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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

Lego Technic 1993

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The 4th Universal Series

1993 EU Technic catalog

8 new sets, including 3 new fourth generation Universal sets. were released. The new 80x2 series included a new pneumatic and electric set.

1993 US Technic catalog

There were a number new parts released including a new electric switch, a micromotor, the cross block and catch, as well as new, large rubber tires.

US patent D344,769

The cross block:
The cross block is an element that allows a cross axle to be attached at a 90 deg angle to a connector. The result was much more compact than the previous use of stacked beams or toggle joints, for example. This element, and the closely related catch, have proved to be remarkably useful in a wide variety of Technic constructions and over the years Lego would develop many variants.

US patent 5,596,181

The polarity switch:
The polarity switch consisted of a plate with metal contacts terminating in a series of leaf springs and a grooved rotatable shaft with axial notches. The leaf spring fit into the groove and when the round shaft was turned the notch would press down on the spring, creating an electrical connection. Because of the arrangement of leaf spring and notches, rotating the shaft would alternately create and break electrical connections, allowing the switch to be used as a pole reverser.

8082 Multi Control Set:
The 9V 8082 Multi Control Set was the first set to use these new 9V electric elements. It featured the now common 9V motor as well as the new 9V micromotor and polarity switch. This allowed for the construction of models that had multiple, separately-controlled, electric functions. The main model, for example, was a vehicle that used the motor to power the car and the micromotor to control the steering.

1993 sets:

8022 Universal Starter Set
8042 Universal Pneumatic Set
8082 Multi Control Set
8714 Technic Team
8818 Baja Blaster
8824 Hovercraft
8857b Street Chopper
8872 Forklift Transport

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1994

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Super Car

1994 EU Technic catalog

8 new sets, including 2 more Universal sets. were released. The 8062 was the first Technic set to be packaged in a plastic storage case. Again, the retail assortment ranged from very small (the 92 piece F1 Racer) to the very large (1300+ piece Super Car).

There were quite a few new elements, including many specialized vehicle elements such as steering wheels, 2 new sets of steering arms and a transmission assembly.

US patent 5,687.160

The transmission:
Yet another highly-specialized vehicle mechanism, the transmission, was introduced. The patent shows 2 drive shafts, each with a cylindrical driving ring containing annular guide flanges and pointed claws at both ends. When the driving ring was slid to end of the shaft by a shifter that fit in the flanges the arrow-like claws would engage into hollow spur gears, acting as a claw clutch. The result was a compact system that allowed easy gear changes, even when the drive shafts were not rotating. In essence, a synchronized transmission.

Life-size Super Car: 660,000+ elements

8880 Super Car:
The 4th auto chassis, the 8880 Super Car, can legitimately lay claim as the most complex Lego set ever produced. It took advantage of every specialized vehicle assembly available in Technic: 4 wheel independent suspension and steering using a modified cardan joint as well a no less than 3 differentials and eight large shock absorbers; 4 speed transmission using the new transmission assembly connected via chain to an 8 cylinder engine using the new engine elements. Other features included pop up headlights using a lever on the dashboard and an opening trunk. It was also the first auto chassis to attempt a complete body. again, as was now common, curves were simulated using hinged plates. in fact the model used no less than 52 hinges.

Unfortunately for Lego they were approaching a ceiling where these large sets were simply too complex for children to build. The Super Car, for example, had a dense 50-page instruction booklet, with additional correction pages, and could take an experienced builder 4+ hours up to 8 hours for a beginner to build.

1994 sets:

8032 Universal Set
8062 Universal Set with Storage Case
8808 F1 Racer
8812 Aero Hawk II (8429 Helicopter)
8816 Off-Road Rambler
8829 Dune Blaster
8858b Rebel Wrecker
8880 Super Car

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1981

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
The 2nd Generation Sets
1981 NL Technical catalog
A completely new series of 5 models and 1 accessory set were released, including a large new tractor, the 8859 Harvester,
and truck, the 8848 Power Truck. It is interesting to note that after only 4 years Lego had already replaced the original tractor, helicopter and auto chassis with new, 2nd generation models. This very narrow scope of subjects, primarily cars, trucks, motorcycles, and construction/farm machinery, would continue until the late 1990's.
New elements for 1981 include the first of the 'toothed' plates, bushings and toggle joints, as well as the steering arm. These new elements allowed for a new method of construction and further refined the scale of technical functions.
1981 US ad
8848 Power Truck:
One of the first of the 2nd generation models, the 8848 Power Truck featured rack and pinion steering using toothed plates and the new steering arm, a rear axle differential, the front scoop and rear bed that could be raised and lowered via levers in the cockpit. The model made significant use of the new toothed elements, which allowed the technical functions to be scaled down in terms of size and resulted in a very realistic model.
UK patent 2,087,743
The toggle joint:
Connecting elements, such as a cross axle, at angles other than 90 or 180 degrees was always possible but this method of construction was fully realized with the introduction of the toggle joint. The 1981 UK patent application shows a toggle connector similar to the earlier piston rod but with a toothed rim. A pair of toggle joints could be assembled in various positions between 90 and 180 degrees by meshing of the toothed rims and could be locked in place by a connector peg or 1/2 bushing. These and other elements, such as the plate with toothing, allowed for rather compact angular connections and were widely used for years in Technic constructions.
UK patent 2,087,743

