Not content with a toy model, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) has brought its ZEUX concept wheel loader to life in the form of a fully autonomous, battery-electric prototype. According to the company, the prototype is the "first real-world example of a self-learning concept wheel loader with the brains to make decisions, perform tasks and interact with humans." It is also the first time a LEGO Technic model has become a reality.
The LX03 was inspired by a concept devised by Volvo CE and LEGO Technic engineers and designers back in 2016. At that time, a project was initiated to explore the concept's potential for future construction and, with the help of a team of children, later evolved into the digital prototype for a real-world autonomous machine. It also propelled the launch of the 42081 LEGO Technic Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX in late summer 2018.
Now, the concept has been fully realized with the LX03 prototype. “Our two companies have enjoyed an extremely successful partnership over the years in which we have collaborated on several LEGO Technic models. But this is the first time we are making a real machine based on a model and not the other way around – and that is what makes this a truly unique project," says Niels Horsted, head of product for LEGO Technic, LEGO Group.
The prototype machine was built by a team of Volvo CE engineers and programmers in Eskilstuna, Sweden, and Konz, Germany, in collaboration with the design team in Gothenburg, Sweden. The 5-ton prototype wheel loader features a modular design concept which can be made larger or smaller with just one or two changes to the manufacturing process, Volvo CE indicates. It has the same driveline as the L25 Electric wheel loader, meaning it is a quiet, zero-emission machine with a run time of up to eight hours depending on application.
In addition, the prototype unit is equipped with a "brain" capable of adapting to different scenarios, making decisions in real time and collaborating with personnel, Volvo CE points out. Users can program it to complete heavy, repetitive or dangerous tasks, reducing workforce needs and improving safety in these applications.
Volvo CE says the LX03 represents the next stage in its exploration into machine intelligence as well as its determination to decarbonize the construction industry. While not commercially available, it will enable engineers to gain valuable insights that are expected to feed into current and future applications.
In announcing the development of the LX03, Melker Jemberg, Volvo CE president, commented, "We need to transform the construction industry with smart and more sustainable solutions that will have an impact on a global scale. The unveiling of the LX03 prototype today represents just that – and is testament to the incredible expertise of our engineers and our united commitment towards positive change.
"Together with the LEGO Group, we are pushing the boundaries of both technology and imagination," he continued, "and the result is beyond anything the world has seen before."
According to Lars Stengvist, chief technology officer, Volvo Group, transport and infrastructure leaders have a vital role when it comes to taking action on climate change and stepping up the pace of innovation needed to reach emissions targets. "We believe in working with driven and creative partners who, like us, are focused on making innovation real and moving beyond just words," he added.
Information provided by Volvo Construction Equipment and edited by Becky Schultz.