NEW PRODUCTS: Volvo and LEGO® Technic have teamed up again to build a faithful working replica of the new EW160E wheeled excavator
by Brian O’Sullivan
Volvo Construction Equipment and LEGO Technic both have a passion for creating the best products they can, and so it was natural that when the two companies came together to create a scale LEGO model of Volvo’s new EW160E wheeled excavator that the end result would be stunning. Such was the closeness of the relationship and desire to get the model looking just right, that when Volvo’s chief designer thought the prototype’s exhaust wasn’t quite perfect, the LEGO team gave him some of the famous colored pieces and said: “Okay – you design it.”
The end result is spectacular. With 1,166 elements the model will repay the hours it takes to build it. Featuring a rotating superstructure, elevating cab, clamshell bucket and a pneumatically powered boom and arm, it is packed full with realistic functions. Principally aimed at children over 10 years old, such is the complexity and delight in creating it that the model’s attractions have no age limit.
This isn’t the first time that a Volvo machine has featured in the LEGO Technic model range – the Volvo L350F wheel loader was the star machine of the 2014 season.
For 2016 LEGO Technic wanted an excavator – but one that was a little different to the norm.
“We knew that we wanted to create a wheeled excavator, but we wanted something a little different,” says Andrew Woodman, senior design manager for LEGO Technic. “When we saw Volvo’s elevating cab option we knew that was the one for us.”
The timing was perfect, as the new EW160E wheeled excavator was nearing the end of its top secret development. Such is the trust between the two companies that Volvo invited Woodman, the model’s designer Olav Krøigaard and marketing lead Niels Henrik Horsted to visit Volvo’s manufacturing plant in Konz, Germany. The designer climbed all over the real machine and took an extensive tour of the production line to see how it all goes together. He even got to operate one. “It gave the designer amazing insights into how to design and build the LEGO Technic version,” says Woodman. “For instance, he found that the base of the boom on the real machine isn’t sited in the middle, but is slightly offset. And so the boom on the LEGO model is also sited off to one side.”
This greater insight meant that the model was impressively close to the real thing right from the first prototype model. “The Volvo team were impressed with what we had achieved so early, and were then able to hone in on the details,” says Woodman. “They helped us with getting the proportions right, improving the hand rails, how the bucket hung and even the shape of the exhaust.”
The final model is a mini masterpiece, with many of the real machine’s functions present. The digging arm works, the cab raises and lowers, it has a blade and stabilizers, steering – even the correct arm rests on the operator’s seat.
There is also a pneumatics system that is operated by an all-new hand pump. While using electric motors and actuators would have been an option, using pneumatics was considered a more authentic solution. “We wanted to create our version of the machine’s hydraulics,” says Woodman.
“Air replaces oil, but the principle of pressure being applied through a pipe system is the same as on the real machine, and the air pressure can be diverted to the chosen function, just as on the real machine.”
As if making this model wasn’t difficult enough, a second designer, Milan Reindl, was challenged to make an alternative second model, using the same LEGO elements. This has been achieved in some style, giving the customer the choice of making the EW160E wheeled excavator or a very impressive Volvo L30G compact wheel loader. “The cool thing about this model is that both the L30G and the EW160E are made in the same Volvo factory in Germany,” says Woodman.
The EW160E is compatible with the optional ‘power functions upgrade’ box, which includes a battery pack and motor that fits inside the model. This powers the pneumatics compressor, as well as providing working lights on the cab.
With so many features and elements crammed into such a compact model, building the EW160E is a real challenge. So what’s the secret to getting it right?
“The building process is part of the play and where the main enjoyment lies, seeing how everything goes together and how it operates. The post-build play is secondary, almost a bonus,” says Woodman. “So the build shouldn’t be rushed, this isn’t fast food. We recommend that you lay all the parts out in a quiet corner of the house, follow the instructions carefully and take as long as you need to get it right. And then afterwards you can play with all the functions, just like with the real machine.”
With its good balance of functionality and complexity, the LEGO Technic EW160E is in the sweet spot of the range. Launched on August 1, sales have already exceeded expectations, sealing a relationship with Volvo that has been complementary from the outset.
“Volvo really ‘leaned in’ to make this project the success it is,” says Woodman. “We share the same passion and mind set, and it was a lot of fun working together. We take a pride in our cooperation with Volvo, and it’s the benchmark for how we can cooperate with partners in the future.”