We are super excited after receiving pre-production samples of the new plastic injection-molded PFx Brick enclosures. The new enclosures are molded in a slick two-tone light and dark bluish grey colour scheme and include some awesome new mechanical features. This molded enclosure will be standard across all PFx Bricks and replaces the 3D printed enclosures which served us well for our production debut.
The new enclosures elevate the both the quality and functional performance of the PFx Brick and some of its key features are as follows:
- 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.
As always, the enclosure will continue to be secured by 4x stainless steel machine screws for optimal strength, durability, and mechanical precision. Also, all connectors on the PFx Brick use gold-plated electrical contacts for maximum reliability and performance.
As of Sep 2019, a production run of 1000 new PFx Bricks has been started by our manufacturing partners in China. This involves the assembly of electronic printed circuit boards and the precision robot-guided insertion of the Power Functions compatible connector electrical pins. These pins are automotive and aerospace grade electrical pins designed for supreme reliability with solder-less contact fastening directly into the PCB.
We expect to receive the assembled electronics in Nov 2019. After we receive the electronics, we then hand assemble the Bluetooth radios (if required for non-IR models) and the high precision lighting dock connector. After each panel of 16x PFx Bricks has finished final assembly, each PFx Brick is electrically tested and its bootloader firmware is installed. Finally, the PFx Brick PCBs are clipped out of the production panel and installed into the new plastic injection molded enclosures. Each PFx Brick then goes through an extensive automated factory test procedure before being packaged and ready for shipment.
Since final assembly and test is relatively quick, we expect to be able to offer rapid shipping turn around on all future PFx Brick orders. Once we have a clearer picture of our production schedule, we will open up our webstore for pre-order of new PFx Bricks. As of Oct 2019, we estimate the schedule will be as follows:
- Oct 2019 : Electronics assembly / Injection molding starts
- Nov 2019 : Receive electronics, start final assembly and test. / Receive enclosures / Open store for pre-orders
- Dec 2019 / Jan 2020 : Start shipping pre-orders / Open store for general orders
I cannot help but shamelessly plug this epic Lego hospital MOC for not one but two good reasons. First, it includes a PFx Brick powered working elevator and a full light/sound ambulance. But most importantly, it was built by my talented wife (Dr. Lucie Filteau) as a labour of love over the past few years. This epic creation is a faithful representation of the Ottawa Civic Hospital, specifically the original 1924 built structure structure which now forms part of a large expanded campus. It is a workplace which has become a beloved part of Lucie's life over the past 20 years and was a natural inspiration for its recreation in Lego bricks.
The building consists of an architectural facade and side walls partitioned into three sections. Inside, the building contains a framework with integrated lighting (PCB LED strips) on every one of its 4 floors. The framework is an open "substrate" into which detailed interior modules can be inserted. These modules are built to a common standard size and represent individual "vignettes" of a typical hospital environment such as operating rooms, MRI clinic, labour and delivery, etc. as well as common public spaces such as the coffee shop and gift shop. This method of construction, while brick intensive, does offer immense flexibility for reconfiguration and makes each individual clinical module a standalone MOC in its own right. Modules can be conveniently built by themselves without the rest of the hospital's structure in the way.
Recently, CTV national news discovered this project and were eager to feature it. The crew spent a few hours capturing footage of our Lego building studio and getting the story behind Lucie's creation as well as her involvement in the Lego hobby. It also delivers a simple and inspiring message that its never too late to get started in this awesome creative hobby!
More photos can be found on Lucie's flickr page.
We recently received a new batch of S32 track samples from our manufacturers. These samples include the molded Fx logos on the studs as well as the track element ID molded directly to the stud tops on the connector plates at each end. The inclusion of element ID was based on suggestions from our fans during our product reveal at Brickworld Chicago last June. We thought it was a good idea and have therefore included it in every element mold and it is reproduced consistently on the end connector plates.
We're making steady progress and hopefully we will have R72 and R88 curve element samples very soon. In fact, I hope to have samples at Skaerbaek Fan Weekend in Denmark this September--it all depends on our manufacturing partners. We're very happy with the quality of the product so far and look forward to making our new track system available as soon as we can!
