REVIEW - 42081 - VOLVO CONCEPT WHEEL LOADER ZEUX
Cranes, forklifts, cars....can we please get something different for crying out loud?! Well....here it is, something different. Of course, one can argue that this is yet another a front loader, and technically they might be right. But it is a unique in a way. Volvo and TLG make the most of their ongoing collaboration and present us the ZEUX, an Autonomous Concept Wheel Loader. An autonomous car (also known as a driverless car, self-driving car, and robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input (source wikipedia). This boils down to the front loader being capable of navigating without human input, therefore lacking the cabin. In order to perfectly sense the environment, it uses a drone sidekick!
Some people think this thing is as ugly as....an autonomous concept wheel loader, but I will tell you straight away I absolutely love it. I love the concept, I love the looks and I love the fact that TLG and Volvo actually made a Technic set for this vehicle. And that's that for an objective review. Of course, I will try to be objective in my review, but I won't hide the fact that I am very enthusiastic about this model. Let's deploy the drone and....grab a beer, since this thing will be driving itself.
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Pictures can be clicked to view hi-res versions. More pictures can be found in my Flickr album.
This set has been provided by the CEE Team of TLG. It's not my goal to promote this set. It's my goal to give you an honest opinion about it. Therefore, the opinion in this review is my own and is in no way linked to TLG.
Title: Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX
Part Count: 1.167
Box Weight: 2,33 kg
Box Dimensions: 57,5 cm x 37,0 cm x 11,1 cm
Set Price (MSRP): £ 109.99 / $ 139.99 / € 119,99
Price per Part: £ 0.09 / $ 0.12 / € 0,10
Links: Brickset, Bricklink
The front shows the model with its flying sidekick. The background shows a pile of sand and behind that a skyline with scryscrapers. Apparently, this vehicle is not only meant to be used in remote mining facilities, but also in urban areas. The bottom right tells us the vehicle measures 59 cm in length. If you don't own the 42030 - Volvo L350F Wheel Loader, but you do want the big bucket, now's your chance. You will get four nice big Claas tires with it, in case you missed those. So, this set might be interesting enough for the unique parts alone.
The back is divided in two sections, a top section for the main model and a bottom section for the B-model, another Volvo Concept, called the PEGAX. Needles to say, I am more enthusiastic about this alternate model, than the one for the Rough Terrain Crane. I actually quite like this one, but more on that later.
CONTENTS OF THE BOX
This box contains:
BUCKET AND TIRES
I didn't think to see another set with the big bucket, but here it is. And four Claas tires, which are turning into a common presence in my collection. I absolutely love these bad boys and I sure hope TLG will some day release a smaller version as well.
RIMS AND ACTUATORS
A bag containing four rims, two linear actuators and a gear rack housing.
A total of nine numbered bags.
I was about to show the pictures of the bucket and rim again here, but that's rather useless, since I already posted them in the content section. Other than those parts, there aren't any new or interesting parts. I can hightlight the propellors, but that's about it.
Two pages showing the 1.167 parts.
We start by building the front of the chassis. An interesting technique is used near the gear rack. The white part behind the 12T Gear is not a 1L connector. It's actually a 2L Liftarm with Pin and Axle. It rotates between two 5L thin liftarms. I could be mistaken, but it's probably just for proper alignment of the front and rear wheels.
Here's a better view of the 2L Liftarm. I should have taken a better picture.
The rear wheels are connected to this assembly.
Both the front and rear wheels don't implement shock absorbers or any other form of suspension. When you operate the final model, you are inclined to push it down to test the suspension. Unfortunately, to no avail. I reckon autonomous vehicles don't need suspension :wink:
This is the boom which will connect to the bucket. Operated manually via a Linear Actuator. Usually manual operation and LA's don't combine very well, because it makes operating the functions very cumbersome. I wonder if this is the case for this vehicle as well.
And the boom connected to the chassis.
This is actually turning into some sort of vehicle. Feels more like an excavator than a front loader, but that will probably change in a bit.
Next we are going to build the.....the.....uhmmm......what is it that we are building here?! It does seem to be sliding out.
Ahhh here it is, the....uhmm.....the.....counterweight I presume. This entire big block can slide out to compensate for the weight of a filled bucket. T = F x L comes to mind. Looking at the left image, you see three (six, if you count the other side as well) panels with stickers, red and green lights and "chromed" grills. A couple of steps further down the road you will cover them with other panels (image on the right) and you will never see those decorated elements again. Is this a way to sneak in some parts for the B-model, which uses these panels in a more prominent way. Either way, I was hoping to be able to see these panels in the A-model as well.
