Lowa

Train Automation - Track Switch Motors

112 posts in this topic

OK, the signaling has really caught my attention. Prototypical railroading usually has three lights ("aspects") with a yellow light as well. This tells operators that the next signal is red, since stopping distance for trains usually exceeds sight distance. Since your systems are computer based, is there an option to add that functionality? Some of us, myself included, may also be interested in other types of signals such as Pennsylvania RR Position Lights:maple478.jpg

I also know a few of us would be interested in semaphore signals as well, but as of yet I don't know of anyone who has found motors to move the signal. Not sure if there would be enough demand to work into your system, but just wanted to throw it out there.

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37 minutes ago, Lowa said:

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

 

AWESOME! Please keep us updated when you get all of your train products out there!

Amazing!

-RailCo

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3 hours ago, CrispyBassist said:

OK, the signaling has really caught my attention. Prototypical railroading usually has three lights ("aspects") with a yellow light as well. This tells operators that the next signal is red, since stopping distance for trains usually exceeds sight distance. Since your systems are computer based, is there an option to add that functionality? Some of us, myself included, may also be interested in other types of signals such as Pennsylvania RR Position Lights:

I also know a few of us would be interested in semaphore signals as well, but as of yet I don't know of anyone who has found motors to move the signal. Not sure if there would be enough demand to work into your system, but just wanted to throw it out there.

The light I showed is inspired by the classic 12V LEGO train lights (7860) but adding a third light is most likely possible.  It's mainly a matter of finding a way to get it all the components fit inside the brick, but I think it's feasible and I'm certainly going to try it.

The Pennsylvania style lights, well, that's another story...  I'm not saying it's impossible, but there are a few things that have to be clarified.  It's not only the number of lights that play a role but also the 'pattern' in which they have be switched on, for example

sigs25.gif

The more patterns you want, the more complexity it adds to the electric circuit, the more pins you need from the controller, the less lights you can add per controller, etc.  But if you take the light in the picture you posted and consider 3 patterns: a) vertical line, b) horizontal line, c) diagonal line.  That would most likely be feasible to make.  If there are 3 pattern options, that light would also be compatible with the red-orange-green light and could use the same controller.  Another point is that when I google those lights, I see an infinite number of slightly different variations of these types of lights.  So maybe we need to find a consensus about a 'standard design' for such a light.  I'm certainly interested in checking the feasibility, because those could be very neat train traffic lights...

The current light (picture I posted) also supports 'flashing' of the top and/or bottom light.  So that's another things you need to keep in mind in while defining the specifications.

 

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20 hours ago, Lowa said:

The Pennsylvania style lights, well, that's another story...  

True. I wouldn't expect a full spread of PL's to be made available just for the few of us who may want them. I guess what I was more getting at was being able to plug in multiple lights for each aspect and being able to arrange them differently would be handy.

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On 18.12.2016 at 7:17 AM, Lowa said:

@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...

Looks great! I would like to know what kind of current the motor draws under normal operating conditions. Would it be possible to add this information to the documentation?

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I like the ideas/solutions 4DBrix has been generating/presenting, especially the switch motors, nControl software and the lights.  I would definitely be interested in the extended arm version of the switch motor, since I know of people who do build train engines and cars longer than 38 studs (6-wide) or 30 studs (8-wide). I know it's holiday time and all, but any further development on that front, by chance?

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9 hours ago, weeble1688 said:

I like the ideas/solutions 4DBrix has been generating/presenting, especially the switch motors, nControl software and the lights.  I would definitely be interested in the extended arm version of the switch motor, since I know of people who do build train engines and cars longer than 38 studs (6-wide) or 30 studs (8-wide). I know it's holiday time and all, but any further development on that front, by chance?

Thank you!  

I have indeed been busy with designing an 'extended' version of our track switch motors.  I made a prototype that moves the motor 4 studs away from the track.  The arm is as low as I could make it to cover the 'supports' of the LEGO lever system; the 'arm housing' is 4 plates high (12.8mm).  The supports of the lever are 11.4m high, so the extension arm is hardly higher than the lever supports and lower then the top of the yellow lever.  The extended motors work flawlessly, see video.  I also don't see any issues to make the arm longer.  The main question is: what's the optimal length for the extension arm ?  The longer the arm, the longer/wider the cars can be; but also the larger the footprint of the motor becomes...

To everybody who's interested in the extended motors:

  • would this motor work for your long engines/cars ?
  • If so, do you have any suggestions for the length of the extension arm ?
  • If not, what needs to be changed ?

Extended Motor

 

Standard Motor

 

On 12/23/2016 at 9:38 PM, CrispyBassist said:

True. I wouldn't expect a full spread of PL's to be made available just for the few of us who may want them. I guess what I was more getting at was being able to plug in multiple lights for each aspect and being able to arrange them differently would be handy.

The behavior of all the lights can be customized and linked in nControl; so it is indeed possible to combine multiple standard lights and make them function as one 'global' light.  This is in line with the general philosophy behind nControl: provide easy to use basic control for entry-level users, but also provide full access to all the underlying functionalities for advanced users. 

