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Why no more monorail?

24

Comments

  • ^ Totally agree. I for one was less interested in someones 'debate sparking comments' and more that a TLG employee might not bother to post here in the future because of a posters attitude.

    Anyway, moving back on topic... As a child of the 80's I was desperate to have the original Space Monorail - never did as the cost was just way more than I would have got even for Christmas/Birthday (Despite being from a fairly affluent family). Interestingly I'ld say the same is true. Whilst I'ld happily spend £90 on a large set for my child's birthday, maybe £120 for a cargo train at a push, there's no way I'ld drop £150 on a monorail set for Christmas or Birthday. I doubt I'm that unusual in that. Whilst I would love to see a monorail I can appreciate that the market just isn't there. Realistically who here would buy one at £150 and who would wait for a big discount?

    As an aside, when you think about it a train/monorail in a space theme makes no sense at all when you can just jump in a spaceship or slip on a jet pack but that didn't matter to me at the time. But then that was at a time when, as has been said, monorails were at least futuristic - epcot and various sci-fi films showing monorails travelling between eco-pods. Now I suspect children who have an idea what a monorail is would think more of slightly dilapidated, run down system (epcot and even my local zoo at Chester has one which is far from futuristic!) or the two terrible monorails in the simpsons.

    Anyway the only solution appears to be a design/story line for a Ninjago Monorail!


  • edited March 2012
    I'm trying to think back how I felt about the Space Futuron Monorail. To be honest, I think as a child I would have preferred all the space bases and spaceships over the monorail. Not that I disliked it... but I liked the bases and ships more.

    And yes, @LEGO_Nabii, thank you very much for your most enlightening comments. You answered a lot of questions I've been wondering about for a long time. Please post more! :)
  • edited March 2012

    Bottom line is that barring some sort of miracle-- like a breakthrough in plastics manufacturing, the OLD monorail system is dead, never to return. The production process is too expensive to be worth it.


    Back when the original monorails came out, weren't all Lego bricks made in Denmark? Now, from my understanding, Lego has manufacturing plants all around the world. Am I wrong? Why couldn't they just source the monorail track from China? I mean I'd rather it be made in Denmark but if cost is a factor in whether or not they produce a set then why not.
    China != miracle breakthrough.

    Basically, I can think of two pie-in-the-sky miracle scenarios that would allow the old monorail to be re-released:

    1) Some incredibly generous or ambitious AFOL (or group of AFOLs) takes on the cost by donating (say) $500,000-$2,000,000 to LEGO to cover the cost of reviving the 20 or so molds necessary and sourcing costs for old gray (because, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound). LEGO molds cost in the ballpark of $15,000-$100,000, depending on the size and complexity of the mold, and monorail's got a lot of LARGE parts, some of which are complex.

    2) Some new breakthrough happens whereby plastic can be manufactured in a "rapid prototyping" style, but at incredibly high speeds (on par with injection molding). In that case, I find it much more likely that LEGO might decide to placate fans by producing older parts for AFOLs like cypress trees, monorail track, classic-castle helmets/visors, etc. If LEGO didn't have to go through the process of changing out molds and colors during molding, then I can totally see LEGO doing something like offering a HUGE part library for things like PAB with custom-made bricks per order.

    But Chinese manufacturing? No. You STILL need to invest hundreds of thousands, or even millions, into the new molds. China is cheaper for the actual production runs, the plastic itself, and the printing process. We're talking "financially significant" savings, but by NO means the degree that you'd see in order to produce monorail track.

    DaveE
  • edited March 2012
    ^^^^^ Totally agree with @rocao. And despite @Mathew's suggestion that I found @LEGO_Nabii condescending, I don't at all, in fact I agree 100% with what @Rocao just said 5 posts up. Shame really since this forum is usually such a nice place to be. Anyway, enough of that nonsense.

    ^ I think we're in agreement that it would need to be a new system, not a reissue. Since a new monorail might be do-able in 2 new molds (which, incidentally, is the same as Temple of Doom had) then if the monorail series ran to 6-7 sets, and the sales stack up, then this would seem to justify the cost. So it boils down to sales it seems.

    The research which the decisions about sales are based on is from the UK, US and Germany. These are all countries which don't use monorail for general transportation. I did a bit of research on the web, and in the last 5 years monorails have popped up in loads of major growth markets - pretty much everywhere except Europe and the US.

