Powered Up presentation

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Here are slides from the Powered Up presentation at the Fan Media Days in Billund. They answer a lot of questions about compatibility of the different systems, but if you have any that haven't been let me know in the comments and I'll ask them tomorrow.

You can find images of the new Technic PUP components on Twitter.


View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

51 comments on this article

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By in Belgium,

Seriously the onboarding is terrible. I bought the Batmobile and the passengers train. I wanted to use a Batmobile engine to motorize my Ferris Wheel, and I just don’t know what to do or where to find informations. I checked the app, I assume it should allow me to do what I want but still haven’t found my way :( They should provide example and tutorials in the app.

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By in Netherlands,

I must admit that these slides did absolutely nothing to clarify the current ecosystem and its compatibility issues to me.

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By in United Kingdom,

So does that mean they WON'T provide a PF-PUp converter cable?

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By in United Kingdom,

And oh good grief they finally show an ON/OFF simple battery box that everyone has told them was an essential staple from the start (and going back over 50 years of LEGO motors) and it's some hideously lumpy thing with technic blocks sprouting out of it in random places! Why on Earth couldn't it just be an adaptation of the AAA box? And at least give us some extension cables to go with it, even if you don't trust us with splitter cables!

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By in Australia,

I think the PU converter cable slide needs clarification. Surely backwards compatibility is essential for TLG.

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By in United Kingdom,

I've heard of 'Form Over Function' but this whole system is 'Tablets Über Alles'.

Talks of compatibility while the education site is covered in warnings that Spike and WeDo have the same new connectors but are totally incompatible; the modularity and expandability of Power Functions is flushed down the drain; the simple joy of connecting a light or a motor to a battery has been forgotten; and the price of even the smallest motor has doubled. The practical educational value of LEGO motors has taken a big step backwards.

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By in Poland,

This is still overpriced and outdated crap.
I really don't understand why Lego can't invest into smaller motors.

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By in United Kingdom,

Looks like the battery box is a new 'hat' for the Technic hub. Hard to tell but it looks like it only has two outputs compared to the Technic hub's four but there's some sort of hole next to the side port where another port would be. Could it be an axle hole for activating the control switch on the top?

Why couldn't it be a 'hat' for the smaller AAA box, if you're then only going to let use have two outputs?

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By in Netherlands,

^^^what's particularly funny to me is that the tablet market is actually shrinking and tablet boom has been over for years. https://www.statista.com/chart/16081/tablet-market-growth/

But it makes sense for TLG which is desperately out of touch when it comes to any digital initiatives. They should just license out everything related to electronics to somebody else.

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By in Belgium,

@Sammael : to be fair with TLG their app works on mobile too, which makes more sense in terms of market reach and availability.

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By in United States,

I am really interested in knowing more about the slide titled "Brick to Brick notes"
t looks like they are showing that the hubs (batteries) can be daisy chained together somehow. I would be delighted if this means we can link two hubs to work in Tandem; in particular, this would be great for those trying to run a pair of Passenger Trains together.

Please ask how that is done?

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By in United States,

Are we going to get a motor with as much torque as the XL or EV3 large motor? And are we going to get something as fast as the RC buggy motor? I can make out a PF servo in a slide but I can't tell what kind of plug it has. Also, I am confused about the converter cable. I can imagine the hub connected to a converter cable hooked up to a PF extension cord to an old 9V motor. It would be useful.

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By in United States,

And this is when I leave Lego trains. Nothing against the new system, but the train designs themselves have become stale and I have so many already. Don't want to add a third controller system. Time to say goodnight.

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By in Norway,

^Very sad, but very true. Just the fact they don't have doors is a turnoff.

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By in United States,

Very neat! They have definitely put a lot of thought into unifying all the systems under one umbrella. Looking forward to this system becoming widespread!

If they manage to release that converter cable that's gonna be one heck of a backward compatibility.

Very informative, thanks for sharing these slides with all of us!

