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Life-Sized, Drivable 500,000 Piece Lego Car Runs On Air 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the toy-car dept.
cartechboy writes "Two guys have made a life-sized Lego car that runs on air. That's right, the 256-piston, air-powered Lego working vehicle built with half a million black and yellow Lego pieces can actually be driven up to 18 mph. It was designed and built by 20-year-old Romanian Raul Oaida in 20 months after he and his partner, Australia-based Steve Sammartino raised "tens of thousands" of crowdfunded dollars with their prospectus entitled quite simply: "Super Awesome Micro Project." The car was built in Romania and then moved to Melbourne, Australia (presumably not brick-by-brick.) In the video, the only visible non-Lego components are the gauges, wheel rims, and tires (though the wheels have Lego faces--literally.)"
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Life-Sized, Drivable 500,000 Piece Lego Car Runs On Air

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  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @09:29PM (#45742423) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand -- how does it drive?

  • by bob_super (3391281) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @09:39PM (#45742461)

    Yep, that's the roar of US car dealers running to their layers and politicians to get a ban on Lego stores...

    • Car dealers? What about the IIHS - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety?
      Just imagine the accidents!

      -- No, I mean the post-collision Frankensteinian reconstructions after the instruction manual has been lost!

      • Honestly, I'm imagining the accident right now - that thing gets T-boned by a car going 40, and half a million Lego flying all over the place.

        What a fantastic mess!

        • Great, thanks for ruining the next episode of CSI...

          "It's a two car collision, where's the other car?"

          "No sign of it anywhere, just a mess of Lego bricks..."

          Tune in Wednesday to see the mystery unfold!

  • Eco-friendly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @09:48PM (#45742509)

    The prospectus says he is building something eco-friendly. Is it really eco-friendly to build a car from 500,000 individual pieces, shipped from Denmark, one that has zero practical use, then ship it from Romania to Melbourne? And is the power efficiency of using electricity to fill an air tank and then power 256 plastic pistons really power efficient?

    Cool, yes. Eco-friendly? Nope.

    • Compressed air energy storage compression & re-use is very inefficient.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Slagothor (1156549)
        Gee 3P0, I'm glad you're hear to tell us these things. Chewie, take the professor here and plug him into the back.
  • can NOT be comfortable on that thing. Imagine all the little lego impressions on your bum.

    Still, that's a pretty nifty project, imho.

    • by Zynder (2773551)
      Maybe it ends up being like those wooden bead car seat covers. At first glance they appear horribly uncomfortable but, at least in my case, I don't even notice it after 10 mins.
  • Am I the only one that thought it said "Super Awesome Mario Project", and was confused by the yellow/black theme? Maybe if it had been white/black, it could've been codenamed "Bullet Bill".
  • Fake? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2013 @11:03PM (#45742901)

    I have looked at the video over and over, but it fails to reveal details of the engine construction. As an engineer I do know a thing or two about machinery and I do see some warning signs.

    1: valve control
    The car uses double acting pistons. Somewhere there is valve controls to turn the pressure on and off in the hoses. These controllers aren't visible.

    2: pipe thickness
    The pipes are constantly pressurized and depressurized. A lot of air goes into them each time the pipe is pressurized. Because the air pipes have such a small internal diameter and are pretty long, I'm concerned that there simply isn't time to pressurize pipes and pistons to go the speed they claim to go. Getting rid of the pressure on the other side of the pistons is also an issue as it has to escape though similar long and thin pipes.

    3: crankshaft
    There should be some crankshaft, but it isn't visible. That alone isn't a problem, but seeing it would be nice. It's a high torque part which makes it a critical part. Also somehow all the torque is joined into a single shaft and I really wonder how that could be done in lego.

    4: rotating "rod"
    There is a rotating rod between the seats. Supposedly it contains the entire power transmission between engine and wheels. Let's assume the lego blocks can handle this (I don't know if they can), then how is the bearings for a square bar made? The torque in that part alone makes me a bit suspicious to lego bearings.

    5: smooth ride
    The engine shows an amazing smooth ride. Given that the engine can start from a dead stop it is likely adding air until the piston has to move the other way. This causes vibrations as there is no brake on the piston. It accelerates and then it hits the end. Avoiding this is quite tricky as it involves RPM controlled valve control. I would love to see a lego valve controller, which takes engine RPM into consideration.

