Eurobricks Knights
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About Brickthus

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    PaB price investigator
  • Birthday 08/06/1973

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    Derby, England
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    LEGO (obviously), mostly Trains and Technic,<br />Power Functions and Mindstorms<br />Electronics and its application to LEGO, Christian faith.


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  1. I have been experimenting with connecting electrically to the Powered-Up port and emulating the simple Powered-Up device IDs on an electronic breadboard. The official connection method is to open up the 51515 (or Spike) Distance Sensor. Mine needed the Torx T6 bit rather than the T7 bit to undo the screws. It has a 1.27mm-pitch header inside. There are some 3rd-party small PCBs that have a suitable row of header pins but I used some thin wires (thinner than 1/0.6 bell wire, which is too big). There are three documented modes, the simple motor (on/off), the train motor (variable) and the light brick (also variable but starting at a lower voltage). The ID is set by the connections between pins 5&6 and the 3.3V supply pins (3&4). The pictured electrical connections, made by the black and green links, emulate the Train Motor, so the 2-port hub (from the train sets) can drive the output at a variable speed. Connecting a PF gearmotor across the red & black meter connections, it could be driven at variable speed like a train motor. By making a wider range of connections I found three undocumented modes, a Unidirectional Simple-Motor mode (on in fwd-only when either + or - is pressed), a Unidirectional Toggle mode (on in fwd-only with 1 press, off with another) and a Sequence mode that goes off-fwd-rev-off with + changing in one direction and - changing in the other direction. It will be interesting to see how these might be useful in models. This is all about the response to the handset input and how it affects the motor output when the ID is set. The scope is simple devices that do not need to use the serial protocol. Lots more experiments to do. They should work just as well with the WeDo2 hub, the Boost hub or the 4-port Technic hub. The compatibility table suggests that the 51515 RIK (or Spike) 6-port hub prefers serial devices, so I have yet to test that. The two versions also have different firmware. I wonder whether each hub could interrogate the connected device ID in the program. If so, that may have an analogy with the NXT, where it was possible to set a port ID in the program and control an LED as it changed the output of one of the serial pins. An analogue input (resistance or voltage, much beloved of RCX experiments) might need a serial device to be added to 51515 but I will think about whether it may be possible to poll a device using the variable voltage output. If the port can "see" the right device ID then it can behave in a particular way. Hope this encourages you to have a go at a few electronic experiments and get more play value out of Powered-Up! Mark
  2. This is the difference. Many AFOLs have different vision from that of TLG. TLG's vision has to consider the primary consumers, children of the minimum age on the box. Only recently have 18+ AFOL sets been a "thing". Even then, they are going for new markets to get more people to buy some LEGO kits, rather than going for those of us who buy plenty already. Ultimately they have to fulfil the vision of profit. AFOL visions range from bigger models in the chosen theme(s) to layouts in the chosen theme(s) to mash-ups between chosen themes to new model in an AFOL theme (such as modular buildings or supercars) to new ideas in the brick. I would count my own engineering aspects of vision, including maximising capability of the system, as being in small minority. I think TLG also realise the limitations of the materials, so we are not going to get motors even more powerful than the PF XL, simply because one of those can already twist an axle. I also doubt we will ever get a motorised flying model in a set because of the liability issues and drone licensing, which may be different in each nation - too many hoops to jump through. We won't get 8mm scale trains because they are too big and costly. We won't get a realistic jet engine model because it would not have the market, even with proprietary sponsorship. Play value may be a common element of vision but the AFOL idea of that may differ from TLG's idea of it. I enjoy building Technic sets but I find I'm not getting the play value out of the Control+ ones, partly because programming is too fiddly on a phone. I have had some excellent times with other engineers at work, when we have bounced ideas off each other and made such rapid progress on solving a problem; that is addictive! I guess there is a lot of that at TLG but not quite on the same topics; there they are prototyping models on a theme to create a range of sets at price points. With Technic it is a bit more individual but the theme has to cover a number of bases in the product range, to continue to capture the market each year. The question might be "what size and colour of aircraft should we have, compared to the size and colour of boat, truck and car?" As I have gained some years of experience at work, I have enjoyed working better with others. I'm still great on my own but value the group activity equally. I can show great "syntality" (group encouragement behaviour) as long as I know the parameters. This has been particularly good in innovation. Even then, it does not make me the best "hub" person. I wonder if TLG will find issues in their hiring process when it comes to candidates on the Autism spectrum, who may show limitations in teamwork but may be the best individually. It may also be that TLG prefer to hire younger people whom they can mould more. I think I'm in a better position where I am. As an engineer there are more needed where I am than there are at TLG. The pay is better, so I can afford my LEGO habit. Innovation is often about me making time to fit it in, rather than it being the whole job, which leaves me greater incentive to do more of it. I also have some opportunity to raise patents, some of which have resulted from my models. Some of the problems I tackle are more difficult, and with higher consequence, than those to make a decent model kit; there is more about "designing a system for safety" where I am. As a safety engineer I get to say "no" a lot but most people appreciate it, especially when I take the initiative to show an alternative. I suppose even Technic is more arty than I am used to being. I have got as far as considering the whole model as a system with functions but there is still more to it than that. Mark
  3. Brickthus

