional design, the feature that really perked my interest was the fact that it had pneumatics. I had missed out on any previous set featuring air power, so I figured this would be sort of the deeper end of LEGO Technic. The price, on the other hand, made me keep my distance. But when the holidays rolled around, I tracked down a sale on the set and asked my wife to pick it up for me for Christmas.

Although building the LEGO Technic Forest Machine was not beyond my skill level, I must admit it was exhausting. Just imagine those moments when you’re building something and have no idea what it is until you’re near the end. It’s interesting, but could also be frustrating. Well, that frustration happened through most of the build for me. So much was foreign that I needed to take more breaks than normal before I finished. This by no means indicate that I think it’s a bad set. In fact, I feel prouder than normal that it all came together and works. I just want to point out that LEGO Technic sets take longer to build, and that your enjoyment will depend on how much you like or dislike suspension and surprises. But enough of the feels. The real question is, what can this set teach us?

WORKING WITH LEGO TECHNIC PNEUMATICS

The box of the #42080 LEGO Technic Forest Machine touted this set as using the 2.0 version of the LEGO Technic pneumatics system. Unfortunately, I can’t compare the old version to this as I never owned any of those sets, but suffice it to say, it’s not exactly what I imagined. For starters, you still use a basic rotary motor to power the pneumatics. This is connected to a fairly simple pump. It’s sort of like a pump you’d use to inflate a ball or bicycle tire, and it provides a constant positive air pressure that everything else works off of.

Another thing I didn’t expect is that the whole system must not be air tight. If it were, the air pressure would get so great, it would start blowing parts of the model all over the place. Additionally, it helps to have a bit of air pressure built up before the functions respond reliably. After starting, the pump delivers air to two valves at the front sides of the machine. These valves do not really move if they have no air pressure to work with. Each valve has three connections for hoses. One is used as an intake, which is the center connection. The other two are meant to form a closed circuit. This is where things can get a little fuzzy.

You see, all this air pressure still needs to be used. So far, we are only producing it and directing it. That’s where the additional pump/pistons come into play. Just like the initial pump that creates the air pressure, each pump/piston has two connection points for hoses. Depending on which way air blows into these, will determine whether the part expands or contracts. So if you connect hoses to each side of a valve, you can instruct the pump/piston in which direction it needs to go. However, figuring all this out amidst the various parts of the machine can be a bit tough to see. Especially when you’re trying to connect a hose in an awkward spot. Connecting hoses is the least fun thing about a pneumatic system. Hopefully though, this gives you a basic primer as to what you’re getting yourself into if you pursue pneumatics.

SIDE-TO-SIDE & INNER-OUT BUILDING WITH LEGO

Through the entire building process of the #42080 LEGO Technic Forest Machine, I kept wondering; why does all of this feel so foreign to me? Apart from the pneumatics parts and some specially shaped panels, I was familiar with most of the things I was working with. Yet the feeling that I was out of my element persisted. After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that this feeling has to do with the basic approach that LEGO Technic sets use in their design.

In a normal LEGO systems set, we often build bottom to top. Sure, there are some sideways building moments, but we simply need a foundation to work off of, and building bottom to top fulfills this need. In a LEGO Technic set, functionality is the primary goal. This means setting up the mechanisms to work right becomes the foundational building point. For this reason, it’s easier to figure out mechanisms by starting out from one side and then adding the other side on later. Much of what I worked on in this set made no sense to me since I was often constructing one side of the model, then balancing it out by assembling its other side.

To complicate matters, I was instructed to do this multiple times, so I’d not only be building side to side but from the inside out. This is a very odd way to conceptualize a design for those of us that mostly built with the standard LEGO system. And if all that wasn’t weird enough already, LEGO Technic also seems to prefer to use odd numbers in how things are built. In other words, you make a lot of things that are three or five beam widths wide. This, of course, allows gears to be centered, but it messes with your head when you’re used to making things four, six, or eight studs wide.

APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN

It turns out that pneumatics is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, the effect that it produces looks amazing. There’s nothing quite like hearing the hiss of air and seeing things work. The problem for building something like this myself is all the special pieces needed. You may also find you have to buy longer hoses than you really need so that you can cut them down to their proper lengths. Honestly, pneumatics might be fun in an official set, but I’d leave it to the seasoned LEGO Technic builders to attempt building custom models.

As for changing your building perspective to fit the priorities of the LEGO Technic design, my suggestion is to prototype a mechanism first. Create whatever scaffolding you need to accommodate the elements you want to function. Chances are, this is exactly what you’ll need for the finished product anyways. Everything else is just securing the mechanism in place and making sure you’re not blocking any important moving parts.

I do want to point out, there are a ton of other techniques I didn’t mention in this article. The truth is, I want to expose myself to a bit more LEGO Technic building style sets before I feel comfortable discussing these features. I can’t be certain if they were just an anomaly in this set, or if they’re standard practice. But I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last LEGO Technic set I try out! In the vide below, I will share a few more thoughts about the set.

What do you think? Do you have any LEGO Technic sets with pneumatic functions? How do you like them? And what do you think about building with LEGO Technic in general? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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LEGO Ideas Manchester United contest

by admin on January 22, 2020

in Community News

The LEGO Ideas team recently announced the first contest for 2020. To celebrate the 110th anniversary of the iconic stadium as well as the release of the #10272 LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set. As usual, the contest is fun, and the prizes are amazing. Take a look below for the details. 😉

Old Trafford has been given the LEGO treatment in the #10272 LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set. Could you do the same with anything and everything Manchester United? In our first contest for 2020, we’re looking for goal recreations, brick-built badges, or even player statues! It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it celebrates The Red Devils!

