Please welcome back Stephan (aka Stephanix) an engineer and 3D visualization artist of airports and harbors from the Netherlands! His plans in near future are to become a teacher in science/engineering if possible with the use of LEGO Bricks. In today’s interview, he will tell you more about his latest 10K creation: Aircraft Engine Workshop which is a true to minifig scale turbofan.
- Who are you?
I am Stephan Niks aka Stephanix. Stephanie is what you get if you say my name fast. It’s made up by a friend 33 years ago and refers to Asterix and Obelix.
- Where are you from?
I live close to the beautiful city center of Gouda in the Netherlands. Very dangerous to live there because the coolest LEGO shop is there.
Me and the turbofan in the LEGO shop in Gouda.
- How old are you?
I am 51, my brain is younger by LEGO-ing every day.
Figuring this out keeps the brain training.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I am a building engineer. I have been working as a 3D visualization artist of airports, harbors, and infrastructure for 23 years. I am now looking for a job as a teacher in science/engineering if possible with the use of LEGO.
- What hobbies do you have?
I like to make animations of my LEGO Ideas projects. Of course, I like real bricks too. Next to that, I like to design and build my own furniture. Do some cycling, canoeing, and sailing. I must admit that for the past 6 years I was plunged into LEGO ideas. As a single dad, I raise 3 kids and love to play games with them and watch animations. I guess I am a bit of a busy bee. When I am tired after all these things, I love to watch science on TV. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also do voluntary technic lessons at my daughter’s school…
… with LEGO Technic.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I use LEGO Ideas as my portfolio, especially the update section which I use as a blog. My LEGO ideas profile.
And I have my little YouTube channel:
Some of my LEGO Ideas projects.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud of it and do you have a photo of it?
I am very proud of Anatomini, my first 10K project. The jury was wowed but concluded that it was really, really complex. They even needed an extra 4 months to say no. I indeed love the complexity of designing him and the educational value. Next to that, he has the personality of me.
The evolved Anatomini
- How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
For my fifth birthday, I got basic set no. 5. I was hooked. One day, my teacher did a home visit and saw me playing with it. A week later we had LEGO in the classroom. I still remember the 1977 LEGO catalog. I have been staring for months at the last page. I switched from trains and ships to LEGO Technic. In my head I was always busy designing, therefore I always asked for LEGO sets with specific elements. In my fourteenth, I got more interest in radio-controlled cars and planes. I remember combining my RC servos with LEGO. Somehow, I entered the dark age. At 33 I got a LEGO Technic race car which reignited the hobby. From LEGO Technic I went into modulars, trains and winter village. In 2014 I got addicted to LEGO Ideas. Except for keeping the above collections complete, all other LEGO activities except LEGO Ideas and teaching are a bit on hold.
My first LEGO set, 24th of April 1975
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
Lego is a big part of my life. Like Neo in the Matrix sees the world in 01011101’s, I see a LEGO version of the reality around me. Well not all the time, that would be weird😊. I meet with the guys of our local LEGO shop once or twice a week. I display at LEGO events, to promote my ideas and the LEGO Ideas platform itself. I check LEGO Ideas every day to support new cool entries. But most of the time is spent on 3D modeling in Stud.io.
Spot the spy
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
It is absolutely LEGO Ideas (what else).
I love the surprise, diversity, creativity, and ingenuity of the projects.
I love the translation process from fan design to the official set.
The fact that your idea can become reality and make people happy all over the world is so cool. I have no particular building style. It depends on the scale. It’s is often a result of problem-solving which results in strange techniques.
I also have no theme, except that my projects are mostly related to engineering, science, and education.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
The LEGO 850 forklift changed my life and formed me into the engineer I am. I guess that must be the one. From the Ideas line, it is absolutely the Saturn V. In both real life and in LEGO bricks it is a huge engineering marvel.
