Amicus1

4DBrix goes DIY

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https://www.4dbrix.com/shop/ now shows this:

Dear fellow AFOL,
 
We apologize for the radio-silence of the last couple of weeks. We have been dealing with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on both personal and professional levels. Some of you have contacted us and we still need to answer those emails. We’re sorry about that, we’re going to try to get back to you as soon as possible.
 
It has been a period to reflect on the future. We started 4DBrix because we had several ideas to increase the playability of LEGO® creations by combining 3D printing, electronics and programming. We are proud of what we achieved and we’re grateful for all the support and wonderful feedback we got from many of you. Unfortunately not everything is awesome in our AFOL community...
 
One of the first things we did was launching a kickstarter campaign to introduce our modular switches. The campaign was successful... too successful actually. Before we had shipped out the tracks to all our backers there were already copies of our modular system being sold. It didn’t stop there, in the following years that same company started systematically copying our train products. It has become clear that copying our ideas is their core business strategy. To our surprise this is not only condoned by a part of our community, some prominent members of the AFOL community are actively supporting this. In the long run, this is not a sustainable situation.
 
We’ve always focused on what’s in the best interest of our community, e.g. our nControl software has always been available to everybody for free, and want to continue to do so. One of the main concerns we found in your feedback was the cost of our products. We’re located in the US so our production costs are high, there’s not much we can do about that. That’s why we decided to transform 4DBrix into a Do-It-Yourself platform.
 
We will release our 3D print models so you can print the parts yourself. We’ll also release building instructions for the automation components so you can build your own automation system from readily available off-the-shell components. We understand that some of you don’t have a 3D printer and/or don’t have the skills or interest in assembling electronics. That’s why we’re looking for 3D print and electronics enthusiasts who want to set up a micro-business and start producing for their local AFOL community. Like that we can also get rid of long distance shipping. If you’re interested in this, please let us know.
 

It’s a radical change and we believe it’s the best way to move forward. We’ll start by updating our website site: adding download links to the models, assembly instruction and all the other information you need to build your dream layout, so stay in touch!

Tom (aka @Lowa)

 

Discuss here, especially if you would like to start a micro-business as described in the post and want to get an interest gauge..

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@Lowa This is sad news. 

My self and some of the others over at Brick Train Depot have reached out to Tom about making and selling those product via the Brick Train Depot Website. 

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It is very sad, I was hoping to do an order soon.

@Lowa thank you for the effort you have put in so far, it might not seem like it with the actions of some but it is very much appreciated how much time and effort you have put in to this point.

I am now looking forward to being able to print some. I'm now looking at getting a printer instead. I hope there is a great new community to grow around this now!

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Is this copycat thing about Trixbrix, by any chance? The sentence "some prominent members of the AFOL community..."  did rase this question in my mind.

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5 hours ago, TuxTown said:

Is this copycat thing about Trixbrix, by any chance? The sentence "some prominent members of the AFOL community..."  did rase this question in my mind.

Yes.  This discussion has come up before, and it really was disheartening how many AFOL members were indifferent to it.  For all the moaning about Lepin and other LEGO knock-offs or about people stealing and selling MOC instructions, there definitely is some cognitive dissonance or at least ambivalence when it comes to 3rd party manufacturers. As long as they can get what they want for a buck less, they don't care and will happily turn a blind eye to copycats.  It's frustrating to say the least.

And this is exactly what happens then.  What motivation does he have to make new things?  I don't blame Tom at all for throwing in the towel.  He's spent a tremendous amount of time developing his products, and for what? just to have them copied and sold for a couple dollars less before he even ships one?  Sure, he could put this effort in to make something cool for himself, but these developments come at a tremendous expense, and it often requires being able to sell some to offset those costs.  So why the hell should he work for free or even at a loss for someone else?

This is what we get for it.  I hope he keeps innovating, but we all now lose out on whatever new thing he might have created.  He has every right to walk away from the community with two middle fingers in the air. 

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Tom,

 Like the others, I am sorry to hear of the move, the labor of love that you poured into this work is clear in all the hard work you have put into your designs. Don't throw the entire towel in. Reserve your rights in terms of re-sale of your hard work. You should keep some control of your creation. As I understand it, Shupp got no profit on his shapeways wheels but now gets a small profit when BTD prints and sells them. Even if it is a small percentage to let someone else do the printing and distributing, you deserve some income from your hard work (you are the song writer). And if/when you do set the designs free in the world, keep a little "shareware" note in them, when someone prints their own part based on your design many will see the value and make a contribution.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, coaster said:

Yes.  This discussion has come up before, and it really was disheartening how many AFOL members were indifferent to it.  For all the moaning about Lepin and other LEGO knock-offs or about people stealing and selling MOC instructions, there definitely is some cognitive dissonance or at least ambivalence when it comes to 3rd party manufacturers. As long as they can get what they want for a buck less, they don't care and will happily turn a blind eye to copycats.  It's frustrating to say the least.

And this is exactly what happens then.  What motivation does he have to make new things?  I don't blame Tom at all for throwing in the towel.  He's spent a tremendous amount of time developing his products, and for what? just to have them copied and sold for a couple dollars less before he even ships one?  Sure, he could put this effort in to make something cool for himself, but these developments come at a tremendous expense, and it often requires being able to sell some to offset those costs.  So why the hell should he work for free or even at a loss for someone else?