The contest will consist of 3 phases: 1.) Submission Phase – build and submit your entry before February 20th, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EST. 2.) Judging Phase – a panel of judges consisting of members of the LEGO Creator team and Manchester United Football Club review the entries and choose the winners by March 5th, 2020. 3.) Winners Announcement - the grand prize winner and two runner up winners will be announced on LEGO Ideas no later than March 19th, 2020.

If you would like to participate, here is how to enter the contest. 1.) Submissions may be either in physical bricks or by using a digital building tool such as LEGO Digital Designer. You’re welcome to use image editing tools, such as Photoshop, to enhance your photos/presentation. 2.) Take up to five photos of your creation and submit them to the contest. Make sure to show off all angles and any features or functions of your creation. 3.) Submit your photos in as high a resolution as possible so that all the details can be seen clearly. If possible, the shortest edge should be at least 1080 pixels. 4.) Add a title and short description. 5.) Upload your entry to the contest using the blue Submit Your Entry button on this page.

And here are some of the most important contest rules. 1.) You must be the original creator of all creative work you submit (the model, images, photographs, description text, etc.) and you must have the exclusive right to submit your model to this LEGO Ideas contest. You may not submit a model or any other content made by, or on behalf of, someone else. 2.) Entries must be new creations and not previously posted online or submitted to any other contest. 3.)You are allowed to use any official LEGO element in your entry. The LEGO elements must be genuine (not cut, glued, or otherwise modified). 4.) Entries should not contain copies or references to any other existing third-party work or creation or infringements of any third-party intellectual property right such as Ford or Bugatti. The only intellectual property that your creation may be linked to for this contest is Manchester United. 5.) You may use minifigures in your entry. Please only use generic minifigures that do not use any third party intellectual property. 6.) You must be at least 13 years of age to participate and enter.  You can read the rest of the rules on the contest entry page.

And now the prizes! One grand prize winner will receive a package of LEGO sets consisting of the following: exclusive Manchester United merchandise, the #10272 LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set, the #10270 LEGO Creator Expert Bookshop, and the #10255 LEGO Creator Expert Assembly Square. Two runner up winners will each receive the following:  the #10270 LEGO Creator Expert Bookshop, #10258 LEGO Creator Expert London Bus, the #42093 LEGO Technic Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and a $150 spending spree at the Online LEGO Shop.

Winners will be contacted on the email address associated with their LEGO ID account after March 5th, 2020. Winners will be announced on LEGO Ideas when all winners have returned the signed Winner’s Certification Documents. A winner who does not return their Winner’s Certification Document within one week (5 days) of receiving it will be disqualified, and a new winner will be selected.

While this contest may not have as wide of an appeal as some of the previous ones, but it’s still an interesting building challenge. So, even if this is not your favorite stadium or team, you may consider building something to challenge your building skills. And if you can’t participate, it’s still worth checking out the entries just to see what all the other talented builders are submitting. Also, if you haven’t done so already, check out the #10272 LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set at the LEGO Creator Expert section of the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? How do you like this LEGO contest? Are you thinking about entering yourself? And how do you like the LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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LEGO Ideas International Space Station

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Step into your astronaut boots with the new LEGO Ideas International Space Station! Today, the LEGO Group announced the new LEGO Ideas International Space Station, packed with authentic details as part of its 10-year celebration of the LEGO Ideas program. Realize your own dreams of becoming an astronaut with the new LEGO Ideas International Space […]

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LEGO Life Magazine January-March issue

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If you are subscribed to the LEGO Life Magazine, you should have received the January-March 2020 issue already. Although the magazine is primarily for kids, I like to flip through it myself for all the interesting little tidbits, fun stories, contests, games, and more. So, let’s take a closer look! 🙂 The front cover of […]

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LEGO VIP current & upcoming promotions

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There are some current and upcoming promotions at LEGO stores and the Online LEGO Shop I wanted to make sure you know about. They can be helpful with budgeting and planning future purchases. So take a look. 🙂 The #10272 LEGO Creator Old Trafford Manchester United set we talked about a few days ago is […]

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2020 LEGO Speed Champions sets review

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As you probably know already, the five new LEGO Speed Champions sets are a pretty big deal. First of all, two new brands have been added to the collection; Jaguar and Lamborghini. Secondly, the vehicles are now 8-stud vide. This allows more accurate scaling, more brick-built techniques and less stickers, and seating of two minifigs […]

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How LEGO bricks are tested for safety

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There is an interesting discussion going on right now at the LEGO Ambassador Network about copycat brands from China becoming more and more prevalent in kids’ play bins. Some of these brands steal LEGO’s own designs and release them under their own name, and others make similar products as LEGO, with questionable quality and safety […]

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LEGO Masters TV show preview trailer & more!

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News on the U.S. version of the LEGO MASTERS TV show continues to roll in as we get closer to the premiere. For previous updates about the show and the contestants, check the links at the end of this posts. Since the last time we talked about the show, a preview trailer has been released […]

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LEGO Ninjago: Prime Empire preview videos

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LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu – Season 12, subtitled, Prime Empire, is set for release sometime in the first quarter of this year, and the first wave of the related LEGO Ninjago sets are already available. In addition, LEGO released a couple of 4-minute animated shorts, giving us the first glimpse into the story of […]

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LEGO Old Trafford Manchester United stadium

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It looks like LEGO is bringing back the sports theme! Today, they announced a new set, the #10272 LEGO Creator Expert Old Trafford Manchester United football stadium. Below is the full press-release with all the details. 🙂 Build and display a brilliantly detailed Old Trafford model. Manchester United fans will love building this big LEGO […]

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