LEGO Technic has its legion of fans everywhere, as it may represent the pinnacle of LEGO building systems. What is LEGO Technic? What makes it great?
LEGO Technic is a line made by LEGO that introduces specialized pieces that allow builders to build more complex models. These additional pieces provide the ability for working parts, giving your LEGO build a more immersive experience.
This article will explore LEGO Technic and discuss its difference from traditional LEGO sets. We will also answer various questions you might have about LEGO Technic.
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What Is LEGO Technic?
LEGO Technic takes LEGO to a whole new world. In addition to the expected square or rounded bricks used in traditional sets, you also get various customized pieces that allow you to do much more with LEGO Technic.
These custom pieces, such as functional motors, gears, and pneumatics, makes LEGO Technic different and allow LEGO to create more complex models.
LEGO Technic first appeared in 1977. The initial release presented a forklift truck, tractor, helicopter, go-kart, and mobile crane.
The initial release of Technic included a 'warning' that stated, “Suggested for builders nine years and older.”
Today, LEGO Technic sets include various model kits. LEGO Technic sets tend to be a little more expensive than traditional LEGO sets of a similar size due to the use of more complex pieces, engineering, and design requirements.
LEGO Technic is also used with regular LEGO bricks to construct remarkable custom projects. These projects often take thousands of person-hours to build and can take hundreds of thousands or even millions of LEGO bricks to complete.
What Age Is LEGO Technic For?
LEGO does not officially mention the suitable age to play LEGO Technic on its official LEGO Technic page. Each set has its own age recommendation, varying based on size, piece count, working parts, and complexity.
On their official Technic page, LEGO does not mention suitable ages to play LEGO Technic. It notes that 'children' and 'adults' can try out one of the LEGO Technic sets without saying much more.
LEGO’s website specifies that they have LEGO Technic sets for adults age 18 and above. These LEGO Technic sets are much more challenging and complex to build, so they might not be workable for children.
However, when viewing LEGO Technic sets available, LEGO mentioned that children ages six and above might try one of the LEGO Technic sets.
It is always wise to start with more straightforward LEGO Technic sets and slowly move up the difficulty chain.
We recommend you check the boxes of the individual LEGO sets available to confirm the age recommendations. There is also the number of pieces within each set that you can use as a reference for difficulty.
For example, a LEGO Technic Telehandler contains around 143 pieces, which makes it suitable for 7+ years old players.
Of course, other LEGO Technic sets have thousands of pieces, with an age recommendation of 18 years or older such as the LEGO Technic CAT Bulldozer with over 3,854 individual pieces.
What Makes LEGO Technic Different Than Other LEGO Sets?
There are certainly differences between LEGO Technic and traditional LEGO sets.
Specialized pieces are what make LEGO Technic different from other LEGO sets. These specialized pieces give the models more functions and show a different way to build than regular LEGO blocks. These pieces are different but are compatible with other LEGO pieces.
Some of these specialized parts can also be more technical, like motors and pneumatic components that add more functionality to the model.
One quick way of differentiating LEGO Technic from other LEGO sets is the single studded beams.
In LEGO Technic, you will see holes on the walls, while on standard LEGO bricks, there are no holes. These holes allow pins to be attached to beams, which can host gears, motors, or arms.
Another thing that made LEGO Technic different is that many models eventually perform and function in various ways.
For example, some race car models can be 'pulled back' and launched. A phone app can remotely control motors for vehicles such as tractors or trucks. Aside from navigating the model, you may perform custom motions with the phone app, such as lowering, opening, and scooping a bulldozer.
Ultimately, LEGO Technic can be seen as LEGO's 'ultimate challenge,' as the level of engineering and technical prowess required is much higher than other LEGO.
What Special Components are in LEGO Technic?
As I mentioned, the unique components make the difference here.
LEGO Technic contains unique parts that are different from other LEGO sets. These include gears, motors, pneumatic, studded, and studless beams, and control systems such as the Powered Up.
The introduction of these extra pieces helps to make LEGO Technic much more customizable for its designers as well as builders.
These specialized components come and go throughout the years. The most significant being the introduction of studless beams, commonly called liftarms.
Newer components, such as Powered Up, a remote control system used via a phone app, were also introduced.
Since 1977, LEGO Technic sets have had gears to transfer and manage rotary power. Gears allow LEGO Technic models to move faster or slower.