    Powered Up - A tear down...

    I'm taking my first steps in opening up the hardware. Using the official route (not cutting cables yet), I opened my 51515 Robot Inventor Kit Distance Sensor with a Torx T6 bit (not T7 as I read previously). To begin with I'm emulating the simple devices, which will allow the PU hub to control my own devices using the standard control patterns from the handset or software (train motor, gearmotor or light brick). Philo's page shows the connections to make to set the device IDs but there is another step to connect to the Distance Sensor rear half 8-pin connector. The Distance Sensor port has 2 unused pins separating the 2 motor pins on the right from the 4 control pins on the left (Gnd, +3V3, ID1 and ID2). The port is very small, too small for 1/0.6 wire, so I found some smaller stuff from an old electronics kit. The connections shown on the breadboard (green & black links) are for emulating a train motor, allowing variable speed control; ID1 to +3V3 and ID2 to Gnd. The leads to the multimeter measure the motor output voltage. I have just tested a PF M-motor successfully, connecting it in parallel with the meter leads, using a 9V to 12V lead with 1/0.6 wires attached and a 9V to PF lead. This allows the PU handset and hub to drive the PF motor with variable speed. I know a 3rd-party lead is available for driving PF motors but I will be doing more varied experiments, some including a PF power supply (LiPo or mains source likely) so that the PU hub batteries are doing only the Bluetooth communications. If only TLG had made a Bluetooth Receiver like the PF IR Receiver! I hope this goes some way to keeping it simple, in order to drive PF or 9V devices from PU, using the non-phone-dependent handset and standard motor drive protocols. I hope this will make PU a bit more useful. I find the 2-Port hub and handset useful because they are not phone-dependent. I also find the 6-Port hub useful because it can have downloaded programs from a PC or other device and can operate independently. I have more problem with the 4-Port hub because the phone controls are not as precise as the train handset; I don't get the play value out of the Technic sets that use them. If only the firmware would understand 1 or 2 train handsets without a phone being needed to connect them. I just found the train sets and Robot Inventor Kit on discount and bought some more - more 2-port hubs, handsets and another Distance Sensor to open up! Mark
  4. Brickthus

    Future Set Wishes and Speculation

    I started a LEGO Technic Creatures Facebook group. I have a working Technic model of Nemo the clown fish, with mouth and gills, pectoral fins with 2 degrees of freedom, fin folding and tail swishing selectable by gear selectors. The model also has tilt and turn and an anemone that can move; those could be motorised later. I did suggest the animals theme to TLG but they didn't want to make it a regular sub-theme of Technic. I also did a working BB-8 droid before that. This would be expensive with 4 XL motors, 1 servo, lights, 3 IR Receivers and 2 LiPo batteries but it was possible to drive and steer. The Technic sphere was a good challenge. Mark
  5. Brickthus

    Should people buy Fake Chinese PF motors?

