Need some advice on studless building? Scans on Peeron!
People who are doing their first steps with the NXT kit sometimes find it hard to move from traditional LEGO "studded" building to the "studless" way of building you are performing with the NXT kit (or more generally speaking, with TECHNICS parts).
Admittedly, it has some learning curve, but in my opinion, it's worth the effort: the models are much more robust and stable (which certainly is a requirement for robots and, as far as I know, was one of the major reasons why LEGO decided to switch to studless design), it allows for more different angles of the parts, you can bridge larger spaces with less parts (putting one brick on another just to span some room was sometimes pretty tedious, wasn't it?), and once you are used to it, according to my experience studless building is much more effective than the ole' school way.
Brian Davis now hinted me to a great idea: if you are in search of samples for studless building techniques, why not use the immense treasure at peeron.com where LEGO has kindly put complete instruction scans of thousands of official models - in particular the scans for the TECHNICS ones might serve as great tutorials.
Thanks, Brian, for bringing that to mind (in the NXT STEP forum - another proof that it's very worthwhile to visit it)!
I think LEGO goofed up when designing the NXT motors. Spacing around the connectors should allow for attaching to TECHNIC bricks. The sensors are better, but could be improved.
As to "other improvements", I think there are some others. No more 5/6 ratio to cope with in studless structures, the easy avalibility of half-unit offsets, the easy possibility of continuously variable offsets, and all sorts of angled building possibilities (not just with "bent elements", but with connections rotated to odd angles around single-point connections). Some of these you could do in the studded system... but not nearly as easily. And studded structures, while more rigid, are usually tougher to get strong (as in not fall apart), in my experience.
Finally... there's always hybrid.
The 5/6 ratio was a pain, but a small price to pay for increased connectivity options. Now I have a square cross section, but no way to take advantage of it because of the limited way I can connect parts together.
And since TECHNIC bricks can use all the pin type attachmets that studless beams can, I don't think the studless is stronger argument caries much weight. Why is it that the new sets have so many long pins? It's because studless models would fall apart without the strength these long fasteners provide. And pins with reinforcing plates are still a much stronger connection.
Building with RCX was always a challenge. And now building with NXT is a whole new set of challenges. Facing these challenges and solving the problems is what I enjoy most about playing with LEGO. I like the NXT, but I liked the old stuff better. Maybe that's just a sign that I'm getting old.
Also, studded building can be quite rigid -- this comes from the interlocking of the studded surfaces of the beams. In studless, rigidity can be less as it comes from the interlocking of the pins and axels, which allow more flexibility than studs. But that can be solved by adding more cross-bracing in strategic places to increase the stiffness.
Personally, I like studless building better.