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Essential for Technic & Mechanics enthusiasts
on 29 November 2012
Lego Technic is a system started in the 1970s that includes advanced components such as gears, electric motors and pneumatic actuators. These allow the construction of mechanisms and models that function similarly to real machines and vehicles, sometimes to a very high standard of realism. As someone who has made a contribution to this area in the past, I have been looking forward to the release this book for some time.
Pawel "Sariel" Kmiec is one of the foremost builders and exponents of Lego Technic. His goal was simple: In his own words, to teach you everything he has learned about building with Lego Technic over the last 20 years, and to use this to help you build your own models. However, he acknowledges that this was too much to include in a single book, and that certain omissions were necessary. But have these been detrimental to the overall quality?
The book has 5 sections; Basics, Mechanics, Motors, Advanced Mechanics, and Models. The first four are in a form that will be familiar to anyone who has read a mechanics textbook, as all the fundamental machines and mechanisms are included. Levers, mechanisms, pulleys, and their associated language such as efficiency, friction, torque, mechanical advantage and many others are all present.
These are clearly and simply explained, and are colourfully illustrated with models built from Lego Technic. Instructions are supplied for all of these, allowing the reader to build and see them working, just as they would in real life.
This is where the real quality of the book lies, and the chapter on gearboxes and transmissions is of particular note. It provides descriptions and instructions for many kinds, including one I had never encountered before, the orbital transmission. It's so wonderfully detailed and explained that it's easy to forget that Lego Technic was designed as a toy. If anything would prove that the system goes beyond this, it would be this chapter.
The book is a truly comprehensive and accurate introduction to mechanics, and would make an excellent "cookbook" for teaching engineering concepts in schools and elementary courses in colleges. Very few other textbooks and systems allow you to read about and implement mechanical concepts in a cost effective and simple way, and this could be a powerful combination to inspire and teach engineers, both young and old. As a youngster I would have loved this book for the same reason I do as an adult: it properly explains mechanical concepts I have partially understood through observation and intuition.
In a nutshell, this is a collection of engineering concepts realised in Lego. These are presented in a modular fashion, and by combining these modules it is possible to create a huge variety of fully functioning machines. For example, a chassis, steering axle, driven axle, transmission and motor could be creatively built into a functioning car model. The last few chapters give some insight into this process, but in nowhere near as much detail as the preceding ones.
I suspect this is one of the areas the author omitted due to space considerations, and he made the correct decision. To go into detail on whole model design would require an entire book to itself, and it is important to focus on mechanical fundamentals before detailing advanced topics. I sincerely hope he will consider writing another book to cover this - I will certainly be buying it if he does.