    One thing that swings the idea in favour of fake motor inserts is that TLG used to use bespoke motors (the metal bit inside the plastic box) for most of 4.5V, 12V and 9V but with Power Functions they moved towards using standard off-the-shelf motors similar to other toys, which means they are more available, cheaper in bulk, and the failure rate is probably lower on average, and easy to rectify with a swap when something does fail. This means I would be prepared to fit a replacement insert into a PF motor casing if I had the tools, source details and patience. Assuming this has continued for PU motors, which it clearly has for some equivalent motor units, I would particularly advocate motor swapping for a PU BOOST hub, where there are 2 integral motors. If either of those failed then it is worth restoring the functionality of the whole £75 unit by swapping one. Since the unit includes encoders it would still be possible to drive straight according to the program. I had trouble back in 1994, in my degree project of a LEGO robot, as I had to use 2x 47154 5x4 motors geared down with worms to drive a robot chassis. I used the 4.5V rotation sensors with discs but it would never go in a straight line because it was underpowered considering the weight of the computer card and batteries it had to carry. Since then I switched to 12V train motors (8W each) that were the highest-power motor of their time. Now I would use PF XL-motors geared down 3:1, as in a rover robot that I used to test the early PF parts. Apart from the 9V 5292 buggy motor, PF was a great improvement in motor power but we have now used up that extra power in our expectations! Mark
  6. Brickthus

    LEGO Ideas Discussion

    It's a good idea, but if the vehicles belonged to a popular film or TV franchise then it would probably do better in the LEGO Ideas business model. Max Max would be a suitable theme for vehicles of various shapes with bones and spikes as decorations, but obviously those films were age-rated above the age of children who might buy the set. That makes it tricky. This is one reason why the LEGO movies redrew some themes from more adult films in a child-friendly way, to make the ideas available without the excessive violence. So Mad Max would be an input to the Apocalypseburg scenes to LM2, westerns including Westworld for the western scenes in LM1 (with robot gunslinger). TLG wants to attract new sponsors and new purchasers through LEGO Ideas, those who are not yet AFOLs, so popular themes are a way to get those. My model of Nemo might suffer the opposite age issue compared to what I say above, since the Finding Nemo theme appeals to younger children, where older children and adults would have just a memory of him. The model has Technic functions and build complexity for the 11+ age group, which is a mismatch, maybe even 16+! It was just so nice to motorise the realistic movement functions of a fish because it could be done, and the model was popular at the exhibition we went to before the Covid-19 lockdown. My own CityAirbus aircraft model could get a new sponsor whilst the theme might attract a few people in the aviation and aerospace industries. I hoped there would be additional appeal to anyone (usually AFOLs) who was disappointed at the cancellation of the Osprey set 42113. But then the model aims to be a Technic set, which is not as simple as some themed sets that have succeeded. At least it fits the same price point and age category as the Osprey, as a deliberate replacement. So, in summary, consider the potential for new sponsors, new not-yet-AFOL customers and the age-fit of your idea compared to the complexity of the model you make. Mark
  7. Brickthus

    [MOC] CityAirbus Air Taxi

    Yes, that would be lovely. I hoped it would add something new to Technic models. Its maximum height is where the two clear beams are at right angles. I tested the mechanism with another layer of crossed beams for more height but that was more difficult to keep stable and more complex to make the transmission for the wheels. I may include that in an update later. So far they have not chosen to use clear beams, like Anakin's Podracer 75258, in Technic sets but it's a great way to give the impression of unsupported flight! Support is growing, so I hope we will make the first milestone soon. Please keep on spreading the word. Mark
  8. Brickthus

