One of our beta testers is the well known Technic builder Sariel from Poland. He has literally written the book on Technic, having just released his second edition of The Unofficial LEGO® Technic Builder’s Guide. He has very meticulously tested the PFx Brick and provided us with a great deal of valuable feedback. Furthermore, he has generously taken the time to compile this showcase video shown above (and on his YouTube channel).
This video systematically covers aspects of the PFx Brick physical design, capabilities, the PFx software app, and lighting effects. He shows the brick operating by itself as well as inside two Stars Wars spaceships! The feedback we have received from Sariel and our other beta testers has been immensely useful. In fact, we have already incorporated some of their suggestions already.
This testing process is a necessary part of getting a product ready for market. It has to be real-world "road tested" to ensure reliability and to make sure we've captured the key features demanded by builders. Our confidence in the PFx Brick has been consistently rewarded with durable, consistent, and reliable operation--all thanks to continuous testing within a variety of LEGO models!
The SHIELD Helicarrier (set 76042) is the largest model we've brought to life using the PFx Brick. The advantage of integrating the PFx Brick into a model like this is that there is plenty of space to house all the components. The challenge is in running all the LED wires throughout the model!
This model is set up to be controlled using the LEGO® Power Functions Speed Remote, and includes the use of startup actions. These actions are run immediately every time the PFx Brick is powered on. In this case, we're using them to start two effects that are dependent on the speed of the motor driving the rotors. In this way, these effects are always active, but don't produce any audio or visual results until the motor is actually moving.
The first effect is the Speed Modulated light effect, where the brightness is tied to the motor speed. This effect controls 4 of the light channels, each with 2 LEDs for each rotor. The second effect is the continuous playback of an engine noise sound, where the volume is modulated by the motor speed. As the motor speed is increased, the brightness of the lights and the volume of the engine noise will increase. Similarly, when the motor speed is decreased, they will also decrease. And when the motor is stopped, they will no longer be visible or audible.
A Power Functions XL Motor is controlled using the right wheel on Channel 1 to power the rotor drive system. The configuration for this motor has been customized to have a high minimum speed, so that it always has enough power to overcome the considerable amount of friction in the system.
Channel 1 is also used to control the lighting of the model. The right button of the remote toggles an Engine Glow effect on 2 of the light channels, each connected to 2 LEDs in each of the rear engines. Simultaneously pressing both buttons toggles the On effect for the remaining 2 light channels, connected to LEDs in the cockpit, landing bay and control centre. The left button is also used to toggle a solid On effect for the rotor lights, in case you want to turn them on even if the rotors aren't rotating.
Channel 2 controls playback for 6 different audio samples, which are triggered using the remote buttons or by rotating the wheels. Two separate effects can be triggered by each wheel by rotating them one notch clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Despite having a relatively simple control system, the configuration for this model uses some of the more advanced features of the PFx Brick to really make the Helicarrier come alive.
The PFx Brick has a wide portfolio of emergency vehicle flasher light effects. There are nearly 40 different different sequences each with different flash rates and styles. This enables builders to configure light outputs to match a wide variety of emergency vehicles used around the world and from different eras. A key feature of emergency vehicle flashers is the roof mounted lighting; implemented either as discrete lights or more commonly mounted into a light bar structure on the roof. In addition to the roof/lightbar flashers are auxilary flashing lights. These auxilary lights vary widely in terms of quantity and location among all emergency vehicles. Examples include side mounted flashers, radiator grille flashers, headlamp cluster flashers, etc. Auxilary flashers are often synchronized with one or more of the lightbar flashers and may or may not have the same flashing pattern. The PFx Brick provides a variety of functional flashing light outputs for all emergency flasher types in order to match a wide variety of prototypical emergency vehicles. The builder does not have to use every light output and may chose any combination which best suits their model.
The best way to see how these flashers work is to see them in action! This video shows the police interceptor in action:
The PFx Brick typically uses 7 of the 8 dedicated light channels for emergency vehicle flashers. The definition of each light channel is common for all of the emergency flasher styles and is shown in the diagram below. Also shown are a few examples of flasher lights with the light channels labeled.
The lightbar or roof mounted lights consist of a group of 4 lights which flash in variety of different styles. Often, these lights will be co-packaged into a roof mounted light bar. Two lights are intended for the left side of the vehicle and another pair is intended for the right side. Each left/right pair can have an inner and outer light. This allows light flashing sequences to alternate from left to right or from inside to outside depending on the style. For more simple applications, one of each of the left and right pairs can be used, e.g. just the outer left/right pair.
Two very common types of lightbar flashers are the so-called “Twinsonic” and “Whelen” style light- bars. These are named after the trade-marked products of Federal Signal and Whelen Engineering respectively; manufacturers of emergency vehicle lighting products. These style names are intended to be representative and not exact copies of any particular lighting product. The “Twinsonic” style light bar physically consisted of rotating mirrors around a light source and were common in older or heritage emergency vehicles. The rotating light effect is simulated with periodically variable brightness and has a “softer” flashing effect. The “Whelen” style lightbar is designed to simulate the flashing effects of modern and contemporary LED strobe-type emergency flashers. These light bars have many different strobe-like patterns and sequences. The PFx Brick includes most of the typical sequences available from this style of emergency flasher.
Many emergency vehicles incorporate additional flashing lights to those mounted on the roof. These can consist of flashers which duplicate the flashing sequence from the light bar or flash periodically synchronized with the alternating effect of the lightbar. The PFx Brick provides auxilary flasher outputs in order to connect lights which best represent the flashing light configuration of a particular vehicle.
