Lowa

Train Automation - Track Switch Motors

118 posts in this topic

18 hours ago, Glenn Holland said:

First off, let me say I really am a fan of this system. I'm definitely interested in trying out a motor or two. I like the remote control feature and it seems to work very well.

My only concern is that the assembly seems to sit very high. PennLUG uses very long passenger cars and equipment, which my cause a problem if we were to use these motors. Personally, I am a fan of the classic pole switch, something more like the old 12V buttons or something easily implemented into the Lego system. My idea here is to build an interlocking tower around a group of these switches.

Great work so far!

-Glenn

Thank you!

I took a couple of pictures so you can get an idea of the space between the train and the switch motor.  The picture below shows the situation with a 6 x 28 base, I put it in the spot where it's closest to the motor.

4dbrix-track-switch-wagon-1.jpg 4dbrix-track-switch-wagon-2.jpg

This is the same situation but with a 6 x 34 split-level base:

4dbrix-track-switch-wagon-3.jpg 4dbrix-track-switch-wagon-4.jpg

If your passenger cars are even longer, let me know the size of the base and position of the wheel so I can verify whether it's ok...

 

9 hours ago, LEGO Train 12 Volts said:

Beautiful system ... the best I've seen so far ! :wub:

I am only concerned about the overall dimensions greater than those of the yellow lever...

Thank you !

Hopefully the pictures above give you a better idea of the space between the train and the motor.  If you need any additional dimensions or verification, please let me know...

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

17 hours ago, legobanker said:

I can't wait to try these out.  Keep us posted when you have these available.  Make sure you have enough to go around for the first run.  I'd take 2 motors and a controller box to start. :-)

Great !  Absolutely, I'll keep you all posted about the progress we're making.

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

6 hours ago, MagnusE said:

The program is only for windows? perhaps for raspberry pi in the future?

At the moment it's Windows only.  But nControl is written in Python using pyside because we wanted to be able to port it to MacOS and Linux.  This is something that we'll do, but we still need to figure out how to do this...

Raspberry pi would indeed be interesting as you could have a dedicated system just for controlling your layout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of, great work you're doing! Love your quick responses and adaptations. 
I was planning on making some automated track switch motors for my own layout when I stumbled upon this. It's perfect for what I want to do with it except for one thing:

On 10.12.2016 at 3:57 PM, Lowa said:
  • the control software: you will need a subscription which will be $12/ year

I really highly dislike paid software subscriptions. I understand the work you're putting into this and I think the pricing is fair but I hate subscription based payment models and it's probably the reason I'm not going to buy your motors, even though I like them a lot. I don't quite understand why one need a subscription for controller software anyway. It's not like there's going to be a lot of software updates on something that moves a servo one way or the other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

1 hour ago, McWaffel said:

I really highly dislike paid software subscriptions. I understand the work you're putting into this and I think the pricing is fair but I hate subscription based payment models and it's probably the reason I'm not going to buy your motors, even though I like them a lot. I don't quite understand why one need a subscription for controller software anyway. It's not like there's going to be a lot of software updates on something that moves a servo one way or the other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

You're right it doesn't make any sense to ask a fee for a routine that just controls a servo motor.  The software (nControl) is free and will remain free for our customers!  The subscription is an additional service for people who have asked us to use it with their own hardware - I guess I didn't explain myself well enough...

You need three components for the automation system to work: the motor, the controller and a button (either an on-screen or physical button).  We'll make all three components.  If you get our motors and our controller, you can use the software for free. 

We don't want to keep our system closed, i.e. you don't have to use all our components.  We will document our motors (pin outs, position angles, etc) so you can connect them to your own DIY controller.  This will also not require a software subscription.  For example, you can connect your controller to DIY buttons or your own software.  You will only need a subscription when you want to use your own controllers but still would like to use our software interface with your layout.  The subscription is part of the 'modularity' of our system, so that people who don't want to use our hardware can still use the software to interface with their own hardware. The fee is to manage that interface.

The track planner is free for everybody and will remain free.

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/11/2016 at 7:41 AM, Tcm0 said:

Are you going to open source the pinout of the motors?