Ohh wait, you actually can see the panels inside this big paper weight :wink:
At the rear you can see the 12T Gear, which is not the Hand of God steering, but it is used to move the weight back and forth.
The rear is almost done now.
We only need to add the antenna and the drone.
I am not sure why the drone is positioned like it is, because it is not able to fly off by itself. The antenna is blocking one of the four propellors. I'd say, move it a couple of studs to the front.
After adding some panels, the wheels and the bucket to the boom, the Zeux is finished. I enjoyed building this vehicle. It's not that different from a regular Front Loader, but it does have some unique elements.
The usual leftover parts.
Of course, it is a matter of personal taste, but in my opinion this vehicle looks awesome! I love the Tech-look with the black and yellow color scheme. I also love the orange accents to hightlight important and/or moving parts, like railings, footsteps, etc. And I also love that TLG (and Volvo) went all out and said....let's do this! This collaboration is proving to be very fruitful.
Here is video with some background information on how this project started. A cool fact is that kids actually helped shape this model and made some design decisions.
The boom has been properly finished with panels at the right place. Feels solid. Operating the functions manually works better than expected. They are actually quite responsive. Here's the list of implemented functions:
The three raising/lowering functions are operated by turning the 12T gears, all located near the front wheel.
An interesting fact is that the antenna at the back is actually an eye. You would think it is used to look at the environment, but it's primary function is to interact with people walking near the vehicle. By looking at the eye you can see that the vehicle has seen you. The following video gives you some insights:
The back looks even more Techy than the front, with the drone and the antenna. Click on the image to raise and lower the chassis.
Granted, the looks of this vehicle are relying heavily on the applied stickers. It will probably still look cool without them, but you would lose lot of the details.
The front loader in attack mode. Ready to strike :laugh:
There has been some debate about the reason to raise and lower the chassis. At first I agreed that ground clearance was a logical reason, but the axles are still near the ground, so that doesn't make sense. Therefore, I think it has to do with transporting the vehicle. If you put this on a truck it will be quite high. Lowering the chassis will solve this issue. And it can be used to change the angle of the boom without moving it. Not sure if this is an actual purpose, but maybe it doesn't cost as much power, since the arm is longer. Just guessing here.
And a final image from the left rear of the vehicle.
I haven't been able to build the B-model, so I have no idea how the build is. However, by looking at the picture I have a pretty good idea. It is an odd looking vehicle, but at least we get to see the six grey panels :wink:
Again, one can discuss the looks. It's not the best looking vehicle I have ever seen, but for an autonomous vehicle, it does what it does, haul a payload. I am not entire sure why this vehicle needs to adjust its ride height. Maybe to prevent from the load falling out of the bed. Anyway, I will most likely get a second copy of this set and build this PEGAX hauler. For me, it's two thumbs up for this alternate model.
At the beginning of the review I mentioned that I was very fond of this model. Well, that didn't change upon completing the build. I like everything about it. And I find it particularly interesting, and audacious, that TLG and Volvo actually went ahead with this project. This proves that two major brands working together can accomplish great things. I do understand that not everybody will like this model, but if you are remotely interested in robotics and autonomous vehicles, this should appeal to you.
Then there is the discussion about manually operating the functions on an autonomous vehicle. Some claim that it should have been full RC. But if you think about it a big longer....an autonomous vehicle being remotely controlled?! That doesn't make sense either. The perfect solution would be to integrate Mindstorms, but that's not feasible for a retail set. It will even be challenge to add the functionality, even for the avid Mindstorms builder. There's simply not enough room in the chassis to place all the motors and sensors. All things considered, I am very happy with these manual functions, and the way they operate, even with Linear Actuators.
Not sure whether this is considered a Pro or a Con, but it is worth mentioning that this set doesn't have numbered bags. Both previous Volvo models didn't have numbered bags either. Makes you think that Volvo has something to do with this. For those of you wondering...the MACK did have numbered bags :wink:
How do I rate this set?
I know this is highly subjective, but I love the looks of this vehicle.
8 BUILDING EXPERIENCE
Enjoyed the build, but there is no intricate gearbox.
Enough features to keep it interesting.
For manually operated LA driven functions, they are surprisingly responsive.
Depends on your needs, but another chance to get the big bucket, in case you missed the Volvo L350F.
8 VALUE FOR MONEY
Price per part is not particularly low, but you do get a big bucket and four Claas tires.
8,2 I'M LOVING IT
One last thing to mention is this page at the end of the instruction manual. It contains some of the prototype (I presume) vehicles which have been created during the design process.
Thanks you for reading this review. All pictures can be found here.