As a follow up to the previous blog post about this model, a short video showcasing its features is now available. The addition of the PFx Brick transforms this modest helicopter into a dramatic and exciting model! In the video introduction, a second PFx Brick used to create flickering fire light Fx on the roof of the shelter. One of the interesting features to note is how the helicopter startup process is initiated with one remote control action. This single action activates:
- Flashing navigation beacon light
- Engine startup sound effects
- Motor speed set to 75% max with an acceleration factor
Combining these actions makes controlling a model that much easier and fun!
One of the first models we built the PFx Brick into was the LEGO Ideas WALL·E set 21303. Check out the video to see the results, and read on to learn more about how we used the PFx Brick to bring WALL·E to life.
The WALL·E set almost seems like it was designed to be augmented with the PFx Brick. Only a few modifications were needed to run LEDs to the his eyes and control panel, house an M-Speaker and battery box in his body, and attach 2 Power Functions M-Motors to drive his tracks. There is even a nice space on his back to attach the PFx Brick itself, which just makes it look like he's been given an upgraded power pack.
We configured WALL·E to be controlled using the Power Functions Joystick Remote, and different behaviours are mapped to all four channels of the remote.
- Channel 1 controls WALL·E's startup and shutdown actions, which include playing 2 startup sounds, turning the LEDs in his eyes on using a 'flicker-on' lighting effect and turning the control panel LED on. Pulling back on the right joystick remote will turn everything off.
- Channel 2 is configured to control the lighting. When the LEDs in the eyes are toggled on and off, a shutter sound is also played. The LED on the control panel can either be turned solidly on, or put into 'sound modulated mode' which will cause it to flicker in coordination with any sounds that are played.
- Channel 3 controls the playback of four different audio files, which are individually triggered by pushing or pulling each of the joysticks.
- Channel 4 is configured to control the motors, so that WALL·E can be driven around using a standard track drive steering scheme.
One cool feature of the PFx Brick is that it 'listens' to all four channels simultaneously, so multiple remotes set to different channels can be used to simultaneously trigger any of the actions above.
It was really cool to see how much character could be added to the WALL·E set by integrating a PFx Brick. He's no longer just a static model sitting on our shelf. Once the PFx Brick is released, we will be providing How-To guides and downloadable profiles for models like WALL·E, so that you too can bring him to life.
We have integrated the PFx Brick into many different LEGO® models of various shapes, sizes, and themes. The most interesting and challenging integration projects are small models with very little interior space. I think this challenge makes the result that much more satisfying! Shown above is the LEGO® City Fire Helicopter (60108) with a PFx Brick used to full effect.
- Motor driven main rotor
- Tail rotor navigation lights
- Anti-collision strobe beacon light
- Nose wheel headlight
- Port/starboard emergency flashers
- Speaker with various sound effects
All of the active lighting effects can be toggled on or off using a Power Functions remote control. The main rotor speed is also controlled via the remote. The motor is configured such that the top speed is limited to about 50% full speed to prevent excessive model vibration. Furthermore, the motor acceleration and deceleration have been configured so that the rotor has realistic slow acceleration to emulate the high inertia of a real helicopter's rotor blades. Lastly, the model has sound effects for helicopter rotor noises, pilot-air-traffic-control communication chatter, and emergency siren sounds. All of the sounds are independently controlled using the remote control.
Below is a connection block diagram showing how the active elements are connected to the PFx Brick.
The biggest challenge was integrating the Power Functions M-motor with bevel gear drive to operate the main rotor. This required rebuilding the upper rotor housing on the roof to allow for an axle to pass into the fuselage to the motor. The PFx Brick is mounted in the helicopter cockpit area. This gives the IR sensor visibility through cockpit windows. A Power Functions extension cable passes discretely through the floor and is used to power the PFx Brick with an external battery box. An M-Speaker brick is also mounted discretely on the bottom of the helicopter fuselage between the main landing gear. All of the lighting consists of tiny 2x3 mm surface mount white LEDs with tiny 36-gauge wires soldered to the LED pads. All the LED wiring is run to the nose of the helicopter where it connects to a pinLABduo light accessory board attached to the PFx Brick lighting dock connector.
This was a fun model to integrate the PFx Brick! Not only because of the challenging space constraints, but also because it showcases all of the PFx Brick's main capabilities in sophisticated motor control, lighting Fx and sound Fx. We worked hard to make the PFx Brick as small as possible so that models even as modest as this City Fire Helicopter can benefit from the magic of motion, lights, and sound!
Check out the video of this model in action in this follow up blog post!