PFx Brick Project Update (Aug 2017)

Its been a very busy summer for us! Getting the PFx Brick project in motion has required a great deal of time and energy and a lot more will be required to keep up the momentum! We want to give you an update to let you know what we have achieved and the status of the project.

1. Reward Surveys: All surveys were sent out late June and we have received 389 out of 410 surveys (95%). Please take a moment to complete your survey if you have not done so already, it will help us with more precise production quantities.

2. Add-ons & Store: Since opening the store, we have been really amazed by the activity. Kickstarter backers have added another 461 items to our production queue by adding everything from additional bricks, upgrades, and add-on accessories. We have also received orders for an additional 102 items from folks outside the Kickstarter campaign. Thanks so much everyone!

3. Purchasing

i. 98% of all the electronic components have been ordered, with around 96% received already. Unfortunately, we have long lead delivery notices for the Bluetooth modules and some of the Flash memory devices. We've been told to expect them Sep-Oct depending on factory supplies. For the flash memory, we are sourcing alternative compatible devices to speed up delivery.

ii. All of the picoLEDs have been ordered from Brickstuff including the add-on quantities offered during July.

iii. All Light Accessory Boards (LABs) modules have been ordered for manufacture by our Chinese supplier.

4. PFx Brick Volume Production: We have completed our design for the volume production panel for the PFx Brick printed circuit board (PCB). This panel not only allows for rapid manufacturing, but it also includes customized smart features that let us test and program PFx Bricks directly in the production panel even before they are separated for final assembly! This will dramatically accelerate integration and testing and let us catch assembly defects earlier in the production process.

5. 3D Printing: We have just about converged on a final design for the PFx Brick housing from 4DBrix. We think the two-tone (light & dark bluish gray) brick enclosure looks really awesome! We're really lucky to work with a LEGO focused partner like 4DBrix since they implicitly know both the requirements of functional LEGO elements and the capabilities of the ABS 3D printing process.
6. Retail Packaging: We have finalized the design for the various retail packaging required for our products. We think the design is crisp and clean with all of the required regulatory and safety markings. The packaging design and colour scheme is consistent with the online store for a harmonious product portfolio image.

7. More accessories: We have added some additional accessories to the store including:

  • 4x packs for Fx LEDs and Fx LED extension cables
  • 512 mm lengths for LED and Speaker extension cables

We're really excited to get the PFx Brick into production and we'll continue to work hard to deliver them to you as soon as we can!

Merry Christmas from Fx Bricks

In celebration of the holidays, we thought it would be cool to give you a better sneak peek at what we've been working on over the last year. We incorporated 2 prototype PFx Bricks into the Winter Holiday Train (10254) and Santa's Workshop (10245), to really bring these LEGO sets to life with sound, light and animation.

Enjoy the video below to see just some of what the PFx Brick is capable of. Its worth pointing out that all of the audio in this video is actual playback from the PFx Bricks which were installed in these models!

In early 2017 we'll be launching a crowd-funding campaign to help make the PFx Brick available to everyone. Be sure to check the Fx Bricks website for more information about this exciting new addition to the LEGO universe, and stay tuned for more information on how you can help us make it a reality.

Happy Holidays from the Fx Bricks team!

The Road to Production

After several months of intense yet rewarding engineering design and development, the PFx Brick has evolved from a concept to a functional and stable pre-production prototype product. Its development required electrical circuit design, embedded firmware and cross-platform software development, and mechanical design. We have iterated the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) three times, made four versions of the brick enclosure design, and our github software repository indicates that we have made nearly 400 commit revisions to date. All this activity has been aimed at improving and refining the PFx Brick to ensure that it meets our design goals and that it is stable, mature, and ready for production.

The road to production involves several key steps:

1) Capturing and estimating production costs

2) Designing a crowd-funding campaign with realistic and achievable goals

3) Finding supplier partners

4) Making a production plan

Capturing and Estimating Costs

Making an item like the PFx Brick in volume production involves many large costs. Not only for materials, but also for services and labour to build, assemble, and test each unit. There are also overhead costs such as packaging, printing, IT, transportation, and much more which also need to be considered.

The three largest components of the production costs will be:

1) Electronics procurement and assembly

2) Design, tooling, and production of plastic injection moulded brick enclosures

3) Regulatory certification for European CE mark, US FCC part 15, and possibly Canadian ICES-003.

We already have a detailed and sound basis of cost for the electronics components and PCB manufacturing. However, we will still need to estimate the cost for assembling the electronics to the PCB and how much assembly will require individual hand assembly. We will also have to determine how much of the assembly we should outsource? What are the trade-offs and risks?

Making 3D printed prototype enclosures is very different from designing an enclosure which can be mass produced with plastic injection moulding. The costs for designing and tooling plastic moulds are very high. Design errors at this stage can yield very expensive re-tooling costs. Again, our challenge will be finding a plastic moulding supply partner who can deliver high quality brick enclosures at a reasonable cost. We will also have to consider the trade-offs and risks of using local vs. offshore suppliers.

Selling an electronic product into the European Union will require certification against several EU directives relevant to the PFx Brick. Demonstrating conformance to these directives, enables us to place the CE mark on PFx Brick product allowing it to be sold into the EU. Similarly, selling electronic products into the USA and Canada require testing and verification of Electromagnetic Interference and Compatibility (EMI and EMC) performance standards against USA FCC part 15 rules and equivalent ICES-003 rules in Canada. These tests will require verification in a certified facility authorized to verify and declare conformance to these standards. These certified testing services can easily cost thousands of dollars and in some cases well over $10000 for each certification.

Designing a Crowd-Funding Campaign

Before we can start reaching out to people to contribute to our crowd-funding campaign, we have a great deal of preparation work. We need to estimate our required funding level, establish our reward tiers, and choose a crowd-funding platform. Furthermore, we need to make a convincing video describing our campaign as well as preparing plenty of background material for potential contributors to perform due-diligence on our product offering. A lot of this background reference material is already published on this website. We have described and documented the PFx Brick product in as much detail as we can, and hopefully it will be enough to convince folks that our campaign is worth supporting.

Finding Suppliers

Many challenges will be faced in the search for reliable and suitable suppliers for the key tasks of electronics assembly and plastic injection moulding. One of the trade-offs will involve the use of local vs. offshore suppliers. Local suppliers have the advantage of being readily available so that any changes and adjustments can be accommodated quickly. The disadvantage is the higher cost as compared to many offshore suppliers in countries like China.

Production Plan

In order to ensure the volume production of the PFx Brick can be performed in a reasonable time frame, we must establish a detailed and accurate production schedule. This schedule will need to consider every aspect of the production process and what dependancies exist among the various tasks that need to be performed. Everything from the choice of certain electronics components and their associated lead times can contribute to schedule delay risk. Our goal will be to mitigate these risks and establish a realistic plan starting from the end of the crowd-funding campaign up to the shipment of PFx Bricks to customers.

We've looked at and studied other crowd-funding campaigns to see what factors contribute to its success. Also, we are well aware of many campaigns falling short on their delivery schedule commitments and we know that we are not immune to the same risks. However, any effort we make at this stage to be more prepared will ultimately contribute to a better outcome not only for us, but also to our future customers!

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