Late last week, a crew of affiliates working with Plecter Labs finally revealed the new “Plecterpixel” blade connectors that are intended to simplify Neopixel saber builds. This exciting development should help to bring Neopixel sabers into the mainstream, but the engineering behind the connectors is every bit as interesting as their potential.
So, how do the connectors work? A series of spring-loaded pins on the hilt connector correspond with a set of three, target-like rings on the blade side of the equation. The bullseye of the blade connector is the data connection. It carries the signal from the board to the Neopixel strip, defining color, effects, and ignition timing, to name a few. Moving outward by a segment, we find the negative contact surface, followed by the positive at the outer edge of the connector. Since the unit is spring-loaded and circular, it does not need to be keyed, and there aren’t any physical connections to break. So long as the pins on the hilt side touch the appropriate spots on the blade connector, everything should work perfectly well.
My excitement for this project is tempered by one key omission – a lack of in-emitter charging. Among custom builders, 8- or 10-pin DIN connectors are popular for Neopixel sabers. These multi-channeled connectors offer extra pins for things like RICE (Real Time In-Hilt Configuration Editor) and recharge ports. The new Plecterpixel connectors support only the channels needed to power a Neopixel strip, no more and no less. In some hilts, particularly those builds that require two buttons, finding a place for a recharge port can be challenging. Space limitations inside the hilt can make internal recharge ports equally problematic. While the new connectors will be more durable than DIN connectors, they don’t offer the same level of flexibility.
On single-button, Nano Biscotte builds, the new connector makes lots of sense. Plecter’s Nano Biscotte soundboards don’t support auxiliary buttons or RICE, so finding somewhere to place a recharge port is rather trivial. The story isn’t the same for PRIZM-powered sabers, though, where auxiliary buttons are essentially necessary and RICE is on the table. For those, the DIN connectors make plenty of sense.
As it stands, I’ll likely offer builds with both types of connectors, depending on what I see as appropriate and what customers desire. The draw of a standardized approach to Neopixel sabers is undoubtedly appealing, even if the new connectors aren’t as fully featured or as flexible as other options.