Having the fortune to head down to the Gamecity events in Nottingham with the lovely lady of Buzy Bobbins we found ourselves surprised by just how packed the lobby for the National Video Games Gallery was that day, one of the main culprits was this little stall run by Assim Ishaque the founder and inventor of Simbrix.
My interest peaked I squeeze through the crowd to examine the table to suddenly find myself offered a fist full of the Simbrix to keep by Mr Ishaque, respectfully declining (my pockets already rather full at the time) I did manage to have a rather improvised interview with Mr Ishaque while examining the Simbrix.
It seems that Mr Ishaque got the initial idea for Simbrix when his daughter became very fond of Hama beads, the Hama beads often got lost or patterns scattered at a slight knock and often his children got bored of old projects which had been ironed and needed to purchase more beads for new ones.
Wishing that the beads were reusable and easier to use in general Mr Ishaque began designing his own which after 400 prototype designs that experimented with different materials and shapes that could interlock over the last 2 years.
Earlier this year Mr Ishaque actually managed to get some local support for the project and appeared in Toy news, the Nottingham Post and BBC Radio Nottingham as well as attempting to fund the project on Kickstarter, unfortunately this drive failed but undeterred his team continued to improve the Simbrix and tried again.
This new Kickstarter has not only succeeded but at the time of writing has hit 216% of its goal and still the Simbrix are been improved, the Kickstarter continues until the 11th of November 2015 so I recommend getting in and grabbing the Simbrix at a discount price early. I recommend reading the Kickstarter anyway as it contains a lot of history and background into this 2 year project and is quite interesting.
Now I've given you the background lets get into the juicy details of the bricks themselves.
The Simbrix are slightly larger that Hama beads, are considerably thicker and lock together in a similar way to a jigsaw but also they can be iron like Hama beads for a permanent connection.
These differences do mean that many completed projects will be larger in size than if they were made in Hama but they are far less brittle if ironed, this increase in size also means its easer for older people and those with large fingers to use them.
The locking design is a great measure of improvement over Hama Beads in the fact that tweezers and pegboards are not require, the structures are robust enough that ironing is optional so kids can be left to play with them unattended (though their small size means they are not suitable for very young children who may swallow them).
The locking design has been improved since I last tried them, the Simbrixs I used seemed rather sturdy but they came apart easily if pressure was applied correctly, apparently some colours of that run has issues (I noticed the pink tended to slip and didn't hold well) but they have been solved and here is a glimpse of the improvements.
Apparently this new batch is the first time the entire colour pallet has held together so well and has been put through a series of tests including the connection and disconnection of parts, a drop test, been thrown, been used as a frisbee and bending. In addition there are now glow in the dark Simbrix as well.
The astute amongst you may notice that that there are only 18 colours in the picture above and that is where Simbrix is currently lagging, Hama Beads are available in over 50 different colours meaning that you can get greater degrees of accuracy and shading however as Simbrix Develop I imagine their available pallet will expand in time.
Also bead for brix Simbrix are a more expensive initial purchase at the beginning however their re-usability and the lack of tools/supervision needed to use them means that in the long run (if you are not ironing them) they actually are cheaper. The Simbrix are also neutral in design giving more creative freedom whilst Hama Beads are often bought in box sets around a theme.
In short I rather like them, they seem like a natural evolution of Hama Beads, while if I wanted to do fine artwork I'd go for Hama beads I would definitely consider Simbrix as a more fun and cheaper option.
Want to know more?
Buzy Bobbins gives a crafter's perspective on Simbrix in their article.
Go to Simbrix directly through:
Never heard of the Nottingham National Video Games Gallery check it out here.