Thursday, 29 January 2015

Meccanoid - The videos...


Here is a collection of Video interviews about Meccanoid and its many features and applications, filmed at CES2015 in Las Vegas. Meccanoid went on to win Last Gadget Standing!
 

Ralph

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

F1 Racing car!

Click on any picture to enlarge...

The F1 as seen is London last week
There are some interesting models to come this year. I have already mentioned the Tower Crane and the new Eiffel Tower, to name just a couple, but there is a lot more. One of the models I will be looking forward to is the F1 racing car. The car include a new hi-tec cloth and securing pins. The idea here is to introduce some of the modern materials used here in the 21st century. It is a nod towards all the carbon fibre and other modern materials used by today's engineers.

Hi-tec cloth used to simulate body panel
3D printed parts make it possible to
build pre production prototypes
Seen it in it's prototype form last week, The new F1 has now been seen at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. The pictures I have seen from there show it with black tyres.  Either somebody painted them (most likely) or some production tyres were found. 3D printing has made it easier to show models much earlier on in their development. The wheels and tyres are 3D printed as are the rear chassis pan components. These parts will also be found in the new Rocket set, expected soon. The model is designed as a push-along with lots of working features including the engine (not very realistic but destined to suggest what is going on) and working steering via one of those new, lobed, knobs. Bevel.
 
Bevel gears
From the builder's point of view this set is a good source of parts, even if we do collect yet another set of wheels! At least they are a new design. I am sure, using one of the non-Meccano small geared motors that we all love, it would not be too difficult to motorise it and make a few modifications here and there - I am looking forward to seeing the production model...

All pictures here were taken at The London Toy Fair
This is not all that Meccano have up their sleeve, I am sure. There will be more on the Meccanoid, I am sure as that is so definitely flavour of the month (Year?), and as we approach Autumn and that all important Christmas relaunch,  I would expect to see a few surprises in store, I don't believe that we have seen all of it yet...


Ralph.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

More London Toy Fair news

Sue couldn't wait to try the new driver
Fighting off an especially vicious dose of flu, we did make it back to Olympia on Thursday. What a difference, the stand was calm and the Spin Master staff all looked a bit shell shocked. Some of the models were looking a bit worse for wear which gave Sue the chance to try out the new driver. The last day was drawing to a close, by the time we got there, and it gave us a chance to get a few more pictures and some information on release dates.

 

Crane

I had a closer look at the crane and the blue, 3D printed, gear seems to be a shade over 3 inch diameter. It is 'drilled' similar to a 3 inch pulley. The other parts lurking in there are a wheel flange and  grey, 3 inch pulley from the Super Construction Set. Remember, that this is all mocked up at the moment and all this might change. The stand staff are knowledgeable about the product, but not to this degree, as the crane was developed by the team in Los Angeles.

It is a bit grainy this shot but it shows the components.
The London Toy Fair is primarily a sales event. I will try and glean some more information from the development guys, over the coming weeks, once the round of international fairs that concern us is over by late February, with the last one being New York.

Packaging

As far as I can gather, the new spring releases will appear, initially, in packaging bearing the Multimodel, Evolution, Special Edition and Turbo branding. I am assuming this is to lead the new products to the market in a form the buyers understand. The main relaunch of the Meccano brand has always been planned for Christmas 2015.  In the autumn the new packaging will be rolled out across the whole brand and the segregation will be no more. The new range, including the reboxed items released this spring, will replace all existing products making the whole range, Spin Master designs. The current range will sell thorough. This may take a while but keep your eyes open as I am sure there will be bargains to be had. Our man in the Black Country has already reported seeing the Super Construction Set being sold off at half-price at Smyths Toys.

Here are a few more pictures of the sets to come. We have no firm prices yet but if the new Fire Rescue Truck set (See HERE) is used as a guide, pricing seems to be reasonable. That set has a RSP of £9.99 but here in the UK Argos are selling it at £7.50 each if you buy two.

