Review: 42081 Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX

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View image at flickr

'Diggers' are a staple of the Technic line up and there can't have been many years when a new one of one type or another hasn't been produced.

This year's offering is a little different in that it's based on a vehicle that doesn't exist, yet...

It came about at a "fun, informal team building event to inspire the Volvo CE and LEGO Technic design teams" that "evolved into [the development of a model of a] fully fledged autonomous concept wheel loader", according to this article on the Volvo CE website.

As a result it's one of the most interesting Technic sets of recent years.

Parts

There's not much to say about the set's 1167 parts because none of them are new and only one, a piece usually found in Constraction sets, is a re-colour, in yellow.

The parts are packaged in unnumbered bags which is a bit of a nuisance given their number.

And, as we've come to expect in recent Technic sets, there's an extensive sticker sheet.

View image at flickr


Construction

As is usual, construction starts with the chassis. It offers 4-wheel steering, but no transmission or suspension.

Instead, there's a linear actuator connected to the rear axle that enables the wheelbase to be adjusted, as I'll demonstrate later.

View image at flickr

The bucket arm features two points of articulation, again adjusted by linear actuators.

View image at flickr

This is an electric vehicle so instead of having a cylinder engine, which I always find rather tedious to construct, it has a large battery power plant at the back. It's surprisingly complicated and parts-intense for reasons you'll see below.

View image at flickr

The flaps on the sides open to reveal the 'electronics' inside

View image at flickr

Once a camera has been attached to the back and the arm bulked out a bit, all that needs to be added is the bucket and wheels.

View image at flickr


The completed model

It's surprisingly large, about 40cm long and 20cm wide and looks splendid in yellow and black, with a splash of orange here and there.

The stickers certainly enhance its appearance but it would look fine without them applied.

View image at flickr

As this is an autonomous vehicle it's equipped with a camera and also a drone, used to survey the machine's surroundings, that docks onto the top of the power unit when not in use.

View image at flickr


Functionality

As this is a fictional vehicle it's fitted with features not found on today's wheel loaders.

Adjustable wheelbase

Twisting the gear between the wheels adjusts the linear actuator which in turn adjusts the vehicle's wheelbase, from 25cm to...

View image at flickr

... 20cm. The back end is raised as a result.

View image at flickr

Moving counterweight

The battery power unit at the back of the vehicle is likely to be heavy so it might be useful to be able to move to back and forth to counterbalance loads in the bucket.

Twisting the gear at the back moves it back and forth by means of a rack-and-pinion, which explains the complexity of this section of the build.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The Volvo website has this to say about these features: "The frame is what we call a scissor frame that can be lowered or raised as needed. In this way it can balance and gain the optimal position and angle for the task at hand. Balance is kept by automatic movement of the counterweight.This means the ZEUX can alter its center of gravity as needed. "

Bucket

The arm and bucket are raised, lowered and tipped using two gears on either side of the vehicle.

View image at flickr

There's a good range of movement which will facilitate the loading, moving and tipping of whatever 'pretend rocks' you have available.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

Steering

Finally, the vehicle's 4-wheel steering is controlled using a gear just behind the arm. Unlike many a Technic vehicle, it has a respectable turning circle.

View image at flickr


Verdict

I didn't think I'd like this much given it's a bit unconventional but now I've built it, played with it, and understood the thinking behind its design, it's actually my favourite of the four summer Technic sets.

It's not so huge that it takes ages to build and is difficult to display, it looks suitably futuristic and high-tech, and best of all it's packed with functionality that actually works. Pretty much the perfect Technic model.

View image at flickr

At its full price of £109.99 it's a tad expensive but at the moment it's 32% off at IWOOT so you can pick it up for just £74.99, which is a bargain for such a large and impressive Technic model.

Highly recommended!

View image at flickr


Thanks to LEGO for providing the set for us to review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

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21 comments on this article

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By in Netherlands,

It's a good thing I stopped buying Technic, otherwise I'd been a VERY expensive year...

It'd be really cool if Volvo'd produce a concept-model in real life size of this unit.

By the way, shouldn't you be cycling towards Dover or something? ;)

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By in United States,

Definitely one of the most interesting sets visually so far. The counterweight function is really neat too.

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By in Canada,

To correct you Huw the bucket is new and has not been seen before.

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By in United Kingdom,

It's the same as in 42030 but with a different part number.

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By in United Kingdom,

Nice review.
Really like the look of this set, it's different enough to be really interesting.

After continual viewing of the images, I can't help but think that this set is screaming for multiple arms, possibly a different colour scheme and working long travel suspension to turn it into the ultimate off world exploration rover.
Will definitely be picking this up at some point.

