Lowa

Full Train Layout Control with Tablet

38 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

39 minutes ago, Younge said:

That is such great news!!!

From that photo that you posted, is that a genuine Lego train motor attached to the bogie?

And is your "control unit" running via bluetooth? I'm just trying to work out how multiple trains could work if it's wifi or another protocol.

The battery box and train motor are all genuine LEGO, only the controller is ours (the light gray box).

We tested RF, Bluetooth and WiFi and found that WiFi was the best choice for full layout automation systems.  So that's what we designed our system on; we're not supporting Bluetooth, it's a fundamentally different technology.

Using multiple trains with our system is straightforward.  In fact, it was one of the design criteria and that's were the power of the WiFi approach became clear.  Each controller has a unique identification number.  You need to specify that identification number in the train control tile in nControl; the instructions of that tile will be sent to that particular controller/train.  So to use multiple trains: you need to create multiple train control tiles, specify the corresponding controller ID in each tile and you're ready to pilot multiple trains!  

How many trains can you use ?  In practice, there shouldn't be a limit.  The WiFi communication is based on MQTT (open source internet of things protocol) that is designed to handle hundreds / thousands of devices...

The controller needs minimal configuration.  You need to connect it to your computer (USB) once to upload the WiFi network name, WiFi password and IP address of the computer running nControl.  After that, you just need to switch them on (LEGO battery box button) and they automatically connect with your WiFi network and the computer running nControl.  It takes about 10 to 15 seconds for the controller to boot and connect to the WiFi network and nControl.

Edited by Lowa

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Thanks for the detailed reply.

Goodbye SBrick, hello 4DBrix!!!

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Oh wow... that Train controller looks awesome. Which WiFi-version is used? What about the energy consumption? And is that a button for playing sounds on the lower left of the Train control panel? :look:

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On ‎6‎/‎1‎/‎2017 at 10:15 AM, Lowa said:

Thank you!  I agree, button controls would be awesome!  We're looking into that and would like to make 12V style button that can easily be integrated in a control panel made out of LEGO bricks.  We have made some fully functional prototypes, see below.  The 'box' is 6x8x1 LEGO base units.  For the buttons you can use 3D printed tile or you can use 4x6 genuine LEGO plates, both options are possible with the same base.  

4dbrix-button-control-1.jpg    4dbrix-button-control-2.jpg

I'm sorry about how you feel about the price of the automation system, we're doing our best to keep the system as affordable as possible...

 

 

Well that peaks my interest to have button control! Yes, I am a little hesitant on the price but I do know that you are trying to make this affordable for everyone I wasn't trying to bash your product or anything that is just a concern I had.

Great news on the button control though! I'd love to try that out!

-RailCo

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On 6/1/2017 at 8:39 AM, Lowa said:

4dbrix-train-controller-1.jpg       4dbrix-train-controller-2.jpg

This looks promising!

I have a few questions though:

-How many motors can this support?

-Why only one attachment port?

-What about compatibility with older 9V components? battery boxes, etc.

 

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On 6/2/2017 at 4:43 AM, Capparezza said:

Oh wow... that Train controller looks awesome. Which WiFi-version is used? What about the energy consumption? And is that a button for playing sounds on the lower left of the Train control panel? :look:

Thanks!

The controller is based on the ESP826612E which support Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz, support WPA/WPA2 - 802.11 b/g/n.  You can found all of it's specifications here: https://mintbox.in/media/esp-12e.pdf

The panel has indeed a sound button, but the controller does not support sound; the sound is going to be played by the computer controlling the train...  The goal here was to make the controller as compact as possible.  The controller does have two 0.1" pins for two sets of LEDs...

 

On 6/2/2017 at 11:51 AM, Rail Co said:

Well that peaks my interest to have button control! Yes, I am a little hesitant on the price but I do know that you are trying to make this affordable for everyone I wasn't trying to bash your product or anything that is just a concern I had.

Great news on the button control though! I'd love to try that out!

-RailCo

Thanks for the feedback!  It's good to know there is an interest in control buttons...

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On 6/3/2017 at 1:42 PM, M_slug357 said:

This looks promising!

I have a few questions though:

-How many motors can this support?

-Why only one attachment port?

-What about compatibility with older 9V components? battery boxes, etc.

 

Thanks! 

  • It supports one motor.
  • There is only one attachment port because it only supports one motor.  It does support 2 lights but those uses 0.1" pins (standard breadboard pins, the pins are at the front of the controller).  The goal here was to keep the control as small as possible and adding more attachment ports would have increased the size of the controller.
  • The connector shown on the picture will only work with PF style battery boxes.  I haven't tried making one for old style 9V connects but I'm planning to give it a try because that would be handy for the monorail.  Another option I thought about was to make a variant with a standard 9V battery connector.  I found some rechargeable 9V battery that are just 16mm wide (most are slightly thicker...), so they fit in a 2 stud wide space in a MOC, which seems like a very handy option to hide a battery without needing the space for a battery box.

