Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80

Brothers have gained fame online for creating authentic scale models of vehicles from Lego parts
Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80 Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80 Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80 Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80 Sleipner uses Lego to launch DB80

The Lego-Sleipner pulled by a Volvo A60 dump truck which is also built out of Lego

Sleipner Finland could be accused of toying with its competitors by using Lego models built by youths for a mining machinery launch. But the firm insists the decision to use Lego helps it surmount logistical issues raised by unveiling huge mining machinery around the world, as well as pandemic-related travel restrictions. 

Sleipner Finland launched its new DB80 and DB130 models in May with a maximum payload of 80 and 130 tonnes respectively. Both are also equipped with Sleipner's patented loading ramps. 

The company has uniquely tasked two Finnish teenagers - Jesse Pyykkönen, 18, and Tuomas Pyykkönen, 13, with building Lego models of the new series that it can use in marketing.

It may seem an odd choice for marketing and sales, but the pairs' use of digital twins and 3D modelling to build models of the DB80 also suggests this was no typical school assignment. 

The Pyykkönen brothers have gained fame online for creating authentic scale models of vehicles from Lego parts -  even attracting the interest of other vehicle manufacturers.

This time around, they used a 3D model of the DB80 trucks to build the models rather than photographs. 

"For the first time, we were able to build by studying the manufacturer's 3D model directly. Even though it took a little time at first to get used to the operating system, it allowed us to view the details with great accuracy. … For example, there were a lot of details in the bogie structure that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. We were able to make these too look realistic by looking closely at the 3D images from every direction, even from below," Jesse Pyykkönen explains.

In addition to working with a 3D model for the first time, the brothers also experimented for the first time with modelling a digital twin using Lego's design tool. This allowed them to make sure that everything would work and to document the scale model down to the last Lego brick. 

"One of the most challenging steps was redrawing the trailer bed using a mouse and keyboard, which required a lot of patience and focus," Tuomas Pyykkönen admits. 

The new model feature a patented loading ramp that follows the surface of the ground. The solution reduces service and maintenance costs compared to traditional models and minimises stress on the loading ramp during loading. 

The brothers said the most challenging aspect of the project was getting their version of the trailer bed to raise and lower using Lego Technic pneumatic cylinders. In reality, the trailer bed is raised by hydraulic cylinders, but the operating principle is the same.

"We really had to do a lot of reverse engineering and study how to make a real machine and then build it. For example, we had to figure out how the loading ramps and lifting hydraulics work. At the back of the trailer bed, we made three loading ramps to match precisely the original model. The ramps follow the ground surface during loading. In addition, the trailer bed has a hydraulic winch, which we replicated using a Lego Technic electric motor. The challenge was to make it durable yet small enough to fit in a tight space, and to get enough torque to be able to tow a model of a tracked machine onto the platform. This was one of the most challenging aspects of building the trailer bed," Tuomas adds.

Although the models were built using Lego Technic modules, the brother has considered other cutting-edge alternatives.

"Original Lego parts have been sufficient, so we have not had to resort to 3D printing, for example - even though it would have been possible," said Tuomas.

Teijo Höylä, Project Manager at Sleipner, said the model was accurate enough to be used for global sales.

"It was amazing how meticulously the brothers worked on all the details. For example, safety steps and winch operate just like the originals. Thanks to this attention to detail, we can now use the scale model to train our sales peoples, for example. We look forward to working with the Pyykkönen brothers again in the future. After all, it is the daydream of every engineer to construct Lego models!", says Höylä.

Sleipner said in May that the new models were engineered to be narrower in response to customer feedback. 

"The new DB130 model is less than 10 metres wide and the smaller DB80 model is just over 8 metres, despite offering slightly higher payloads. The new models are now suitable for use on narrower roads," says Höylä.

Sleipner had already negotiated the delivery of previous-generation DB models to Africa before the outbreak of the pandemic. Following the resulting delivery delays, it was natural to upgrade the order to the new DB models already before their official launch. 

"The new models have been engineered for use in all conditions, from the coldest to the hottest climates. Mines are located all around the world, and our customer base is global, so Sleipner products have to operate reliably everywhere. When engineering structures and components, we make sure that they all have a long service life and low life cycle costs, that spare parts are available globally, and that they are easy to service and maintain," Höylä adds.