    - Moscow installed one in 2005, linking all the main stations
    - Sao Paolo has a 100km system opening in 2014
    - Manaus, Brazil has one opening in 2014 as well
    - Sydney has one in the CBD
    - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia got one last year
    - Kuala Lumpur got one in 2003
    - On that palm-shaped island in Dubai there's one that opened in 2009.
    - A couple are due in Iran in the next few years.
    - NIgeria just got one in Lagos
    - Mumbai got one in 2012, load of other Indian cities are getting them soon.
    - Tokyo, Osaka, Tama, and a bunch of other Japanese cities have them, some huge.
    - Chonqing, China got a monorail in 2005 and is now the world's largest
    - There are also Chinese monorails being developed in Shenzen and Xi'an - Beijing is getting mag-lev, which is very similar.

    So for many people, monorail is just part of getting around, so no more of a futuristic idea than a train would be, but it certainly would seem to have a basis in reality which it did not have in 1994. I would also suggest that for many of these newly-rich countries, these monorails represent something aspirational.

    So, @LEGO_Nabii, is that the revolution in public transportation you were looking for?
  • For those pointing to the popularity of trains at large exhibits, etc., I would submit that this touches on a couple of points in those viewers- the wow factor of seeing a big intricate running train (or monorail) setup in person - which is exciting and something most people rarely if ever get to see. For the most part, it's dreaming and wishful thinking for those people, or just plain appreciation of the work.

    Most would have no interest in setting up their own layout at home. Even among those that would, the space and/or cost issues make it impossible. And a single LEGO train set is a very poor substitute for a big layout. If they can't have it all, they aren't really interested in a small loop of track.

    Bottom line - the popularity of those exhibits cannot be linked to actual (or potential) sales of trains and/or monorails.
  • As for davee123's dream option of raising $2,000,000 dollars for 20 molds to resurrect the old monorail parts, this is seriously underestimating mold costs at the precision required for LEGO elements.
    Oh? I was under the impression that the most expensive molds were the complex ones (like the chain element), which cost around $100,000 to make? You think it'd be more than that to get the molds? My guess was that since most track elements are large and thick, they'd be in the ballpark of $50,000 apiece, with some extra complexity for assembly of switches, stops, and motors. So I was thinking from a *molding* perspective, $2 million was on the conservative side. Any idea what ballpark it would be in?
    Plus, for use in toys, plastic needs to be safety tested for the chemical composition of each colour and potential inpact damage from each shape so you might end up using all of it on just that!
    I was thinking more from a "for sale to AFOLs only" type deal. IE, skip selling them to kids, but if some magical AFOLs decided to front the cost of production, then LEGO doesn't have to worry (I'd assume?) about selling plastic stuff to adults (if the age range is 18+, let's say).

    So, maybe old gray would have to be re-tested chemical composition-wise, for environmental concerns? Would it be required for safety concerns as well, considering the non-toy market?
    Then don't forget the motors will require tooling for the internal parts and also would need to be tested for safety and longevity (1,000 hour tests in the US, Europe and other markets). There are good reasons why monorails lost money and good reasons that even well selling motorized trains are only borderline profitable.
    That's true-- how much does that add to the cost? Effectively, I would assume that there would need to be some investment (relatively minor?) in terms of locating a supply company to manufacture the motors. But there is some additional testing and re-testing that needs to be done. But I have no idea what sort of ballpark that gets into. I would've guessed all told that testing and motors would be under half-a-million, but that's just a shot in the dark.

    Anyway, should I up my miracle AFOL's contribution ballpark to $2-$5 million? It sounded a little high to me, but then again, I don't really know. And, to be clear, the intent was that this "dreamboat AFOL" would be flipping the bill for the *overhead*, and not for the actual production costs, which would be covered in LEGO's sale costs of individual monorail kits sold to AFOLs. If our mystical AFOL covered THAT cost too, then beef up the estimate even more!
    I do think in 10-ish years time the market in home rapid prototype machines might be getting close to the right level to do this,
    That's where I see things like this becoming a possibility. IE, if LEGO can figure out a way around the copyright issues, they could essentially let you produce ANY LEGO set historically. You take some sort of file to a manufacturer (maybe even LEGO), and they produce it for you by charging you the cost of the plastic, machine use, and whatever copyright fee would go back to LEGO.

