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Keybrick One / Rechargeable battery pack for Powered Up

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10 hours ago, Dragunov2 said:
Quote

With about three and a half hours of play time they were munching through the AAA batteries, six at a time, at an incredible pace. After a failed try at using rechargeable NiMH cells came the said call….

What?! Alternative facts?

Using a blatant lie to promote a product makes me a bit angry...

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Yes, that is exactly what I am looking for. >Exactly< that, as it is painful to the extent not wanting to do it.

My solution so far is: 8878 + 2I/O hub. Which is "huge" in every regard: Volume-wise as well as money wise. And not possible for several trains I have.

The Keybrick One + 2I/O hub solution is getting much closer to what is possible, as it combines intelligent charging with intelligent remote control. Adding the universal voltage range for charging would have done it 100% - just the 2I/O space. But then PF was worse: Battery + receiver.

We are getting very close to what is currently possible.

Best
Thorsten

   

34 minutes ago, legotownlinz said:

Like a car sold without wheels... 

I'd say: True for train heads, wanting this for >trains<. 

I like to entertain the idea of using the BLE devices for other things as well. Stationary. In this case the product is far from incomplete. It would be a car without 200W sound system.

Best
Thorsten

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It’s an engine and in the future a transmission, bring your own wheels ;)

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42 minutes ago, Stux said:

I wonder what percentage of running time a train would need on powered tracks to run indefinitely. 

Well, I don't want to self advertise but when you look at these data, it should simply run forever. This is for the 8878 but the LiPo pack is comparable and the charging circuit should not be light years away:

https://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/45963-some-powerfunctions-insights-the-lego-lipo-rechargeable-battery-and-l/

Best
Thorsten

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58 minutes ago, Toastie said:

Well, I don't want to self advertise but when you look at these data, it should simply run forever. This is for the 8878 but the LiPo pack is comparable and the charging circuit should not be light years away:

 https://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/45963-some-powerfunctions-insights-the-lego-lipo-rechargeable-battery-and-l/

Best
Thorsten


Some great research :)

(which I linked to earlier ;) )

What I was getting at, was if you had a large loop with unpowered and powered sections, how much powered section would you need to have the train run indefinately, or perhaps for 8 hours? I guess, if the keybrick charges at 5W, then it comes down to the instantaneous draw of the train. I'm not sure how much a train motor draws :)

But according to this site, the PUp train motor uses 3.73W under load (a load)
https://www.philohome.com/motors/motorcomp.htm

I find the idea of having 9V/12V available at loitering points fascinating for extending runtimes, without necessarily converting an entire plastic track to 9V.

Edited by Stux

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PS: I read your article in RailBricks 3 :)

Have you been keeping up with the work of PyBricks, and self-hosted programs running on the CityHub?

Would be a lot simpler than building in RCX bricks ;)

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I like what Keybrick One is doing, but...

4 hours ago, legotownlinz said:

Using a blatant lie to promote a product makes me a bit angry...

...I'm a little curious about that claim too.  Be interested to hear exactly what failed.

 

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9 hours ago, legotownlinz said:

And what is the use-case where you don't need these add-ons?

I'd say that most of the trains hubs are used in trains and there you need some way to charge without disassembling the train. That's what 95% of your customers need.

This I'm not quite sure about. As we're getting in a bit more data about our customers at the moment it seems like a good bunch (read 50%) don't have much "old" (4.5/12/9V systems) equipment and are not necessarily interested in that kind of setup. Now I see the need for a solution, but I don't think we have much room to make the base product more expensive than it is at the moment (rather much so that we would need to shave off 15-20€ to make the buy easier - which we can't at this point in time). This is a reason why I'd rather have the customers who actually need this buy a small (and relatively cheap) add-on brick which does the power regulation and conversion.

As for charging without disassembling the train: in the city passenger train we have for example I just leave the USB cable in the spare room inside the train. Recharging is just a matter of removing a single roof segment and pulling the cable out. Everything else can stay where it is. YMMV with other models for sure though.

8 hours ago, Stux said:

I’m fairly certain the idea is to have a brick which converts from track power, via a pickup, to usb on the train. 
 

this would allow a pup train to charge whenever it’s on powered tracks. 
 

and as I see it, that allows a pup train to run on everything, which seems like the holy grail to me.

yes. yes. yes. probably ;)

9 hours ago, Stux said:

I can’t see how it would be bigger than an existing pf or brick. I’d hope it were much smaller.

I wonder what percentage of running time a train would need on powered tracks to run indefinitely. 

I'm thinking about two possible options for this.