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By in France,

I'm not a fan of big engines, cranes and so neither of Technic range. But this one interests me with its shapes, colors and of course this concept of automatic processing. It could also cost many jobs if the future proves one day the real efficiency of the concept, but could also help in particular areas or cases where humans can't endure work conditions or so. The future we imagined years ago with machines taking places of human is somehow at hand, whether we like it - or not. But I also know that behind any machinery or even the most amazing AI there's always a human brain and intelligence necessary to create, enter data or start a process. As a Lego rendition of a future concept, I like this set, which could be one I would purchase ( if I had spare money to spend). Thank you for your review.

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By in Poland,

Its seems noone likes this set lol.

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By in United States,

I think this is the only non-BIONICLE Technic set I've ever wanted.

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By in Switzerland,

Thanks for this great review of an interesting set. :-)

I will try to modify this set to use pneumatics instead of the linear actuators.

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By in United States,

Wait, Huw is on his bike riding to Denmark and writing Technic reviews at the same time? Incredible!

I'll see myself out...

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By in Norway,

The looming shadow of a dystopian future - with a more grey/chrome color scheme it would fit right into the Terminator franchise. I can't help but imagining hordes of these monstrosities razing nature for miniscule amounts of rare earths and tearing down our cities, our culture and our history so other similar machines can replace them with institutional, white glass-and-concrete architecture - everything thoroughly standardized by the latest globalized health & safety and "universal design" rules. Is this really a future we want?

Don't get me wrong, the model itself isn't that bad, it's the subject matter I find questionable. It's bit like Lego's IMO hypocritical "no military" attitude while they have no problem introducing a steady stream of police in all shapes and colors (including SWAT teams!). They willingly bends over to all kinds of politically correct moral panics while at the same time totally ignoring the big questions.

Brick't says "But I also know that behind any machinery or even the most amazing AI there's always a human brain and intelligence necessary to create, enter data or start a process". Yes, for now. But the main problem is how humans are increasing left out of the loop - AIs has proven fundamentally near-impossible to analyze and debug, and just look at how hostile computers has became the last decades, with everything from built-in spyware to forced updates when it suits the vendor, not you. In the middle of an important business presentation, life-saving surgery or a mission-critical operation? Microsoft doesn't care.

This may not be Lego's fight, but I wish someone would take the fight against omnipresent microprocessor technology more seriosly - preferably without immediately being written off as a luddite.

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By in Australia,

I'm a big fan of this set and I don't usually build Technic. It is huge, looks cool and is a very interesting subject for a set. I have posted a very short review as a non-Technic builder, on the set details page, so I am pleased to see a more technical (haha) look at the set.

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By in Netherlands,

I don't get it. How is not having numbered bags and trying to find the right brick a nuisance?

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By in Australia,

@Supersonic: it is just harder to find pieces when you have 1100 of them in your building area. I used a big compartment tray from Ikea to sort the pieces

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By in United States,

I ordered mine off of IWOOT. No sales tax plus free shipping. What a steal! Surprised this model comes with no motors or instructions to add them. Might be a cool project to incorporate Mindstorms into.

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By in Netherlands,

Thank you for this nice review. I find this model and concept vehicle very interesting.

I'm not a 'Technic consumer', but a discount of 32% and the looks and appeal of this model are very tempting.

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By in Romania,

Ever more special parts...

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By in Czech Republic,

Incredible attractive set.. even the box looks luxurious, different from other Technic boxes.. .. it always reminded of a scorpio with that tail.. now I know that its just a cam :)

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By in United States,

@hntrain I remember with the 1979 Technic bulldozer the bucket was brick built, but even then there was a special wedge element that was used. I remember thinking they were cheating! Now they're just like "screw it, let's just give em a massive bucket piece"...

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By in Germany,

I think the set looks very odd, yet still quite cool. Might get it if it becomes available at a substantial discount.

What I find most funny about the source material is the name, as "Zeugs" (which is pronounced the same way as ZEUX) in German means "worthless crap" like when cleaning out a closet and throwing away stuff you don't need any more "weg mit dem Zeugs" i.e. "let's get rid of that crap".
What a strange name.
Then again, companies do make mistakes (like the famous Rolls Royce Silver Mist, which had to be renamed for the German market, or the Mitsubishi Pajero, which needed a new name for the Spanish market, among other examples). :-)

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By in Australia,

I love the look of this set and thanks for a great review. My only problem is that I want two of them so I can have the B Model loader as well. :)

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