The Technic set that changed my life, 24th of April 1978.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
You can find the answer in my third LEGO Ideas idea. I made a 10 minutes animation about it. The funny fact is that it got only 54 votes. It’s always a laugh at events or presentations I give. You can see it .
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I really appreciate the work of Jason Alleman aka JKbrickworks. I like the combination of LEGO Technic and standard bricks in general.
I was happy to purchase The Pursuit of Flight via the BDP.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
For what is going on in the LEGO world I go to:
And for the Dutch: https://www.bouwsteentjes.info/
For inspiration I look around in the real world and what I coincidentally come across on the net or TV. My kids, friends, and colleagues also come up with ideas. Sometimes I get suggestions from AFOLs and visitors at events. So keep your eyes and ears open. When I am at an event, I often try people to convince to put their model on LEGO Ideas.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I was born next to a military base. I remember we had a traffic light for low passing fighter jets. When waiting for the red light you could see the fire from the exhaust. Hear the noise and feel the power. I always had an interest in how things work and rebuild that in LEGO. I have been working as a 3D visualization artist and I designed our own aircraft and ground support equipment to make the 3D scenes look real. I was always surprised by the size and power of the engines. Doing research for this project amazed me even more.
The LEGO turbofan under a relatively small Boeing 747 engine (by Erik Rijper)
I wanted to know how aircraft engines work and how they could blow away a serious truck. I did a little research and found out that there is an optimal diameter/thrust ratio. The optimal diameter should also fit under a wing and is set to about 4 meters (13 feet) There is no formula to translate this into horsepower, but it would be over 100.000 HP (no there is no typo here!) This 4m diameter made it possible to still fit in a working LEGO engine and be true to minifig scale.
The older aircraft like a Boeing 747 has 4 smaller engines.
The current aircraft, like the Boeing 777 have 2 big engines creating more thrust than those 4 together. The current engines are also more reliable, fuel-efficient, less noisy, and cleaner.
This LEGO turbofan is an homage to modern flight and the hundreds of thousands of engineers and mechanics who develop and maintain these beasts. The aircraft industry is a big one and is always busy with developments to make flying safer and cleaner.
The fun about this set is that it can be: a test facility, assembly line, design stage, or a maintenance hangar. Both are playable and displayable.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
I have been designing on and off. I got the idea about 4 years ago when I was working on Anatomini. I saw a model of a Turbo fan and a Chemical plant on LEGO Ideas reaching 10K, but not chosen. I thought that if I could combine the technique of a turbo fan engine at the scale of the minifigure in an industrial setting it might work better.
I always start modeling in Stud.io without doing research. I only use a basic scale (1:42) drawing to get the size right. This works best for me. You are less limited to reality and that creates ideas and solutions. At some point, I do research on the Internet and start all over again.
A shot to compare a minifig with the 4m diameter fan.
It was a really really complex project (Yeah I am using Hasan’s quote again).
Dividing the project into components, like a real engine made it more doable. I designed the model in this order: cowl, front fan, engine, portal, control room, and color scheme. It was challenging to create the fan cowl cause it is hollow, round, and must be a self-supporting construction. After all, it became a really strong and simple construction.
Dividing into components makes it clean and simple.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The front fan was absolutely the hardest part. I needed a construction with as many blades as possible, which could rotate at high speed and with the right diameter. The fan evolved in 20 steps. Finally, I got help from the Dark Side. The use of 12 of Kylo Ren’s cross-shaped light sabers made it a very simple and strong design.
Left the Dark Side principle, right the complete fan.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I modeled 6 different versions of the portal in detail. That took a lot of time. It would be more efficient to sketch or only make rough models. The final design is small, low in brick count, functional, and not that present.
