In the 5th episode of the 1st season of Computer Chronicles in the year 1983 was an episode about Robotics. Lots of interesting speculation about the commercial viability of robotic devices.
Even at this time, robotics in manufacturing, or machines in general were starting to do many of the more dangerous tasks that could easily be replaced by some sort of structured process where robots could excel.
The fear of robots taking away jobs as seen in the early 20th century but the speculation that robots would completely eliminate all jobs doesn’t seem to have come into fruition. I know that today we speculate that automation will replace us in every way. It has in some capacities but I do believe it opens up the world for more skilled occupations. Robots and computers are certainly very disruptive to society, but they also give us new things as well.
Here is the video in it’s video tape recorded glory from 1983.
We all have immutable characteristics, things about us we cannot control about us. That will never make you less of a person
I have previously talked about LeoCAD on openSUSE and it is a pretty fantastic experience. There is a lot of fun to be had with designing or documenting your designs using this application. I also find it incredibly enjoyable, just because it runs so well in Linux. In my case, of course, openSUSE. I have been using the AppImage as of late, mostly because of the reduced hassle in dealing with installing the parts library. It seems that some sets I have downloaded from LDraw.org to recolor (that’s another story) didn’t have the correct geometry. Rather than dink around with that, I decided, the AppImage is the way I will go for now.
I am using AppImageLauncher to manage all the AppImages on openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma as my desktop environment. The LeoCAD AppImage can be downloaded from here. The “installation” and menu integration is all handled incredibly nicely by AppImage Launcher, so you can easily forget this is not managed by the system package manager.
I have been running version 19.07.1 of LeoCAD and it matches my system theme perfectly, so my previous reasons for using the native packages really went right out the window.
Since this isn’t my first time using LeoCAD, I am quite comfortable with the interface. It is a bit different than PTC Creo that I use for employment or Fusion 360 that I use for designing personal project but I seem to easily be able to move between the applications well enough. I think that the navigation method LeoCAD uses may now be my favorite… I think… ask me again tomorrow, I will have probably changed my mind.
Since I am perhaps stuck in a bit of a rut, I can’t help but to design and build sets in the vintage (but awesome) Blacktron Space theme from late 1980s. I designed (in collaboration with my kids) a modification to a set called the Blacktron Invader that can carry 6 passengers. The intent of this was like a troop transport but also be like a porcupine and look aggressive to have adventurous battles with my boys or, alternatively, if I am playing Legos with my daughter, to carry all our friends to the shopping mall or equestrian farm. When I started on this design, it was my intention from the beginning to publish another MOC (My Own Creation) on Rebriclable.com.
Creating a little “Story”
Part of the fun of this is to create a little story about your MOC. Using a bit of imagination to explain your MOC. I do with all my MOCs, so far, and some of them get a little feedback, largely because “Blacktron” were the “bad guys” and I have rejected that narrative. I have turned the script a bit to say that they are the good guys.
This is the most difficult part of the publishing. What do you call the thing you created. In this case, I created a variation on a set called the “Invader” and since my design intent was to be an “Assault” module, I called it the Assault Invader. Kind of a silly name, severely lacking in creativity and doesn’t exactly sound like something every kid is going to exclaim to their parents that they want for Christmas but this will do. I can change it if necessary.
Build Instruction Viewer
After uploading the “directions” I noticed (maybe missed it previously) a really awesome build instructions feature in Rebrickable. You can go through, step-by-step the build process in this fantastically executed virtual instruction viewer called the “BI Viewer” (Build Instruction Viewer).
I thought this was so dang cool. Not only can you see each step like modern Lego build instructions with pieces required for each step, it also shows where they go on the model and you can rotate it around and zoom to get a detailed look at it. So incredibly cool. This means, I had to make my uploaded CAD files properly stepped in the timeline tab so that it would be an enjoyable experience to build, should anyone actually do that.
Adjusting the Timeline in LeoCAD
When going through the instructions on the BI Viewer, I noticed that it was a mess. The steps were all kinds of nonsense. You can’t hold pieces in mid-air and build beneath it. So I took the appropriate time to properly order the steps in LeoCAD using the “Timeline” tab.
The process in which I found this worked best was to start with the last step and pick off the top most parts, or take it apart step-by-step to put on a new step at the end of the timeline. This was the most efficient way I found to order the steps quickly.