This is what we get for it.  I hope he keeps innovating, but we all now lose out on whatever new thing he might have created.  He has every right to walk away from the community with two middle fingers in the air. 

I'm sorry to to hear that and I'm sorry to hear that after making a few orders at Trixbrix. For me it was not clear that they are copying things.

What exactly did they copy? It seems both 4D Brix and Trixbrix rathers copied Lego's track system than copying from each other. I don't think that making switches of two lengths and several types is copying, every company participating in the market for model tracks offers more or less the same products, that will also include Bricktracks and Fx Bricks. When I ordered the first switches (I bought switches only, ordered the curves from Bricktracks because I prefer molded parts where possible), I compared Trixbrix and 4D Brix and chose Trixbrix because they do not have the annoying yellow knob like Lego switches. I also remember that Trixbrix had some advantages for EU customers.

Edited by legotownlinz

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I agree with zephyr1934 that you should definitely retain your rights, and also with supertruper to setup something with BrickTrainDepot at the very least.  While I prefer injection-molded track, I hadn't seen your curved or R56 divergent switches or I would've ordered them to fit into our LUG layout (I'm the most adventurous person in terms of tracks).  Please consider all your options before just releasing all your hard work "into the wild", as it were - you deserve better!

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2 hours ago, legotownlinz said:

I'm sorry to to hear that and I'm sorry to hear that after making a few orders at Trixbrix. For me it was not clear that they are copying things.

What exactly did they copy? It seems both 4D Brix and Trixbrix rathers copied Lego's track system than copying from each other. I don't think that making switches of two lengths and several types is copying, every company participating in the market for model tracks offers more or less the same products, that will also include Bricktracks and Fx Bricks. When I ordered the first switches (I bought switches only, ordered the curves from Bricktracks because I prefer molded parts where possible), I compared Trixbrix and 4D Brix and chose Trixbrix because they do not have the annoying yellow knob like Lego switches. I also remember that Trixbrix had some advantages for EU customers.

There's certainly nothing wrong with having bought unaware of what was going on.  The issue Tom has (and me as well) is how many AFOLs didn't care, or dismissed the similarities as "obvious track geometries." 

All of the above make track compatible with LEGO track, but no one has copied LEGO's designs beyond the gauge and connection geometry; the track geometries themselves are all unique.  There is a different thread where the situation is laid out in greater detail, but 4DBrix ran a kickstarter for their modular switch tracks, and within a few days of completion TrixBrix had their own version of the same system.  Ok, perhaps they were working on it concurrently...

...but a pattern emerged.  BrickTracks ran a kickstarter for the molded R104 switches, and less than a week into the kickstarter TrixBrix announced their own version.  I got to see one of those first batch ones, and it was very clearly rushed, as their own logo was mirrored on the right-hand switch. 

4DBrix created the R40 curve switch, which is really quite innovative in how it connects, and before they had even posted them for sale, TrixBrix had them for slightly less.  Three rapid occurrences like this is not a coincidence.

I'm not opposed to competition by any means, but given that we're all a community working to improve the hobby, we could afford the professional courtesy to at least wait a year before making our own version.

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9 hours ago, coaster said:

...but a pattern emerged.  BrickTracks ran a kickstarter for the molded R104 switches, and less than a week into the kickstarter TrixBrix announced their own version.  I got to see one of those first batch ones, and it was very clearly rushed, as their own logo was mirrored on the right-hand switch.

That's easy to explain: They just mirrored one design to the other to get both directions. It is obvious for everybody to do this. I can't see any problem in it, I would do exactly the same. And TrixBrix asked at least four month on their website if we need r104 stuff. Four month long.

Let'sI explain the difference for european and american customers. Here in the EU we have to pay world level shipment charges together with custom and import charges (nothing else as our VAT) not only on the item itself but on the shipment charge too. This makes american products unattractive for us. It can rise the end price by 30% or more.

And of course we know the difference between molded and 3D printed parts. Molded parts are much more expensive due to their production but the surfaces are nearly not distinguishable from original LEGO parts. For those who prefer the unbeatable surface quality the price tag including shipment, custom charges and tax is ok. But they are few in a small market. I assume the majority of us perfer the more economic solution of 3D prints including me. And 3D parts are at least 30% cheaper here in the EU but that's not a nastiness intended by TrixBrix  but a consequence of market protection mechanisms between US and Europe.

OK, in the past I compared frequently the prices for 4Dbrix and TrixBrix products if they are similar. I looked at both offers and compared them. 4Dbrix was slightly more expensive but this is only before adding shipment, tax and custom charges. The full price was up to 40% for the same, sometimes the double price including the customs hassle (a specific german problem). Keep in mind producing in the EU is expensive too, the wages in Poland are not the dirt cheap (and unfair) wages for chinese workers and the shipment costs are on common world level and not sponsored near to nothing by the chinese government. Poland is not comparable with China.

So please, the argument TrixBrix underbids 4Dbrix is very US centric and tell only the half of the story.

And I can imagine (I do not know) that shipment, tax and custom charges are added to EU products imported into the US which makes TrixBrix products expensive for the US customer and the final price for european parts is at least at the same level for US citizens. So for me 4Dbrix was not took out of business by product copies but by general protectionism and the fact that the market for 3D printed LEGO rail parts ist too small in the US to carry a company. What a pity.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Giottist said:

This makes american products unattractive for us

Not exactly. I once bought the fabulous Monorail-tracks from 4D Brix. They offered some great improvements to the original stuff. I was very pleased and satisfied with the product, although I am normally somewhat sceptical to any kind of 3D Printed parts.

