The PFx Brick is a device which transforms LEGO® creations with awesome new possibilities for lighting and, for the first time, sound!
The PFx Brick is a device which transforms LEGO® creations with awesome new possibilities for lighting and, for the first time, sound! Read more
About this project
Introducing the PFx Brick! A device which transforms your LEGO® creations with awesome new possibilities for lighting and, for the first time, sound! The PFx Brick was designed and developed by longtime LEGO® fans Jason Allemann and Michael Gale in order to add extra magic to their own LEGO® creations. Using their engineering skills and experience, the PFx Brick has evolved from a concept to a mature pre-production prototype.
The aim of this Kickstarter campaign is to make the PFx Brick widely available to LEGO® fans everywhere by funding the effort to put the PFx Brick into volume production.
Keep in touch with Fx Bricks at fxbricks.com
Checkout this awesome PFx Brick showcase video made by one of our well-known beta testers, Sariel from Poland. His feedback has been immensely valuable to our product development.
Lights, sound, action; these three words perfectly summarize the essence of the PFx Brick. Never before have these capabilities been available on a single device, in such a small form factor, and designed specifically for LEGO® builders. That is, until now!
- Works with all of your existing LEGO® Power Functions™ accessories
- Turn it on, and it's instantly ready to be controlled with your IR remotes
- The PFx App makes setup and customization of your PFx Brick easy and fast!
- Setup your PFx Brick just the way you want it!
- Easy and secure updates to keep your PFx Brick up to date
- No device drivers required to connect to the PFx Brick
For detailed specifications of the PFx Brick, please consult our website or go directly to PFx Brick Specifications page.
Click this link for additional detail on the Light Fx Features.
Click this link for additional detail on the Sound Fx Features.
During most of 2016, we worked very hard to take the PFx Brick from a concept to a mature pre-production prototype. Development was focused on three key aspects of the design:
At the heart of the PFx Brick is a small electrical printed circuit board (PCB). This contains all of the electronics that make the PFx Brick work such as the CPU, motor drivers, audio circuits, light drivers, and power regulation. The PCB also forms part of the mechanical design by precisely aligning all of the external interfaces and connectors such as the Power Functions™ pins, lighting dock connector, speaker connector, etc.
The PFx Brick PCB has progressed through 3 main iterations to date. The current version 3 design is considered mature enough to become a production PCB with little to no modifications.
The PFx App software development included not only the main graphical user interface (UI), but also a collection of test and debug tools which support hardware development. The PFx App was conceived to be a cross platform application capable of running seamlessly on both MS Windows and Mac OS X. Within a month of development, we had successfully implemented a common code base capable of building Windows and Mac OS X versions of the PFx App.
The PFx App is at a mature stage of development and will shortly be ready for a public v.1.0 release to coincide with reward fulfillment.
3. Mechanical Design
The electronics cannot function meaningfully in a LEGO® creation without a brick form factor enclosure. This enclosure allows the PFx Brick to be connected to LEGO® System and Technic elements so that it can be built seamlessly into your LEGO® creations. The enclosure includes studs on the top, anti-studs (or tubes) on the bottom, and Technic axle holes on two opposing sides. Furthermore, the enclosure includes Power Functions™ compatible mounting connectors on the top and bottom. The visual and electrical design of these connectors is differentiated from the original LEGO® implementation in order to respect the patent status of the Power Functions™ connector and also to improve the robustness of the design. Our implementation uses gold-plated, hardened nickel pins in order to improve electrical performance and increase durability.
We have progressed through 4 iterations of mechanical design for the brick enclosure. We have fabricated numerous 3D printed prototypes of the brick, which we have actively used in the development process to test and refine the design. This includes the major revisions we had to implement in order to make the brick design compatible with the plastic injection molding process. We are confident that the design is now suitable for actual tooling and mass production by injection molding.
The last aspect of the mechanical design involves the accessories; namely the speaker bricks and the light accessory boards (LABs). We have completed successful designs for two speaker sizes: the M Speaker and the XL Speaker. These speakers will be 3D printed for production purposes and injection moulding of the speakers is not included in this funding campaign. Light accessory boards act as the modular connection gateway between the PFx Brick and your LEDs. This allows for quick connect/disconnect of the PFx Brick from your model and allows you to use LEDs from different sources and with different electrical connectors.
The design of PFx Brick has reached the point whereby it is suitable for volume production. Clearly, the costs involved with achieving volume production are well beyond our means. We have already invested a great deal of time, money, and effort to get the PFx Brick to this stage. We need your help to make this next step a reality.