  • Either have a small brick (same width than the hub, two studs long and 3 brick in height) with a micro usb plug which would directly plug into the Keybrick.
  • A separate brick with a USB-A output which would require the use of an extension cable (but would ultimately be much more flexible as you could then use it with any other USB compatible part)

In either case the volume could be in the region of 2x4x3 (studs x studs x brick height) perhaps a little more/less depending on how I manage to fit things.

Connectors-wise it would be usb on the output side and screw or spring-clamp terminals on the other. This would leave plenty of options of different power sources, from hacking an old set of wheels to some DIY contact or other forms of pickup I can't be bothered to think of now (in terms of "do whatever you want", solar perhaps ^^")

As for the time it would need on powered tracks to stay charged? Hard to "guestimate". At low to medium pace it should be doable, and the battery will probably stabilize at 60~70% state of charge as this will be the place where the maximum power will be dumped into the cells. I'm not a 100% sure however how that will affect the batteries in the very long term (this will be subject to extensive testing from our side).

On another Topic: we had some discussion about options to make "cost cut" version of Keybrick One (perhaps a "Lite" version or something along those lines). This would mean:

  • having a fixed output voltage (e.g. only the "Normal" mode)
  • no state of charge indicator
  • a very reduced standby battery life (probably around 2-3 months vs. over one year currently)

My issue with this is that it would barely cut 10€ from the final price because it's only changing the PCB bill-of-materials by a small amount and all the expensive parts like the battery and case would remain untouched. Would something like that be interesting in your opinion?

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7 hours ago, Stux said:

Would be a lot simpler than building in RCX bricks ;)

Thank you for your kind words.

Oh yes, I have.

Spoiler

 

Back in 2010 TLGs PBricks got bigger and bigger - and more powerful of course. But even less suitable for remote train operation. What I found fascinating back then was to get this controlled speed approach using a PD algorithm on the RCX. It was more about RobotC and Dick Swan's enhanced RCX firmware plus a rotation sensor plus a plain vanilla dumb 9V motor. In a pure LEGO solution, which was kinda the kick. The IRRF transceiver project was just another fun thing: No cutting into the RCX hardware, just putting it in front of the RCX and have half duplex communication; set the speed to "2" and it was running at speed "2" regardless of friction going crazy in curves etc. pp.

In addition to that the RCX1.0 has a universal power input - even back then (1998 ...). That allowed me to go with reversing loops etc. etc. but required mostly 9V track, as the RCX had no internal battery charging electronics - it uses internally rectified 9V when externally powered with (crappy) > 9V DC and runs off from the batteries when not. 

So today I am preferentially using the 2 or 4I/O hubs. The 2I/O hubs are in 5 trains, 2 have an RCX on board, 6 are PF operated (with the RF hack), and one is using the RC trainframe (with RF hack as well). All these trains are controlled via one program on my laptop using VB6 with the nsoftware BLE plugin, and the IVPBrick COM plugin from 2001 and a home-brew very simply RF RX/TX thingy. The PF trains are controlled by an NTX which has the HiTechnic RCX IR sensor attached + the same simple IRRF transceiver sitting in the RCX trains.

That's the whole fun of it: 22 years (RCX 1998 until today = BLE) controlled by one VB6 program - on a WIN10 64bit laptop. I love it.

 

I am currently using Cornelius Munz' legoino sofware for Arduino to control the Crocodile (10277) from an ESP32-board. So it is less programming the hub, rather exploiting its built-in firmware features such as access to acceleration/deceleration profiles and PID controlled speed settings, as this is all I want to do. This works of course only with motors having a built-in rotation sensor (such as he PUp L motor - but not with the train motor) but it is fun to do. I am not that much interested in autonomous train operation - there is simply too much of mixed, 4.5/12/9/PF track here all gobbled up in one messy layout with about 30 switch points (also controlled by software). No way I can ever automate that ...

But yes, looking into PyBricks is definitely something for the future to do!

All the best
Thorsten

     

   

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4 hours ago, keybrickone said:

My issue with this is that it would barely cut 10€ from the final price because it's only changing the PCB bill-of-materials by a small amount and all the expensive parts like the battery and case would remain untouched. Would something like that be interesting in your opinion?

So now we are getting into the cost reduction and marketing business ... in a country where we pay easily 5(+) Euro for a coffee (provided the name is fancy - maybe even French ... or Italian) 

Question is: What is your goal? Becoming famous? Making money? Having it all in your hands or simply provide novel ideas eventually to be realized? All together?