By that time, 4D Brix sold their parts to the european customer by  a BrickLink Shop located in Europe. That was easy buy and no more additional costs. Only parts price and shipping.

So banning custom Parts from BrickLink was a kick in the rear-end for all european customers.

 

I was aware of the issue with TrixBrix from the beginning, but I see that not everybody can follow all the discussions about this things ongoing in various forums and in various languages .

Trixbrix does a lot of advertising and promotion, at least on european exhibitions. So I see why they have some benefits in the EU.

Maybe Europe is a high-wage location, that is just similar to the US. But running a 3D Printer cost you nearly no time. The development process is the real time-eater, so doing a short-cut by copying brings you indeed some advantages over the original inventor.

 

However, compared to Modelltrain-hobbyists, L-Gauge is rather cheap. So I in person save my money, and will spend it for some molded parts when finally available. That gives me not only the better parts, but also a better feeling ;-)

And don't forget, not only you have to pay VAT. Indeed german VAT is comparatively low  in the EU with 19%,  +add. import taxes of 4,75% if the total value exceeds 150€, right? 

Most of the other buyers around the world have to pay much higher VAT's than you.

 

So IMHO your argumentation seems to be very German-centric, and a little bit unfair also.

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I see my guess was right. Thanks for the clarifications. I will try to ignore TrixBrix and Bananenbuurman.

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First of all. I own some of your monorail products and i love them. I would love to buy more, but the availability is a problem. (EU)

However: It is a fact of life, and especially a fact of doing business, that someone is going to compete with a product if there is a market for it. The copying argument you are making is not valid as: 

a) Different types of track have been made by companies like ME models for a longer time than 4D bricks has been around. (they failed because their production process was too complex and expensive. ) If you believe your own argument, you yourself are copying designs of other companies as well. 

b) The Lepin copying argument would apply to IP. Not when you produce an unprotected concept. Even TLG doesn't complain about a company bringing a building system to the market, they don't sue megablocks for being compatible, they sue for the copying specific artistic designs, witch they protected first to make sure they had the legal grounds to sue when needed. They don't sue you for making a product based on their track connection system they invented.

c) The fact that a point is "modular", for instance, is not a feature, it is a necessity as most printers simply can't print these large parts and warping is a problem. I can't imagine anyone using the modularity as a feature when using the product. I find it annoying as FCK personally. Your modularity is based on logic and the exact same connection system for the parts as lego track, breaking the product into parts that can be printed end simplifying your own production process as you can recycle certain parts for a different product. You Don't even sell individual modules for your modular system to allow customers to make use of the modularity. 

Trixbrix overtook you as a company because the produce at a significantly lower cost, but also because they keep innovating themselves as well. their range in switch types has expanded beyond the 4D range with double slip switches, R120 track, different types of crossings, etc etc. The internal workings of the switches are not copied but are their own design. 

It is up to you to make sure you are ahead of the competition. Find a way to lower production cost. No consumer in the EU cares where a product is made as long as it is available. Made in the US is not a valid feature. Find a way to deliver in the EU at a competitive price point. Have better clutch power, improve on the way points can be ballasted (with regular bricks, i hate the TB ballasting parts) 

I am convinced that some of your product is superior to the competition. there is a reason you're the only one making monorail as precision is very important here, and your control units for automation are beautiful. the servo housings for switch automation are useless as TB's as when running 8 wide trains as the cars can't clear them. TB automation is not usable by kids as the way you have to connect them is far too fiddly and frustrating for kids. (i tested, extensively, as my kids got to play with a review copy of the TB switch automation) So there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference. But if you can't compete on price, compete on quality, innovation, create switch automation solutions for MILS module users and Lgauge enthousiasts, as no-one is doing that (yet). But don't complain about the competition. Every true entrepreneur has to deal with that. 

I wish you all the best with your endeavours, i really like the quality of the product i bought. I think if you let go of the frustration and look at your own strengths, you can contribute a beautiful product to the lego train community. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Tijn said:

First of all. I own some of your monorail products and i love them. I would love to buy more, but the availability is a problem. (EU)

However: It is a fact of life, and especially a fact of doing business, that someone is going to compete with a product if there is a market for it. The copying argument you are making is not valid as: 

a) Different types of track have been made by companies like ME models for a longer time than 4D bricks has been around. (they failed because their production process was too complex and expensive. ) If you believe your own argument, you yourself are copying designs of other companies as well. 

b) The Lepin copying argument would apply to IP. Not when you produce an unprotected concept. Even TLG doesn't complain about a company bringing a building system to the market, they don't sue megablocks for being compatible, they sue for the copying specific artistic designs, witch they protected first to make sure they had the legal grounds to sue when needed. They don't sue you for making a product based on their track connection system they invented.

c) The fact that a point is "modular", for instance, is not a feature, it is a necessity as most printers simply can't print these large parts and warping is a problem. I can't imagine anyone using the modularity as a feature when using the product. I find it annoying as FCK personally. Your modularity is based on logic and the exact same connection system for the parts as lego track, breaking the product into parts that can be printed end simplifying your own production process as you can recycle certain parts for a different product. You Don't even sell individual modules for your modular system to allow customers to make use of the modularity. 

