Monday, April 18, 2011

Beginners' guide: Even and odd-width vehicles

One of the common problems planning and designing a Technic vehicle, or any Lego vehicle for that matter, is determining its exact width. While the rough width is determined by the scale of the vehicle (as described in an earlier article), choosing between even and odd width is a more subtle question.

A difference of one stud on such a scale may seem irrelevant at first, and from the observers viewpoint, it probably is. However, the construction varies significantly depending on the approach used.

One part of the answer lies in the available Lego parts. Namely, if you have experience with both types, you have probably already noticed that the studded Technic "prefers" being built in even widths, whereas the new studless designs tend to have odd widths. This is caused by the differences in these parts' dimensions: studded beams are generally of even, and studless of odd widths. Positioning any beam in the center perpendicularly to the axis of motion (and a vehicle will usually have dozens of those), will thus set the practical width, except if you are prepared for some impractical half-stud manuevers.

8070: New paradigm, new approach: studless designs prefer odd widths

Therefore, the preferred with will usually depend on the type of parts you are using. You can notice the general rule and the transition to odd-width vehicles on original TLC models too at the time they moved to studless. And it is actually noticeable today, as the studded vehicles (present, etc. in Creator series) are still even amount of studs wide, even if they have a Technic chassis. Many decorative parts are offered in even widths too, so it is a direction to take if you intend to build for looks as much as for functionality.

The remaining question addresses the hybrid constructions, i.e. combinations of studded and studless designs. Both odd and even approaches work here, and the case usually depends on the types of bricks you intend to use for the skeleton of the chassis. Try to build the skeleton using one brick type only, as the half-stud connections between even and odd-width components aren't as strong.

8880 Supercar: A good representative of a classic, studded even-width design
General experience of many builders is that, in very large hybrid designs with plenty of motors and components, studded chassis tends to have a slight advantage over studless due to its strength. However, for anything shorter than half a meter or so, studless should be just as fine.

If it is applicable to your design, it is worth to try buidling the studded chassis and a studless bodywork above, both sturdy and reinforced alone, and have them attached to each other on just a few strong points in one of the final phases of building. That way you will not have too many half-width connections, the vehicle will be easy to open and modify if needed, and will have all the advantages of studless look from the outside. (It is, agreeably, a matter of taste but it seems that the majority actually find the studless designs prettier.)

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