    Only problem would be printed elements, instructions, and packaging. But hey, it gets you a long way!

    DaveE
  • ...or the two terrible monorails in the simpsons.

    Personally, I would pay the money for a licensed Simpsons monorail set. Throw in a "talking conductor" feature with Phil Hartman's voice and you'd have a real winner!

    And before anyone shoots me down, yes I'm well aware that this will never happen...but I like to dream...
  • edited March 2012
    ^ easily the best episode ever made.
  • edited March 2012
    chesirecat's comment below probably isn't far off the truth

    Anyway the only solution appears to be a design/story line for a Ninjago Monorail!

    Although you'd have to make the monorail fly or turn into a space ship to really get the kids that love Ninjago into it.

    As a kid who loved his space lego, the monorail sets never interested me enough. I thought it would have been cool to have one in my space layout, but not cool enough to get instead of the two or three other big sets I could get instead of it for the same price.
  • In my youth, the Legoland Space sets were easily my favorite sets. When Futuron 6990 came out, I begged and begged for it for Christmas (and I'd be ok with it counting for next Christmas too, I remember pleading, lol). But no avail. I never did get that set, but I sure wanted it.

    I've never had a monorail set to this point.
  • The different perspectives on Monorail are all very interesting - I remember getting an incomplete Unitron Monorail set from GoodWill in the 90's, it was a permanent part of my LEGO table for years! I'm a bit surprised to hear there were people that were in to space and didn't care for it, but I'm sure that's lack of imagination on my part.

    I think Nabii's comment about the rapid prototyping is very, very, interesting. Has anyone investigated what it would cost to get some straight track cooked up by any of the professional rapid prototyping services like ShapeWays? http://www.shapeways.com
    $2M buys a lot of rapid prototyping services... My biggest concern would be that the metal gear in the monorail engine would simply chew through any plastic soft enough to be cut with any detail with a rapid prototyping machine. I guess the first thing to do would be to measure the teeth on the monorail track, and make sure that those are larger than the minimum feature size on the ShapeWays material(s) - otherwise it'll never even have a chance of working...

  • edited March 2012
    The rapid prototyping machine I have seen scans an object and then literally creates an exact copy by building it layer by layer until it is complete. So it's an exact copy of the original. There is no maching per se. The demo I saw made a working, functional copy of a monkey wrench.
  • The rapid prototyping machine I have seen scans an object and then literally creates an exact copy by building it layer by layer until it is complete. So it's an exact copy of the original. There is no maching per se. The demo I saw made a working, functional copy of a monkey wrench.
    ive seen that demo video too - very very cool. Basically a 3-d copying maching.

    LEGO parts and pieces (as we know them) are much simpler than even wrenches and other more complex objects that they demonstrated. spitting out plastic track pieces would seem to be quite doable right now, so it's all about cost on that front. obviously the motor mechanisms would be much more complex, but if I was doing this on the side, I'd design my monorail track to use standard LEGO motors and gears and other parts, and focus solely on churning out track pieces - straights, curves, slopes, etc.
  • in another hobby of mine, scalextric, people are starting yo use rapid prototyping to create shells of cars not available. Results seem good but its not cheap.
  • @jwsmart ... the plastic isn't soft - the US military has been using 3d printers to print tank parts in the field for over a decade now.
  • @oldtodd33 and @dougts - The issue is with the size of the details. If it can't do the teeth on the track right, then we've got nothing...

    @cheshirecat - That's encouraging.

    @Si_Dorking_Surrey_UK - I would hope that the military isn't sending stuff off to Shapeways. Until they let me use their rapid prototyping facilities, I'm stuck with what's publicly available. I'm still concerned about how well it will resist that lovely metal gear on the bottom of the monorail motor...
  • edited March 2012
    I seem to remember from when I looked at it that detail shouldn't be a problem. Also there were various machinery available that used different 'quality' of plastic. The harder plastic was more expensive. It is still a bit rough and ready though.