Trixbrix overtook you as a company because the produce at a significantly lower cost, but also because they keep innovating themselves as well. their range in switch types has expanded beyond the 4D range with double slip switches, R120 track, different types of crossings, etc etc. The internal workings of the switches are not copied but are their own design. 

It is up to you to make sure you are ahead of the competition. Find a way to lower production cost. No consumer in the EU cares where a product is made as long as it is available. Made in the US is not a valid feature. Find a way to deliver in the EU at a competitive price point. Have better clutch power, improve on the way points can be ballasted (with regular bricks, i hate the TB ballasting parts) 

I am convinced that some of your product is superior to the competition. there is a reason you're the only one making monorail as precision is very important here, and your control units for automation are beautiful. the servo housings for switch automation are useless as TB's as when running 8 wide trains as the cars can't clear them. TB automation is not usable by kids as the way you have to connect them is far too fiddly and frustrating for kids. (i tested, extensively, as my kids got to play with a review copy of the TB switch automation) So there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference. But if you can't compete on price, compete on quality, innovation, create switch automation solutions for MILS module users and Lgauge enthousiasts, as no-one is doing that (yet). But don't complain about the competition. Every true entrepreneur has to deal with that. 

I wish you all the best with your endeavours, i really like the quality of the product i bought. I think if you let go of the frustration and look at your own strengths, you can contribute a beautiful product to the lego train community. 

I support your opinion, I don't get the point that TrixBrix steals ideas, they are competitors, they are faster and they are cheaper. And even better. Why is there a Parallel Track Switch and Continuous Curve Switch?  TrixBrix has only one Switch that handles both cases.

 

21 hours ago, coaster said:

...but a pattern emerged.  BrickTracks ran a kickstarter for the molded R104 switches, and less than a week into the kickstarter TrixBrix announced their own version.  I got to see one of those first batch ones, and it was very clearly rushed, as their own logo was mirrored on the right-hand switch. 

4DBrix created the R40 curve switch, which is really quite innovative in how it connects, and before they had even posted them for sale, TrixBrix had them for slightly less.  Three rapid occurrences like this is not a coincidence.

I'm not opposed to competition by any means, but given that we're all a community working to improve the hobby, we could afford the professional courtesy to at least wait a year before making our own version.

I estimate that it takes an experienced CAD engineer two weeks or less to design a switch for 3D printing technology. If a company announces a product for weeks or even months without delivering it, then it is no surprise that a competitor tries to be faster. I see no reason to wait for one year and it would not help the community either. For the community, choice is better. 

I don't see any innovation in the curved switches. The geometry is identical how it works for H0 track systems, too.

Edited by legotownlinz

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10 hours ago, Tijn said:

First of all. I own some of your monorail products and i love them. I would love to buy more, but the availability is a problem. (EU)

However: It is a fact of life, and especially a fact of doing business, that someone is going to compete with a product if there is a market for it. The copying argument you are making is not valid as: 

a) Different types of track have been made by companies like ME models for a longer time than 4D bricks has been around. (they failed because their production process was too complex and expensive. ) If you believe your own argument, you yourself are copying designs of other companies as well. 

b) The Lepin copying argument would apply to IP. Not when you produce an unprotected concept. Even TLG doesn't complain about a company bringing a building system to the market, they don't sue megablocks for being compatible, they sue for the copying specific artistic designs, witch they protected first to make sure they had the legal grounds to sue when needed. They don't sue you for making a product based on their track connection system they invented.

c) The fact that a point is "modular", for instance, is not a feature, it is a necessity as most printers simply can't print these large parts and warping is a problem. I can't imagine anyone using the modularity as a feature when using the product. I find it annoying as FCK personally. Your modularity is based on logic and the exact same connection system for the parts as lego track, breaking the product into parts that can be printed end simplifying your own production process as you can recycle certain parts for a different product. You Don't even sell individual modules for your modular system to allow customers to make use of the modularity. 

Trixbrix overtook you as a company because the produce at a significantly lower cost, but also because they keep innovating themselves as well. their range in switch types has expanded beyond the 4D range with double slip switches, R120 track, different types of crossings, etc etc. The internal workings of the switches are not copied but are their own design. 

It is up to you to make sure you are ahead of the competition. Find a way to lower production cost. No consumer in the EU cares where a product is made as long as it is available. Made in the US is not a valid feature. Find a way to deliver in the EU at a competitive price point. Have better clutch power, improve on the way points can be ballasted (with regular bricks, i hate the TB ballasting parts) 

I am convinced that some of your product is superior to the competition. there is a reason you're the only one making monorail as precision is very important here, and your control units for automation are beautiful. the servo housings for switch automation are useless as TB's as when running 8 wide trains as the cars can't clear them. TB automation is not usable by kids as the way you have to connect them is far too fiddly and frustrating for kids. (i tested, extensively, as my kids got to play with a review copy of the TB switch automation) So there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference. But if you can't compete on price, compete on quality, innovation, create switch automation solutions for MILS module users and Lgauge enthousiasts, as no-one is doing that (yet). But don't complain about the competition. Every true entrepreneur has to deal with that. 

I wish you all the best with your endeavours, i really like the quality of the product i bought. I think if you let go of the frustration and look at your own strengths, you can contribute a beautiful product to the lego train community. 

