The return of FB4 - introduction of FB4-XE
The Return of FB4, in a new “-XE” Variant
(By Pangolin Laser Systems)
Our users have felt the effects of the supply chain in recent years, particularly concerning the availability of FB4s. This situation has led to increased competition. While we encourage competition, we have unfortunately witnessed long-term partners resorting to counterfeit hardware, which has been disheartening. After encountering ongoing challenges in combating these supply chain issues, we recognised the need for a fresh approach. Our solution involved a redesign of the FB4, incorporating readily accessible, modern components. This undertaking was no small task, requiring retooling the entire assembly line and developing firmware from the ground up.
The FB4-XE is the new variant of the FB4, specifically designed to meet the demand of the marketplace while ensuring as seamless integration between existing variants as possible. While the underlying components have been entirely revamped, all other aspects remain unchanged. The FB4-XE maintains the same physical dimensions, same pinouts, and board-level connections as the FB4-SE. As a result, our OEM partners can seamlessly incorporate the new hardware and the ability to deploy the new hardware quickly without issues.
From the end user’s perspective, the transition to the XE variant is equally seamless. Although the firmware has been rebuilt from scratch, the user interface, feature set, and options remain the same. We are committed to simultaneously developing firmware and features for both XE and SE versions. Inside the software, you will interact with XE versions of FB4, the same as SE variants. The only visible distinction will be the “XE” tags in various locations to help identify the XE variants.
The only downside we encountered with the new FB4-XE is the inability to make the brand-new firmware backwards compatible with BEYOND versions prior to 5.2. This challenge arises from the intricate interplay between the new processor and firmware and the interaction between the new firmware and BEYOND. Although we attempted to emulate the SE variant for backward compatibility, we determined that it would introduce stability and complexity issues that are not conducive to a device used for show production, where reliability is paramount.
On a positive note, we have made significant progress in clearing the backlog of orders, and within the next month or two, we anticipate having ample stock availability for FB4. Once the stock is replenished, you will be able to place orders for the FB4 as usual through our website. If you have previously placed an order and are awaiting a shipment date, we encourage you to reach out to your sales representative for an estimated time of arrival.
We take immense pride in our hardware development teams for their resilience in navigating the challenges posed by the supply chain while concurrently working on the development of FB4-XE. We are excited to meet the growing needs of the laser marketplace, as our production capacity for the FB4 has significantly increased beyond pre-pandemic levels.
We sincerely thank our valued users for investing in our brand and entrusting us with their business. We understand the challenges brought about by the shortage of FB4s and sincerely appreciate your patience and support. We are excited to provide this solution to ensure the continued progress of the industry that we love so much in the direction our customers demand.
Q: Why did you have to make a new variant?
A: Over the past few years, the shortage of FB4s has been keenly felt by most of our users and OEM partners. We have dedicated significant time and resources to mitigate this issue, spending more time than we would have liked just on the phone and email searching for necessary components. Unfortunately, we frequently encountered challenges such as receiving used or counterfeit parts that couldn’t be used. In light of these circumstances, we made the decision to shift our focus from fighting with suppliers to pursuing a more effective approach; rebuilding the FB4 on more modern and highly available parts. As a result, the XE variant was created.
Q: Are SE variants still in production?
A: Yes, Both the XE and SE are in production. However, the parts supply for SE hasn’t gotten better; the FB4 volume has only increased due to the XE variant being added.
Q: Why could the counterfeiters build Fake FB4s, but you guys couldn’t build real ones?
A: Counterfeit hardware often incorporates counterfeit chips, and it would be hypocritical of us to use counterfeit components ourselves while strongly opposing counterfeiting of our own hardware. Additionally, counterfeits that do not use counterfeit hardware may resort to using used CPUs or b-stock chips, which operate at slower speeds. Therefore, it’s important for us to maintain a commitment to sourcing genuine components that meet the quality we strive to provide for our users.
Q: What if I don’t want XE and want SE?
A: Orders and backorders for our hardware are being processed and fulfilled in the order they were received, following a first-in, first-out basis. The supply of hardware will be based on the units that come off the assembly line first. However, if you require a specific piece of hardware for a legacy installation or any other specific requirement, we recommend reaching out to your sales representative. They will assist you in exploring the possibility of obtaining an SE variant to meet your specific needs.
Q: How can I tell which variant is my FB4?
A: The simplest and easiest way to tell is through the actual printing on the device. It will designate SE or XE after FB4 in its name on the hardware. Additionally, you can easily identify which is which in BEYOND 5.2 or QuickShow 5.2 in the FB4 settings window, projector settings window, and the hardware list.
Q: Will SEs become obsolete?
A: We want to assure you that there are no plans to discontinue support for SE variants. We remain committed to providing long-term support and maintenance for older hardware, including the QM2000 boards being supported with the latest versions of BEYOND. You can have full confidence in our ongoing dedication to ensuring sustained functionality and assistance for our valued users utilising older hardware configurations.
Q: Why isn’t XE Backwards compatible?
A: We did try to make XE backwards compatible for a while. However, the XE variant uses a chip that is generations ahead of the chip used on the SE. Consequently, the firmware had to be completely rewritten to accommodate the new chip. The firmware needs to be able to communicate with BEYOND and its processor in a different way from the previous SE model. “Emulating” SE on XE was not something we could do without introducing other problems that could deem the device unreliable for show production.