    For anyone really interested this thread in a scalextric forum might be of interest. It's obviously very different to lego but still might of use.

    http://www.slotforum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=53942

    The chassis and shell were all rapid prototyped.
  • Is it just me, or is the main appeal of the monorail (beyond nostalgia) that you can build upwards with it? therefore create great spiraling loops, bridges over roads etc?
    It's not the monorail itself, but the way you can fit a lot into a small space that appeals to me. I'd be happy with a funicular railway ;-)
  • ^^ That's one of the reasons, but I think it's because a monorail can fit into the space theme whereas a train would not. Also the original monorail from Disneyland provides a lot of the nostalgia for those of us who grew up during the 80's.
  • ^^Yea, one of the main reasons I like the monorail is because you can build elevated track for it. That fact alone makes the monorail appeal to me more than the trains do.
  • edited March 2012
    ^^^ Well said - I've been thinking the same thing, re-analysing why I love monorail, and I agree, it's the fact it's elevated, as well as having those fantastic 'uppy/ downy' sections that make it special, along with the fact that it has smaller radius curves. If I think about the docklands light railway, something like that would do me just fine, it doesn't have to be specifically 'mono' rail.
  • So a smaller train based on the 4 stud wide track (such as in the fun house,) which would be lighter and therefore with ridged track, might allow for uphill using the torque in the PF could work?
    An elevated railway (like the L in Chicago) would be ace.
  • edited March 2012
    I think it'd have to be dragged up the hills by rack and pinion, but yes I think it would be awesome.

    Just wish I was talented enough at train design - just can't seem to get my head round it!
  • I had a "what if" idea about monorail track that wasn't specific to monorails.

    What if the LEGO Group created a sort of "all purpose track" to more directly compete with K'nex style roller coasters. Assume that the primary purpose was for gravity-assisted vehicles to roll down. It needn't be specific to one theme; if the designers used it anywhere they wanted something to roll on track it could find use across multiple themes.

    Even if it wasn't monorail-specific, as long as it had the facility for a gear to engage the track then it could be pushed into that duty by AFOLs. The trains could probably be built from existing parts without needing specific molds.
  • I think there are a few differences between monorail and 9v trains that make monorail a desirable system:

    1) Elevation changes

    2) Reversing loops (don't have to worry about short-circuit tracks)

    3) Smaller scale (you can make 4-wide vehicles, unlike trains where it's pretty much forced to 6+ wide.

    4) "In System" curves (monorail curves and half-curves let you do "jogs" in the track and are ALWAYS line up with studs, no matter what you do, unlike 9v trains, which you can screw up with some odd angles

    5) Nostalgia/Rarity/Novelty. (9v trains were around for a long time with a lot of different sets, whereas Monorail only really had 3 sets, ignoring the small handful of accessory kits).

    That said, though, there are a lot of problems with monorail, which make it a LESS desirable system, and would be great to see "fixed" in a new version, if that ever happens:

    A) Elevation changes are pretty minor and take up a lot of real estate.

    B) Track (including elevation) doesn't provide a lot of flexibility.

    C) Can't handle more cars

    D) Is battery operated

    E) Can only be "controlled" by physically touching the train, OR at specific points along the track

    F) Isn't large enough to support an RCX, and similarly can't support remote control or PF style motors.

    G) Has only one speed

    DaveE
  • edited March 2012
    I'd add to the 'desirable' list that it can be auto-stopped at stations and auto-direction-changed, also the points that auto switch if you hit them and they're switched the wrong way.
  • The monorail system itself was extremely well thought out. I suspect that the relatively shallow grade and weight limits of the monorail track were due to the available battery and motor technology... Rechargeable batteries specifically have come a long way since 1994...

    It would be excellent if there was a way to put a small IR sensor & some simple electronics capable of reversing the polarity (maybe a PWM speed controller as well) between the battery box and the engine... That would allow speed & direction changes without fundamentally modifying the engine or battery, and still enabling the on-track reversal features... So, we could probably address @davee123's E, F, and G above with $20-$30 worth of electronics. I would have to see what the current draw of the motor is to see if we could get a single IC PWM controller cheaply enough.
  • edited March 2012
    (by the way, whats going on with my link 5 posts up - it says "shopping link added by skimwords" for 'rack and pinion' - what the ...?)
  • edited March 2012
    You can do a websearch on skimwords for more information, but basically we're trying out some software that automatically converts appropriate URLs to affiliate links. An additional feature is fuzzy logic that matches key words and converts them to product listings from their slate of vendors, but so far, the results have been laughable.
  • I'm quite impressed, actually. I've been looking everywhere for Philip Parker's "2007-2012 World Outlook for New Motor Vehicle Rack and Pinion Steering Gears", and at £755.25 it's a bargain read.
  • ^ funniest thing I've read today... :-)
  • I'm quite impressed, actually. I've been looking everywhere for Philip Parker's "2007-2012 World Outlook for New Motor Vehicle Rack and Pinion Steering Gears", and at £755.25 it's a bargain read.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_M._Parker "has patented a method to automatically produce a set of similar books from a template which is filled with data from database and internet searches. At Amazon.com, Parker is listed as the author of 107,000 books that his program created and overall he claims to have produced 200,000 different titles."

