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Lego Technic 1999

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Rise of the Robots

1999 NA Technic catalog

29 new sets were released, a number only exceeded in 2000. The new assortment included several small promotional sets, 9 Throwbot sets, 3 Mindstorm sets as well as several traditional Technic sets, including a new auto chassis, the 8480 Super Street Sensation. The theme received a new, more modern logo and box design starting in the middle of the year.

In addition to a completely new series of Throwbot elements other new pieces included the flexible cross axles, fairing panels, a new pneumatic cylinder as well as several new Mindstorms electronics. For the most part the new elements tended to be either decorative or electronic, mirroring the widening division in the theme.

The Throwbots:
The Throwbots, called Slizer in Europe, represent not only a completely new type of construction as but a new philosophy by Lego as well. The small sets, typically containing 30-50 pieces, were simple to build and had only 2 functions: To throw a spinning disc from a flexible arm and fold up via a series of gears. The sets contained only a few traditional Technic elements, such as cross axles and pinion gears, most of the model was constructed using new, decorative elements.

The sets were the first attempt by Lego to create a true action figure where play, not construction, was the key to the toy. The sets were also marketed with randomly packaged discs, encouraging children to collect all of them. Clearly a response to the popularity of toys such as Nintendo's Pokêmon. The Throwbots represent the most extreme example of the growing division in Technic.

Lego Star Wars

The Lucasfilm License:
In yet another philosophical leap, Lego entered into it's first ever license agreement. This agreement with Lucasfilm for the rights to market construction toys based on the Star Wars movies would last until 2007 and reportedly cost Lego upward of 20 million USD. Lego began producing sets that ran across all of their current product offerings. In 1999 the first Star Wars Mindstorms set, the 9748 Droid Development Kit, was released. This would be followed by many more Technic sets in the coming years.

US patent D423,061

The Throwbot arm:
There was an entirely new class of elements designed for the Throwbots. These elements were highly detailed but also highly figural and less generic than elements to date. The result was an element designed for a specific function.

The Throwbot arm is a good representation of this new design. The arm consisted of a 3-flanged end that could hold a disc and on end and a new large ball joint connector at the other. A molded spring in the center allowed the arm to flex and when sprung back to its original position, release the disc by inertia. The amount of detail molded into the element made it difficult to use for any other purpose.

These new figural elements would form the basis of future robot type figures such as the Roboriders and, finally, Bionicle.

1999 EU catalog

8448 Super Street Sensation:
The 5th auto chassis. Although not a technically complex as its predecessor, the 8448, nevertheless included 4 wheel independent suspension, front wheel rack and pinion steering, a 5-speed transmission with a reverse gear and an 8 cylinder engine that could be mounted either in front or back. Several different body styles could be built with one featuring pneumatically dampened gull wing doors.

What the 8448 really represented was a styling exercise. Lego sponsored a design project at Coventry University and used those ideas in creating the model. They used rounded beams and new fairing panels to suggest body panels and the new flexible cross axles and corrugated tubes to create a curves that were simply not possible with older construction techniques. The result was by far the most realistic looking of the auto chassis.

This use of rounded beams, fairing panels and flexible elements for the superstructure would become typical for 4th generation models. The designs, however, were never quite as successful as they were with the 8448.

1999 sets:

1257 Tricycle (3000 Trike Buggy)
1258 Buggy (3001 Propeller Buggy)
1259 Motorbike (1268 Bike Blaster, 3003 Motorbike)
1260 Car (3005 Piston Car)
8246 Hydro Racer
8247 Road Rebel
8251 Sonic Cycle
8252 Beach Buster
8253 Fire Helicopter
8255 Rescue Motorbike
8268 Scorpion Attack
8269 Cyber Stinger
8444 Air Enforcer
8445 Indy Storm
8446 Crane Truck
8448 Super Street Sensation
8450 Cybermaster Mission
8500 Torch
8501 Ski
8502 Turbo
8503 Scuba
8504 Jet
8505 Amazon
8506 Granite
8507 Electro
8520 Millennia
9735 Robotics Discovery Set
9747 Mindstorms Robotics Invention System v1.5
9748 Droid Development Kit

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1978

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

In Europe, 2 new models, a small go-cart and a large crane, as well as a new supplementary set were released. The theme was finally released in the US under the name "Expert Builder" and were given 900 series set numbers. The initial release included 4 models, the motor set and a supplementary set. This difference between US and European availability has become standard Lego marketing practice, in fact there has never been a year with a common retail Technic assortment.

In addition to the new 16t gear, chain links and gear reducing blocks were introduced in set 872. The blocks connected to the 4.5 V motor and allowed for a 1:20 gear reduction in a much smaller space than would be required with Technic gears.