One route would be: Call up some folks in China, convince them, give them the plans (just in case they don't have them already, who knows, they make a lot LiPo stuff), ask for a small extra per sold unit for you. They offer it for >max< $20, provided they catch on. Look at the BlueBrixx RC receiver box for €15. Very nice molded ABS plastic box, LiPo battery a little weak though and 2.4 GHz RC. No BLE but well - the things in there are not that much different - price wise that is.

Of course this is not very attractive - but it all depends on your plans.

I would not bring down the price for the features you mentioned, certainly not for the charge state indicator. And what is a year for an inbuilt battery ... 

Best
Thorsten

 

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39 minutes ago, Toastie said:

So now we are getting into the cost reduction and marketing business ... in a country where we pay easily 5(+) Euro for a coffee (provided the name is fancy - maybe even French ... or Italian) 

Question is: What is your goal? Becoming famous? Making money? Having it all in your hands or simply provide novel ideas eventually to be realized? All together?

One route would be: Call up some folks in China, convince them, give them the plans (just in case they don't have them already, who knows, they make a lot LiPo stuff), ask for a small extra per sold unit for you. They offer it for >max< $20, provided they catch on. Look at the BlueBrixx RC receiver box for €15. Very nice molded ABS plastic box, LiPo battery a little weak though and 2.4 GHz RC. No BLE but well - the things in there are not that much different - price wise that is.

Of course this is not very attractive - but it all depends on your plans.

I would not bring down the price for the features you mentioned, certainly not for the charge state indicator. And what is a year for an inbuilt battery ... 

Best
Thorsten

 

And risk that they steal the idea and don't pay anything.

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1 hour ago, Tcm0 said:

And risk that they steal the idea and don't pay anything.

Absolutely! And of course. Thought that was very clear from the beginning. That was why I was asking what the goal is.

Chances are they'll do it anyway, should it catch their attention for whatever reason. They already make the electronics devices, they make the LiPos, they make basically everything including ABS molding. Over here we think about how to arrange all the stuff they make for us and others in a new fashion.

The other thing is: They're certainly not stupid ... some of the circuity used in the KB one may already be available as well ... not in the way it is done here, but in principle - as very attractive replacement for the 6 AAA batteries (which drain at breathtaking speed and then go into the garbage - no recycling).

It is what it is, I guess.

Best
Thorsten

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15 hours ago, Stux said:

What I was getting at, was if you had a large loop with unpowered and powered sections, how much powered section would you need to have the train run indefinately, or perhaps for 8 hours? I guess, if the keybrick charges at 5W, then it comes down to the instantaneous draw of the train. I'm not sure how much a train motor draws :)

16 hours ago, Stux said:

I’m fairly certain the idea is to have a brick which converts from track power, via a pickup, to usb on the train. 
 

this would allow a pup train to charge whenever it’s on powered tracks. 

There are a couple of problems with this, from the KB side of things, currently there is not a reliable 9v power pickup available on the market. So presumably sales would be limited to proper hackers.

Secondly, doesn't the PUP hub turns itself off after 2 hrs? Regardless, I would think you would want to swap two trains every hour or so both to rest the motors and keep it things interesting for the crowd. Or you could do it like LegoLand and the discovery centers, and have the trains rest most of the time on top of a charging station with shorter periods of running.

 

6 hours ago, keybrickone said:

Now I see the need for a solution, but I don't think we have much room to make the base product more expensive than it is at the moment (rather much so that we would need to shave off 15-20€ to make the buy easier - which we can't at this point in time). This is a reason why I'd rather have the customers who actually need this buy a small (and relatively cheap) add-on brick which does the power regulation and conversion.

Agreed, my first thought when I saw the price was that it was a lot of money (not that it was over priced, just that it was expensive) so adding cost to the base unit for extra features that most users will not use does not make sense to me. But making it an add on brick is a brilliant solution, that is one of the benefits of using 3D printed cases, small quantities do not require expensive molds.

 

6 hours ago, keybrickone said:

On another Topic: we had some discussion about options to make "cost cut" version of Keybrick One (perhaps a "Lite" version or something along those lines). This would mean:

  • having a fixed output voltage (e.g. only the "Normal" mode)
  • no state of charge indicator
  • a very reduced standby battery life (probably around 2-3 months vs. over one year currently)

My issue with this is that it would barely cut 10€ from the final price because it's only changing the PCB bill-of-materials by a small amount and all the expensive parts like the battery and case would remain untouched. Would something like that be interesting in your opinion?

I'd keep that as a future option. Stick with the base model and if it sells a lot then consider variants...

... though in terms of possible future expansions, what about a version for PF trains? For now I am sticking with PF because I like the IR control and lower priced components better. Perhaps that could be the "economy" model described above.

