Saturday, May 19, 2007

Engino 60

I surely made little happy noises when I first saw the Engino 60, while browsing the Internet. A construction set showing lots of different models is special. It was de rigueur in the classic era, but is rare now.

Most manufacturers now seem to want you to build just one or two models, then buy a new set from their line. Though it may actually be that the variety sets just don't sell well in the mass market. Fortunately there are exceptions available, like fischertechnik, K'nex, even Lego, at their low-end, though sadly not in Lego Technic.

The smaller Dual Mini-Packs from Engino each include instructions that show how to build two models from that set, plus a different large model by combining all four sets. The Engino 60 includes the part packages and instruction booklets from all four Duals combined in one box, in a sort of "buy three, get one free" deal.

That gives twelve step-by-step instructions total, plus 48 additional models shown assembled, to give the 60 model total. Confusingly, these are shown only on the box, and with a different color scheme for the parts. We must hope that the promised downloads from Engino Toy Systems will soon be available, with correct colors and clearer detail.

No parts lists are included. To tell whether I had the right parts, I kept the four bags of parts separate until I built models from each. You can compare your contents against my parts list. My totals differ from the prescribed counts only in one extra for the Arachnid, but my parts selection and count there seems correct, and that makes the total of Engino 60 come out correct at 221.

The parts image here is in roughly the same order as my list, top to bottom, left to right. The "beam8" is duplicated to show the two different socket faces; the sides have no sockets.

The parts go together well, with most connections form, robust, yet readily parted for disassembly. Some combinations between specific different types of connector are a little wobbly, and removing the pivot from a socket can be difficult - connecting or reconnecting the variable angle piece will aide in separation. For other difficult separations, a beam can be used as a tool, using the end socket since it is a side-slide connection, not a push-in.

Most connectors have an eight-point star shape to the base of the shaft, with a similar shape in the throat of the socket. This maintains alignment in 45 degree intervals, either solidly if the connector is connected in the flat face of a beam, or as a rotatable detent, for most other connections. The omission of the star on one side of the hubs allows wheels to rotate smoothly.

The connector head is 5 mm, halfway between fischertechnik's 4 mm and K'nex' 6 mm, and of similar shape, and indeed there are other similarities to those systems as well, though without seeming that Engino is a copy of either.

The models can be big, for a reasonably compact set - the scorpion is 31" long, and the robot is 13" high. This bridge, from a picture on the box, is 27". It was a bit challenging, since the image was small, in the wrong colors, and had some parts wrong, so that I had to do quite a bit of puzzling out. But I think it looks great.

All-in-all, I'd say Engino is good Block Play.

3 comments:

Nicholas said...

I purchased the ENGINO 60 models for my kids and it was amazing how many models they got to build with so few unique components. The most impressive feature however was that extendable rod! I have not seen this in any other toy. It solves the problems that other toys have for constructing variable angle frames. Looking forward for new packages from ENGINO!!! Great toy!!!

Alan said...

Thank you for your comments.

I have mixed emotions about adjustable parts. When I wrote this post, I didn't feel prepared to address that, and felt that this post was quite long enough already.

Since my thoughts exceed what fits in a comment, I have made a dedicated post on the topic, and will revisit it again as I get more experience with Engino.

Engino is indeed a fine toy, with great potential. I also look forward to new developments.

Do you think maybe "engino" aludes at least a little to "ingenuity," not just "engineering"?

Alan said...

What are these new packages from Engino that we are loooking forward to?

- A technology series: "Learn about Levers, Linkages, Pulleys, Cams, Cranks, Gears, Screws, Wheels, Axles, Inclines planes and Wedges," with a few new technical parts to make things work. Some of the models use adjustable components to represent hydraulic actuators, and they look great - the ought to be light gray! :)

- Wood Connectors which connect 10 mm square wood strips in the manner of Engino components, and also include standard Engino connectors for more complex constructions. I hope 3/8" (9.5 mm) wood - or square plastic tube! - will be accommodated as is, but if not, tape around the ends should bring it within tolerance and may be necessary to provide sufficient grip on plastic. We should see some impressively large structures, and enhanced study of design strengths and weaknesses.

Both of these new product series should expand Engino's potential in robotics.