Lights Too Dim?

If some of your Brickstuff LEDs are dim (for example, at the end of a string of connected lights), the attached diagram may help fix the issue.

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  • The very problem my 7-year-old "engineer" and I were troubleshooting today.  While our design wasn't quite as perilous as the "before" here, I think we are (were?) running into is the cable length.  The supply is a USB rechargeable brick (ModularVille is perched atop the pool table, so no wires are key.)  

    The build-out involved a supply line that branches out to each of five city blocks, and each block has 2-3 pico street lights/interior lights, and 3-4 strips.  At first, it was stellar, then grew dimmer over time (despite re-charging or even going onto wall power).

    Our short-term solution today was to run a "booster" wire (2x 24-inch) out to the two most remote legs and, effectively, connect the "tail" ends directly to where the USB comes into an expansion adapter. Some wise man once preached to me about how DC runs need to be short, AC is more forgiving... and absent reducing wire length, the direct-run gave us a boost... and enough to offset the flashing dim-bright-dim-bright of the flashing pico traffic light.  

    I'll have to sketch it out for grins and giggles, but plug-and-play it is, but when you're covering 24 square feet (and growing monthly), the "dim" happens.  ;)

  • Paul George Thanks Paul for sharing your experience-- it sounds like you are on the right track.  One thing we've thought about selling is a higher-power power supply from which "drops" could be branched out to power individual sections.  For people with large city setups, this would make for more efficient and scalable power distribution.  What do you think-- would something like this be helpful?

    Thanks again for your post!

  • Rob Klingberg I've no doubt it would be helpful, but if i were to put on my business owner hat and the wise wisdom on Shark Tank, I'd perhaps stop short of calling it a formal direction.  (The comment was relative to how an entrepreneurial spirit can run afoul of meeting a market need versus doing so absent a vast market demand.)  While it would be helpful to me, I'd speculate -- wholly without any evidence -- that many (most?) installs are smaller scale, and this would be very niche.

    That said, the current product line is more than suitable to offer the needed pieces to remedy the effort... placing my order for expansion adapters (two regular, two micro)... which actually solves two issues in one swoop:

    • Eradiacare the need for the as-is: I currently am setup with an expansion adapter to give me a "leg" into a 2:1 pico, which snake into pico streetlights
    • Eliminate the need for ANOTHER expansion adapter to infuse the booster legs, since they'll all be placed at the end of the lines.

    So while a noble offer, I'd defer to your better judgement.  And once I finish the entire 4'x8' base, and solution my other issue (I'll start a different thread), I may regret my deferral of such a widget.  😉  If anything, I'd ponder if a larger gauge wire with the regular plugs may be of greater merit - and easier to market and construct - as I'd imagine the larger gauge would have less resistance for the longer lengths... thinking you can get a gigantic power supply, but if we're still trying to shove all that juice into a... 26ga? wire... there's only so much capacity that could effective transit down the pike.


    Visually, we've got this puppy built out with a 5VDC USB power supply (upper right), and the red dotted lines were the original wiring branches.  The purple are the "booster" lines that run, without in-line load, out to the various blocks to boost the supply.  (All are/will split from a regular expansion adapter with 24-inch wires in line.)

    (The starbursts are pico street or accent lighting, the 2-LED strips are inside the ground floors only -- to minimize conflict during play time -- until I further delve into the experimental power-capped studs...)  Red lights are flashing red pico streetlights; one current (lower center), one future (upper center).

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  • Paul George Thanks for your feedback, very wise!  Many of our customers are large-scale LEGO User Groups (LUGs) who have similar needs for large-scale power, so expanding into the needs of the LUGs is one thing we are always considering.  We actually have many of the parts needed to make these already in our shop-- we've been tinkering with the idea for awhile.  So it wouldn't take much additional time or investment to make these for sale.

    Thanks also for the great diagram.  Question-- how are you running those purple feeder wires?  Under the streets?  Do you use baseplates or have you created a brick-built raised street, under which it is possible to run wires?  You'e definitely got the right wiring arrangement!

    Thanks again for sharing your tips!

  • Another solution is to make a thicker extension cable.  I used some of the Connecting Cables and 26 AWG stranded wire and that helps the dimming solution.  A recent variation is I used 22 AWG solid wire inside my brick built roads as the power distribution system (more details in a future post).

  • Rob Klingberg These great guys back east are making these teeny wires... ;)

    The city itself is perched on a plywood sheet on the pool table, with a flannel sheet covering the wood (really to protect the pool table, but I digress).  The wires are small enough that they just lay under the plates, and every 24" they pop up to go into the expansion adapter, which just tuck into the nearby building / accessory / recycle bin interior, etc that's nearby.

    I like Jim Pirzyk 's notion of larger gauge wires, I've just not bothered to dust off my soldering iron from that LED project for a (real, non-LEGO) fire engine when I re-did the gauge cluster in LED from incandescent.  

    But... golly... if there is a formal direction for a bigger power supply, I'm in for one.  Or two -- the kid has been making noise that her Friends-Disney-Jungle-Pet-Rescue-Town lacks adequate illumination.  But I'll distract her with getting The Castle lit first.

  • Paul George Jim Pirzyk Thanks for the feedback as always!  Jim brings up a good solution-- you can definitely pick up some of our DIY power cables which have power connectors on one end and bare wires on the other.  Then you can use just about any wire of any length between two of the DIY cables to make your own extension cable.

  • Hi, I added lights to a MOC and I've noticed that they've become dimmer over time (months, not years.) I checked my circuit and it seems to be branched well. For grins, I added a new light of the same type and same manufacturer (not from Brickstuff) to an open slot in a connector board and the new light is much brighter (see photo.) So that tells me it's not the circuit. Is this something that happens with poor quality lights?

  • Ed Ehrgott Hi, just to make sure I understand-- both lights in your photo/test are from other manufacturers, or is one from us?

  • Rob Klingberg  Both are from other manufacturers. They are the same part. One has been in service for several months. The other is freshly connected.

  • Ed Ehrgott OK, thank you.  I can't speak to the parts other manufacturers use, but we did change our design about three years ago to pick longer-life LEDs and resistors that would better condition the power and prolong their life even further.  We've always purchased our LEDs from a single supplier, so hopefully this makes our product more consistent and durable.

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