Part one of this article, published a couple of weeks ago, covered the 'wing' shaped panels that were first introduced in 1999 and which heralded a step-change in Technic model design.
I'll now take a look at the curved and flat panels that, perhaps surprisingly, first made an appearance in Bionicle battle vehicles.
62531 11x3 Curved Panel (2008-)
This panel debuted in the Bionicle Battle Vehicles released in 2008 which were among the largest Bionicle sets to be produced. 8943 Axalara T9 uses a dozen of them to good effect, as cowling around the engine.
Whether they were initially designed for Bionicle or Technic I do not know, but they became widespread in Technic sets the year after, along with the new 3rd-generation of wing panels, which would have been designed at the same time because they have the same profile curve so can be connected to the ends of this one to create an elongated wing shape.
Despite the introduction of a very similar part in 2013 (see below) it remains in use today and has been produced in 11 colours. Lime green and dark green are the rarest, the latter appearing only in 8941 Rockoh T3 in 2008.
64782 11x5 Flat Panel (2009-)
I would go so far as to say that this panel was a game-changer in that, finally, Technic sets could have the gaps in their bodywork filled in completely, should the designer desire.
An early example of what was possible with them can be seen in 8063 Tractor with Trailer. Before these panels were introduced, the trailer would have to have been a skeletal frame that would not have looked anywhere near as effective.
They've been produced in 12 colours and have appeared in 65 sets. Dark blue is the rarest, found only in the limited edition 41999 4x4 Crawler Exclusive Edition . Occasionally they find their way into System sets, such as 10227 B-Wing Starfighter.
11954 11x3 Curved Panel, version 2 (2013-)
This part is so similar to the one above that it's surprising that it was produced at all. It first appeared in 42009 Mobile Crane MK II in 2013, and is used at the bottom of the boom. Presumably the earlier version did not provide enough holes and fixing points so this more versatile one was created. Both parts continue to exist side-by-side, with the earlier one used when aesthetics are important, on car bodywork, for example.
15458 11x3 Flat Panel (2014-)
This panel appeared 5 years after the larger 5x11 flat panel and it's currently the smallest one. It was first used in 42025 Cargo Plane, for the ailerons.
It's been produced in 10 colours and appeared in 38 sets.
18945 11x5 Flat Panel, Tapered (2015-)
Another model of an aircraft was probably the catalyst for the introduction of this panel in 2015, when it appeared in 42040 Fire Plane, where it's used in the main and tail wings.
It hasn't been used extensively, though: it's only been produced in five colours and used in 11 sets.
24119 7x3 Curved Panel (2016-)
The newest panel, a shorter version of the first curved one, was produced for 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It's been made in 8 colours and appears in 15 sets. This year it was produced in white for the first time, for another 911: 42096 Porsche 911 RSR.
There is now a versatile palette of panels that enable set designers to fully clad their models and produce realistic looking reproductions of real-life vehicles.
Whether that's a good thing or not depends on your point of view. If you prefer the open, skeletal look, which arguably reached its peak in 1994 with 8880 Super Car, then you're not likely to be a fan, but personally I much prefer the aesthetic of today's models.
What panels will we see in the future? No idea, but I'd like a smaller flat panel, perhaps 7x5 or 7x3. What about you?