    Funniest bit: "He plans to extend the programs to produce romance novels."
  • Si_Dorking_Surrey_UK said:
    I'm quite impressed, actually. I've been looking everywhere for Philip Parker's "2007-2012 World Outlook for New Motor Vehicle Rack and Pinion Steering Gears", and at £755.25 it's a bargain read.

    Damn, paid full price for it only last week!

    We have sets made by LEGO with elevation changes, wide carriages, auto-stopping and auto-direction-changes. 3335 & 3774, but look them up before you get too excited.
  • @davee said:

    Noobs gotta noob.

    As a noob I'm not sure this is fair, I think it has a bit more to do with your personality than how long you've been a forum member!
  • As a noob I'm not sure this is fair, I think it has a bit more to do with your personality than how long you've been a forum member!
    Well, I don't think I'd say it's true of ALL people that are new to the community, that's true. And honestly, I never even looked at how long he's been a member of this particular forum. In fact, if you've only been an AFOL as long as this forum's been around? You're still a newbie to the hobby in my book. This forum's pretty new! We're ALMOST to the 1 year anniversary!

    But basically my experience with the AFOL community is that there's a large contingent of people that are new to the hobby who react very similarly. Within the first few years of being in the hobby, many AFOLs have a reaction of "LEGO today isn't as good as LEGO when I remember it."

    The details of the specific complaints aren't always exactly the same, and don't always refer to the same timeframe. But it's pretty interesting how similar those complaints are. I bet we could probably compile a list of common complaints and/or suggestions from people relatively new to the hobby, and we wouldn't have all that many different categories.

    (1) "LEGO is too specific and not open-ended enough these days." Essentially, the complaint that things like Ninjago and Star Wars and so forth don't stress building alternate models, and the elements included aren't useful enough for building other things.

    (2) "LEGO has gotten too expensive." And, often, the varient: "LEGO is too expensive in my country, because LEGO in the USA is much cheaper."

    (3) "LEGO should bring back product ________". Often, this is something like re-releases of classic sets (classic space, modular town), specific elements (cypress trees, finger hinges), or systems (9v trains, monorail).

    (4) "LEGO quality has become terrible."

    (5) "LEGO is too violent these days." Essentially, LEGO used to be less violent (or totally non-violent, depending on the timeframe), and today is more violent than it used to be, with themes like Star Wars, Ninjago, Indiana Jones, etc.

    Those... seem to be the major ones off the top of my head. There's also lesser common complaints/suggestions like:
    - LEGO should stop marketing "pink" to girls.
    - Set numbers should be consistent again. (only as old as when they stopped)
    - LEGO should pursue license _______. (only as old as licensing started)
    - LEGO should have more variety in Pick-A-Brick (only as old as the Pick-A-Brick program)

    Anyway. Common complaints. And up until around 2000-2002 or so, AFOLs could speculate all they wanted to about the above, with no real input from LEGO. BUT, starting in ... well, technically late 1999, LEGO started having a dialogue with fans, and addressing the above issues. For the first time, we started to have answers.

    So, the explanations from LEGO have been floating out there for roughly 10 years now. LEGO is (amazingly) still answering these questions on public message boards, at fan events, and through other channels. And there are a lot of hobbyists like myself that have been around through this process, and have tried to share LEGO's reasoning.

    But often times, people that are relatively new to the hobby are still reluctant to put any faith in what they hear. Happens ALL the time. LEGO's done research into re-releases. They've done research into whether or not they should cater to a different building audience, or release a Halo theme, or adjust their pricing schemes. But regardless, people that hear such a summary in a simple paragraph often won't believe it, because they want more proof.