To clarify, in case this was a reply to me, I have no involvement in 4DBrix's operations, in fact we competed on a number of products.

In response though, first, ME was an entirely flawed system, and the demand for wider radius curves was well established within the community.  Even so, they were effectively defunct before any of the other companies came online.

Regarding IP, is 4DBrix not entitled to their own IP?  And yes, LEGO did sue Megabloks for copying the brick, however they lost the suit.

The greater question though, is why should he contribute more to the community?  Many of these products take a tremendous effort and capital to develop.  Why should he make that investment for someone else to profiteer off his work?

13 hours ago, Giottist said:

That's easy to explain: They just mirrored one design to the other to get both directions. It is obvious for everybody to do this. I can't see any problem in it, I would do exactly the same. And TrixBrix asked at least four month on their website if we need r104 stuff. Four month long.

Let'sI explain the difference for european and american customers. Here in the EU we have to pay world level shipment charges together with custom and import charges (nothing else as our VAT) not only on the item itself but on the shipment charge too. This makes american products unattractive for us. It can rise the end price by 30% or more.

And of course we know the difference between molded and 3D printed parts. Molded parts are much more expensive due to their production but the surfaces are nearly not distinguishable from original LEGO parts. For those who prefer the unbeatable surface quality the price tag including shipment, custom charges and tax is ok. But they are few in a small market. I assume the majority of us perfer the more economic solution of 3D prints including me. And 3D parts are at least 30% cheaper here in the EU but that's not a nastiness intended by TrixBrix  but a consequence of market protection mechanisms between US and Europe.

OK, in the past I compared frequently the prices for 4Dbrix and TrixBrix products if they are similar. I looked at both offers and compared them. 4Dbrix was slightly more expensive but this is only before adding shipment, tax and custom charges. The full price was up to 40% for the same, sometimes the double price including the customs hassle (a specific german problem). Keep in mind producing in the EU is expensive too, the wages in Poland are not the dirt cheap (and unfair) wages for chinese workers and the shipment costs are on common world level and not sponsored near to nothing by the chinese government. Poland is not comparable with China.

So please, the argument TrixBrix underbids 4Dbrix is very US centric and tell only the half of the story.

And I can imagine (I do not know) that shipment, tax and custom charges are added to EU products imported into the US which makes TrixBrix products expensive for the US customer and the final price for european parts is at least at the same level for US citizens. So for me 4Dbrix was not took out of business by product copies but by general protectionism and the fact that the market for 3D printed LEGO rail parts ist too small in the US to carry a company. What a pity.

My point about the mirrored logo is that they couldn't even have bothered to correct it.  They were so determined to be first to market they didn't take the time to address the details.  Also, I posted prototypes of the R104 switches years ago, so perhaps they were working on it all along, but the timing was more than coincidental.

I understand the differences in shipping cost and customs, but all of your arguments could equally be made in favor of Lepin over LEGO.

9 hours ago, legotownlinz said:

I support your opinion, I don't get the point that TrixBrix steals ideas, they are competitors, they are faster and they are cheaper. And even better. Why is there a Parallel Track Switch and Continuous Curve Switch?  TrixBrix has only one Switch that handles both cases.

 

I estimate that it takes an experienced CAD engineer two weeks or less to design a switch for 3D printing technology. If a company announces a product for weeks or even months without delivering it, then it is no surprise that a competitor tries to be faster. I see no reason to wait for one year and it would not help the community either. For the community, choice is better. 

I don't see any innovation in the curved switches. The geometry is identical how it works for H0 track systems, too.

I don't know why Tom chose to do it that way, but a single switch leaves a gap.  It requires special curve pieces to correct.

Correct, it doesn't take long to model, especially when you have one already done by someone else to use as a reference.  But I suspect you overall underestimate the amount of time it takes to design, test, redesign, retest something from scratch.

Let's consider the MOC angle for a moment.  If I copied someone else's instructions and changed say six meaningless parts, would that be acceptable for me to sell?  Sure I haven't photocopied the pages and had to do the work to redraw it all, but is it right for me to sell it?

Again, I understand the arguments for competition and what they bring, but all of these arguments can be used in defense of Lepin or stealing MOC instructions from other community members.  Those garner sufficient outrage, so why do we give those that copy special element designs a pass?

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7 hours ago, coaster said:

Again, I understand the arguments for competition and what they bring, but all of these arguments can be used in defense of Lepin or stealing MOC instructions from other community members.  Those garner sufficient outrage, so why do we give those that copy special element designs a pass?

I guess one has to ask if these designs are really innovative or obvious extensions of a track system. If we wish to use the argument that they are innovative, then of course the first mover is owed some protection. I'm pretty sure the first time these switch ideas surfaced in LEGO track was as modified 9V track over a decade ago. If there was a patent (and I'm not sure you would find a patent office willing to issue one on what are common elements on other track systems, which copy a prototype which has been around for hundreds of years) I hope 4D Brixs has licensed its use.

If it were proven TrixBricks has used 4D Brix models I'd be far more sympathetic, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

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2 hours ago, peterab said:

I guess one has to ask if these designs are really innovative or obvious extensions of a track system. If we wish to use the argument that they are innovative, then of course the first mover is owed some protection. I'm pretty sure the first time these switch ideas surfaced in LEGO track was as modified 9V track over a decade ago. 
 

