Happy new year from Fx Bricks! We wish everyone a happy and healthy 2021, especially given the unprecedented challenges of 2020. We are overdue for an update on what's happening at Fx Bricks, so here's what's happening:
1. Fx Track
We have not added the Fx Track products to the store yet, but we are very very close.
The S32 track elements are in production and we have received partial quantities but not the entire production order. Our supplier for the track elements experienced a partial COVID shutdown in December and is slowly trying to resume its production capacity but is challenged by not having enough available staff. We have cautioned them to not compromise product quality at the expense of schedule (which happens in China) and have said that we would rather wait for quality rather than faster.
We have received all of the retail packaging. As both the product and the packaging arrive in our Hong Kong office, it is inspected and packed into retail boxes. When we have enough cartons of retail packaging for distribution, approximately half will be shipped to Canada.
Our plan is to start distribution from both our Canada and Hong Kong office. Orders will be dispatched from either location depending on the costs of shipping and logistics. Based on the distribution of sales and demand, we will have a better idea of how to distribute inventory. Furthermore, our decision to invest in an EU distributor will depend on sales performance. We expect the EU to be a strong market and we will likely have an EU distributor established as soon as we can.
We are really excited to announce that the P40 switch is going ahead! We've already started the process with our manufacturing partners. It is difficult to appreciate the level of complexity and investment required to make a product of this calibre. Each P40 switch consists of at least 36 components in both ABS plastic and metal. Furthermore, it requires a skilled assembly team to put them together into its final form. We don't want to make firm schedule commitments given the current world situation, but we're aiming to have at least pre-production prototypes to show for summer 2021. The resulting track switch is an item of beauty and mechanical elegance!
Motors, Power Feeders, Etc.
It might be stating the obvious, but releasing a metal track system does not make sense unless we can "complete the circuit" with elements which can both deliver and pickup power! Therefore, we've already started on the product design for both a power feeder element and metal wheel motor bogie. Our current plan is as follows:
- Motor Bogie - this is clearly a priority. It will be designed in the same "plug and play" form factor as the LEGO 9V and Power Functions motor bogie. It will be easily configured to operate "JUMPERED" (power pickup connected directly to the motor) or "SEPARATED" (power pickup and motor terminals electrically isolated and available at one or more connectors). JUMPERED mode is offers the same plug and play operation as the retired LEGO 9V motor bogie and supports simple voltage speed control. "SEPARATED" allows users to pickup power to energize a third party controller such as PFx Brick, SBrick, etc. or NMRA DCC decoder and have the motor controlled by the external controller. We also plan to make a power accessory that picks up power from the track and simultaneously energizes a PFx Brick and recharges an optional on board battery. This way, you have the best of both worlds! A train which can get power from the track for recharging or operation AND be capable of operating on non-energized plastic track! Furthermore, the battery will act like a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) and instantly switch over due to momentary power interruptions or dirty track.
- Metal Wheelsets - We definitely intend on offering standalone metal wheels both for power pickup and as replacement wheelsets for plastic. This will happen after the motor bogie, since we believe that is a priority.
- Power Feeder - We will either provide an element similar to the retired LEGO 9V feeder and/or a dedicated wired track element (based on the S8 straight) to deliver power. The dedicated track element will also be designed to be an switchable "Isolating" element for use in sidings or partitioning power "districts" on your layout.
- Speed Regulator - Last on the list will be a dedicated speed regulator element similar in form factor to the retired LEGO 9V speed regulator but with advanced technology features such as: continuously variable speed control, 12V/9V operation, 3A current rating, overload protection, fixed voltage outputs for accessories, and much more. We also also see this as basis to make "docking" control elements to build your own "control panels" similar to the retired LEGO 12V system. We're still brainstorming the details on this concept, but feel free to let us know what you think or if you have any suggestions or ideas!
2. Current Orders
Sorry we're not getting orders shipped faster. We are working hard to process them as fast as we can. We have had a recent surge in orders during the Holiday Season and we've also been very busy preparing for the release of the Fx Track products. As you can imagine, our resources are being stretched very thin. We are looking into hiring additional help, but even looking for people takes time! We thank you for your support and will indulge in your continued patience as we get through the backlog.
3. Firmware and Software Updates
We're just about to release a new version of our programming guide (Interface Control Document) to v.3.38. This will coincide with both a firmware update to the PFx Brick and an update to the desktop PFx App. Some of the new features in this release include:
- upgraded sound effects, in particular for the gated playback modes
- support for the new push button "touchLAB" accessory (to connect NXT, EV3 and DIY pushbuttons) to trigger actions
- new scripting language features such as variables, loops, motor acceleration, and more
- future support for RGB LED accessories, including the ability to specify colour for any of the existing lighting effects per channel!
We've also prepared a PFx scripting language "cheatsheet" document available from our site. This will help folks build their own customized scripted behaviours, store them on the PFx Brick, and activate at any time.
Stay tuned to our site! In the meantime, visit our documentation resources page for links to developer documentation and other items.
4. M Speaker
The first production batches of both the M and XL Speakers were 3D printed. We have sold out of both these speakers. We decided to invest in injection molded speaker enclosures for future versions of the speaker bricks starting with the XL speaker. The new injection molded XL Speaker is now in the store.
We will eventually manufacture the M speaker with injection molding, but we are not ready to commit to when it will be available. We were planning for later in 2021, but we have received so many inquiries and requests for the M Speaker, that we may have to expedite its manufacturing and release. The CAD models are already prepared and the molding is ready to go to manufacturing. It is simply a matter of priorities and costs.