Volume production of the PFx Brick involves 5 key tasks:
- Procurement of electronic components and printed circuit boards
- Assembly and testing of electronic circuit boards.
2. ABS Plastic Brick Enclosure
Tooling and production for the plastic injection molding of the PFx Brick enclosure
- Procurement of speaker cones, wires, and connectors
- 3D printing of speaker bricks
- Final assembly
PFx Package rewards include bundled accessories so that you can immediately enjoy all of the PFx Brick's capabilities right out-of-the-box.
- Procurement and assembly of Light Accessory Boards (pinLABduo and picoLABduo boards)
- Procurement of LEDs for PFx package rewards (LEDs are picoLED™ products courtesy of our friends at Brickstuff)
Obtaining legal and regulatory certification can be very costly and require the services of accredited testing laboratories and agencies. We intend to acquire certifications for European CE mark, USA FCC part 15/B, and Canadian ICES-003. These certifications verify that electronic products meet the necessary electrical safety, electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic compatibility requirements defined in these standards.
We have carefully considered the tasks involved for the volume production of the PFx Brick. By using a combination of external suppliers and in-house resources, we have put together a production schedule which should deliver at least 1500 PFx Bricks in a reasonable time frame. What happens if we are fortunate enough that this campaign demands more than 1500 units? We have already considered this possibility and have plans to scale and adapt our production schedule accordingly with very modest impact on the overall delivery schedule. We have used our collective engineering judgement and experience to guide our project estimates, and we will work diligently to achieve this reward fulfillment schedule.
Our goal in choosing the PFx Brick reward tiers was to offer a simple and clear structure that emphasizes the value of packaged rewards. When you receive your PFx Brick, we want you to immediately benefit from all of its awesome capabilities, especially for lighting and sound. That is why we have bundled the PFx Brick with both speakers and LEDs into several value packages. We also offer discounted 2 and 5 pack bundles which allow you to save on shipping costs. For DIY builders, we offer no-frills PFx Brick rewards so that you can integrate your own LEDs and speakers.
We have decided not to include so-called "early-bird" reward levels. We believe that this makes the reward tiers more complicated and penalizes backers who simply need more time to think about backing our project. This strategy might impact our campaign momentum, but being fair to our backers is more important to us.
The table below summarizes the available reward tiers. The pricing shown in USD and EUR currencies is for guidance purposes and you should consult current exchange rates from CAD for the latest pricing.
As a footnote, we would like to thank our friends at Brickstuff™ for partnering with us to offer the amazing picoLEDs™ included with our bundle rewards. These tiny LEDs offer incredible flexibility when lighting a LEGO® model since they can be routed through the smallest spaces. We intend to offer the popular warm white picoLED™ with 6 inch (152 mm) wires.
Our campaign goal of $140k will be used to fund the basic production of the PFx Brick, including its plastic injection molded ABS enclosure. Unfortunately, this funding is not sufficient to also injection mold the enclosures for both the M and XL Speaker brick accessories. Instead, they will be produced with 3D printing. Therefore, we have offered a stretch goal of $165k to pay for the tooling and production of plastic injection molded speaker bricks. It would be awesome if the entire PFx Brick and accessory range could benefit from the consistent and superior finish of ABS plastic injection molding; but we'll have to rely on your generosity to make it happen!
Lastly, we have a surprise reward for backers if we reach a second stretch goal of $200k. We won't reveal what the reward is until we reach the base campaign goal of $140k. Believe us, it will be worth it! All PFx Brick rewards will be eligible to receive one surprise reward item.
We have put the PFx Brick into many different demo models of all different sizes, shapes, and themes. In addition to our own extensive testing, we have recruited a team of awesome LEGO® builders from different building themes to really put the PFx Brick to the test! Their valuable feedback will ensure that the PFx Brick does truly capture the needs of builders and meets our desired levels of quality and reliability.
The PFx Brick is truly built by AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO®) for AFOLs! We have been passionately involved in the LEGO® fan community for many years. We have exhibited and given talks at LEGO® fan conventions in Canada, the USA, the UK, and Australia. Along the way, we've made many great friends and continue to be dazzled by the diverse creativity and awesome skills of fellow LEGO® builders!
We both have extensive professional engineering backgrounds in the domains of electronic design, systems integration, and software development. Michael has significant engineering management experience including the role of CTO of a defence and aerospace systems company and CEO of his own engineering consulting firm. Jason has held senior developer roles in prominent commercial desktop productivity applications. Our combined knowledge and experience and our passion for the PFx Brick, is strong assurance for this project's successful completion.