1978 US ad

Lego Technic 1977

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

Technic sets were first introduced in Europe in September 1977 under the name Technical Sets. Advertising, such as in catalogs, called the new theme "Technical Sets" although the boxes didn't have any name on them.

These sets, intended for older children, expanded the Lego range into much more complex mechanical models, or -as early advertising stated- models "as technical as the real thing". The original series consisted of 4 models, including a 590 piece Auto Chassis, and 2 supplementary sets. In Europe they were given 850 and 870 series set numbers.

Several of these new elements, such as the cross axle and universal joint were holdovers from the earlier Gear wheel sets and were changed very little. Several other elements were new, more refined versions of the Gear Wheel elements, such as the technic beam that replaced the 2 x 4 brick with holes. Still other elements were entirely new, such as gears, the connector peg and piston rod. The 2 original supplementary sets included examples of all of the new elements.

example parts

The crown gear:
The original crown gear is a good example of how the new Technic elements replaced earlier elements. The Samsonite and Lego gear wheels could act as either a pinion or crown gear due to the relatively large size of their teeth. However, the smaller Technic gears required a new design. The crown gear featured a tooth similar in profile to a claw, (or a "bird's head" according to the 1976 UK patent application). Acting as a pinion it could mesh with the bottom of the tooth or as a crown gear with the top of the tooth.

UK patent 1543128 UK patent 1,543,128

Lego Technic 1986

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
The Arctic Action Sets
1986 NL Technic catalog
8 new sets were released in 1986, the most in a single year since the line began. In addition to a go-cart and tractor model, 2 new Universal Sets as well as the Arctic Action sets were released. These were the first sets to appear in the US under the name of Technic, replacing the Expert Builder name. New elements included the worm gear, the action figure and several action figure accessories, such as skis, helmets and chairs.
The Arctic Action sets: The 4 Arctic Action Sets comprise the first Technic theme, based around a polar expedition. The series included a small ski car, a helicopter, a 6-wheeled truck and a pneumatic helicopter base and were given 8600 series set numbers. From the 1986 Lego press release: "Imagine a Mountain Rescue Base with a pneumatic powered helicopter platform. Or Snow Ranger vehicles with snow ploughs, and the new action figures which can even wear skis. They all add up to a really exciting new build-and-play idea."

The Arctic Action theme
The Arctic Action theme was the first attempt to add play value to the sets beyond just their construction and technical functions. It was the only Technic theme until the Competition/Cyberslam theme of the late 1990's.
The Action Figure: Lego had been producing figures in some form since the early 1970's, but the action figure was the first to be fully articulated. The head, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and feet were all movable to some degree. The patent for a new ball and socket joint, originally filed in 1985, shows a hip joint that consists of a pin with a ball at the end. The ball fit into a hollow socket on the thigh, allowing rotation. But the thigh also squeezed against the pin with enough force that the joint could remain in any position by friction, allowing the figure to be posable. This joint formed the basis not just of the Technic figures, but also of several other Lego dolls.
DK patent 157,062
8620 Snow Scooter:
The smallest of the Arctic Action sets and the smallest Technic set to date, the 8620 was scaled for the new action figure. The model had only one real function-the rack and pinion steering. The steering used not only the typical toothed plates and steering arms but featured an angled steering wheel held in place by cross axles and toggle joints. This small buggy would form the prototype for an increasing number of smaller vehicles over the next several years.

1986 sets:

8035 Universal Set
8055 Motorized Universal Set
8620 Snow Scooter
8640 Polar Copter
8660 Arctic Rescue Unit
8680 Mountain Rescue Base
8842 Go Cart
8849 Tractor
 
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1987

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
A Transforming Robot
1987 EU Technic catalog
For the 2nd time in 3 years Lego released only 1 new set, the 8852 Robot, as well as the 3rd Idea book. Perhaps after the number of new releases in 1986 Lego had saturated its retail outlets. But whatever the reason it would be the last off year for Technic.
8852 Robot:
The Robot represents probably the last of second generation sets. The model was a truck that, when the wheel on the back was turned, transformed into a robot. The set featured a rather complex gear train consisting of a worm gear, several reinforced spur gears and a long rack. Turning the pulley wheel simultaneously raised the cab and shortened the wheelbase. In addition to the now standard use of beams, steering arms, toggle joints and cross axles, the model also used a number of non-technic elements, such as claws and train windows.
A rather unusual subject for the Technic line, the design was no doubt influenced by the popularity of robots, especially Transformers, in the mid 1980's, and represented another attempt to add additional play value to the model.