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By in United Kingdom,

£8.99 for 2 led lights? Give over. Seems like somebody was Powered Up when they agreed the pricing. I would prefer to see LEGO producing the ABS housings for motors and connectors etc. designed around a published standard, leaving others (and possibly therefore potential partners) to produce the actual cables and motors and electronics to fit. I feel there's no need to always try and do this kind of thing in-house - it would be quicker and cheaper and have a longer shelf life if it actively involved more interests than just one company whose focus will move on in the coming months.

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By in United States,

@Rogue10 You can, both batteries have to be on the same channel (aka color) for it to work. The issue is the need for "polarity switch" to make the engines run in the same direction. For example, using 2 x 60197 Passenger trains with engines on first and last car, you need a "polarity switch" in the last car to make the engine move in the same direction as the first.

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By in Germany,

Questions:
Are there Plans on Stand alone expansions packs?
(Similar to 8293 Power Functions Motor Set)
- No Smart Devices needed
- Plug and Play
- Technic version and Brick version?

Are different Controller(types) planed?
- PF Train controller
- Technic Compatible switches/buttons etc.
- expandable with parts to be a RC Car controller or Joystick

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By in China,

Question/clarification: power functions is officially dead, and will no longer be produced/supported?

(Time to stock up...)

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By in United States,

As far as how a converter cable's existence, how would such a converter cable work?

Let's say you wanted to connect a PF Battery box with a PU motor. The PU Motor requires a Power and Ground rail, and (for my guess) a PWM (a continuously switching on and off signal for variable durations) and Direction signal. Without introducing extra integrated circuits, such a converter cable would be very difficult to make. Now let's say you want a PU hub with a PF motor. The PF Motor requires only Power and Ground, which the PU hub can supply, but it seems like a waste of electronics to just turn a simple motor (6th slide addresses this issue with the PU Simple Hub). If both converter cables exist, some may be tempted to connect two PU hubs together with the two converter cables, and therefore it connects both power wires together which could be electrically dangerous if they are at different voltages.

I don't know if LEGO plans on making converter cables, but as an engineer, I can understand the design complexity that such a cable requires.

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By in Japan,

@Agent00Z I suspect the converter cable will be to use older motors and sensors with PUP hubs, rather than the other way around. But it's even more complicated than you suggest.

PF has both motors and sensors, but without an ID feedback system. So a PUP hub would not be able to tell what is attached. This means that for motors, when using a handset, Lego would have to choose between train style speed up/down control for all motors, or RC style bang/bang control for all motors. Similarly for sensors, the sensor would start sending data back to the hub, but the hub would have no way of interpreting that data, as it wouldn't know what type of sensor is attached (or even that there's a sensor attached).

My hope is that they would ignore this complexity and just release a simple cable that drives motors directly, and they just choose a motor behaviour. We'd have to live with that when using a handset, sure, but when using apps, it would be fully configurable. And to just ignore the sensors since outside of WeDo 1.0, noone had access to them anyway.

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By in China,

It was also short-sighted to create a system for which the acronym is PU.

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By in United Kingdom,

Part of the reason there is no conversion cable yet is that they don't know exactly what it should do, but there is a desire to produce one.

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By in United States,

Honestly I might never understand why people are so up in arms about a new Bluetooth system for motors. Power Functions offered only Infrared control that was extremely limited in range, required relative line of sight to what you were controlling, and was dodgy in conditions like bright sunlight. You could resort to the third-party Sbrick to add more reliable bluetooth control, though that REQUIRED the use of an app rather than a physical controller (unlike the Powered Up system, which has a physical controller you can use instead of the app if you really don't want to rely on a smart device). This new system, while complex when laid out all at once like this, shows a huge amount of versatility and seems like it will become moreso with the introduction of backward compatible cables in the future. The Powered Up app seems like it will also be able to offer a level of programming and customization akin to Lego Mindstorms even without the bulky and expensive computerized hub of those platforms.

Are there some kinks to work out? Almost certainly, as there are with the introduction of almost any system of this scale. But the amount of promise it shows easily justifies the investment into a successor to the Power Functions standard.

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By in United States,

While the the IR system of PF did have range limitations, the BLE system of PU seems objectively worse for crowded environments.

Trains running on PF would continue running when connection was lost. Trains running on PU stop dead on the tracks when connection is lost.