The PFx Brick is very much a personal project. Our goal was to inject extra magic and excitement into our own LEGO® creations. The journey to create the PFx Brick has inspired us to reach out beyond our own creative efforts and that is why we're so excited to share the PFx Brick with you!
We can't wait to see what you can do with it!
1. Are shipping costs included?
No. Shipping costs for your region are added to your reward pledge as part of the Kickstarter checkout process. The shipping costs (for single and 2x pack PFx Brick rewards) by region are as follows (in $CAD):
For 5x pack rewards, shipping is: Canada $15, USA $25, EU $40, and Rest of the World $45.
2. What about taxes, duties, and other fees?
Canadian customers will be charged HST and provincial taxes as required. Customers in other countries may be subject to import duties and VAT charged at delivery. Shipping packages will have a commercial invoice attached for value declaration at cost.
3. How can I save shipping costs?
If you have a friend who also wants the same pledge reward, choose a 2 pack M or XL value package. These packages are charged the same shipping cost as an individual package. Thus, you save half the shipping cost. The 5 pack value packages also have lower shipping rates compared to 5 individual packages.
4. How do I get more accessories for my PFx Brick?
The Fx Bricks web store will allow you to purchase additional accessories such as light accessory boards, speakers, and much more.
5. What's the deal with LEGO® patents and Fair Play?
Fx Bricks respects the intellectual property rights of the LEGO® group. We want to clearly state that the PFx Brick is not officially endorsed or supported by the LEGO® Group and is not an officially supported Power Functions™ compatible device.
The Power Functions™ system is a registered trademark of the The LEGO® Group. Therefore, items such as the Power Functions™ compatible connectors on the PFx Brick are visually different from the LEGO® group implementation (similar to the Power Functions™ compatible connectors on the SBrick and BuWizz products). Furthermore, the electrical design of the PFx Brick connectors is different in that we support a wider range of operating voltages, arbitrary use of the signal pins (both for input and output), and we use gold-plated, hardened nickel pins rather than folded tin-plated tabs.
The infrared protocol used by the LEGO® Power Functions™ system is publicly documented and use of the protocol as described is prohibited for commercial use. However, the PFx Brick does not use the LEGO® Power Functions™ infrared protocol as described. Rather, the PFx Brick is agnostic of infrared protocol detail in much the same way as other universal IR remote control devices such as the Logitech Harmony universal IR remotes. The PFx Brick is capable of operating with a wide range of IR protocols and carrier frequencies. The PFx Brick supports the use of LEGO® brand IR remotes because it has passively recorded the IR signature of each IR action—even from IR remotes not documented by the LEGO® group. This signature is used to trigger arbitrary actions. The protocol detail within the message signature is completely irrelevant and is not even processed by the PFx Brick. The benefit of this approach is the ability to support a wide variety of IR remote control devices. Obviously, our priority is to support LEGO® brand IR remotes since the PFx Brick is focused primarily on the needs of LEGO® builder community.
1. Electronic Component Procurement
Supplier lead times
The electronic component market is very fluid and dynamic. Inventory that was available last week may disappear the following week. It's not uncommon to find lead times for replacement parts well into months.
Discontinued, obsoleted, unavailable parts
For the same reasons, we may find some parts have been discontinued...
We can mitigate some of this risk by identifying form/fit/function replacement parts for as many components as possible. In fact, we have already done this for many of the components. This will allow us to quickly substitute an equivalent part if we find that it's unavailable.
2. Plastic Injection Molding
The process of tooling a plastic injection molded part always carries risk. These risks extend to the mechanical tolerances of the final product, the mold quality, material quality, and much more. We have tried to mitigate this risk as much as possible by making many 3D printed prototype enclosures. These prototypes helped us validate placement, alignment, and clearance issues. We have also validated our design with plastic injection mold suppliers to verify its suitability to their process.
We are reasonably confident that the PFx Brick will comply with the requirements of CE, FCC part 15/b, and ICES-003 certifications. However, there is still a risk that small design modifications might be required in order to satisfy the test. Furthermore, these certification procedures are burdened with a great deal of documentation and process. This could impact our delivery schedule if the amount of effort required becomes greater than expected.
4. Schedule Risk
As with any engineering project, we have tried to estimate the delivery schedule as best we can with the information available. However, there will always be unforeseen circumstances which can add delay to our schedule. These delays could result from lead time issues, insufficient labour capacity, insufficient inventory, engineering design changes, etc.
In the event of any significant delay, we assure you that we will maintain transparent communication via timely updates to our valued backers.
Risks and challenges
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