1981 sets:

8710 Expert Builder Parts Pack
8844 Helicopter
8845 Dune Buggy
8846 Tow Truck
8848 Power Truck
8859 Harvester
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1982

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
The Technic Universal Sets
1982 NL Technical catalog
The first 3 universal sets, including the large 8090 Universal Set, and a new 4.5 V motor, featuring a new battery box and connecting leads, were introduced. In Europe the theme was given a new name - Technic. The new name was used for both advertising and on the boxes. In fact several of the earlier Technical sets, such as the 8848 and 8860 were repackaged in Technic boxes. In the US the name remained Expert Builder, it would not change to Technic until 1986.
The friction connector: In addition to the new 4.5 V elements, the friction connector was introduced. The friction connector allowed 2 beams to be joined with a very secure connection and was largely responsible for allowing the beams to be used not just as long Lego blocks, but truly as beams, in much the way a Meccano girder was used. In fact the connection was so tight that Lego gave instructions to make a tool to remove them. It has become one of the most important and widely used Technic elements.
1982 US ad: 119K
8050 Universal Set:
Lego has always produced specific model sets, but it wasn't until the advent of distinct themes in the late 1970s that this became the primary focus of Lego marketing. Rather, Lego produced generic sets that offered ideas for a wide variety of models, such as the classic 100 series sets of the early 1970's. The Universal Sets were the first generic Technic Set.
The 8050 set featured instructions for 6 different models and ideas for several more. It included a general variety of Technic elements, such as beams, gears, connectors, as well as the 4.5V motor introduced in 1977.

1982 sets:

8030 Expert Builder Set
8050 Motorized Expert Builder Set
8090 Universal Set
8700 Power Pack
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1983

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
A Dragster
1983 US Expert Builder catalog
3 new models were released; a racer, dragster and motorcycle. The 1924 motorcycle was the first Technic promotional set and was available, at least in some places, as a cereal premium. There were no new Technic elements in 1983.
1983 US sets
8847 Dragster:
The Dragster featured rack and pinion steering connected to the steering wheel via cross axles and 2-cylinder engine attached to the rear axle by a spur gear and differential. A chain drive attached to the spur gear spun a cross axle, simulating a cam shaft. The dragster achieved a somewhat realistic appearance by using pulleys for the narrow front wheels and the large Technic tires for the rear. The tapered body, with an interesting blue and white color scheme, was achieved by using hinged bricks. The original steering linkage proved too fragile and later versions had an insert page showing how to rebuild a stronger linkage. Overall an interesting and rather difficult to find model.

1983 sets:

1924 Motorcycle
8841 Desert Racer
8847 Dragster
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1984

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
1984 EU Technic catalog
The first 3 pneumatic sets, including the 8851 Excavator and 8040 Pneumatic Universal Set as well as the 2nd Idea Book were released in Europe. In addition to the pneumatic elements, the threaded cross axles were new for 1984.
The pneumatics: The first pneumatic system included a pneumatic pump, cylinder, switch, and a distribution block, which were connected as a circuit with hollow rubber tubing. The original pneumatic pump and cylinder were single acting: pushing down on the pump created pressure in the system and pulling up on the pump created suction on the system.
1984 pneumatics
Because the original system was closed, Lego designed the piston head in the pump and cylinder to act as the pressure release valve. As described in the 1984 patent application, the piston was constructed from a flexible material that would normally contact the walls and seal the cylinder, when the pressure in the working chamber became too high the head would deform, breaking the seal, and allow the pressure to escape.
UK patent 2,139,318 A
8843 Forklift:
The 2nd forklift and first pneumatic model. The model's construction was typical of mid 1980's sets. It relied heavily on Technic beams, connectors and rounded plates rather than standard bricks. The model featured rack and pinion steering controlled by a 2x2 round brick on the top and movable forks controlled by a chain and pneumatic piston.

1984 sets:

8020 Expert Builder Set
8040 Pneumatic Expert Builder Set
8843 Forklift
8851 Excavator
8889 Idea Book
By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1985

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen
A Go-Cart

The lost year for Technic. After the release of the pneumatic sets in 1984, many of which were not released in some markets until 1985, and anticipating the Arctic Action series of next year, Lego produced only 1 new set for 1985, the promotional 1972 go-Cart. which was designed as a starter or trial set.
The small blue Go-Cart had only 1 function, front-wheel rack and pinion steering. To its credit, however, it used 8 small wheels to simulate wide tires.
Besides this one set one technic part was released: Gear Worm Screw. This part however did not appear in any technic set until 1986 in 8660: Arctic Rescue Unit.

1985 sets:

1972 Go-Cart
Reference: Isodomus