A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Update: Added more reward tiers for circles of individual radii!
Enhance your train layout with additional LEGO®-compatible track geometries.
In 1991, LEGO® introduced their 9V train system, which proved to be hugely popular, especially among train enthusiasts. The train tracks consisted of a plastic base with stamped metal rails for powering the train motors. Electricity would pass through these rails, and be picked up through the motor wheels. Tempering that popularity, however, were limitations on the tracks. The initial offering consisted of only a one straight section, a 40-stud radius curve (commonly referred to as R40), and a left- and right-hand switch. The curve LEGO® offered was useable for the small boxcars they produced, but adult hobbyists tended to build larger, more realistic models, which couldn’t navigate the sharp turn of the standard curve. Adult fans also wanted to see additional geometries, such as half- and quarter-length straights, crossovers, better switches, etc. That is the purpose of this campaign: provide the tracks LEGO® never did.
In 2006, LEGO® introduced a line of all-plastic track pieces for their new remote-controlled, battery-powered trains, and the 9V system was discontinued in 2007. The RC motors were notoriously weak and unreliable, and were quickly replaced by the new ‘Power Functions’ (PF) motors, which utilized the same all-plastic track. There were several advantages to the PF trains over the 9V. First, multiple trains could be controlled independently on the same tracks. Second, track layouts could loop back on themselves without the risk of short-circuiting. The downside to it, though, is the constant need to cycle through batteries, which can particularly troublesome for large displays.
As such, the train community remains split on which method is better. Therefore, we are offering both the all-plastic PF track as well as the 9V track with metal rails.
Design and Development
Designing the PF tracks was easy enough; we simply used the existing LEGO® tracks as a template. The 9V rails were a bit trickier though, as the older LEGO® 9V ones would require too great of an investment to produce. Several alternative designs were considered before settling on the current design (credit must be given to Steve Barile for the design idea).
All BrickTracks track is fully compatible with LEGO® tracks, and assembles the same way.
The PF and 9V tracks are dimensionally identical to each other, and everything we will offer in one will be offered in the other as well.
Scope of Work
For this project, we will initially develop curves in the following radii, measured in studs: 56, 72, 88, and 104. Additionally, we will develop ½ Length and ¼ Length straights (compared to a standard straight).
We do have designs for R104 size switches as well (see the prototype gallery, we made some!), but in the spirit of walking before running, we will hold onto those for now and focus just on the easy stuff; curves and straight segments. This is only Phase I; switches are part of Phase II.
As a stretch goal, if we raise $75,000, we will be able develop the 200 and 328 stud radius curves for extra-large setups. Why these sizes specifically? If this project is successful and we move onto releasing the switches, R104, R200, and R328 fit nicely to the stud grid when considering a crossover layout, whereas the other size curves do not. Not that those larger switches will definitely be made, but it is a good practice to plan several steps ahead, just in case. At a minimum, specialty track segments could be designed and 3D printed, so considerations for such geometry should be made.
Risks and challenges
We’ve seen in the past a number of similar efforts to produce LEGO® compatible tracks, but they always seem to come up short for whatever reasons. We don’t want that to happen again, so have taken the time to secure secondary and tertiary suppliers for the plastic and the metal rails.
Track segments will be molded outside and sent to us, likewise with the metal rails. Cutting and finish machining of the rails will be done in-house, after which they will be sent out for nickel-plating. There's always the possibility the rails don't come in correctly or aren't straight enough to use, but these should do nothing more than delay the project; they certainly won't put it on ice. Final assembly and packaging will take place in-house as well.
Development projects always run into snags and cost overruns. Usually nothing insurmountable, but problems do occur. As I said before, I don’t anticipate any problems, but we have built in contingency plans. “Options will cost you, but a lack of options can cost you even more.”
All artwork copyright 2016 Sanitary Design Solutions, LLC. All rights reserved. LEGO® is a registered trademark of the Lego Group, which does not support, endorse, or authorize these products.