1987 sets:

8852 Robot
8890 Idea Book
 
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1988

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
The 3rd Generation Sets
1988 EU Technic catalog
5 new sets were released, including the 3rd major auto chassis. Lego also updated the packaging with a new box and manual design showing a CAD drawing on a dark blue background. This design would serve as the basis for Technic packaging for the next 10 years.
There were several new elements introduced in 1988, such as the propeller assembly and steering arm. Model designs were becoming more complex and realistic and 1988 marked the beginning of ultra-specialized elements. Rather than construct the functional equivalent out of more standard elements, Designers began to use these specialized elements to increase the functionality with compact assemblies.
US patent 5.071,384
The steering gear:
The new steering gear assembly is a good illustration of these new highly specialized elements. The assembly consisted of a rounded plate with a toothed bracket, a rack/steering rod and a pinion holder. The pinion holder would engage the teeth of the bracket, allowing it it remain fixed in various positions. Because the rack had a rounded profile the pinion could rotate around it and remain engaged. This same functionality would require a much bulkier assembly if constructed out of separate elements. This steering gear has served as the base of steering, especially in small models, to the present day.
The 8855 Prop Plane:
This was the first Technic airplane and still stands as their best. By this time Technic sets had mostly lost their block-like construction and were starting to become quite realistic in appearance. The design of the prop plane, especially of the wings and rudder, look like a cutaway of a real plane. This technique would become the staple of 3rd generation set design. The joystick in the cockpit realistically controlled the ailerons and rudder through a series of cross axles and universal joints. The final result is a model that captured the prototype in both form and function. It is perhaps the most underrated Technic set ever.

1988 sets:

8712 Technic Action Figures
8832 Roadster
8853 Excavator
8855 Prop Plane
8865 Test Car
 
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1989

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
The 2nd Generation Pneumatics
1989 EU Technic catalog
7 new sets were released, including 4 new Universal Sets and 3 models. The new 80x4 series of universal sets included a pneumatic set and the short-lived 8054 Motorized set. 2 of the 3 new models featured the new pneumatic system.
2nd generation pneumatics
The 2nd generation pneumatics:
The 2nd generation pneumatic system included a new spring-loaded pump and cylinder, as well as the older pneumatic switch and tubing. The new cylinder was double-acting; it had an intake port on both sides of the piston. By directing air to either port the piston could be raised or lowered. This system resulted in simpler and more reliable circuits then the single-acting system. This arrangement has served as the basis of Lego pneumatics to the present day.
8862 Backhoe:
Considered by many the be one of the best Technic sets, the 8862 was the high point in a long line of construction vehicles. The front scoop could be raised and tilted through a series of cross axle/triangle links. The back hoe was operated via 3 separately controlled pneumatic cylinders arranged exactly as in the prototype. Finally a set of rear stabilizers could be raised and lowered via a pinion gear arrangement. The now common use of beams attached with friction pins was used to create the cab framework resulting in a model that not only successfully duplicated the functions of the prototype, but looked realistic as well.

1989 sets:

8024 Universal Set
8034 Universal Set
8044 Pneumatic Universal Set
8054 Motorized Universal Set
8835 Forklift
8854 Power Crane
8862 Back-Hoe
 
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1990

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The 9V Electric System

1990 EU Technic catalog

7 new sets were released, including no less than 3 sets featuring the new 9V electric system. The 8064 Motorized set replaced the 8054 set after only 1 year. 3 of the new model sets featured the new engine elements and were categorized, at least in some of the catalogs, as the 'Rally' sub-theme.

The 9V electrics:
The new 9V electric system represented the first change in Lego's electric elements since the introduction of the 4.5V system in 1966 or the 12V train system in 1969. The system replaced every previous electric element with a new design. Although originally released in the Technic theme, Lego soon standardized their entire product range to this new 9V system.

US patent 4,743,202

The conducting plate:
For some time Lego had been working on a building element that could be attached in the typical fashion and still conduct current, yet not be easily short-circuited. Several patents from this time described a typical Lego plate with 2 isolated metal inserts that were exposed underneath as well as on top through cutouts in the sides of the studs. The exposed metal on the studs was arranged in a mirror image on either side of the plate so that when 2 plates were attached they could conduct current but could not be short-circuited. In production the plates had a simplified metal insert that allowed easier connections.

US patent D314,993

The engine cylinder:
A series of new highly-specialized engine elements was also released in 1990. This new system included a cylinder block, pistons, piston rods and crankshaft elements. The result was much more realistic and properly scaled engines and represented another addition to a now rapidly growing collection of highly specific vehicle elements.

US patent 4,461,116

The friction connector:
Lego would often change the design of elements and the new friction connector was a prominent example. The new connector had slits in the middle and at both ends, making it easier to remove than the original. The patent shows an elastic cylindrical plug with an annular central collar. When the connector was inserted into a beam hole the center slit would compress and the ends of the connector would expand, causing a relatively permanent connection. It is interesting to note that the new friction connector was produced 8 years after the original patent was filed in 1982.

