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Building Buying Instructions Code

My models fall apart, help! [ Top ]

Check out Eric Brok's discussion of LEGO geometry. This is really one of the best online guides to building with LEGO Technic. [Note that this site's server can be a bit intermittent.]

'The Art of LEGO' [975 kb PDF] by Fred Martin (father of the programmable brick) was written in 1995, so it's a little dated now, but it provides an excellent introduction to building motorized mechanisms with LEGO Technic.

You Play with LEGO Devices: from LEGO Technic to LEGO Mindstorms (approximate translation from Japanese) by Yoshihito Isogawa is an excellent book on building mechanisms with LEGO. My sensei Hideaki Yabuki sent me a copy from Japan and I really can't praise this book highly enough. The text is in Japanese, but don't worry if you can't read it, because every page of the book is filled with detailed, full-color photographs of LEGO construction techniques and mechanisms.
Book image
If you don't live in Japan or have any friends in Japan, your best bet for getting a copy is to contact an importer of Japanese books. In the US, you can try requesting it from Sasuga Books (I would welcome other suggestions for importers of Japanese books). Publisher: Soft Bank Publishing; date of publication: October 2001; ISBN: 4797318201.

Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms by Mario and Giulio Ferrari is another nifty book. I've had a lot of fun leafing through this book and most of the robots can be built with little more than the basic Robot Invention System parts list.

It's full of nifty mechanisms and useful discussions of programmatic solutions to simple robot problems. The approach is similar to Ben Erwin's Creative Projects with LEGO® Mindstorms -- little sample code and no step-by-step instructions, but aimed at a slightly more sophisticated audience. There are lots of explanation and photos of the robots partially dissasembled. Publisher Syngress; date of publication: 2001; ISBN: 1928994679.

Where can I get more parts? [ Top ]

LUGNET has two buying guides that are useful for new sets in the US:

  • Brickwise: the online LEGO shopping Guide gives a guide to current prices of new sets (in the US). Check out their hottest deals section, there are quite often variations in the cost of, e.g., Technic motor packs.
  • Shop at Home Specials has a list of items that LEGO are selling new (again, in the US), but at discounted prices. You have to phone Shop At Home in the US (1-800-835-4386), ask for the "phone special", and give the set number to get the discount price.

LEGO Shop AT Home. You can buy LEGO service packs from LEGO Shop at Home. The LEGO site is desperately slow, so search on the item numbers listed below to see if it's available in your area. You can also go here for a pictorial list of LEGO Technic service packs.

9709 Mindstorms RCX
9738 Mindstorms RCX remote control
9756 Mindstorms rotation sensor
9757 Mindstorms touch sensor
9758 Mindstorms light sensor

5099 Pneumatic switch
5117 Pneumatic pump [32mm]
5107 Pneumatic pump [48mm]
5116 Pneumatic cylinder [32mm]
5108 Pneumatic cylinder [48mm]
5109 Pneumatic tubing & Ts
5110 Pneumatic kit
5218 Pneumatic Pack

5037 Electric plates
5041 Electric wire [8.5cm]
5311 Electric wire [25.6cm]
5111 Electric wire [128cm]
5119 Micro motor
5114 Extra 9V motor [old-style 9V motor]
5225 Mini-motor [new-style 9V gear motor]
5391 9V battery box [1x9V]
5115 9V battery box [6xAA]
5120 Polarity reverser
5033 Flashing light brick
5310 Light brick

5110 Axles + couplers
5226 Axles
5253 Axles (2L-6L)
5267 Axles (2L-12L)

5269 Liftarms, cams, triangles
5291 Liftarms + triangles
5202 Angle beams

5229 Gears and differentials
5242 Plates, steering arms, etc.
5288 Gear Blocks
5277 Pulleys and rubber belts
5278 Chain links

5201 Angle connectors
5275 Toggle joints
5286 Toggle joints + connectors
5294 Toggle joints + connectors

5228 Small beams and plates
5233 Small beams and plates
5235 Technic bricks
5231 Technic beams + plates (yellow)
5250 Technic beams (yellow)
5249 Technic beams + plates (red)
5238 Technic beams (red)
5236 Technic beams (blue)

