PC or Mac? Ford or GM? Edward or Jacob? These are the questions that have dominated our age. However since 2008 a new and even more important choice has arisen, one that has conflicted the minds of academics and that has caused lifelong friends to stop talking. So… Linear Actuators or Pneumatics?
Bias alert: in the Linear Actuator vs. Pneumatics debate I am conclusively in the former group. Feel free to send your “dear idiot letters” to thirdwigg.com, I can handle it. After the release of the Large Linear Actuators (LA) from 8295 and 8294, it was clear to me they were an improvement over pneumatics. They had a simple design, better integration with Power Functions and manual controls, actual mid-range control, and no clunky hoses to connect and manage in your model. But I still felt like something was missing after the LAs. Something shorter, smaller. When we first got teasers images of 8069 I was excited. Did it have what I was looking for?
Like most sets, this one comes in a box. You have to open it. It has parts in it. 609. And it costs $60. The tyres, buckets and stickers are loose in the box, along with two loose instruction manuals for the A model. B model instructions are online. All you need to know about new parts in 8069 is that it is the first set that included Mini Linear Actuators (mLA). You get four of them. You also get two yellow panels (they are kind of rare, it turns out), the buckets, lots of gears, yellow parts, and the mLAs. They are great. Great.
The build starts with the chassis and the front steering, then quickly onto building a worm gear submodel. “What’s this” you think? It’s for the bucket tilt. We’ll come back to this. Two mLAs are used to provide the bucket lift. Then off to the rear, where you start building a complex structure of gears for the rear bucket. The design is good, and teaches many gear structures including worm and bevel gearing. It also offers a great lesson on how to build good cross supporting structures in Technic when the rear supports are added.
You then build the cabin, which has some nice details. Next all the rear backhoe controls placed on the top and the backhoe is added with a neat little design for the two stages of movement utilizing two of the mLAs. Finally the fenders are added, the front bucket is placed, you add the wheels, and you are done.
The finished 8069 model has a lot of functions; steering, bucket lift, bucket tilt, backhoe slew, backhoe arm, backhoe bucket, and rear stabilizers. For a set of this size it’s an impressive list. How well do they work? Better than pneumatics (zing!). The steering is light, and the turning radius is stunning (Hurrah! Ed.), especially if you take out the ¾ pins in the steering. You might bump the hood a bit on full lock, but it’s worth it. The bucket lift is excellent – it’s strong, and the controls are easy to use. The range of motion is good; though a little more height would be welcome.
However, the bucket tilt function could be better. The worm gear structure is the right idea, as it keeps the tilt in place no matter the load, and it allows for seamless integration with the smoke stack (awesome). The extra linkage inside is designed to stay out of the way of the single lift axle. These linkages mean you gear the worm gear up (?) which requires the application of more torque to the smoke stack, and it adds some play. It works, but it feels heavy, and sloppy. It also forces a bizarre connection at the forward end of the arms to the bucket. The connection could be more rigid, but it is needed for the bucket to have the correct tilt.
The backhoe slew works, but it also has a little too much play. The backhoe arm and bucket work a treat though. The controls are easy to use on the top of the cabin and the range of motion is impressive. The rigidity could be improved, but the loads you will be scooping are small, so it’s no big deal. The rear stabilizers are simple and effective, there is no reason to improve them – they lift the rear wheels off the ground and they keep the tractor planted well.
Overall the 8069 Backhoe Loader is an excellent set – try and find another $60 set with this many functions. It’s an easy, educational build for new Technic builders, and it contains good parts for a growing collection. Experienced Technic builders will appreciate 8069’s functions and execution, although they, like me, will probably spend hours trying to devise a way to improve the bucket tilt. And everyone will acknowledge the Linear Actuators are better than Pneumatics (go ahead, send me a letter).
A big thank you to Thirdwigg for joining us here at TLCB with another top-quality Review to add to the Set Review Library (and for risking a barrage of abuse from pneumatics fans). If you’d like to write a Set Review for TLCB as Thirdwigg has, either for a set you love or for one you hate, then get in touch! At the time of writing there are even prizes available for the best reviewer too!