Exactly. This is where opinions differ and the moc/lepin argument goes south in my opinion. 

In all cases of claiming IP , one thing is a constant: the design has to be new, not obvious. whether it is from a technical standpoint (patent) or a visual one (copyright, industrial design right), the same applies allways. 

Track type extensions, as mentioned by coaster as well, is an idea that came out of the community, has been tried in differrent ways many times, both succesfully and unsuccesfully. The geometry is a result of fitting within the system and many mathematical constraints. One does not simply decide to make R100, it just won't fit. The real challenge is making it work. So the real question lies in the definition of IP. 
People have been modifying R40 switches for ages. Is it an infringement to print these designs and make them available to the masses ? Is the difference in the production process ? 
If lego discontinues their wheels and someone decides to produce that themselves, is that stealing ? Or is the wheel design generic enough to not matter that much. I know of at least 3 companies that are working on these. Who owns the IP ? 

Lego train track looks like lego train track, so we can skip al arguments from a visual point of view. All manufacturers use diffent solutions for the mechanical part. And the geometry, though similar, is acually diifferent as well. TB's geometry is far inferior to anything else on the market by the way, and so is the clutch power.

And that is why copying a MOC design (or a lego set for that matter ) is an entirely different discussion. Because that can actually be visually distinguished from any other moc. It is unique in its appearence.

We all know the builders who double a modular building in size and call it a moc. We usually know better. but if we double a train switch in size, all of a sudden there is an entire IP discussion. 
 

Quote

Correct, it doesn't take long to model, especially when you have one already done by someone else to use as a reference.  But I suspect you overall underestimate the amount of time it takes to design, test, redesign, retest something from scratch.

Is it really that easy to go into production with only a kickstarter picture as a reference? Can you measure the geometry from that accurate enough to save a lot of time on testing, retesting, etc ? 

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1 hour ago, Tijn said:

TB's geometry is far inferior to anything else on the market by the way, and so is the clutch power.

Do you have personal experience with the geometry? I'm curious, because I've never observed any derailments or so with my numerous TrixBrix switches. All my trains, even the 60 stud long locos run smooth over them. And I expand my collection over three years, so a "lucky" sample can be excluded.

The other point is true: I can observe some fragmentation too. But I fixed this with 1x2 plates in dark bluish grey. Ok, I run a garden railway and have no interest in ballsting. Ballasting can be an issue with TrixBrix products but I am not personally affected. In summary I can't detect severe quality flaws with TrixBrix products. Sorry. And I use them in great numbers and often.

I'm married neither with TrixBrix nor with 4Dbrix. My decision for TrixBrix was only guided by the price tag (including transport, tax and custom charges as mentioned) and by the fact that 4Dbrix didn't offer R104 stuff when I demand for it.

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47 minutes ago, Giottist said:

Do you have personal experience with the geometry? I'm curious, because I've never observed any derailments or so with my numerous TrixBrix switches. All my trains, even the 60 stud long locos run smooth over them. And I expand my collection over three years, so a "lucky" sample can be excluded.

The other point is true: I can observe some fragmentation too. But I fixed this with 1x2 plates in dark bluish grey. Ok, I run a garden railway and have no interest in ballsting. Ballasting can be an issue with TrixBrix products but I am not personally affected. In summary I can't detect severe quality flaws with TrixBrix products. Sorry. And I use them in great numbers and often.

I'm married neither with TrixBrix nor with 4Dbrix. My decision for TrixBrix was only guided by the price tag (including transport, tax and custom charges as mentioned) and by the fact that 4Dbrix didn't offer R104 stuff when I demand for it.

Same for me, I have several TrixBrix parts like double crossings (R40, R104), three way switches and Y-switches. All of them work well and I wonder how the geometry could be bad if it is a direct result of the Lego system. Of course there's a certain degree of freedom in the details, but I can run the trains over TrixBrix switches as fast as over Lego switches, so there doesn't seem to be any problems and visually they look good to me as well.

Regarding innovative parts, I've not seen the 45° curved switch in H0 track systems. But it is a TrixBrix exclusive, thus not copied from 4D Brix. Same applies to the new narrow gauge switches.

My conclusion is that TrixBrix's business conduct is correct. Competitive in the sense that they use mistakes by the competition to their advantage, but correct. I see no moral reason not to buy from them. The only reason not to buy are better molded products from the competition. I don't buy anything 3D printed that is available or announced from BrickTracks as molded product.

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Posted (edited)

Do you allow me an independent check of the bold claim, TrixBrix is nothing else than a copy cat?

I for my own have contact with them and use their products since summer 2016 up to now. Let's have a look to my time line:

In summer 2016 I was tired about the bad design of the original LEGO 7996 double crossing and looked for a 3rd party replacement and found the very first version of TrixBrix on Ebay. I bought two, the came promptly but were only little satisfying due to their weird skeleton design. Short after that the need for a better version with realistic sleepers raised in me.

On August 29th 2016 I joined Bricklink but I did not search immediately there for custom made double crossings.

In April 2017 4Dbrix started the Kickstarter campaign for their R40 double crossing and finished it in July 2017. I didn't notice it because I joined Eurobricks on August 19th 2018, more than a year later. (Source here), so I can't decide who was fist with this dedicated design.