5295 Steering accessories
5279 Plates, steering arms, etc.
5290 Plates and gear racks.

5251 4 small shock absorbers
5252 Large shock absorbers
5118 Flex system
5204 CyberSlam missile launcher
5227 Fiber optic cables
5397 Magnets and Holders

LEGO Dacta is the educational division of LEGO. Most LEGO Dacta suppliers sell only to educational institutions, but there are a couple that sell to the general public. If you live in the US you can go to Pitsco-LEGO Dacta and pull down the listbox on the home page to shop the SPARE PARTS department. If you're in Australia you can shop at Moore Educational.
eBay is an online auction site that usually has a fair quantity of offerings in the LEGO Technic and Mindstorms themes. In general you will end up paying near-retail or over-retail for complete kits from this source, but it's worth watching for bargains: the less popular (earlier) Technic sets which are crammed with beams, people selling off bulk parts, and even the occasional RIS1.0 set. Most offerings are from the US, but there are increasingly offers from Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Of course, you're at-risk in various ways from ill-informed or fraudulent sellers -- send the seller email if you've got any doubts or questions.
Bricklink. The 'Unofficial Online Lego Shopping Mall' has offerings in many of the LEGO themes including Technic parts and sets from resellers based all over the world.
BAYLIT. The 'Bricks As You Like Them' site offers a wide range of Technic parts onsey-twosey. A pricey option for bulk parts, but may be worth it for that part you just have to have to finish a model.

What is a DAT file and how can I view it? [ Top ]

When you click an 'instructions' link on this site you will be downloading a ZIP file with one or more 'DAT' files in it. There's usually also a 'readme.txt' file in the ZIP describing the sub files, unofficial parts, and any special notes for building the model.

What is a DAT file?
In this context a DAT file is the standard format for exchanging LDraw-compatible building instruction files.

What is LDraw?
LDraw and LEdit are freeware CAD programs, running on IBM-PCs under DOS, for designing and rendering 3D Lego models. The DOS-based LDraw software has been largely superceded by graphical IDEs, but LDraw's DAT file format has been retained and extended for use in a number of extremely impressive freeware DAT file viewer-editors. There is already an extensive
LDraw FAQ so check it out if you want more history and technical details.

DAT file viewers/editors
If you don't already have the LDraw parts files and a DAT viewer go to
www.ldraw.org, and follow the instructions. Read the instructions carefully and don't skip bits -- you will need to download 'ldraw.exe' and 'complete.exe' to your root directory, and then run them to unpack the included files. You will then run 'mklist.exe' to build a parts database. After you've done all that, you will be be set to download a freeware viewer/editor appropriate for your OS.

What is NQC? [ Top ] When you click on a 'code' link you will likely be downloading a zipped NQC file. 'Not Quite C' (NQC) is a freeware language for programming LEGO's RCX, CyberMaster, and Scout programmable bricks. Written by Dave Baum, it has a C-like syntax. I strongly recommend this language if you're interested in building your own robots. You can download NQC from Dave Baum's NQC site and read the extensive NQC FAQ for more information.

What graphical IDEs are available for NQC?
The classic Windows IDE is RCXCC (RCX Command Center), available in two flavors:
original and 'improved'. Alternative Win IDEs are WinNQC and Ronald Strijbosch's Visual NQC 2001. If you're using a Mac, check out MacNQC.

Which RCX firmware?
The advanced features of NQC versions 2.2 and higher (e.g., array support) require the frm0328.lgo firmware to be present on your RCX. This is the firmware that comes with LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) version 2.0 or with the LEGO Mindstorms Vision Command set. If you have RIS 1.0 or 1.5, you can download the new firmware
here along with the ATLClient.exe program that allows you to download the firmware to the RCX. [And, yes, the RIS2.0 firmware will work fine with the RCXs from RIS1.0 and 1.5.]

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LEGO®, LEGO Technic, Mindstorms, CyberMaster, Scout, Vision Command, Robotic Invention System, and RCX are trademarks of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site. Read the full heavy latin from LEGO for more details. Rubik® and Rubik's Cube® are registered trademarks of Seven Towns Limited which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site. LUGNET™ and Brickwise™ are trademarks of Todd S. Lehman and Suzanne D. Rich.

 Text, graphics, and downloads from http://jpbrown.i8.com copyright © JP Brown, 2001-2006. All rights reserved.
Book image courtesy of Yoshihito Isogawa.