6 completely designed portals
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
300 hours of modelling, remodeling and research
80 hours on images and animation
50 hours on collecting and building the real thing
80 hours on the 10 videos I did as updates
100 hours on promotion, interviews, statistics, and tactics
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
I had very mixed emotions. I checked my project at 11.50 P.M. and saw an increase of 200 that day. The last 1500 votes came in so fast. I thought my project was hacked. I Even notified the Ideas Team. In the morning I saw it reached 10K. I didn’t get it. Later that day I found out that someone shouted out to a group of engineers to support. And so they did. Thank you very much. It took just 132 days.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
2352: a Nice mix of standard bricks, technic, figs, and greeble.
After I put the project on LEGO Ideas, I made it in real bricks. I changed the fan and did some minor changes. I also added a jack-up system. No spectacular in/decrease of bricks.
Side view with bricks per component.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The engine cowl. It took a lot of dedication, perseverance, and creativity to get it as it is. The final design is a pentagonal Technic construction: simple and strong.
2 turbofans in the KLM test cell (by Erik Rijper)
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I started modeling in LEGO digital designer 3 years ago. In 2020 I switched to Stud.io. Stud.io has an up-to-date brick library and a really good render engine.
All images are rendered in layers for several reasons:
-to add depth of field (blur in the back or front)
-to add motion blur to the fan or exhaust gasses.
-to change the transparency of the window of the control room
-to add reflections
-to add a background
-to move around minifigs or utensils
These images were blended in Photoshop.
I also made an animation in layers to show the inside of the engine
Quite some work but fun to do.
After quitting my job I had to hand in my workstation, so I bought a heavy-duty laptop with a beast of a video card (GTX2080) to speed things up.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
The stickers images were made in PowerPoint and added to the Part designer. This is a side program of Stud.io. From there the new stickered bricks appear in Stud.io. The real brick-built model has no stickers applied.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
- Be true to yourself, make something that has your interest.
- Make a playable model that’s also worth displaying.
- Make a model that will appeal to a large group of diverse people.
- In the case of the engine: Aircraft engineers, engineers in general, adults that like technical stuff, and kids who are the young engineers of the future.
- Create a great building experience with a wide variety of techniques.
- Go for the ultra-best you can on all levels.
- Perseverance, dedication, and creativity.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
My neighbor boy Kiaran studies to be an aircraft mechanic. He showed the engine to his teacher (Michiel), who showed it to the industry. KLM aircraft engines picked it up (Jennifer) and even invited me for a day at their facility. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I did a photo and video shoot in the engine test cell and they hung up a real Boeing 747 engine, just for me ( mazing). I got a tour through the facility and I gave a presentation about the engine and LEGO ideas in general. The engineers were amazed and worked even harder to share the project. I was very lucky to have this opportunity!
The engine running at the presentation at KLM engine services.
I also made 10 updated videos that I shared via my updates and social media.
I try to reach out to everyone: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, people in the aviation industry, and social media. I also made flyers for our local LEGO shop. I wrote an article for the school paper. I also had plans to contact Rolls Royce Engines, Pratt & Whitney, and GE but I already reached 10K. Designing is half the job, promoting the rest.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
Ouch, there are so many great ideas that need some help. I advise you to use different filters and not only to check for the newest or most supported ones.
Before I vote I always check other projects in the profile of the maker. And I take a look at the support behavior of the maker to check if he supports others as well. I do not want to pick out a single project, so I decided to support all Asterix projects on LEGO Ideas.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I started on LEGO Ideas 7 years ago with this picture in mind: A kid that exits the LEGO shop with my box in his hands and a smile from ear to ear.
I gave enough tips in this interview and the interview I did for Anatomini:
SO, NOW GO FOR IT a 1000%.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?
I have about 5 Ideas that have to start from scratch. It’s not clear which one I will start with. So here’s the list:
3 an …
4 …. and the ….
5 and this is probably the coolest a real …..
My last hint: keep it secret, but talk about it with friends with an honest opinion. It really helps you forward.
Thank you for reading. Have fun at Ideas. Stephan
- turbo fan
- 10k club interview
- 10k club
- product idea