Construction crew loader
Air Force set showing box-art flying wing
Dessert adventure set - before Sue had it in the repair shop!
Mountain Rally set, on the right
The Canyon Crawler and the Helicopter sets pictured below are really Evolution format sets and may well appear under that branding initially. As you can see, the boxes are just mock-ups at the moment and although the Autumn releases will follow this style they may not be exactly the same. As stated above, the spring release box art will differ but be repackaged for autumn to comply with the new identity.

This 4x4 has many names but is a nice chunky model
Starboard engine of the helicopter seems to be in need of Sue's attention
These sets will start appearing over the next few weeks. As soon as they are available we will let you know. As soon as we get our hands on them, we will give you a sneek preview.

It has to be said that all this Classic meccano was overshadowed by a short four-foot high bloke, insistent of giving you 'high fives' even though he only has three fingers and a thumb! 

High four anyone!
Ralph

Meccanoid is a TV celebrity...

Meccanoid revels in his celebrity status!
It looks like #Meccanoid is taking the world by storm. Following his success at the recent tech and toy fairs he has made multiple appearances on CNN last night and this morning! If you missed it, those videos can be viewed HERE. His next appearance will be at 2:55 PM EST (7:55 PM GMT) – tune in if you are able to.

Ralph

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

London Toy Fair 2015

A view from the gallery and this is just part of the Fair!

Meccano show the new range...

New models new packaging and a new logo and that is just for starters! We have already mentioned the new model packaged as a Multimodel 3-model set. Well, if you are a collector of modern sets, make sure you grab one while you can as it too will be sold in the new packaging.

Of course, the star of the show is the new Meccano Mecanoid. Today is Press Day and the Meccano stand was awash with film crews trying to get a look at Meccano's latest venture. As we have already covered this in some detail from afar, last week, we will take closer look at Meccanoid on Thursday when we will be back at Olympia for a more sober look at the new range without jostling for position. I have never see so much press interest in Meccano before, the stand was rammed with people all milling about looking at the Meccano and making approving noises.

The models on show are all the work of the new company, these are the first of what we can expect and you will not be disappointed. Having said that. I am sure there will be some who will find something to whinge about - but maybe not...

Slightly larger than the Nano sets?
Segregation of sets has gone. These new sets are not divided in to type (Multimodels, Evolution, Turbo etc) but they all come under the 'Meccano' banner. Sound familiar? There are a lot more smaller, easier to build sets targeted squarely at the toy market with the aim of encouraging new interest and hopefully repeat business. The new 'starter' sets are great. We like the idea of these sets and remind us of the short-lived Nano series of few years ago.

Rockets!
The new sets incorporate parts from the the entire range available plus a few new ones. The nose cone in the rocket set, and the new wheels in some of the others, stand out at first glance. All the new sets have a much greater metal content than some of the sets produced over the past couple of decades.  Gone are the model instructions that require most parts of the set to be used in making every model. Some very simple model instructions are included in most sets to give a progression of difficulty and a means to complete an initial model quickly.  There are several of these 'themed' sets and I will talk about them in more detail after Thursday, when I should be able to get some better pictures as hopefully the stand will be a bit quieter.

The new packaging is a vast improvement on the original. The mass of colour and insignificant brand graphics almost lead to camouflage! All sets will now be supplied with the new tools and although I showed you a couple of them last week, I was not able to show you the third until today.

Long awaited (and requested) hex-driver
It has been a long time coming but now at last Meccano have re-introduced a driver. The driver will be supplied in the larger sets, again, I will try and clarify which ones over the next few days...

And now the big news...

You may have seen the tower bridge model before but now it has been joined by a redesigned Eiffel Tower and empire state building. These models appear to be lit, but again trying to get information today was hard due to the number of people on the stand. It is encouraging the see the four part 52s (5½ x 2½ flanged plate) are attached to the model, now interestingly in zinc finish. I will try and confirm that these will be included in the production set.

Tower bridge
Mr Eiffel's tower
Empire State Building

...and the really big news!