There are different sizes of gears: There are spur gears with 8, 16, 24, and 40 teeth, double bevel gears with 12, 20, 28, and 36 teeth, and single bevel gears with 12 and 20 teeth. The double bevel gears let them also work as spur gears.
There is also a 16-tooth spur clutch gear, a 20-tooth double bevel clutch gear, and a 24-tooth friction gear that slips when a certain amount of torque is provided. This keeps motors from damaging parts or burning themselves out.
Some more complicated LEGO Technic sets can come with a rack, a clutch, and even worm gears and differential gears, in addition to the standard gears.
In 2008, a newer version of the original differential came out. It was designed to be built without studs and had bevel gears. It comes with 28 teeth on the outside and three gears with 12 teeth on the inside.
With the release of the LEGO Technic Top Gear Rally Car (42109) in 2020, LEGO made another differential with a 28-tooth double bevel gear and five 12-tooth gears on the inside. LEGO did this so that you could turn the differential with gears above and next to it.
LEGO's gear system engineering is so sound that Volvo Construction Equipment developed an electric wheel loader with the help of a LEGO Technic model.
You may see many electric motor systems in LEGO Technic. Most of them are either powered by batteries or electricity from a transformer. Most LEGO Technic devices run on batteries.
The first LEGO Technic motor from 1977 was a 4.5-volt round brick. Earlier LEGO Technics used motors, but they are not explicitly built for Technic models.
When you turned on the motor, a small axle sticking out of it would spin. The motor did not have a gear, so it had a high RPM but low torque. You can manage the speed with LEGO Technic's gear system.
You may also see 12-volt motors the same size as the 4.5-volt motor in some sets. These 12-volt motors are usually black, which makes them different from the standard grey-colored 4.5-volt motor.
In 1990, the 4.5-volt motor was replaced by a similar but square 9-volt motor. This was part of the new generation "Electric System," which removed the pinned plugs and replaced them with regular bricks with contacts built into the stud interfaces. The motor system was now more reliable.
LEGO further improved the motors with Power Functions, a new electrical system that could be controlled by infrared. Within Power Functions, motors are separated into different sizes, such as the M, L, and XL. LEGO also added steering (Servo) motors.
LEGO Technic currently runs an electric motor system called "Powered Up" and "Control+." They differ from Power Functions in that the larger motors do not need servo motors and that you can control them via a phone app.
Pneumatics is the use of compressed air to power a specific movement. You can equate pneumatics to how hydraulic pressure.
The most common encounter we may have with pneumatic tools are tools powered by compressed air, such as power wrench or dental drills.
LEGO Technic contains many customized pieces that utilize similar principles, usually to power specific movements within the models. The pneumatics have also been modified and improved over the years.
From 1984 to 1988, they made the first generation of LEGO Pneumatics. This generation has pneumatic cylinders with a single port and more complicated plumbing, like a three-port distribution block with pressure and vacuum outlet ports.
These pressure and vacuum lines led to a switch that gave the pneumatic cylinders pressure to move out or vacuum to move them back in.
In 1989, LEGO introduced second-generation pneumatics by adding a new cylinder and pump piece. The main difference is that the new cylinder had two input valves instead of one. This made it possible to push and pull without using the distribution block piece in complicated circuits.
The cylinders in Generation 2 also had metal rods, which made them look more like actual hydraulic cylinders. LEGO also improved its second-generation pumps by making them operable with a motor.
In 1997, LEGO made the Air Tank. It works like a battery by storing compressed air so that pneumatic circuits can operate with even better efficiency.
Many LEGO enthusiasts love the Air Tank, but LEGO does not seem to include them in many models. Customers have to purchase the model separately through the LEGO education store.
Technic Figures are figures that came with Technic sets. Not all LEGO Technic models came with figures.
They were first sold in 1986 as part of the Arctic Action line and stayed on the market until 2001. They are much larger than regular Minifigures and have many more joints, including elbow and knee joints that can be bent. Each figure came already assembled and not intended to be disassembled.
They can connect to regular Lego System bricks and Technic parts, and Technic pegs can fit in their hands.
There are 27 different kinds of Technic figures. Some sets have the exact figures but with different stickers and extra parts. Due to the limited availability, some Technic figures are expensive on the secondary market.
Beams and Liftarms
LEGO Technic beams can be different from regular LEGO beams, as they can be either studded or studless. Studs refer to the rounded studs at the top of any LEGO brick. Studded beams are 'beams,' while studless ones are 'liftarms.'