The Control Center

8094 Control Center:
Dacta, the educational division of Lego, had been marketing several computer-controlled devices since the mid 1980s, but the 8094 Control Center was the first retail computerized Lego set.

The Control Center had 3 9V outputs for 3 motors. 1 motor was directly controlled by 2 buttons that ran the it foreword or backward. The other 2 motors were controlled simultaneously by a 4-position Control pad that had 8 different combinations, resulting in 2-axis control. 2 separate series of keystroke sequences could be recorded then played back as a 'program'.

The 8094 set included instructions for several models, including a programmable plotter and 3-axis robotic arm.

1990 sets:

8064 Motorized Universal Set
8094 Control Center
8720 9V Power Pack
8825 Night Chopper
8830 Moon Buggy
8840 Rally Shock and Roll Racer
8850 Rally Off-Roader

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1991

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Flex System

1991 EU Technic catalog

6 new sets, including the 8838 Shock Cycle and 8856 Whirlwind Rescue, as well as a new Idea Book were released. Lego also included an extra instruction book with the 8024, 8815 and 8820 to build a meta set from these parts. Although this had been done in other themes before, it was the first in the Technic theme.

There were several new parts released, including new motorcycle wheels and large shock absorbers as well as an entirely new system of flexible cables and cardan joints.

US patent 5,733,168

The Flex System:
The new Flex System consisted of thin, flexible rod-shaped cables with coupling heads, larger flexible sheaths and connectors that could be attached with axles or ball joints. When used together with the flex tubing the flex cable allowed for the transmission of force much like a Bowden cable. The small size and flexibility allowed it to be used where traditional gears and cross axles would be too bulky or impractical.

The original patent application also made a claim for using the flex cables as a means of stiffening static constructions, however this was never fully realized in any Technic models. The use as a Bowden cable, however, was utilized in a number of models, most notably as a helicopter or airplane control mechanism. The system remains one of the more elegant Technic construction methods and has always been underutilized by Lego.

US patent 5,360,364

The Cardan Joint:
The cardan joint consisted of a spherical ball with axial grooves, a loose-fitting ring with ball attachments as well as a guide ring with carrier pins. The pins of the guide ring meshed with the grooves of the cardan ball, allowing the transmission of torque but also allowing the guide ring to pivot about the sphere. The loose fit of the ball attachments allowed them to remain static as the rest of the assembly spun and be controlled by a flex cable. Not only did this allow for 3-axis control of a helicopter rotor but also formed the basis of a constant-velocity joint. Another example of the increasingly sophisticated specialized elements Lego was now developing.

8838 Shock Cycle:
The Shock Cycle featured both front and rear wheel suspension, accurate steering and a 2-cylinder chain drive, The new shock absorbers and hollow rubber tires, along with the new engine elements resulted in a quite realistic model. As Lego continued to release new, highly specialized elements the designers were beginning to create very realistic models, both in terms of function and form. The Shock Cycle would serve as the basis of a number of motorcycle models over the next decade.

1991 sets:

8074 Universal Set w/ Flex System
8810 Cafe Racer
8815 Speedway Bandit
8820 Mountain Rambler
8838 Shock Cycle
8856 Whirlwind Rescue
8891 Designers Idea Book
meta Racer (8024+8815+8820)

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1992

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Air Tech Claw Rig

1992 EU Technic catalog

5 new sets, including 2 pneumatic sets, were released. The sets ranged from the 98 piece ATX Sport Cycle to the 957 piece Air Tech Claw Rig. This retail assortment of small, medium and large sets would continue as the typical Lego marketing practice for the rest of the decade.

There were several new parts released including a new toggle joint, 2 new propeller designs and the compressor pump and small pneumatic cylinder. These last 2 allowed for electric operation of pneumatics.

8838 Supply Ship:
The red, black and white 8839 Supply ship was the only full-sized Technic boat model ever released. The model featured an interesting steering mechanism with wheels set under the hull. When the rear wheel was turned via a flex cable linkage the 2 rear propellers would turn as well. The supply hoist both moved up and down as well as rotated on a technic turntable. The curved shape of the hull was achieved through the use of hinged plates, a technique that was becoming more common in 3rd generation construction.

8868 Air Claw Tech Rig:
Another large construction vehicle, the Air Tech Claw Rig featured virtually every Technic construction system available and was easily the most complex Technic set to date. The major feature was a 3 cylinder pneumatic grabber arm on a turntable. The pneumatic circuit was pressurized by a 9V motor and compressor pump. The model also featured a 6-cylinder engine, front wheel steering via a knob on top of the cabin and 6 large tires. Surprisingly, this was the only set ever to feature the 9V compressor.

1992 sets:

8826 ATX Sport Cycle
8828 Front End Loader
8836 Sky Ranger
8837 Pneumatic Excavator
8839 Supply Ship
8868 Air Tech Claw Rig

By Isodomus