    LEGO Ideas Discussion

    Yes, that's fair enough for those two sets; they are definitely new in topic and techniques. If only similar novelty of my Nemo model had enough appeal, but I suppose the age group who are into Nemo are not quite the same as those who could build a £200 Technic kit. LEGO Ideas does seem to be aimed at attracting new non-LEGO people to the product, more than satisfying AFOLs. I did buy both the Fishing Store (not built yet) and the Tree House (built up to putting the branches on). I have some difficulty finding space for all the models once they are built! I have built 6 Technic kits so far this year but I spend more time building MOCs, some in an attempt to join the 10k elite! My favourite was the Exo-Suit as I was a Spacer in my youth. I tried a Space Monorail project but a faster, never-obsolete, brick-built monorail is just not the same as the nostalgia for the old 1990s system. Mark
  9. Following my disappointment that the Osprey 42113 did not follow the normal pattern of availability and cost, I decided to build a civil aircraft MOC of a similar price point. I chose the CityAirbus because it has an interesting configuration, not seen before in LEGO Technic. The real one is all-electric, improving on the usual gas-guzzling Technic prototypes. There was also room to innovate in the model. A lot of prototype aircraft inherit a shell from an existing one and fit new equipment, which doesn't make for such an interesting model. With Technic we want to see the new mechanisms, so I left the underside open to view the gearbox. There are three motorised functions: rotor spin, a "hovering" mechanism and a movement mechanism. A single L-motor powers the 8 rotors and a selection gearbox for the other 2 functions. The right lever does the hovering mechanism, which lowers a pair of linear actuators that move clear beams to raise the aircraft off the ground. The left lever does the movement mechanism that powers a sliding axle arrangement that drives clear wheels on the feet of the scissor jack. The two manual "mechanisms" are removal of panels on each side and the ability to rolls sideways when landed, using small wheels on the skids. The red lever sows the centre of the function selection gearbox. It works like the one on the back of Claas tractor 42054. The rotor drive comes from the centre of the gearbox, using the reversing bevels, and goes up, then diagonally to reach the front rotors. The rear rotor drive goes along the top. My first prototype test model allowed the rotors to tilt in sided pairs but they do not do so in the real CityAirbus. The motor is above and to the rear of the function gearbox. The hovering mechanism is geared down by worm but has a small gear-up before the worm. A clutch protects the motor. You can see the final drive from the end of a row of 16-tooth cogs to the LA (mirrored the other side). The movement mechanism has an axle sliding in a red 8-tooth cog in between the LAs, with bevel drives to the wheels. The battery unit (any 4x8x3 one will do) is housed at the rear. The 12-tooth cog shows the control to a PF LiPo for this prototype but the PU 2-port hub could be used. The maximum hovering height is about 7cm but the movement function works as soon as the skids have left the ground. Further flight uses the traditional "swooshing" method. Walking pace would meet the real 75mph design speed at 1:20 scale! My hope is that this will help to ensure that we have LEGO Technic civil aircraft of a decent size in the range of sets, seeing as the Osprey would have been around for at least next year, had it not tripped over the "non-military" policy. As a set, the final CityAirbus model would need to be sponsored by Airbus Helicopters, who own the IP to the real CityAirbus. They would specify decals to put the livery patterns and brand names on it. The design and build time was 125 hours over about 5 weeks in August and September, quite a few hours after midnight! More pictures in my Brickshelf folder Video on YouTube Project on LEGO Ideas Please let me know what you think, and do support and share! Thanks, Mark
  10. Given the cancellation of the Osprey, I built a model in the VTOL family, the CityAirbus air taxi prototype, aiming for a similar price point I chose the CityAirbus for its interesting configuration. Its similarity to a drone may answer the question "why isn't there a LEGO drone?". It also has potential for innovation of functions and the real one is all-electric. The real one is testing in Germany this year. Some YouTube videos show its early tests. I designed the model to emulate the hovering, using techniques from 75258 Anakin's Podracer and an aircraft loading platform. It can also move forwards and backwards whilst hovering. Mark
  11. Brickthus

    Should people buy Fake Chinese PF motors?