I tried running a PF train at the Bay Area Maker Faire convention, and the train couldn't make it 10 feet with all the people in the audience carrying smartphones/watches/headphones/etc that all crowd the wireless spectrum.

Has Lego considered the AFOL train community in their decision making? Without changes the community will slowly die as the aftermarket supply of 9V and PF train parts becomes depleted.

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By in Spain,

There is an aspect of this new system that i like very much, and nobody here has mentioned.
Lego has published the communication protocol, so anybody can create control systems just by issuing the right Bluetooth commands. Lego has also created official plugins for Scratch 3, so you can already create programs for Mindstorm EV3, Boost or Wedo 2. And there are open source projects in diverse stages of development; I have just tried one library for Javascript and another for Python programming languages.
I know that there are similar developments for Power Functions like SBrick, created by third party companies by reverse engineering (correct me if I'm wrong about this). But the fact that Lego itself is embracing openess nearly from the birth of Powered Up, is in my opinion a good sign.

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By in United States,

Still prefer PF though.

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By in United States,

@Mr. Hobbes That is true. I believe it's I2C that communicates between sensors and motors with the hub.

As for whether a cable should exist, it would be great to have, no doubt, but it's all the matter of whether engineering can allow for it to work at a fair cost.

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By in United States,

@Huw A few more questions for the PU team:

1. Any option of having a LiPo Hub version? I use the PF LiPo battery in many of my trains and it is easier to recharge without removing the battery.
2. Polarity switch option? Allow to use 2 train motors in a single car.
3. Is the PU App in the near or long term future?

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By in United States,

Shoot. I saw the other day that the PF rechargeable battery was Out Of Stock. Now it's not even listed, and to compound the problem there are none available in North America on Bricklink as parts or sets. Several of the European listings won't even offer to ship worldwide due to the restrictions on shipping lithium batteries by air. Now that I've started regularly using the two I own, I was hoping to pick up at least a couple more.

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By in United States,

Do they have pole reversal switches for pup yet? Would that even work with the pup system?

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By in United States,

As a Windows user, I'd like to know if trains could be used with an official Windows program. I know the controller exists, but having access to sounds on Windows would be nice.

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By in United States,

That before-last slide said it all: LEGO Power Functions ENDS. This means we only have a few more months to buy the practical PF motors we want while they're still in stock. I appreciate LEGO's efforts in creating a new system for motorization, but they've made it so restrained and limited to the sets they come into. There is no point in purchasing them if we plan to use them for anything else.

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By in Netherlands,

And what about the new Lego Control + system, where to place that, is it compatible?

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By in United States,

Honestly I would’ve just preferred if they updated the power functions IR to Bluetooth and kept the price the same.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Lyichir - the problem is not simply about IR vs. Bluetooth. The problem is that 'remote control' is no longer an optional plug-in module. You can no longer simply connect a motor or some lights to a battery and switch it on - something you have been able to do with LEGO for over 60 years has just been wrecked. Without a compatible phone or tablet, the whole system is useless.

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By in United Kingdom,

@erDuende - Where has the Powered Up protocol been published? I've seen various attempts ot reverse-engineer it, but a search for an official LEGO publication turns up nothing.

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By in United Kingdom,

I just hope they start ensuring better compatibility with devices. I got the batmobile a while back and it just sits there gathering dust because it won't operate with any of my devices, even a brand new tablet that I purchased after it. May as well have wheel clamps on it.

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By in United States,

@Joefish:
No, there is a dedicated remote. You get it in the train sets, but not the Batmobile, and you can buy it separately from [email protected]

It still leaves new issues unresolved. With PF, every person hanging out with a club layout could have a PF controller on them. Up to eight trains could be running at any one time without any conflicts, but in a pinch any individual could switch channels and operate any train. With PU, you might be able to operate even more trains at the same time (or they might start interfering with each other), but every train will have one dedicated controller and no others. If anyone walks away without leaving the controller/phone behind, you'll have to chase them down or start swapping out trains.

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By in Japan,

@Joefish The presentation shows that they are releasing a dumb "battery box" for running motors without a controller or smart device.

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By in United Kingdom,

@MrHobbles - it's huge though! We need an extension lead so it can be hidden out of sight of decent folk! Should have based it on the AAA box.