Sorry, not the best shot in the world. I will try and improve on it on Thursday
A really big crane! what's more it contains lots of useful parts including a part 59! Yes buy popular demand, the brass collar has made an appearance once again! This is only possible because the set is aimed at the adult modeller and is the first of a range of bigger sets, providing the sales meet expectation. The sharp-eyed of you will notice the box art is different to the display model as the tower is going to be constructed from the standard ½ inch hole spacing parts including angle girders.    

Spot the collar and note the large blue plastic gear...
This is just a brief round-up of what we saw today at the London Toy Fair. There is lots more to come as the year goes on. Some of which will be shown at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, next week, and the New York Toy Fair in mid February.

Hopefully I will be able to give a lot more detail such as expected release dates and SRP in the next few days.
Ralph.

Friday, 16 January 2015

New model, new tools!

Now that's a surprise
A knock at the door this morning produced a bit of a surprise. The box was expected and the 37 meters of tape printed with the Meccano logo might have given the game away. We were expecting to receive the new three model set but what we were not expecting was something new. No, not new parts, although this set does include some of the parts that until now have only been included in the Evolution sets – new tools! More on these later…

First for 2015
The model is the first new release of the year and it heralds a new dictate as far as the models are concerned. Not every model uses all (or most) of the parts. Looking at the box, this set has instructions for building the box art model, a rescue fire truck, and two others; a helicopter and an air-boat.


Just a snippet of the new instructions - much better!
The new and improved instructions are a real treat making the building of the models much easier. The first thing that stood out for me was the fact that I can see all the detail in the black areas. Meccano have improved the way the darker graphics are produced but outlining and drawing in the detail in a much lighter shade. This alone is a massive improvement over the recent instruction manuals and makes the models a pleasure to build without having to second guess where things go. Closer inspection reveals that the orientation of the stages of construction is restrained to static positioning wherever possible. Where the image is rotated, clear arrows show the orientation. The random orientation of the diagrams has gone, the new instructions are much easier to follow.

Rescue Fire Truck
Airboat
Helicopter
Having received the models just as we were heading out the door to go over to set up our stand at the London Model Engineering Exhibition at Ally Pally (Sorry, I should really say Alexandra Palace), we have only had time to build the models in the instructions tonight. I told Ralph to go an make the fire engine – all boys like fire engines! In fact I can think of one who has built lots of them… That aside, Ralph said it was straight forward and went together well. He also mentioned that it has round axles that actually fit through the holes of the painted parts.

I had no trouble getting the push-fit wheels or as Ralph said getting the axles through the holes in the painted parts. As you know, if you have read any of my other reviews, I hate the over thick paint that has been applied to some of the parts in the past. Meccano’s new owners do seem to have tried to address some of the things that we (all of us enthusiasts) have been complaining about for a long time now.

Tools

Now, I know my other half likes new tools – he’s got a workshop full of them – but I must admit I like these! This small set has two of the new range of tools included. A completely redesigned new spanner and a ‘T’ bar mini-wrench. On first use we think these are both very well thought out and are easy to use.

The new spanner is cranked and offset
The new 'T' bar may be small but it is very nice to use
More on this set next week once we have had a chance to consider it further and we may well make a few new models from the parts. Over the next few days we will be at the London Model Engineering Exhibition and if you are in the area come and see us there where you will be able to see the new set and the tools first hand.   

The set has a suggested retail price of £9.99 and will be available at Argos Stores from Saturday 17th January 2015. It should start appearing in the other shops soon after.

Sue.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Maker Meccano is the last man standing...


Meccano win the Last Gadget Standing at CES 2015 click HERE for details!


Say Hello to a new champion!
It Looks like the all the hard work is paying off. Spin Master have taken Meccano into the 21st century with a bang. We can't wait to get get our hands on one of these when they hit the UK stores later this year. The possibilities are endless. Not only will this please a lot of us veteran enthusiasts but it will introduce Meccano to a whole new market and age range. Until now the only market has been pre-teen toy sales and the fifty-something (with a few exceptions!) enthusiasts. This product will bridge that gap, spanning several generations.