In September 2017 I sold the very first versions of the TrixBrix double crossings after discovering that a) TrixBrix has an own webshop and I can save a lot of Ebay fees and b) Brick Model Railroader started their Octrainber contest. I ordered two new versions 2.0 R40 types from TrixBrix on September 30th 2017 and integrated them into my setup for the contest. (Source here)

Short after the Octraiber contest two things happened: TrixBrix started on their website a user poll what we requested to develop next, and the vast majority clicked on R104 switches and crossings. The second discovery was the incredible expensive 3D printed prototype of a R104 crossing by BrickTracks, offered by Shapeways for several 100 dollars. I know Shapeways from buying wheels designed by Nate Brill aka Shupp.

Nearly on the same day, June 24th 2018, three things happened in parallel: First I met Holger Matthes with his impressive train designs at an exhibition in St. Augustin near Bonn in Germany. We had a short chat and I saw the BrickTrack rails and was immediately convinced by the outstanding quality. Holger, if you read this, I am very grateful for your nice explanations and advice, I've learned a lot about serious LEGO railroading from direct chat and your book! Second the Kickstarter campaign of BrickTracks started on June 18th to design and produce a R104 crossing. But third at the same day TrixBrix began to offer and deliver (!) the long time promised 3D printed R104 crossings and I ordered immediately two. I sold my R40 crossings on Ebay (Source here)

How can it be to be only a copy cat, if a ready for shipment product is offered the same day a Kickstarter campaign for a comparable product just started ? It takes month to design the product, to program the 3D printing process and to test the geometry until no derailment occurs any more. (see LegoTownLinz and my upper postings)

To prevent misunderstandings: The precision injection molded products offered by BrickTracks cannot be compared by any means with the somewhat rough 3D printed desings of TrixBrix, it's like the difference between a Tesla Model S and a simple Renault ZOE. They serve two different markets. But from the timing it is impossible that TrixBrix just picked up a foreign Kickstarter idea and can offer a ready product within in a couple of hours.

Two month after that event I joined Eurobricks on August 19th 2018 and discovered the existence of 4Dbrix and checked their products immediately but did not found R104 products with the exception of the ultimate double crossing for the threefold price. After that I ordered in the upcoming months other R104 switches from TrixBrix because they were the only affordable supplieres of R104 parts since the Kickstarter campaign of BrickTracks failed (what a pity, it would be a marvelous contribution for the high end market). And I found several email exchanges with TrixBrix in my archive dealing about my notice the production quality of TrixBrix has increased in the last time.

Long after that TrixBrix began to offer servo motors for their switches on Black Friday 2019. But to use them new designes 2.0 are needed. Sigh, I sold the first R104 versions again on Ebay and ordered the new versions 2.0. This happened just before the corona shutdown. That do not look like the behaviour of a pure copy cat: TrixBrix had found out by themselves that their first version of switches are not suitable for automatisation and they had to develop new versions which took again month of design, testing and production preparation.

Conclusion:

In consequence the claim "TrixBrix is only a copy cat which fires only stolen designs into the market only days after appearance of the original or just after announcing a Kickstarter campaign" cannot be indipendent confirmed. According to my own four year long, nearly continuous experience the opposite is true: TrixBrix works continuously at their product program, starts long lasting user polls to get informations about customer demands and invests a lot of time in product design, testing, quality improvment (a very hard and time consuming process, I could checked it by exchanging my own double crossings three times!)  and production, as they can deliver their new products immerdiately (in words: Immediately) after announcement. This cannot performed in hours or days, the preparations take months. And they struggle up to now with (decreasing) quality issues like the occasional part separation.

So please, throw only such bold claims into the public, if you are really sure that they can be confirmed by indipendent third party people. Sorry,  I for myself was not able to do so. The pure time line talks for itself.

As an addenum: I'm not convinced that everybody can perform a 3D print at the neccessary quality level. It needs a really usable 3D printer with matching dimensions, deep knowledge about the material and the 3D printing process and knowledge to meet the dark bluish grey colour. I can talk only for myself, I do not spent several thousands of Euros and month or even years of work becoming familiar with a high level 3D printing process just to get a couple of nice parts for my LEGO railway.

So, Peace, and let's enjoy our LEGO railways without quarrel.

 

Edited by Giottist

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22 hours ago, Giottist said:

Do you have personal experience with the geometry? I'm curious, because I've never observed any derailments or so with my numerous TrixBrix switches. All my trains, even the 60 stud long locos run smooth over them. And I expand my collection over three years, so a "lucky" sample can be excluded.

The other point is true: I can observe some fragmentation too. But I fixed this with 1x2 plates in dark bluish grey. Ok, I run a garden railway and have no interest in ballsting. Ballasting can be an issue with TrixBrix products but I am not personally affected. In summary I can't detect severe quality flaws with TrixBrix products. Sorry. And I use them in great numbers and often.

I'm married neither with TrixBrix nor with 4Dbrix. My decision for TrixBrix was only guided by the price tag (including transport, tax and custom charges as mentioned) and by the fact that 4Dbrix didn't offer R104 stuff when I demand for it.