At first, liftarms were primarily used for looks or to make smaller parts that could be attached to a studded frame. As more lift arm designs came out, around 2000, models were mostly made of liftarms instead of traditional beams.
Liftarms allow LEGO Technic designers more flexibility, enabling new building approaches. Liftarms also give you more options when building in more than one dimension, but they are still compatible with "classic" beams with studs.
Some builders also think that models made with beams that do not have studs look better than those that do.
However, building using studless construction requires you to think differently, to think five or six steps ahead, and to build from the inside out rather than bottom up. Many LEGO Technic purists are unhappy with this and prefer the older approach.
As a result, LEGO has been putting studded bricks and beams back into Technic models. For example, the LEGO Technic Mobile Crane (8421) has studded bricks and beams.
Power Functions is a new motor system that came out at the end of 2007. It comes with motors, two IR (Infrared) receivers, a remote control, and a battery box. These components allow you to control the build from a distance.
With these sets, you can build motorized mechanical movements into your models. Some LEGO Technic models come with the motors included, such as the LEGO Technic Excavator (8294) or the Telescopic Handler (8285).
You can also purchase the motor separately and turn your previous manually-operated models to operate with these motors. You can install the motor systems into your previous LEGO Technic models and run them with remote control.
With the rise of smartphones, Bluetooth, and more advanced technology, LEGO Improved the Power Functions Motor system and introduced a new generation of motor systems in 2018.
You may see names such as Power Functions V2 and Control+ in some LEGO Technic models from 2018, but in 2020 LEGO finally unified these modern motor systems under the name 'Powered Up.'
Instead of using IR sensors and remote control (Power Functions), Powered Up uses Bluetooth technology with rules managed via a smartphone app. You can purchase Powered Up motor systems separately or in packs and use them with retail sets or on their own.
The system, however, is not compatible with Power Functions motors. Suppose you intend to upgrade your LEGO Technic models. In that case, you may need to dismantle the Power Functions motor from your model and install the Powered Up motor systems.
Do LEGO Technic Cars Drive?
Today, there are many LEGO Technic vehicle sets on the market. Do they drive?
You can drive LEGO Technic models with the proper specialized components. Even accurate life-sized LEGO Technic models are drivable, with an air-compressed radial engine.
Whether LEGO Technic cars drive would depend on your definition of what 'drive' means. Assuming that you agree with us that the word drive means you can control the vehicle's movement, many LEGO Technic cars drive.
Sets with the new Powered Up motor system will drive using a smartphone app via Bluetooth. Motions such as moving forward, reverse, steering, and rotating are commonly possible with Powered Up motor systems.
You can build LEGO sets into life-sized models that are driveable as if you sit inside the model and drive it like a car. These are custom build sets, of course.
The Super Awesome Micro Project is one of the most notable drivable real-life LEGO Technic cars. Built using over 500,000 LEGO pieces over 18 months, the car features over 256 LEGO pneumatic pistons.
These pistons then power four radial engines, which drive the rear wheels. The car can reach over 18MPH (29KMH) in speed but does not have brakes.
Another great drivable LEGO is the LEGO Bugatti Chiron. It was built with over 2,000 Power Functions motors, over 4,000 gears, and over a million LEGO pieces.
This car even includes a proper functioning dashboard, headlights, and steering wheel. It can reach speeds up to 12.43MPH (20KMH).
Does LEGO Technic Work With REGULAR LEGO?
LEGO Technic works with regular LEGO, as the pieces are interchangeable. Many creative builders have customized their builds with LEGO Technic and standard LEGO pieces.
One of the best things about LEGO Technic is that despite its higher-end, more complex parts, and components, they are all compatible with regular LEGO.
You can take a LEGO Technic figure, and it will snap right onto a LEGO baseplate from, say, a LEGO City series.
Some LEGO builders enjoy building custom LEGO projects using regular LEGO and LEGO Technic pieces.
What Is The Biggest LEGO Technic Set?
One of the most extensive LEGO Technic sets is the LEGO Technic Liebherr R 9800 Excavator. It comes with 4,108 pieces and measures 15 inches (39CM) high, 25 inches (65CM) long, and 10 inches (27CM) wide.
This model is a copy of the real Liebherr Excavator. Powered by two intelligent hubs with seven motors, it comes with the Powered Up motor systems. You can connect your model to a LEGO phone app via Bluetooth and operate it.
This model seems to have no limitations. It drives forward, backward, and steers. You can rotate the superstructure, raise and lower the boom and adjust the bucket.