We will use it to enhance our model building, the new makers will use the classic Meccano to enhance their making... Brilliant! 

Ralph and Sue

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Meccanoid G15 KS at CES 2015



The new Maker Meccano is announced and it looks better than expected! The 4ft (1220mm) tall robot has made a big entrance at CES 2015. See the short video below...



Ralph.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Meccanoid is back...

...but not as we knew it!

Meccano hit 2015 running!
More information can be found HERE.
Lots of pictures and more video HERE.



Ralph.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

It's been an interesting year...

At Blists Hill Victorian Village Sue dons Victorian garb to spread the Meccano message
Christmas is just around the corner and it is time to take stock on the past year and see what we have been up to. It has been a strange year, with Spin Master, the new owners of the Meccano brand, finding their way around the existing Meccano community and getting to know a lot of us enthusiasts around the world. Sue and I have been talking to, and met with, some of the guys from Spin Master since the Autumn of 2013 shortly after the acquisition became public knowledge. The noises being made were encouraging. I have to admit that I was pleased to hear what was planned but, as with so many new owners over the years promising the earth, I was hopeful without getting too excited.

This was just part of the huge Meccano section of the Spin Master stand in 2014
My first indication that this time it might be different came in late January this year when I walked into the London Toy Fair on press day, with Sue, where we were confronted with the Spin Master stand displaying Meccano in a way I have not seen for years. The full story of that visit can be found HERE. It was obvious that these guys meant business. As the year went on, Meccano continued to make their presence known around the world through the Spin Master's extensive dealer network.  Their plan, from day one, has always been to relaunch the brand for Christmas 2015. That may seem a long time but remember that the toy retailers are buying for Christmas in January at the toy fairs. That means that we will find out very shortly what Spin Master have planned for Meccano any day now.

Most of what we have seen so far has been the product of the old company as Spin Master inherited what was already in the pipeline. There has been lots of discussion and speculation around the adult Meccano community regarding what has been happening and what is going to happen. In an attempt to reassure the Meccano world of their good intentions towards us enthusiasts, Meccano supported several events this year including the main event in the Meccano calendar, SkegEx. Not only did they lend their expertise with the publicity and provide financial support, they made the not inconsiderable effort to attend the show themselves - something that Meccano have not done for years. All this has been very encouraging but I really think some people have missed the point completely. So, I am going to do something I don't usually do on our blog. I am going to stand here, on my soapbox, and say my piece.

Meccano is a toy!      

Meccano always was and always will be a toy. It is us, the boys and girls that never stopped building that have turned it (in our eyes) into something different. Meccano have never sold the product as an adult hobby and never will. The adult market is just not big enough. In the 1930s when Meccano was arguably at its most successful it was not the adults that drove the market, but their children that they were buying for. Yes most Meccano, especially the sets, were bought buy adults, but not for themselves. Today is no different, Meccano will survive or fail of sales and the bulk of those sales will be to adult buying Meccano for their children as toys.

What is very different is the marketplace are the volumes of sales required to make a global business successful. When Frank Hornby built his business up in the first few decades of the twentieth century, cashing in on market that was wide open. In those days, there were not the distractions of today, indeed even in the late 1950s and 60s when I first saw Meccano my choice of pastimes was fairly limited compared with today.

We saw Meccano as something that we could use to replicate the exciting new world that was developing around us. Huge civil engineering projects and the modern technology of the day was all based around metal and gears and this could all be replicated in Meccano. Today the big engineering projects only make headline news if something goes wrong or, God forbid, a bit of inconvenience or delay is caused to the odd commuter during rush hour.

In short we would make our own entertainment, today most kids want to be entertained with the minimum of effort. The problem Meccano has is how to find a way to engage those kids in Meccano building without the effort we were (and still are) prepared to put in. It is true that once the introduction has been made, and some fairly instant success has been had, a lot of children will want to explore what else they can build. This is where the whole concept has changed.