Yes, we're going to document everything so you can integrate it in your own DIY system if you want to.  We'll do that for all the actuator and sensors.  We made an API for the controllers and we'll document and publish all the interfacing functions.  

The goal is to have a modular system where you can combine our components with DIY components.

On 12/11/2016 at 7:41 AM, Tcm0 said:

There's already SBrick which is a good alternative to the IR system lego uses. It's bluetooth based and it's range should be sufficient for about everything.

The range is ok but the functionalities are too limited for all the applications I have in mind.  For example, I'm working on a train with a 'position sensor' so that the train can track where it is.  The train has to transmit that tracking information back to the control system so we need bidirectional communication capabilities.  I also have a prototype of a LEGO compatible stepper motor and see some applications for it, you will not be able to control that with either of these to systems.  They might work for some applications, and I'll look into it, but at some point we'll need something more powerful...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/11/2016 at 3:22 PM, Elektrychka said:

Can you check 8 studs wide 64 studs long custom base?

Wow, 8 x 64, I did not see that one coming...

I just checked and this is what I found:

  • for 6 stud wide cars, the maximum length is 38 studs
  • for 8 stud wide cars, the maximum length is 30 studs

I don't immediately see a way to reduce the height of the motor.  What could be possible is make a motor with an 'extended arm' so you can move it away from the track.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry for the previous post, somehow the text got lost. Second try:

1 hour ago, Lowa said:

You're right it doesn't make any sense to ask a fee for a routine that just controls a servo motor.  The software (nControl) is free and will remain free for our customers!  The subscription is an additional service for people who have asked us to use it with their own hardware - I guess I didn't explain myself well enough...

Now I'm confused. So nControl is a routine for the servo? 
But then you say people who use their own hardware have to pay a subscription. 

What I would like to do is just to buy the motors, hook them up to my Arduino and have it control them. As I understand in that case I'd have to pay the subscription, because I'm using my own Arduino instead of your controller, right?

 

Edited by McWaffel
Removed weird double-quote (having issues with the forum tonight :S )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, McWaffel said:

Sorry for the previous post, somehow the text got lost. Second try:

Now I'm confused. So nControl is a routine for the servo? 
But then you say people who use their own hardware have to pay a subscription. 

What I would like to do is just to buy the motors, hook them up to my Arduino and have it control them. As I understand in that case I'd have to pay the subscription, because I'm using my own Arduino instead of your controller, right?

 

No problem!  I guess things are clearer in my head than in my posts...

If you want to get the motors and hook them up with your own Arduino, you're good, there's no need for a software subscription to do that.  We'll also provide you all the information you need to do that.

The only question that remains is how are you going to interface with your Arduino, i.e. how will you tell your Arduino that it needs to flip a track switch ?  

  • if you add a number of push buttons to your Arduino to do so; you don't need a subscription.
  • if you write a software or a phone app to interface with your Arduino; you don't need a subscription.
  • etc.

In essence, you don't need a subscription if you make the interface with your Arduino yourself.  In case you don't want to do that we offer a solution: a subscription to nControl.

nControl is a software that provides a graphical interface to communicate with your Arduino, it shows your layout and provides tiles to flip your switches, see screenshot below.  It's something that you can use if you want to, but you don't have to.  If you use a 4DBrix controller, you don't need a subscription either, then you can use nControl for free.

ncontrol-1.jpg

 

 

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Lowa said:

No problem!  I guess things are clearer in my head than in my posts...

If you want to get the motors and hook them up with your own Arduino, you're good, there's no need for a software subscription to do that.  We'll also provide you all the information you need to do that.

The only question that remains is how are you going to interface with your Arduino, i.e. how will you tell your Arduino that it needs to flip a track switch ?  

  • if you add a number of push buttons to your Arduino to do so; you don't need a subscription.
  • if you write a software or a phone app to interface with your Arduino; you don't need a subscription.
  • etc.

In essence, you don't need a subscription if you make the interface with your Arduino yourself.  In case you don't want to do that we offer a solution: a subscription to nControl.