 

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29 minutes ago, zephyr1934 said:

what about a version for PF trains?

Agreeing with all you said. 

With regard to the above: What would be the difference other than the casing? Why not going with indicators for the charging state, etc for PF as well?

The difference would be powering a PF receiver vs powering a 2I/O hub, right? The PF receiver is much more tolerant with regard to power supply; I have a PF receiver driven 4.5V train (181) here (was a little tight to get the receiver + RF extension into the loco though), which gets its power from the 4.5V battery wagon - and it works - on the low voltage side. There is no harm to let it go up-to 12(+) V; I am running 727 with a PF (+RF) receiver off from a 9V block battery (just for moving it a bit) and 7740 with a PF (+RF) receiver form 8x1,5 AA batteries in the loco + first coach. I also operate one PF receiver at 15V directly from track power for lighting.

KB one should thus be a perfect PF power supply fit - they would "just" need to make a (3D printed) top that features a PF socket. Which would keep the number of versions to support to a minimum.

Or do I miss something @keybrickone? Other than that I don't have a clue - zero - how to 3D print.

Best
Thorsten

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So, we're currently waiting for the last parts to get to us (currently on delivery: the 3d printed cases, stickers and labels, screws and replacement for really shitty magnetic cable ties we got initially) for the 40-odd Keybricks of the "first served" batch. The PCBs are in queue for assembly on friday, so we should be good to ship the first units by end of next week if we're lucky.

I had a bit of spare time to fire up ECAD and CAD software the last couple of days and have made some progress regarding the wide-range-input AC to 5V DC power supply brick. Waiting to order the PCB but if everything works to plan it could/should ressemble this:

wirps-v6-w-case.png

wirps-v6.png

 

My current preliminary specification is: 3.8V to 18V AC or DC input to 5V output at 1.2A (perhaps up to 2A, must do measurements). Output port is a "big" USB type A port. Stud dimensions: 4x3 studs and 1 + 1/3 in height. There is a current limiting switch, so its going to be short circuit and over-load safe.

Now to the interesting bit (for me anyway :))

On 11/13/2020 at 5:14 PM, Toastie said:

KB one should thus be a perfect PF power supply fit - they would "just" need to make a (3D printed) top that features a PF socket. Which would keep the number of versions to support to a minimum.

Or do I miss something @keybrickone? Other than that I don't have a clue - zero - how to 3D print.

Best
Thorsten

This is a brilliant point. Honnestly we dismissed the whole PF stuff a bit because, well, there are alternatives out there already (plus NOS LiPo boxes if you search for them). But maybe there's still something to this... so I ran with the idea this afternoon:

pf-adapter-v8-3.png

pf-adapter-v7-2.png

This is just a draft. Looking for feedback though ;) the bump in the middle is for a capacitive touch switch designed to toggle the ports (all at once. Though, just perhaps it could be interesting to have one that is permanently powered (?)) Height is identical to the PUP hub. Can't really make it more compact without resorting to custom stamped contact parts which are not within budget. Any thoughts? Don't have a huge amount of time to spend on this right now, but I like the idea.

Edited by keybrickone

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4 minutes ago, keybrickone said:

This is just a draft.

OK. When this is draft - I just threw all my drafts (papers and stuff) into the garbage.

That is exactly what I meant. Should this not catch on all the PF folks? With the wide-range -> 5 V brick product range (2I/O Hub LiPo, PF LiPo, converter brick) this is basically serving the entire PF/PUp community! In a most flexible way, as far as I am concerned.

The system is modular, flexible and modest on footprint. Yes, for universal PF, there is the additional converter brick. I can surely live with that! It is compatible with future power pickups or home-brew stuff.

And what do we have from TLG in this regard? "Nothing". 8878 is gone ...

Wow. I really do like this.

Thank you very much for doing all this!!!

Best
Thorsten

 

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I really like the idea of a PF power supply case top. I use multiple sbricks pand PFx bricks and would like to use them with the extra voltage keybrick provides.

Some things I would like you to change on your concept rendering:

- the 4 power ports directing to the sides are impractial for 6 studs wide trains

- I would prefer one single centered port  (or maybe 2) instead of four, you can still stack them

- an LED lit power button as in the regular case

 

One question regarding the ,first served, keybrick. Do they rember the power mode? So I have to switch to boost mode only once and when I restart it is still in boost mode?

 

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1 hour ago, TuffTuffTuff said:

- the 4 power ports directing to the sides are impractial for 6 studs wide trains

- I would prefer one single centered port  (or maybe 2) instead of four, you can still stack them

Fair point! What if I rotate the two on the front edge 90° (so that the cables face away from the narrow side of the hub)?