After many months of work behind the scenes, Fx Bricks is excited to announce an entirely new product range for LEGO® train fans! At Brickworld Chicago (Jun 2019), I had the opportunity to personally reveal our new Fx Track System to fellow train fans and hand out pre-production samples of the product. We were blown away by the response and received a ton of valuable feedback.
So why are we doing this? Well, other than the obvious answer of being huge LEGO train fans, the simple fact of the matter is that the LEGO train hobby suffers a credibility gap. A gap that results from not having the basic technological foundation that other model train scales have enjoyed for many decades. This includes a track system with a smooth and systematic geometry, metal conductive track and wheels for power delivery and control, motors with both high torque and speed, and finally a choice of control systems ranging from simple and reliable analog control to digital command control (DCC) systems.
Despite our best efforts to advocate for the legitimacy of the so-called "L-Gauge" standard as being a peer among the other model train scales, it has been easily dismissed as just a primitive toy. A view which is easily reinforced when watching an exquisitely scratch-built LEGO locomotive articulate itself to comical proportions around a corner and then simply stall because it has exhausted its battery or worse, run away helplessly since its Bluetooth or IR connection has dropped out of range.
Therefore, the L-Gauge hobby has long deserved a remedy of these fundamental issues; a remedy in the form of a new track system, reliable energy supply, reliable control schemes, and a cohesive range of accessory products. Fx Bricks is embracing the enormous time and energy (as well as significant risk) required to bring this product system to the LEGO® train community. It is a passion project in many ways. In conceiving the system, we drew enormous inspiration from the much loved and lamented LEGO® 12V System Train era (1980 to 1990). The 12V train system was a complete system of trains, track, accessories, spare parts--a system capable of warranting a catalog of its own.
The "Golden Age" of LEGO® Trains, the 12V era of the 1980s
Drawing upon the inspiration from the past and recognizing the fundamental needs of today's LEGO train fans, we intend to deliver a "system". A system which becomes a foundation upon which LEGO train fans of all skill levels, experience and ambition can build and grow their hobby with confidence and of course fun!
For more detailed information about our new Fx Track System and product plan, you can download a PDF info document here.
Pre-production S32 straight track (front), LEGO® 9V straight tracks (back)
Almost Sold Out of PFx Bricks
We are very close to selling out our initial production batch of 800 PFx Bricks. In anticipation, we have been working closely with Asian manufacturing partners to commission the manufacturing of 1000-2000 PFx Bricks with final assembly and test performed in Canada. These PFx Bricks will be electrically identical to the current generation bricks; however, we are excited to announce that they will be made with a new two-tone injection molded ABS enclosure! To reduce assembly cost and complexity, all PFx Bricks will be the 16 MB Bluetooth version, i.e. our top specification. Despite the new ABS enclosure, we are pleased to say that the cost of the PFx Brick will remain more or less the same with an estimated retail price of $129 CAD or approximately $98 USD. Furthermore, we are also investigating the manufacturing of the XL and M Speaker Bricks with injection molded ABS enclosures.
CAD rendering of new ABS injection molded PFx Brick enclosure in two-tone light and dark bluish gray.
Our friends at Brick Model Railroader hosted a fun train building contest called "OcTRAINber". This year's build challenge had an interesting twist: you had to build a model train that is "foreign" or outside of your typical model train "comfort zone" geographically speaking. When BMR came knocking on our door looking for sponsorship prizes for the contest we were excited and eager to help!
We offered two prize packages:
1. Holiday Train Conversion Kit + Speaker Wagon + PFx Brick package
2. PFx Brick + XL Speaker package
The team of judges at BMR have recently announced their winners and we must say that we are super-impressed with the quality and creativity of all the entries! Alas, there are 4 models worthy of the Grand Prize (real & digital), Best Foreign Factor and Best WIP Story titles. We are pleased to announce that the Holiday Train Conversion kit grand prize is awarded to Andy Mitchell (aka Hod Carrier) for his sublime Ferrobus model! It is a stunning example of a creative small model packed with clever details!
The winner of the PFx Brick + XL Speaker package is Alexander McCook's Lartigue Monorail. Alexander (aka narrow_gauge) is an accomplished and gifted Lego train builder based in Australia, in particular his narrow gauge steam locomotives are truly a work of art and engineering!
We look forward to sending both Andy and Alexander their well deserved prizes very soon!