    Maybe if you make Great Ball Contraptions, which use up a motor's life quickly, you would be able to keep genuine LEGO motors for other models. I agree with the point above that best accuracy for Mindstorms etc. merits the best quality. For rapid usage of life anything that is safe will do. Therein lies the question; does it still meet the CE standard of toy safety? My new aircraft (pic below) uses a single L-motor. The take-off mechanism slows it down but doesn't cause the clutch to slip. The function might not be used too often, so the life would be OK. The rotor spin function is on all the time but is a lighter load. It is best to design models so that the load results in the motor turning at half the no-load speed. That is the point of maximum power transfer. For train models, the motors can do 300mA but I stuck to 200mA per motor to prolong their life. 9-Volt trains had 2 motors where they had used a single motor as 12V trains. Mark
  12. Brickthus

    LEGO Ideas Discussion

    Yes, it takes so much work to drum up the support that a moment's dismissal in the 5-minute review-results video is rather cursory. I still haven't worked out how to get much more than 1000 votes. Either people must have superb marketing skills or lots of contacts. LEGO Ideas remains a theme based more on popularity of topic than innovation of building techniques. Mark
  13. Brickthus

    Future Set Wishes and Speculation

    Now that we have both wider and narrower tyres at 43mm, the latter from 42093, smaller-scale trucks like 42008 can at least have single-width front tyres. A decent large truck of traditional style needs at least 2 types of tyre, a narrow one to double-up for driving axles and use singly for tag axles, and a wider one for super-wide front wheels and trailer wheels. The ratio is about 1.5:1 fro the two widths, but both pairs of parts (hub and tyre) are somewhat unlikely to be produced at any size, except for motorbike wheels! We have seen a couple of multiple-42082 MOC cranes but I would hope for a 6-axle one as the ultimate crane. The "ultimate crane" theme struggles with the limitations on the number of telescopic sections as well as the rigidity and weight over boom length. Whilst a real crane can have up to 7 telescopic sections and 5 is common, LEGO sets have 2 or 3. I was surprised to see only 2 in 42082. A telescopic section 1 brick thick would be far too heavy; I tried it once. Telescoping needs the walls of each section to be 1.6mm thick, not 8mm. I wonder which 2021H1 set(s) will have the 2-switch 6-AA battery unit that the Osprey had. This is a key PU piece that provides for anything that doesn't use phone control. I still wish the 4-port PU hub could be driven by the train handset. Could a firmware update achieve this? I enjoyed building 42100 but I don't really play with it. I found the phone controls imprecise compared to a handset with proper buttons. Soon the parts would be redeployed; I had planned to use some of the motors with the spare port of the switched hub but the Osprey failed. Following the Osprey debacle, we need more civil aircraft of 700-2000 pieces; over 2000 pieces might not be sufficiently swooshable. Has anyone made one a civil aircraft as a suggestion to TLG? We need to support the aircraft theme. I have some experiments ongoing. In terms of colours, especially panels, I'd like to see something with more "bright blue" (the traditional blue colour of 857). Not much in 42112. 42024 (2014) was the last set to have the 5x11 panel in bright blue. The parts could be re-used for Classic Space with Technic functions. Mark
  14. Brickthus

    42113 Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey

    It can be done with 4 links rather than 3. I did the collective and cyclic pitch for an Apache, using the 8856 helicopter rotor parts as the swash plate. Each pair of wishbone parts (black) has the collective and one dimension of the cyclic pitch added together with lever mechanisms. Both are routed to the respective controls in the double cockpit. Picture Folder The 8-lobed ball piece can slide on the drive axle with a little persuasion, either silicone lubricant or filing the axle hole. With heavy blades the blade-off prevention building method has to be strong. The new blades don't have as many attachments as the 89509 educational parts but 3x peg holes perpendicular to the release direction should be enough. I had plans to implement this for a Chinook. It could also be done for Osprey at a larger scale than the kit. In order bring the controls through the engine tilt mechanism, turn the motion into linear motion, sliding in and out of the engine pod, and use rotatable devices to turn it into lever motion within the engine pod. Mark
  15. Nemo has had a few updates, particularly in his eyes. Since then I have changed the gearbox so that two functions may be used together. This allows the mouth & gills to move at the same time as either the tail swish or the pectoral fins. Gear selection is now done with 2 manual levers on top, so this saves a motor. More possibilities from the free port (PF or PU) include motorising the Anemone movement. Nemo will be on show at the National Space Centre in Leicester, UK on 14th-15th March as part of their Brickish weekend. It would be great to meet some of you there. Mark