A 1960s Meccano set - I had one of these!
Our Meccano outfits were used to build lots of toys from one set; build a crane today and a railway truck tomorrow from the same parts - This was Frank Hornby's original concept. Children were encouraged to buy more parts and the infrastructure was there to support this with hundreds, even thousands, of small dealers all over the country selling sets and spare (extra) parts.  The idea being that small sets could be made up into larger sets. The users (children) were sold a dream, a dream that most of us were not able to realise until we were adults. Today that is not the case at all. Meccano is seen as a kit of parts to build a model, usually the box-art, or 'A' model as it is known, with a few variations. The sets do not relate too much to each other and the progressive marketing of the system toy has gone.

Meccano are not alone in this approach, the original idea is lost to history and can't work in the modern environment, except in a very limited way, that does not have the volume of sales required to make it viable. That is where the specialist manufactures and re-sellers come in and, today, supply our every need. There is not a Meccano style part I cannot buy, either as a second-hand original or as an after market reproduction. Taking it one stage further, as an enthusiast I can now buy many extended range parts that Meccano have never made. Parts of different sizes in various colours, more gears than you can shake a stick at, and all readly available to us enthusiasts at meetings or by post. Meccano themselves give this trade its blessing and have no problem at all with enthusiasts producing replica and extended range parts, so long as they are not sold as Meccano.   

None of this makes sales for Meccano. Most children want to build a model and if they do anything with it, will display it and buy another set. Very few modern sets are bought to enlarge a collection of parts in the way we did and still do today. One of the problems with this approach is the amount of Meccano that is bought and never used. The sets have moved away from progression and have taken on the multiple model status with with progression of size being unrelated to the number of models possible. The thing that is all but missing is progression of build within a set. Most models (not all, it has to be said) shown in the instruction manuals use most if not all the parts, so if this is your first Meccano set you are in at the deep end from day one confronted with a complicated build. This is evident by the number of second-hand sets available that are complete down to the last nut and bolt. This is not due to careful ownership but a total indifference to the set. The recipiant usually being put off even starting by the daunting instructions. We have bought many hundreds of second-hand sets over the past few years and I can count on one hand how many had any significant number of parts missing. All these sets have been acquired at a fraction of the original price.

Alternative models made from an Evolution set
Meccano need sales and they need to get parents to come back and buy again. The only way this will happen is if the recipient can achieve a result fairly quickly. Progression within the sets has to be the key to this. Parents will always want to buy the bigger sets, especially if it is to be given as a present, Having some simple models detailed in the instructions will help this, enabling the confidence to be built and the "Look what I built"  moment to be achieved much quicker. The robots above are built fusing parts from the Evolution ATV and as you can see there are plenty of parts left. Even from a small set, a progression of models can be built as we have shown HERE and HERE. In both cases, all the models can be built from one set at the same time.

As the skill level increases, new creations can be made from the parts once the idea that you don't have to use every last part in every model is dispelled. From the recent sets it is not hard to let the imagination run wild and build some interesting models.

A Trike from the 20 model set
The two models pictured here are built from sets that have been released in the past few months. The top one is built from parts in the motorised 20 model set. More details and pictures of this model can be found HERE. It does not use the motor, just because it is there and gives a model that can be built without having to buy new batteries. Below a dragster makes a pleasing model from the latest 15 model set. The full story and more pictures can be found HERE.

Dragster from the 15 model set

The future     

I know that Meccano are introducing some graduation into the sets and that it is no secret that they will be moving into the Meccano compatible electronic toy market. There is also some talk about bigger sets that will be aimed at the higher end of the toy market and that will find some interest from enthusiasts. The Toy Fair is just around the corner and I cant wait to see what Meccano have tucked up their sleeve.

Looking forward to a bright new future for the brand as a whole, here's to a happy and even more interesting 2015 

Ralph.