    6: general lack of technical details other than what the video shows

    Real world engineers solved 1+2 on steam locomotives by casting cylinder and valve into one block meaning the "pipe" which is pressurized and depressurized each time is much shorter than say a finger. It's nowhere the length of this setup. I would have expected a similar setup where the valve controls are placed right at the pistons and controlled by engine rotation. Granted that would make reverse a bit hard to implement, but it would work when going forward and the air usage would be much lower as the left over pressure in the pipes is let out each time the valve shuts.

    All in all I can't put my finger on something specific and say for sure that it is fake, but somehow I don't trust the mechanical parts in it. However it is really impressive to build something of that size out of lego. I don't question if they built the car itself (maybe I should), I just question if the engine works.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Presumably there are lots of non-lego parts. I really doubt he could build an air tank out of legos. I am a little interested in if lots of smaller components could be used to make it smoother or if that would cause other pressure issues. Obviously it would be more parts that could break, but it might have benefits.
      • Re:Fake? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Friday December 20, 2013 @01:28AM (#45743435)

        An air tank out of LEGO isn't entirely out of the question. I think it's rather blindingly obvious that the parts for this thing have been glued together. ABS is fairly tough stuff, and the glue basically fuses bricks together, so making an air tight compartment isn't out of the question. It's not going to be a high pressure tank, but they made no claims about exactly how far this thing can roll on one tank of air. I'm betting not very far.

        I think the guy you responded to also discounted the possibility of glue. I really don't see it hanging together without glued parts. With glued parts, I think the whole thing really could be LEGO elements (aside from the wheels, tires, and gauges).

        • +GeorgFischer+ even advises ABS tubes in a lot of chemical applications. Basically: if it gets below freezing you want ABS because most other plastics have the tendency to break easily in cold. The glued tubes can withstand up to 16 bars.
          LEGO bricks are not designed to withstand pressure, so the maximum is probably lower. I'd advise a few tests with low volume containers first, to test the strength of the bricks. Then scale up slowly (steps of a factor 2 in volume), because you can't scale wall thickness
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it doesn't go up hills.

      there's list of non-lego parts somewhere too..

      I'd wager glued intersected lego blocks could work as the shaft for that, quite low, power no problem. there's 4 radial engines each with 64 cylinders... so I guess at least 64(or 120+) cylinders are providing push at any given point. cranckshaft would be the shaft that is going straight through the engine(and it has round parts.. if some part is rectangular that is visible then it is that just for style or to save money on rounded legos).

    • by georgeb (472989)
      It can't be fake! This is from the same country that's gonna launch a lunar mission [wikipedia.org] from a supersonic seaplane [wikipedia.org]
    • by bytesex (112972)

      Torque - the guy is *sitting* in it! Have you ever thought of what tension the weight of a grown man puts on something built out of Lego over the distance between the front- and hind-wheels?!

    • by Smidge204 (605297)

      1. There are valve assemblies on "top" of each piston assembly, and these valves are flipped back and forth by the motion of the pistons themselves.

      2. The tubes are only a few inches long between valve and piston, and the valve itself vents the "off" side. At most you only need to depressurize a few inches of tubing at a time.

      3. There appears to be four pistons per assembly, 16 assemblies per stack, and 4 stacks. Each piston assembly has a small crankshaft which outputs to a gear, and then each assembly in

    • by AC-x (735297)

      In regard to the possibility of a lego engine, while you can't see the exact workings it's probably very similar to this working 3 cylinder pneumatic in-line engine [nico71.fr].

      Also my understanding of the pneumatics of these engines are that the long feeder pipes are constantly pressurised and the air is only redistributed right next to the cylinder.

      From the look of it there isn't a main crankshaft, but rather lots of small crankshafts linked by gears. With the load distributed over so many separate gears there probab

  • by devphaeton (695736) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @11:51PM (#45743061)

    It is neat, I'll give it that. However, we've been building pneumatic Lego 'engines' for decades. They are all over Youtube and other places. The sheer scale of this is impressive but I don't know that "genius" is the right word here.

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