@PurpleDave - a remote control that robs you of the control over what it does! It changes how it behaves depending on what motor is connected, and you get no choice. You either have stepped speed control over a train motor, or drive of a small motor WHILE you hold the control down. The remote control does not allow you to connect a motor to the hub and just switch it on.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Spike Prime will, but of course it's an expensive solution!

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By in Japan,

@Joefish As you can see in the pictures the designs between System and Technic hubs are different. Based on that, this battery box is clearly intended for Technic. Lets wait and see if they announce a System one before bringing out the pitchforks. :)

As I keep saying, Power Functions was equally as slow to take on. There were very few motors, no conversion cable, and it took them far longer to release the IR protocol than it has for them to release the PUP protocol.

It took a couple of years for a full range to appear, and a bit longer for the extension/conversion cable. Let's give this a bit of time too. :)

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By in United States,

@Joefish: Your concern that "Spike Prime and WeDo are totally incompatible" is a huge exaggeration. As these slides point out, all the Powered Up motors and sensors (including those designed for WeDo and Spike Prime) will be able to work with the standard Powered Up app.

The reason it doesn't work the other way is because the WeDo and Spike Prime software is designed for educational settings only, to meet the needs of a particular curriculum. Why would you expect it to run non-educational toys that aren't part of that curriculum? You might as well ask why Microsoft coding software for schools isn't designed to work as an input method for XBox games.

And concerns that a mobile app control scheme is not accessible to people who don't own mobile devices are likewise making a mountain out of a molehill. As of 2016, 84% of American households owned a smartphone and 68% owned a tablet. For comparison, in 1998 when the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System came out, only a measly 42% of households had a home computer, even though computer software was necessary to create programs for the RCX control brick! And the longer we wait, the smaller the number of households without Powered Up compatible mobile devices is likely to get.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Aanchir it's not about compatibility, it's about built-in redundancy. As soon as LEGO drop support for the app, or the Blutetooth low-power protocol is updated to something else on new phones, Powered-Up components become garbage. Whereas Power Functions and even 9V trains will still be working.

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By in United States,

@Joefish:
Wait, it treats a PU train motor like a train, and any other motor like an RC car? Oh, the trainheads are going to _HATE_ that, since many of them deal exclusively (or nearly enough) in steam trains. You know, the kind of trains you have to power by building non-train motors into the engine and connecting to the wheels with gearboxes. So, basically it sounds like PU control is incompatible with blind drivers. You _can_ put flanged drivers on an RC, PF, or PU train motor, but when you add the blind drivers the spacing gets thrown off.

@Aanchir:
As Joefish says, it's all about longevity. Five years from now, are they going to roll out a new motor system? When they do, will they keep supporting the PU app? Because it might be worth keeping a legacy smartphone around with an older OS so you don't have to worry about an update rendering all your expensive electronics obsolete.

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By in United Kingdom,

@PurpleDave - exactly. So you can't use it to power something like the Emerald Night with a technic-type motor, nor can you use it to run something continuously like the Roller Coaster or Carousel. Not off the LEGO remote, anyway.

You CAN over-ride this 'intelligent' behaviour with the control App on a tablet, or Bluetooth on a laptop, but not using the remote.
And MAYBE the technic battery box version will have a sticky directional switch, but there's no way it's going to be speed-regulated, and it's a damn big and ugly thing to be trying to fit in a train!

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By in United States,

@Joefish:
Well, you _can_ power those things with it, provided you devise a way to lock the controls in place on the remote. Sucks for battery life, of course, but if the remote is constantly sending a fixed signal, the motor will constantly operate at that level, correct?

The Technic box looks like it would be perfectly suited for use in a train...as long as it's diesel. Or you could just use the PU train motor at that point and save yourself some trouble.

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By in United States,

@Joefish and @Purple Dave: To me it seems likely that the Powered Up system has been designed with at least a ten-year lifespan in mind. After all, LEGO kept Power Functions around that long, despite it not offering nearly as much functionality

I'm also not sure why there's any worry about Bluetooth Low Energy being REMOVED as a feature of future mobile device models… after all, to my knowledge any phone that can connect to devices using Bluetooth Low Energy can also connect to devices using Classic Bluetooth, despite that standard having first been implemented in consumer products nearly two decades ago.