Yes, i have personal experience with all custom track manufacturers. 
If you use the track for living room or garden use, it functions perfectly. However when integrating the track into MILS modules, things get quite a bit different. The early R104 switches form TrixBrix would not align with the studs properly when used as a siding. For this purpose they have developed a special correcting ballasting R104 curve to correct the alignment. I have experienced alignment issues with the yard setup as well, even with the special correcting pieces in place. this could be due to an individual printing / warping issue, but finding out three days before a show is no fun at all. 
Early versions of the R120 track contained 4 sleepers as opposed to 5, making the popular ballasting technique useless. This has been corrected after feedback, but still leaves me with some expensive useless R120 that can only be used for the kids. Oh and clutch power on all parts randomly differs from tight to non-existent on a single piece. you get used to working around it though.

TrixBrix are, however, very friendly in their communiication, allways open to feedback, looking to improve and open to ideas and feedback on new parts, willing to replace faulty parts, willing to compensate, etc etc. ME models was a downright disaster and had to be glued together to be usable in any way. 

I LOVE the bricktracks molded parts. they are in a leage of ther own when it comes down to quality, clutch power and overall look of the track. If it weren't for the incredible increase in price when importing the stuff in de EU (+40% over an allready -not cheap- product) i would replace everything with this brand in a heartbeat. But their range is limited. 

I hope FXBricks will deliver on it's promise, as they should have the perfect blend between quality, range of products and production costs from the looks of it. 

as mentioned before, i love the 4D monorail parts. it fits perfectly and the colour is a good match. I have no personal experience with their track parts, just second-hand knowledge from the lego train community. 

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I for one am sad 4DBrix have thrown in the towel. I've purchased/backed 4DBrix monorail and turnouts (including their Kickstarter), OKBrickworks/BrickTrainDepot R56 & R24 9V track, and TrixBrix R104 turnouts and some half and quarter length straights. 

4DBrix (aside from a loose section on one of their modular switches which was easily fixed) had great clutch power, looked good and performed well. Sadly I cannot say the same for the TrixBrix stuff; OKBW/BTD track is somewhere inbetween (although leaning towards 4DBrix) and there's some slight variance between track pieces which normally isn't too much of an issue.
My LUG members (and the person who bought all my monorail stuff when I sold it) were pleased with the 4DBrix quality, and for the turnouts commented that they felt better quality than TrixBrix.

The only reason I bought TrixBrix track is economy & timeframe. I can buy it from a UK distributor (TechBrick, who also sell SBricks) for a good price and it's got a quick turnaround time. I also don't don't have to consider shipping and import duties in addition to the price, which can be quite an impact. If I had the opportunity I would've loved some of their "Prototypical" R148 turnouts. Hopefully someone UK/EU based can pick up the range.

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12 hours ago, Giottist said:

In September 2017...

Short after the Octraiber 

So I assume it's still 2017 in your timeline here

12 hours ago, Giottist said:

 TrixBrix started on their website a user poll what we requested to develop next, and the vast majority clicked on R104 switches and crossings. The second discovery was the incredible expensive 3D printed prototype of a R104 crossing by BrickTracks, offered by Shapeways for several 100 dollars. I know Shapeways from buying wheels designed by Nate Brill aka Shupp.

So here we have, still according to your own timeline, the fact is that Bricktracks allready has a working prototype of r104 crossings available, for which he is all ready looking in to getting molds, while TrixBrix is only doing a poll. The copying began here

12 hours ago, Giottist said:

June 24th 2018, the Kickstarter campaign of BrickTracks started on June 18th to design and produce a R104 crossing.At the same day TrixBrix began to offer and deliver (!) the long time promised 3D printed R104 crossings.

How can it be to be only a copy cat, if a ready for shipment product is offered the same day a Kickstarter campaign for a comparable product just started ? It takes month to design the product, to program the 3D printing process and to test the geometry until no derailment occurs any more. (see LegoTownLinz and my upper postings)

You actually answer your own question throughout your post. While apparently it took TrixBrix nearly 10 (yes ten) months to develop and produce the r104 crossings, Bricktracks was all ready at the stage where he was sure his version worked, had sales on Shapewaysfor them, and he had the designs ready to have the matrix cast to start making injection versions, hence he started the Kickstarter campaign. So here all ready is prove that TrixBrix copy/pasted. And that's only from Bricktracks. Same analogy goes for 4DBricks, Tom had automation stuff out way before TrixBrix had  

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Just curious, is there still a market for 4DBrix products? Would people buy from other microbusinesses printing and manufacturing the 4DBrix designs?

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We are living in a world - better: we have decided to do so - that is driven by "I want/need" and "cheap". One could summarize that as egocentric, self focused way of life. Exceptions (sometimes): "Friends" and "Family".

Then there is some deep training as well: "LEGO = good", all the others are bad, particularly within the EB community.

Then there is: When LEGO doesn't make the stuff I want/need, I go shopping somewhere else. That is a critical moment: Purism vs I take my own route. When taking your own route, the high bars of good and bad just fade into nowhere and are replaced by: As cheap as possible (cf. posts above, maybe phrased a little less harsh: Competition, economy, not affordable ...) - but functioning.

No IP in place that can really threat your business, no limits. Not in a profit oriented, capitalistic world. The apparently blue ocean turns into a shark tank. The idea of "serving the community" turns into "capable of supplying the most diverse products - and the cheapest" because that is what the community wants.

US vs EU vs China? No: US together with EU and China (and a myriad of others = the world) in one shark tank. And when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

And that's it.

Regards
Thorsten

P.S.: If find it disheartening that 4DBrix needed to take the exit route.      

     

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