Okay, that's great! Exactly what I wanted to hear. I guess you've got a new costumer then! Looking forward to get some of your servos once they're available and I got my layout ready :) 
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Lowa said:

Yes, we're going to document everything so you can integrate it in your own DIY system if you want to.  We'll do that for all the actuator and sensors.  We made an API for the controllers and we'll document and publish all the interfacing functions.  

The goal is to have a modular system where you can combine our components with DIY components.

Thanks, that sounds awesome. I'm pretty sure that this will help to get many cool community projects (anyone in for a mindstorms controlled train layout?).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 13/12/2016 at 8:31 AM, Lowa said:

...

ncontrol-1.jpg

I am loving where you are going with all of this, from the controllers to the monorail stuff you are working on.

Is there any way that we can get our hands on that nControl software at the moment? I would love to just play around with it to say what is possible with it.

Keep up the great work!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Younge said:

I am loving where you are going with all of this, from the controllers to the monorail stuff you are working on.

Is there any way that we can get our hands on that nControl software at the moment? I would love to just play around with it to say what is possible with it.

Keep up the great work!!!

Thank you!

Yes, there is a first BETA version of nControl that you can download from our website (Windows only at this point...):

http://localhost/4dbrix/downloads/index.php

This version has the track planning an the first step of the 'simulation', i.e you can simulate when the automation would look like on your screen.

I'm currently working on the next version that will have support for the controllers and the capabilities to add custom actions and links between the tiles.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/10/2016 at 2:05 PM, fastlane250 said:

Is this compatible with the 9V switch? Those don't have the single, solid 'click' when switching from straight route/diverging route like PF/RC switches. I don't know if the video addressed that because I'm unable view it where I am at the moment.

I just tested the motors on a 9V track switch and they performed as desired!  

We customized our dark gray to match the current 'dark bluish gray', so the color is a bit off on the 9V track.  We could make the motors in black as well, that might be a better match for the 9V track.  

If there are any suggestions or additional questions, don't hesitate to contact us...

 

 

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@McWaffel, @Tcm0 or any other Arduino enthusiast,

I just finished the documentation of the track switch motors; I added the required technical information and a wiring and code example.  The examples are very straightforward, especially if you're an experienced Arduino, but they might be handy for beginners.  This should be everything you need to hook the motors up to your own Arduino.  The goal is to document all our Arduino compatible components like this.

https://www.4dbrix.com/documentation/arduino/

Let me know if there is anything missing or not clear ?

P.S. The 3D printers are currently busy printing the first batch of motor housings, we're getting there...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking forward to trying these out. It's a great time to be a LEGO train enthousiast. I'll keep an eye on your European site for availability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Patiently awaiting the release of the motor/controller! The interface looks great.

 

Do you have an ETA on release to the USA?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Lynxer said:

Patiently awaiting the release of the motor/controller! The interface looks great.

 

Do you have an ETA on release to the USA?

The look and feel of the interface are very important to me and the goal was to have something that you would feel good about when using it, so thank you for the complement !

The goal is still to have the first ones (motors & controllers) out before the end of the year...  

Edited by Lowa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 17/12/2016 at 10:29 PM, Lowa said:

Thank you!

Yes, there is a first BETA version of nControl that you can download from our website (Windows only at this point...):

http://localhost/4dbrix/downloads/index.php

This version has the track planning an the first step of the 'simulation', i.e you can simulate when the automation would look like on your screen.

I'm currently working on the next version that will have support for the controllers and the capabilities to add custom actions and links between the tiles.

 

Hi, this looks great, but the link is a local one

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Lowa I noticed in your ncontrol software there is a "Light" or signal in your layout. Are you planning on making a signal that we can use for 9V that would stop our trains when the light is red and let them go when the light is green?

Great Work overall!

-RailCo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, Rail Co said:

Are you planning on making a signal that we can use for 9V that would stop our trains when the light is red and let them go when the light is green?

Yes, that's the idea!  

The train traffic lights have 2 ultra bright white LEDs.  The casing has to 2 'inverse studs' where you can add transparent LEGO bricks to choose the color.  The back of the light has 3 studs to mount it.

4dbrix-train-traffic-lights-for-lego-tra

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.