The left/right auxilary 1x flashers flash periodically at the specificied rate alternating from left to right. The single auxilary 2x flash output flashes periodically at twice the specified flash rate. The 1x and 2x auxilary flashers are simple periodic flashers and do not exhibit the complicated flash sequences of the light bar. They are however synchronized with the light bar flash rate.
In order to showcase the awesome emergency vehicle lighting effects, I decided to build the quintessential North American police car: the Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor. I built the model using reference photographs and wanted to keep the scale of the vehicle within a typical 6-studs wide. The car was wired with operating head/taillights, reverse lights, headlight flashers and of course the roof light bar. Amazingly, the PFx Brick, speaker, and light wiring all fit within the car. A Power Functions extension wire discreetly feeds out of the bottom of the car to connect to an external battery box. A wiring diagram of the police car is shown below.
The PFx Brick was configured to activate the various lighting and sound effects using a dual joystick remote control. The remote actions were configured as follows:
The next set we tested the PFx Brick with was the Nexo Knights Fortrex (set #70317). For this model, we wanted to show how the PFx Brick can work side by side with the regular Power Functions IR Receiver to control more than 2 motors.
We built 3 motors into the Fortrex: 2 PF L-Motors to drive each of the front tracks and a PF M-Motor to raise and lower the gate. The 2 L-Motors are controlled by a standard PF IR Receiver, set to listen to channel 1. The PFx Brick is configured to ignore channel 1 and only respond to activity on channels 2, 3 and 4 of the Joystick Remote. This still gave us plenty of available commands to trigger cool light and sound effects.
Channel 2 is configured to trigger coordinated light and sound for the lasers. Each time one of the joysticks is pressed forward, LEDs in the front lasers turn on for 0.5 seconds and a matching laser sound is played. When the left joystick is pulled back, LEDs in the side lasers light up with a continuous 'Alternate Flashing' effect to match a repeating 'Rapid Fire' audio playback. Each time the joystick is pulled back this coordinated effect will toggle on and off. When the right joystick is pulled back all of the audio and lighting effect are stopped.
Just like in our Wall-E modification, Channel 3 controls the playback of four different audio files, individually triggered by pushing or pulling each of the joysticks. Of course, for this model we loaded various sound bytes from the Nexo Knights mobile game onto the PFx Brick. Since the Fortrex is a reasonably sized model, we were also able to build in an XL-Speaker, to really add some oomph to the audio playback.
Channel 4 is configured to control the M-Motor using the left joystick, for raising and lowering the drawbridge.
We designed the PFx Brick to work seamlessly with the Power Functions system, and it was really great to see how easy it was build a model using both the standard PF IR Receiver and the PFx Brick.
What better way to showcase the phenomenal lighting and sound abilities of the PFx Brick than a pop music concert! This LEGO® Friends set 41105 already has awesome play-value, but the addition of lights and sound takes it to the next level! This model also shows that the PFx Brick is versatile enough to be used with just about any LEGO® theme. This was an ambitious demo model since it required fitting 34 tiny white LEDs in a way which was discreet and retained the original character of the set. The best way to see the results is through this video of the model in action! All of the audio in this video is directly recorded from the camera without editing. When filming the video, the light effects were carefully choreographed manually by selecting them with the remote as the music was playing.
The wiring of 34x individual LEDs required careful management of wiring. The overhead marquee wiring was consolidated and discreetly run through black 1x1x2 cylinder bricks to ground level where it connects to the PFx Brick. All of the wiring from the LEDs connects to a Light Accessory Board (LAB). LAB accessories connect to the 10-pin lighting dock connector on the PFx Brick and have the following advantages:
- Modular and organized
- Support connection of 8x up to 32x individual LEDs
- Includes individual current limiting resistors for each LED connector (if applicable)
- Supports different connector types of LEDs depending on vendor
- Allows easy disconnection of the PFx Brick for configuration, use in multiple models, etc.
The schematic diagram below shows how this model was configured:
The lighting was basically partitioned into three groups:
- Overhead Marquee lights with 7x pairs plus one central light
- Stage lights with 7x pairs and one central light
- Two pairs of spotlights on the left and right stage wings
The marquee lights and stage lights where connected as mirror images and share light channels 1 to 8. The spotlights were connected to an odd and even numbered lighting channels (3 and 8) so that they could alternately flash in some of the combination light sequences.
An XL speaker was mounted to a purpose built speaker stand at the rear of the stage and projects the sound forwards toward the "audience". The versatility of a brick-built speaker accessory allows you to seamlessly integrate speakers into models as well as providing the acoustic performance of a sound box behind the speaker cone.
Activating the various sound and lighting effects was achieved with configuring a dual joystick remote as shown in the diagram below.
Actions were functionally grouped into each of the 4 available IR channels. One channel was dedicated to activating sound effects, two channels were assigned various combination lighting effects, and the 4th channel was configured for "utility" functions, namely brightness and audio volume control. It is a huge benefit to be able to adjust the global brightness of the model as well as the volume of the sound. Depending on where and when you showcase this model, those around you will appreciated the ability to limit the sound!
This was a fun model to fit with the PFx Brick because it truly showcases its key abilities of sophisticated lighting effects and high-fidelity audio playback. This LEGO® Friends stage truly comes alive with the magic of dynamic lighting and powerful audio!