I have two of the Meccano speedplay sets as above. They are a marked departure from the normal Meccano method of construction by nut and bolt. Instead they use a plastic insert into which a self-tapping screw is fed, the plastic swells as the screw is tightened thus trapping the components.
There are a couple of drawbacks with this system.
1. The inserts are not always easy to remove after use and can be damaged during removal.
2. They do not always fasten securely, sometimes requiring a washer or two behind them.
That aside the system works and makes up a number of interesting models. Meccano has made up a large number of new plastic parts for use in these sets but has also continued to use a number of traditional parts as well.
The Dinosaur set is probably the best value with 640+ pieces. It makes up 4 different models, using the provided motor as the driving motor for the models and as a screwdriver during assembly.
The dinosaur model looked the part but was somewhat flimsy in construction requiring the use of a number of real nuts and bolts to make it secure. It worked fine with the motor in place and was popular with the crowds and Auckland ModelX.
The Robot set used a motor control system which had been pre-programmed by Meccano, which has 900+ parts and made up 3 models. They were on sale at Dick Smith Electronics for $95.00 NZ , less than half price elsewhere.
The system uses three motors, two are standard Meccano motors with a power socket in the back and one screwdriver/ motor combo again with power and control sockets.
All three link to a control box, which has a USB capable plug to link to a PC. This enables users to load the unit with one of three sound and movement options to suit whatever model they are constructing.
The robot worked fine initially however Meccano had used small clear plastic rings to hold the wheels in place and these quickly fell off when the robot rotated. I solved this problem using Meccano collars.
I had problems downloading the software for the models, my computer, running Windows XP wanted USB drivers to continue. I contacted Nikko who sent me a helpful reply, (It still did not work) and managed to get the system to work on a laptop running windows ME. It recognized the USB unit straight away and downloaded without a problem.
Then the motor controller died on me, no power no nothing. I took it back to Dick Smith and received a replacement, last one in stock, end of line etc. This worked for two seconds and stopped. I tried another new controller from Andrew, same result. (Unlikely for two controllers to have the same fault)
I tried substituting all motors, leads etc the problem was finally traced to the batteries in the screw driver motor not having enough charge.
It would have been helpful if Meccano had advised us of this glitch as the screw driver motor still ran on the batteries but when connected to the controller unit it caused the unit to stop after only 2-3 seconds.
The construction manuals show the new parts in a very peculiar perspective, which makes them hard to identify. Meccano should have used photos of the actual part.
That aside there is great potential here if Meccano can get their act together. The possibility of a cheap portable motor controller with user input (not currently available) would be a real bonus.
1. It would need to be able to computer interface without problems.
2. It would need to be reliable and work as described
3. It would need to be programmable by the user and not rely on a pre- programmed sequence of sounds and movements.
4. The ability to turn off the sound would be a bonus.
The web has an article on how to motorvate the speed play robot, published by Andrew on Wells 19/1/2006