Still, I think at some point I will still give it try to see if I can make a 'Pennsylvania style' light.  I might not be that hard...  and I think they could add a special touch to the layouts.

On 12/24/2016 at 1:31 PM, McWaffel said:

Looks great! I would like to know what kind of current the motor draws under normal operating conditions. Would it be possible to add this information to the documentation?

Sure, not a problem.

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I will definitely be buying 12 of these switch motors and control boxes when they're available.  Would it be a possibility at some point for the computer program to control an sbrick or buwizz so it could stop and start them at the lights, speed up and down etc? I think the sbrick bluetooth commands are available.

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@Lowa, instead of making the motor farther away from the switch vertically, maybe make it horizontally farther away?

Ex:

[motor]                [motor]-----[switch]

    |        versus  

[switch]

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57 minutes ago, M_slug357 said:

@Lowa, instead of making the motor farther away from the switch vertically, maybe make it horizontally farther away?

Ex:

[motor]                [motor]-----[switch]

    |        versus  

[switch]

You just put into words what I had been thinking for the past day. Basically the mechanism would be rotated 90 degrees towards the single track end of the switch. This would push the mechanism farther away from the track, which in turn would allow for greater overhang (I believe).

I'm not sure how feasible this would be with the servos you use, but I would be more interested in buying switch motors in this configuration.

Glenn

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@Glenn Holland, I'm glad we're on the same thought process!

I think that if the motor was pushed back at least 4-8 studs' worth, that  should hopefully accommodate something as large as 10 by 60 studs..?

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@Glenn Holland, @M_slug357

Thanks for the feedback!

Moving the motor in that direction indeed complicates the mechanism because one of the supports for the levers is in the way; it will also put more strain on the mechanism but I'll see what I can come up with...

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22 hours ago, Lowa said:

@Glenn Holland, @M_slug357

Thanks for the feedback!

Moving the motor in that direction indeed complicates the mechanism because one of the supports for the levers is in the way; it will also put more strain on the mechanism but I'll see what I can come up with...

And it would make it impossible to connect two switch tracks directly to each other... ;-)

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5 hours ago, mattmarsden said:

Any updates on availability?

We started production and the first systems are available!  As availability is still limited we haven't put them in our Bricklink store yet.  However, they are available, so if you want to purchase a system, please contact us at info@4dbrix.com.  

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On 12/29/2016 at 7:27 AM, kieran said:

Is there any idea on cost of switch motors in the U.K.?

Our US store ships worldwide; the controllers are $39.95 and the motors are $14.95.

They will also become available in the European Bricklink store. We haven't fixed prices in € yet; the initial idea was to have the same price: 1$ => 1€; the higher value of the € could cover the European vat taxes. However, the € has lost and keeps on losing value with respect to the $ that this is no longer sustainable and we'll have to adapt the € prices...   

We don't have prices in £, you'll need to see what works best from the UK: prices in $ or in €.

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On 12/29/2016 at 5:50 PM, marook said:

And it would make it impossible to connect two switch tracks directly to each other... ;-)

Yes, that is a valid point.  Both approaches have their pros and cons.  But as we're 3D printing it is feasible to have a number of different motor designs for different situations, and maybe that's what we have to do.

  • The design that moves the motor away from the track just needs some fine-tuning so there's not point not to make them if there is an interest.
  • The design that moves the motor parallel to the track still needs to be done.   

 

 

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7 hours ago, Lowa said:

Our US store ships worldwide; the controllers are $39.95 and the motors are $14.95.

They will also become available in the European Bricklink store. We haven't fixed prices in € yet; the initial idea was to have the same price: 1$ => 1€; the higher value of the € could cover the European vat taxes. However, the € has lost and keeps on losing value with respect to the $ that this is no longer sustainable and we'll have to adapt the € prices...   

We don't have prices in £, you'll need to see what works best from the UK: prices in $ or in €.

Ok thanks

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On 1/12/2017 at 8:23 PM, MaineBrickFan said:

I would probably be interested in the extended arm versions.

 

I'm going to try to finalize those during the coming weeks.  It's a pretty straightforward step from the current design.  The ones that move the motor parallel with the track is going to take more time as that requires a fundamentally different design...

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Just to update this thread that I received my 12 motors and 3 controllers yesterday and I've had a quick play and I am very impressed. The quality seems very nice and the software works well and is very flexible, I can see them really improving my railway - in particular I've got a few switches that I couldn't get to very easily and now I can. I'll give a more in depth review in a few days time.

Edited by mattmarsden

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@McWaffel, @Q3671

We're preparing a shipment with monorail track that we'll send to our European distributor this week.  If you're still interested in the track switch motors and/or controller, we can add them to that shipment so you can get them from the European 4DBrix store.  In Euro, the motors are €43.95 and motors €16.45.

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On 24.1.2017 at 1:22 AM, Lowa said:

@McWaffel, @Q3671

We're preparing a shipment with monorail track that we'll send to our European distributor this week.  If you're still interested in the track switch motors and/or controller, we can add them to that shipment so you can get them from the European 4DBrix store.  In Euro, the motors are €43.95 and motors €16.45.

I would be interested in a couple of motors! :) I would probably get two for starters

Edited by McWaffel

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