The touch switch will be lit. Chose touch because of height restraints.

1 hour ago, TuffTuffTuff said:

One question regarding the ,first served, keybrick. Do they rember the power mode? So I have to switch to boost mode only once and when I restart it is still in boost mode?

Yes. The selected mode is stored permanently.

 

1 hour ago, Toastie said:

OK. When this is draft - I just threw all my drafts (papers and stuff) into the garbage.

Wow. I really do like this.

Thank you very much for doing all this!!

😅 years of rapid design and prototyping pay off I guess 🙂 thank you for your feedback! Highly appreciate this!

Edited by keybrickone

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The PF power supply looks good.

The wide voltage range input brick is big and additional space is required for the USB-A plug and the Micro-USB plug on the other side of the cable. Special very thin and very short USB cable would be required. All together, this solution exceeds the available free space of most trains. I don't see any chance this approach is practical.

 

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2 hours ago, legotownlinz said:

All together, this solution exceeds the available free space of most trains.

You wrote that before and I don't get it.

Are you referring to TLG trains? Or MOC's?

With TLG's trains that is true for some of them, but certainly not all. With a bit of modding and the option of moving the KB one box+converter into a car, I believe there are lots of solutions?

Or do I miss something?

Best
Thorsten

Edit#2: Is there a thing such a "zero width" USB A - micro USB adapter (male/male)? Did not find one

Edit#3: What if the converter brick had a male micro USB "plug" type thing - which snaps onto KB one?

Edited by Toastie
Grammar + questions

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1 hour ago, Toastie said:

Edit#2: Is there a thing such a "zero width" USB A - micro USB adapter (male/male)? Did not find one

Edit#3: What if the converter brick had a male micro USB "plug" type thing - which snaps onto KB one?

#2: not that I'm aware of (if you mean 2 connectors attached directly "back to back" without any lenght of cable). Easy to make, but a very, very special product. That being said, it probably exists already somewhere in yet another very niche application 😅

 

#3: that was another option, but I decided not to run with it because it would force a precise location and would be very tricky to get right in terms of tolerances (connector alignment) and sturdiness (forces when dislodging the hub/supply bricks). Plus the current concept would likely work with anything you could throw at it, which make this thing a bit less of a one trick pony

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29 minutes ago, keybrickone said:

#3: that was another option, but I decided not to run with it because it would force a precise location and would be very tricky to get right in terms of tolerances

Ahh, makes sense.

What about doing it this in a way with your universal connector brick aligning "vertically" with the KB one/2I/O hub? With no studs/anti-studs at all? Full height/width but maybe just 1 wide? I like the idea of screwing on the supply cables very, very much (this is the idea, right?). It is a pain in the butt to supply power to 8878 in a train. I needed to always make my own "plug", sort of 90 degrees type thing, all plastic removed, painful soldering.

As @legotownlinz said: Trainwise, space is >not< big. Not as in: "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." (Douglas Adams - of course :pir-laugh:)

With no studs, but just 1 wide, it could be "tucked in". No tolerances in the way other than: 1 wide fits.

Just tossing around random ideas.

Best
Thorsten

Edited by Toastie
Stupid phrasing - which is still the case.

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Here's an actual train and for comparison a typical USB cable.

  • A Lego Pup plug requires a free space of at least one stud with two studs being better to have enough room for the excess length of the cable.
  • The USB-A plug has a length of five studs (not including the metal part that would be inside the jack!) and six studs if you don't want to cripple the cable.
  • Neither left nor right to the battery box is enough space for the 2 x 4 wide voltage range brick, least of all for the USB cable.

DSC_7252.jpg

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I see the way you are going: Using commercially available USB A/B/C connector cables designed for rough = all day usage. That is not required though for trains, I believe.

I will try to assemble some pictures tomorrow or the weekend with my approaches. Using 8878 you have exactly the same trouble: It has this nasty socket on top. There is no plain vanilla plug/cable available that allows you to fit that one comfortable into any 6/7 wide train. As far as I found out. You need custom cables. I may be wrong.

The example you showed is really restricted in space. I don't believe that this is generally (but of course here specifically!) the case. Correct me, if I am wrong.

Next: We were discussing PF as well. Question is: Regarding space: What is freely available in the left engine? 

(Just to make sure: I do very much like these discussions. Honestly. As I [and maybe we] can learn from that. It is really relevant to me. Maybe I am too blunt - my apologies if that is the case. Last night was a nightmare over in another forum regarding the Colosseum)

Best regards (!)
Thorsten

 

 

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