While in the long term there's definitely a possibility of mobile operating systems or hardware no longer remaining compatible with the Powered Up app, I don't really see how that differs from current desktop operating systems or hardware no longer being compatible with LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System, LEGO Spybotics, LEGO Studios, and LEGO Dacta Control Lab software.

And I find it unusual to see LEGO's 9V system being praised for its longevity when I've seen FREQUENT complaints from collectors of these older electric parts about the tendency of 9V rails, wires, and motors to physically fail or degrade over time. Even if in theory parts in that system could remain functional for decades, in practice it is often not the case.

It's true that some of these faults of older electrical parts can be overcome with some extensive DIY engineering that LEGO surely never intended users to engage in. But similarly, issues with software compatibility can be overcome using a virtual machine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_machine I don't see how that would be a considerably greater obstacle than cracking open a LEGO 9V motor to replace faulty contacts, wires, fuses, and capacitors.

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By in United States,

@Aanchir:
They switched from 9v to RC in 2006, and put out one last 9v pack (track, motor, regulator) in 2007. So anything that's out there is _already_ over a decade old. But the earliest stuff is nearly 30 years old at this point and may still be in service. Part of the reason people complain about 9v stuff failing is because it's so expensive to replace these days. A new motor can run close to $100, new straight track is over $1/inch, and the prices aren't getting any lower. There's also this weird issue where they reportedly changed the internals of the 9v train motor (along with some of the other Technic motors), and the newer stuff apparently has a higher failure rate than the older stuff.

Our LUG does over 20 shows per year (probably ~250 total by now), and almost always runs trains. Our two main problems with 9v track have been people packing it wrong, and people assembling it wrong. It's almost all on twin ballasted 32x32 baseplates that are stored on edge. If you store it with the track running vertically, all that weight is resting on the four tips, and we've had a couple instances of the plastic being broken off as a result. And when we assemble the track, we've had a few instances of the metal tabs riding up over the next section of track instead of being pinched in the middle. _Usually_ when that happens we can just separate the track, push the metal tab down, and reattach the track without any permanent damage.

The slow shift towards PF in our LUG comes from a combination of factors. One guy exclusively uses PF because he prefers to build steam trains, and PF allows you to motorize the engine. Another guy runs a 9v line on the inside and an RC line on the outside because that allows him to increase the radius on the outside curves so they match the inside line (usually the outside curve spreads away from the inside, but his stay equidistant). We have other members who are just getting started with trains, and the cost to get started with 9v these days is just too high a bar for entry.

I'm not really a train guy (Train is just an excuse to set up a Town for Batman to play in), but I've got a couple. I want to get my Toy Story train running again, and was thinking of slaving an RC motor off a 9v motor so I can finally motorize the engine. I've been working on the new Hogwarts train (took me nearly a year and nine attempts, but I finally came up with a gearbox that works). And I've got my custom TMNT Shellraiser. That one weighs a brick, has slight clearance issues (at 13-wide, it needs a minimum of 14 studs to keep the giant tires from bumping into stuff), but I can set it down on the layout and run it for 12 hours straight at an outdoor show on a hot, humid day, and probably only have to tweak the speed once or twice. I don't know if there's even room to fit a battery box inside, but if there is I _could_ run it off a Li-Po PF battery where I could manually adjust the speed and just drop it on the track with the wheels already running. And every two hours it'd shut itself off. I could also run it off of PU, but I'd either have to buy a fortune in rechargeable AAA's, or a fortune in non-rechargeable AAA's (but at least it'd use a train motor, so the remote would be a workable long-term solution). The Hogwarts train, on the other hand, uses a Medium PF motor, so apparently that's not going to work with PU at all.

But many people are just starting to shift into PF, it took them a few years to really flesh out as much as they have, they never did come up with a replacement for the micro motor, and now people are once again stuck between one system where critical components have gone out of stock, and another system where it'll be a few years before they finish rolling out new components (that will probably leave gaps from _two_ previous systems that will never be filled).

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