    Eventually, for whatever reason-- maybe thanks to getting tired of the same old debate, or because they've finally gotten a reasonable explanation from LEGO, or because they've actually re-evaluated the issue-- the complaints die down, and the newbies learn. But it usually takes a while. Often (I've found) sitting down and talking with certain LEGO employees has been the key. They often have some idea of just how much effort has gone into their decisions, and can explain them in a very in-depth manner.

    So, hey, all I can say in the meanwhile is that noobs gotta do their noob-ing thing. We (as hobbyists) can only do so much to try and educate each other, and we have to accept that some people simply need more time and information before they'll accept what's actually known. I mean, hey, I made the same protests when I was a newbie. I made the same assumptions, and I learned like everyone else did.

    Welcome to the hobby!

    DaveE
  • edited March 2012
    ^--- Well said, although I have been an AFOL for about 12 years now and still think the Quality has gone down as a whole.

    As for expense
    It is funny when I get an old catalog or see an old price tag on a set box to discover that back then many sets were 'expensive' (in relation to the typical wage) so I really think that most of the time LEGO price in on par with inflation, HOWEVER I believe LEGO SW is overpriced .. Now is this an issue? I guess a bit but like others have said, if you do not like the price do not buy. As much as I hate blanket statements like that it, it is true.

    I'm not sure how expensive the LEGO monorail airport was when it was released but I am pretty sure it was well over the price of a train set, and just not many people bought them. Would monorail do well? Who knows.
    I still doubt many parents would buy their kids a 300 dollar monorail set (excluding all of the people in this thread that say they would), especially if LEGO is reporting having a hard time selling train sets. (although I think that TRU raised its retail prices of the yellow cargo train and passenger train to sell their 'exclusive' red cargo train at $160, but that is just my opinion)

    But I think LEGO's stance has to be if they are going to put a ton of money into these sets and make nothing on them, or break even, it is just not worth it.
  • @Davee123 - Thanks.....IMO, you are an unparalleled asset to this community.
  • edited March 2012
    ^^^ @Davee123 ... So given that you've just been partaking strongly in "(3) LEGO should bring back product ________", I guess that makes you a newbie :)
  • edited March 2012
    ^ I know you were saying it in jest, but DaveE wasn't making a case for bringing it back as much as he was stating what he thought needed to happen in order for it to return, and then seeking to verify it with Nabii.

    I'm glad DaveE expanded on what he meant by "noobs gotta noob". Being an old-timer, I understood what he meant, and apart from taking offense to the label, I think it's clear that insult wasn't intended for anyone. Everyone that comes back into the fold from an extended dark age has to resolve the differences between the toy we knew in our youth and its present state, as well as our own changes with how we interact with it.
  • @Davee - No real offence was taken, and thanks for the well considered reply.

    As to the typical complaints;

    (1) "LEGO is too specific and not open-ended enough these days." Essentially, the complaint that things like Ninjago and Star Wars and so forth don't stress building alternate models, and the elements included aren't useful enough for building other things.

    I was quite excited by the all new elements and think they generally allow for much more freedom to do whatever you want. My 7 year old actually laughed at how ridiculous he thought some of the stuff from my early days looked, although we are struggling to use the front end of a plane for much else.

    (2) "LEGO has gotten too expensive." And, often, the varient: "LEGO is too expensive in my country, because LEGO in the USA is much cheaper."

    Is it though? Have you seen the price of those Bakugan things? I'm sure LEGO will also hold it's value better than any other "toy". As I said to my youngest son when I caught him walking around with a mouthful of clone trooper heads, if you take care of this you'll be able to sell it when you go to university and buy a car with the proceeds , but 3 year olds these days just don't listen!

    (3) "LEGO should bring back product ________". Often, this is something like re-releases of classic sets (classic space, modular town), specific elements (cypress trees, finger hinges), or systems (9v trains, monorail).

    I think as I just had pretty basic sets a kid I don't suffer from the same nostalgia that some do, and there are too many great new sets to buy, but to keep at least one point on the original topic I would love a monorail.

    (4) "LEGO quality has become terrible."

    I had wondered about both the colour variation and fit of some bricks, especially with an adult set like the Fire Brigade. I wouldn't call it terrible, could be better but I assume that would come at a cost.