Thanks again to all of our customers--we really appreciate your support. We can't tell you how much we appreciate and marvel at all the cool models and creations you've shared with us which use a PFx Brick! Please keep sending us your creations--we'd love to put a showcase gallery on our site to share your amazing work! We look forward to a busy but very productive 2021 and also wish you both a happy and creative year!
1st generation 3D printed PFx Brick (left) new 2nd generation PFx Brick (right) injected molded in ABS
The new injection molded ABS enclosures for the PFx Brick have finally arrived from our manufacturing partners in China! Late last week we received 80x (out of the final 1000x) enclosure top and bottom components. As a result, we have been able to perform final assembly and test on a small batch of PFx Bricks in order to adjust our production processes around the new PFx Brick. We are thrilled at just how amazing the PFx Brick looks and performs! And we are hopeful you will be equally impressed and look forward to start shipping in the next few days.
We do have a sizeable production backlog, but we will working hard to get through it as fast as we can. We will also keep the order tracker on our website as up to date as possible so that you can keep track of your order progress.
In other news, we are still aiming for a launch of the Fx Track system this summer. We will be starting with the S8 and S32 straight tracks and the R72 and R88 curved tracks. We have approved the final production versions of the product and are ready to start the manufacturing process. We still have a great deal more work to do, including retail packaging, updating our e-commerce and distribution processes, but we feel confident that we will on "track" for this summer. Following the S8, S32, R72 and R88 track elements, we plan on releasing the S16 straight track and R56 curved track later this year. In parallel, we are still working with our manufacturing partners to establish cost and schedule for the amazing P40 Left and Right Switch tracks. The P40 switch is designed to fit into the geometry of the L-Gauge track system and therefore requires a few additional companion elements for us to manufacture. These include the R64 curved track for making return curves for parallel sidings and the unusual S1.6 and S3.2 straight tracks (shown below) used for making perfectly aligned yard ladder configurations.
And if new tracks were not enough, we are very likely going to produce updated versions of our popular M and XL speaker bricks with injection molded ABS enclosures! Now that the PFx Brick has a cool new brick enclosure, we felt it was only logical to give the speaker bricks the same treatment! Shown below are some prototype designs we are considering for manufacturing...
As you can see, we are super busy at Fx Bricks and we can't wait to offer the Lego community amazing new products and building opportunities! Stay tuned to fxbricks.com for more news!
The scope and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and will be felt by all of us in the coming weeks and months. I want to reach out personally on behalf of Fx Bricks to reassure all of our customers and friends that Fx Bricks will continue to fulfill orders and keep developing exciting new products.
1. PFx Brick Pre-orders
- - All electronics assembly is completed for more than 1000 units
- - 100x units are currently in the final assembly and test pipeline
- - New product packaging has been ordered and received
- - The tooling of the brick enclosure mold was completed before the Chinese Lunar New Year, however the Covid-19 situation prevented our manufacturer from starting production
- - Last week, our manufacturer completed a pre-production batch of the brick enclosures (shown below) prior to authorizing the final production quantity of 3000 units
- - Once we approve the pre-production parts, full production of 3000 units should only take 2-3 weeks to complete and again, we will keep everyone informed of our progress
2. Accessory orders
3. Fx Track System
- - S8 straight track
- - S32 straight track
- - R72 curved track
- - R88 curved track
Our friend Alexander Ehle from Germany has recently released a German language book that LEGO fans have needed for a long time: LEGO®-Modelle beleuchten. It explores the vast topic of lighting LEGO models of all shapes, sizes and themes. We feel privileged to have been able to contribute to this outstanding resource for all LEGO fans.
LEGO®-Modelle beleuchten is a comprehensive reference for anyone with an interest in applying the best possible lighting effects to virtually any model (not just LEGO). The book also introduces readers to the basics of electrical circuits and electronics, helping them discover the unlimited possibilities of DIY lighting solutions. There is fantastic practical advice on choosing tools and lighting products, as well as tips on modifying parts for new and clever ways of putting lights into difficult locations in a model.
Examples of LEGO models showcase the range of impressive lighting possibilities throughout the book. It illustrates not just the clever and imaginative techniques for using different products and installation methods, but also the ways of using animated lighting effects to bring life and excitement to your creations.
At Fx Bricks, we are very familiar with the unlimited possibilities for cool lighting effects! We are humbled and excited that an entire chapter of the book dedicated to the PFx Brick. It is the owner's manual that we wish we had written ourselves (and that's just on the topic of lighting!). Alexander has explored and documented each and every possible lighting effect on the PFx Brick and offers tips for configuring and tuning these effects for optimum results.
Currently, LEGO®-Modelle beleuchten is only available in the German language. However, we are told that an English language version is in the pipeline and will likely be released. We will keep you updated on its release. Until then, check out Alexander's website brickelectronic.de. He has all kinds of resources to help builders with lighting as well as a web shop selling cool accessories to help you with your projects.
Pre-order the new injection molded PFx Brick; the new standard across all PFx Bricks replacing the 3D printed enclosures used for our production debut.
Here are some of the new improvements we've made to the new PFx Brick:
- Technic Pin Holes - side mounted Technic pin holes allow more robust attachment options for integrating the PFx Brick into Technic models as well as conventional brick built models.
- Bottom Anti-Studs - the underside of the enclosure is both functionally and aesthetically more compatible with the Lego system stud / anti-stud connection and now permits some interconnection schemes at half-stud intervals.
- Durability - the lid now includes mechanical reinforcement features around the the speaker and IR connector ports to resist excessive bending or twisting forces on the connector. The Power Functions compatible input and output connectors include additional bracing and precision mechanical guidance for the gold-plated pins.