The Second Leg

I’ve only had a limited amount of time to work on building the SDF-1 due to my real life responsibilities, and unfortunately extra time will only become more and more limited going forward. Since the last time I posted I’ve been dealing with a number of weight issues – even beyond the legs. With the size and weight of this model, the traditional LEGO connections aren’t doing the trick.

In cruiser mode, the blue sections on the left and right side shown in the picture below were not being held tightly connected to the main white center section with just a couple of technique pin assemblies. This was especially troubling since this was happening before I attached the legs and before I have even built and attached the carriers – which would add even more weight. I tried to remedy the situation with numerous additional pin and axle connections which all improved the quality of the connection between the white and blue sections but none were able to make the connections really ‘tight.’ The best solution was to build a 1×1 hole on both sides of the white center section which I was able to line up with the top of the blue sections. Through this hole I slid a plate that I was able to use to connect the sections and create a tight connection.

I buitl the 1 x 1 hole about where the gray brick is at

I’ve also rebuilt a significant portion of the leg to improve it and have started building the second leg. I’ve have come to the realization that glue is the only solution to make the model strong enough to support the legs. I’ll most likely need some form of super glue, because the legs are extremely heavy and there is not LEGO trick I can think of that I can use to connect he legs to the ship AND still have the SDF-1 be able to transform.

Before I begin to start to glue the leg I wanted to make sure the SDF-1 didn’t have some form of fundamental design flaw that would not allow the SDF-1 to stand and support its own weight after transformation. So I built a skeleton of the second leg to test the balance during transformation and fortunately it worked: Knowing that it could support the weight I went on ahead and also tested the transformation:

I was most afraid that the SDF-1 would tip backwards because of the weight of the Main Guns, but fortunately no issues.

The only issue I found with this test was with the technique I’m using to attach the Main Guns is not really holding the guns upright and tightly to the ship. I may have to go back to the drawing board on that feature.

I have to order a ton of new bricks on Bricklink in order to finish the 2nd leg. If the gluing the LEGOs together does not work in providing enough support for the legs then I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue the model, at least not at this large size. I’m going to hope that all the time, energy and money I put into this model will not go to waste because of that.

Weight Issues

I have been able to complete most of the leg; however my worst fear has come true. It appears that the weight of the leg has compromised its connection to the rest of the ship. To put it simply when I move the ship the weight of leg forces the connection points to break apart and the leg breaks away from the ship.

This connection point does not support the leg.

This connection point does not support the leg horizontally. Note the white brick on the right, even that extra support does not keep it from falling apart.

To attempt to remedy I reconstructed all of the connection points, including adding an axle connection and a male/female pin assembly as well as reconstructed an internal beam that extended from Section 3 into Section 4 (the legs). Although my improvements improved the strength of the connections I could not overcome the physics of the situation. The current weight of the leg is 2 ¼ lbs, and I think no LEGO Technic pin and/or axle assembly can hold that much weight up horizontally. Also, the leg is currently hollow and will only become heavier as I add more detail to the SDF-1.

SDF-1 Leg Work in Progress

I wanted to avoid using glue in building this model, but I think that at this point the physics of the SDF-1 make it unavoidable. The legs are a 1/3 the length of the ship, the heaviest section of the ship and protrude out with no support – with a model of this size extra support seems unavoidable. I know I could do some alterations to attempt to cut the weight of the legs, but I don’t think I could do any drastic changes that would cut the weight by a third or a fourth. Plus, after transformation the legs support the entire ship so they still must remain sturdy. I’m hoping that if I glue the connection points together it will give it enough strength to horizontally support 2-3 lbs.

If glue is the solution, I feel it is still premature in the build to be glueing LEGOs together; I’m not sure what might still change. Yet, if I don’t try to strengthen the connection with glue now I won’t know if it will work and I won’t be able to handle the ship easily. It’s a dilemma. In the meantime I going to do my best to think of other possible solutions to resolve this without glue, but as I alluded to earlier I think the chances of a strictly LEGO solution is slim to none.

"I know it hurts, I feel your pain too. But don't give up now...you are so close to building the perfect LEGO SDF-1!"

Zentradi/Meltrandi Connection Joint Redux

I decided to (re)build a larger Zentradi/Meltrandi (male/female) assembly to connect Sections 2 and 3. I shared in my ‘Reconstruction Blues’ post that I had to widen both sections to scale the ship correctly. Even before I did that the previous Zentradi/Meltrandi connection assembly I had built did not perform as greatly as I expected it to. In cruiser mode I still needed and external plate to hold the two sections together and when I vertically set Section 2 on top of Section 3 as it would be after transformation the connection wasn’t super tight and rigid.

The rebuild gave me an opportunity to try to build a better Zentradi/Meltrandi assembly. The male/female assembly concept is great but I felt I could execute it better. Before the rebuild the connection point was 3x, after the rebuild it was 4x giving me more real estate to work with. I built another test version of the assembly from spare pieces:

Test of the new Zentradi Meltrandi Assembly made from spare LEGO.

This new Zentradi/Meltrandi connection will be taller and wider. I think I will build the new version to also be longer so that it goes deeper into Section 3. The prior section also only used one pin and one axle to connect; the new assembly will double that to two pins and two axles. I’m hoping that this new Zentradi/Meltrandi assembly will provide more support and strength to the connection in both modes. I still wouldn’t be surprised though with the combined weight and length of Sections 1 and 2 that I would still need an external plate to connect Section 2 to Section 3. Even so, this new is assembly will still be two times better than the old version.

Note that this is my third time rebuilding all or a portion of Section 2. Again, this is the main reason I build only one half at a time!

Connecting the Rotating Sections

The connections between Sections 1 & 2 and Sections 2 & 3 all rotate, you can see it the very first episode of Macross (Boobytrap) when the Main Guns prepare to fire. This is very complex to do with LEGO because of the weight of these sections – especially between Sections 2 and 3. I could simply use a pin assembly to create the rotation:

But this method is far too weak. With the weight of the Sections (so far Sections 1 & 2 together weigh 13 oz) one pin assembly would not provide enough support. This construction method would produce a weak and fragile SDF-1; I know this from previous smaller versions of the SDF-1 I have built from LEGO. In those versions to remedy the weak connection internally I used external plates to reinforce the connection between rotating sections. This method took away from the external hull detail of the SDF-1, and for this version that is not a sacrifice I wish to make.

However, if I do not use pins how will the Main Guns rotate during transformation? Unfortunately they won’t. I have to sacrifice the rotation for the sake of sturdiness. My plan is to use multiple pin assemblies and/or technic axle assemblies to form tight and sturdy connections between these Main Gun sections. I anticipate the multiple internal connections will be able to handle the weight.

Maybe during the building process I may come across a new technique or a new set or pieces that will allow me to have the strength and rotation, but if not I am comfortable with my decision of strength over rotation.