    (5) "LEGO is too violent these days." Essentially, LEGO used to be less violent (or totally non-violent, depending on the timeframe), and today is more violent than it used to be, with themes like Star Wars, Ninjago, Indiana Jones, etc.

    I'm quite happy they don't make any proper army stuff, and they haven't done Tom and Jerry, probably the most violent thing my kids ever watch!

    So I'm not sure I have any of gripes 1 to 5 to any great extent, and if anyone has all of them maybe they need a different hobby?

    P.S. Is it possible to make any reference to LEGO being reasonable value invisible to browsing LEGO employees?
  • ^ They already know they have us in lockstep to buy whatever they make. Any restraint they exercise with regard to price gouging is simply an act of mercy :P

    In all seriousness, here is a good discussion on pricing: http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/186/when-do-you-think-prices-will-come-down
  • Lego City could use a monorail for sure. Why not produce one when we already have trains and Power Functions? It's just the next step ... er ... an older step, but it works to make a new monorail!
  • Well, I ordered a piece of short Monorail track from ShapeWays... I should get it sometime early April.
    It was expensive: $13+S&H+tax.
    Ordering the same piece (http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=2670) via bricklink would have cost less than $4...

    I'll post some pictures once I get it & test, We should be able to learn three things:
    1. Can ldraw parts (.dat) be easily converted to physical objects? (LDView dat->stl -> scale up 10x -> Upload to ShapeWays)
    2. Will the "white, strong and flexible" material have enough detail to work correctly with a monorail motor?
    3. Will the "white, strong and flexible" material be durable enough to withstand the monorail motor's drive gear?

  • Wow, great idea! Cant wait to see it.
  • ^^ I've also been thinking of possible ways of making my own recently, my local hackspace is building a 3D printer so it would be interesting to see how your ShapeWays order turns out.

    Just out of interest, even thought this seems to be an 'abandoned' system from TLG, I presume they still hold rights on the design and copyright of the moulds and pieces. Not saying that TLG are the kind of company to kick up a fuss about things like that (have no opinion or knowledge about it), but if they were to have an opinion on the reproduction of their parts by other parties what would it be?

    Then again, I've often wondered what tricks companies, like those that produce MegaBlocks and the like, perform in order to escape copyright action from TLG.

  • I've contacted ME Models about it (they do the compatible 9V metal track). They've essentially said they are not comfortable enough with their relationship with TLG yet to do the monorail track.
  • Then again, I've often wondered what tricks companies, like those that produce MegaBlocks and the like, perform in order to escape copyright action from TLG.
    No tricks required. LEGO has no exclusive patent, copyright, or trademark rights in the basic elements (brick, stud, etc.) Newer elements and elements with a "design" element are a different story.


  • I got the track section from Shapeways sometime last week, but haven't had time to post about it.

    I'll put up pictures just as soon as I take them, but I wanted to make a few observations:

    1. The texture of the plastic itself is fairly course... I used the "white, strong and flexible" stuff. From what I recall reading, that process is essentially heating very small beads (grains of sand) of a plastic material with a laser until they fuse together.

    2. The short piece of track has a noticeable curve to it. I'm not sure if that was just a one-shot issue with the manufacturing process, or something to do with the method by which it's made. I may consider complaining about it when I have a bit more free time.

    3. Other than the obvious curve issues, it looks nearly perfect, and the tolerances appear to be close enough.

    I haven't messed with it at all to see how well it does vs. the monorail's drive gear, or tested it with a running train (the curve probably makes this totally unsuitable for testing)

    Even though this piece is probably a failure, I can say with that you can convert .dat parts to a file which can be imported into Shapeways. I used ldview to convert the .dat to .stl - then followed the instructions on the Shapeways web site (I'll post more details on this step later) to change the scale (the part exported from ldview was 1/10 the size of the real part).

    As far as the legal ramifications, I really don't know. I really can't see LEGO coming after a few hobbyists using a service like this to make replacement parts for a system LEGO no longer sells, and has on many occasions declared they will never sell again.

    If we were to go into business selling these without some sort of agreement with LEGO, I'm quite sure the hammer would come down on us fairly hard.

    It's also at least 4x more expensive than buying the same part on the secondary market...

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