Uploading CAD file for Inventory
This is an important part of the process so prospective builders can make it for themselves. Here is where I ran into some issues with my models. It appears that LeoCAD has parts that are now considered obsolete; they cannot just remove them from the inventory of parts as it would “break” some designs. That said, Rebrickable lets you know if the parts are not current or correct. Thankfully, they have a way of selecting an alternate part.
I don’t generally have a lot of time to “play” with Legos, either real or virtual. When I do, it is mostly with my kids as a fun, family activity. Using LeoCAD is a great way to document the designs or work out ideas without having all the appropriate pieces and also makes for a great education tool to use with children or adults.
I am able to take time, now and again, to explore my limited creativity and to share it with those that have similar interests on the Internet. Sure, my reach is probably only a dozen or so people scattered around the world that are approximately my age but that is just enough. The positive is, it ensures that when I go to Bricklink.com to order the parts I want, they are not in high demand and I can get what I want pretty reasonably.
I can’t thank enough those that are volunteering their time to create LeoCAD and all the tools that make my openSUSE Linux machine possible. Not to mention the various web services and sites that make sharing possible too. It’s a pretty great time in which we live, especially if you are a nerd.
LeoCAD is an application that I use somewhat frequently. It is available for Linux, Windows and even Mac but I don’t have a Windows or Mac machine of which to compare to Linux. I have written about the joys of using LeoCAD before if you are interested in that blathering and at that time I used the AppImage to run the application. Now am using the openSUSE community repository instead and I installed it from here:
I did have some issue getting LeoCAD to find my library but but renaming the complete.ziplibrary.bin and placing it in the aforementioned location made the parts available for use.
What I particularly enjoyed about using it from the openSUSE repositories is that LeoCAD now respects my dark desktop theme which is much easier on my eyes and more enjoyable in which to “work.” Okay, I realize, I am “playing” and not “working” but it is also a fantastic teaching tool.
The version of LeoCAD I am using at the time of writing is 18.02. It works very smooth, has yet to crash and is a joy to use.
Designing my be a stretch, actually, more like modification of existing designs. A little back story, 8 year old me was incredibly enamored with this LEGO space theme called Blacktron. I didn’t like that LEGO considered them the “bad guys” and that idea has perpetuated with, for what I can tell, no variation on that meme. So, I have decided that I wanted to introduce that idea, that they are not still the “bad guys.” I did this by making a couple Rebrickable.com submissions with a different idea, here.
One of my first “designs” was just making this first Blacktron LEGO set the way I wanted it as a kid. It included reversing the connections and modernizing it with the newer small parts to add more interesting detail that is now available.
Blacktron Invader Refit 2019
One of the features of this and the Blacktron vehicle sets was this modularity that was advertised on the back of the instruction manual. I didn’t like that the Invader connectors were “backwards” from the other vehicles so reversing it was a must which also made for some space to add some other details below the wings.
In changing the direction of the Technic connectors, I was able to make the interaction with the other models more to my liking. The original intent was fine but I just happen to like my revision better.
Since there is this modularity as part of the design with the Invader it essentially giving you two options of play with this set: with the cargo module and without, a “scout mode,” I thought, “what if the Invader was a multi-purpose, multi-role craft?”
So, I took another existing design from another space theme and incorporated the elements into the Invader as a module. Another theme I enjoyed as a child was this M:Tron theme. They had all these cool magnet features that I think was far more popular than what the Blacktron Theme had ever been. The process I used to build this was to cobble together the idea with the parts I had than take the design to the CAD to optimize the design and order more appropriate parts.
Upon receiving the parts, I made the adjustments and the final test was giving it to my 4 year old to see how long it would stay together. The good news is, it appears to be a success and brought a lot of smiles to my kids. The Crane portion does seem to get ripped off a bit more than I would like but no more than the original model, perhaps a little less than the original model but not my much.
I have other “designs” that have been inspired by Star Wars but those will have to wait another day. This blathering about playing with children’s toys has gone on long enough.
Using LeoCAD and the real thing allows me to teach my kids the product design process but in a much shorter cycle and in a more fun way, with LEGO. We will build an idea, take it to LeoCAD and go back and forth between real LEGO to the CAD and back to the LEGO again to test and refine the design. I can demonstrate what it is like going through a product development cycle but with a much, much shorter design validation cycle. That design validation is, will it hold up long enough in the hands of a 4, 6 or 8 year old.