1.0x0.jpg

 

 

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On 6/1/2017 at 8:39 AM, Lowa said:

It's funny you mention that because that's exactly what we're working on right now!  We just finalized our first WiFi train controller.  It has a PF style connector on top to connect the train motor and it has a cable with a PF style connector to connect it to a LEGO battery box.  The controller measures 5x4x2 base units. We were planning to make a video to show case it one of the coming days...

4dbrix-train-controller-1.jpg       4dbrix-train-controller-2.jpg

 

We added a new train control tile in nControl to pilot the train.  You can change the speed with the + and - button or if you have a device with a touch screen you can change the speed by sliding your finger over the power indicator, i.e. the arc in the middle.  The controller also measures the voltage of the battery and sends that to nControl so you have real time info on how your battery is doing.  This tile will allow you to remote control the train or to automate with scripts from nControl.

4dbrix-train-control-tile.png

The hardware design is done, it's just a matter of fine tuning the software and firmware.  The target retail price for the controller is $25, and we hope to have it available this summer!

 

 

This would be GREAT !

On 3/9/2017 at 9:38 AM, Lowa said:

Thank you!  To everyone who's following what we're doing: this is just the beginning; we want to automate every aspect of LEGO train layouts.  For example, we just finalized a design for a PF track compatible decoupler: it allows you to remotely decouple railcars of LEGO trains; it's a PF version of 7862 for the old 12V system. 

If you like what we're doing help us spread the word by sharing posts...  or place and order and share your experience :wink:

4dbrix-lego-train-decoupler-open.jpg4dbrix-lego-train-decoupler-closed.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

On 3/9/2017 at 9:38 AM, Lowa said:

Thank you!  To everyone who's following what we're doing: this is just the beginning; we want to automate every aspect of LEGO train layouts.  For example, we just finalized a design for a PF track compatible decoupler: it allows you to remotely decouple railcars of LEGO trains; it's a PF version of 7862 for the old 12V system. 

If you like what we're doing help us spread the word by sharing posts...  or place and order and share your experience :wink:

4dbrix-lego-train-decoupler-open.jpg4dbrix-lego-train-decoupler-closed.jpg

 

 

 

 

2 now, 2 later

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Hi @scralings! Welcome to Eurobricks!
I'm sorry to mini-mod, but could you please edit your post and remove some of the pictures from the quotes? It makes the threads easier to read if each image isn't repeated several times. It also makes it harder to find the comments you have left, as they are hidden between quotations!

Also, @Lowa, are you going to be selling any of the products (like the decoupler) on your website anytime soon? Or is that more a long-term plan, like the narrow gauge tracks? I believe you said somewhere you were focusing on train automation first; how long before that is considered 'complete' to allow for other products? I would be considering purchasing these smaller items, but have no interest in purchasing the automation as I have no space for a proper layout.

The WiFi controller is really interesting, however. Would it be possible to control it from a mobile phone? (sorry if this has been gone over before, I haven't paid much attention to the nControl development as up to now it didn't interest me.) How many controllers (and therefore trains) could be supported from the software/app?

What you are doing for our community is really great, keep it up!

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Posted (edited)

On 6/10/2017 at 6:20 AM, ColletArrow said:

Also, @Lowa, are you going to be selling any of the products (like the decoupler) on your website anytime soon?

The main priority this summer is to print the switches for our Kickstarter backers and finalizing the design of things we have been working on; the decoupler is one of them. Our first Kickstarter campaign has been working out really well; although we have a very flexible production system with 3D printing, it's quite handy to be able to start of with a substantial volume. So we're considering launching new campaigns for items like the decoupler. Maybe we'll do it in July or August, we'll see...

The train controller is a prototype that is still evolving.  The thread below gave me an idea for a system to transmit data between cars; the first tests seem very promising.  So I'm considering getting the controllers compatible with that so that they can use it when that system become available...

 

On 6/10/2017 at 6:20 AM, ColletArrow said:

Or is that more a long-term plan, like the narrow gauge tracks?

Actually, the first set of narrow gauge tracks has been available for a while: we have a full straight (16 studs), half straight (8 studs), quarter straight (4 studs) and a half curve (22.5 degrees). All narrow gauge tracks are available in online store in dark gray and black.  

Now that we have mastered making switches, the 'long-term' plan for the narrow gauge is switches...

On 6/10/2017 at 6:20 AM, ColletArrow said:

I believe you said somewhere you were focusing on train automation first; how long before that is considered 'complete' to allow for other products?

Indeed, but I consider decouplers and train controllers part of the train automation.  When I wrote that I was mainly talking about the traffic lights and sensors, both items are now available.

Edited by Lowa

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On 6/10/2017 at 6:20 AM, ColletArrow said:

The WiFi controller is really interesting, however. Would it be possible to control it from a mobile phone? (sorry if this has been gone over before, I haven't paid much attention to the nControl development as up to now it didn't interest me.) How many controllers (and therefore trains) could be supported from the software/app?

Yes, you will be able to control your trains with a phone or tablet.  Keep in mind that this WiFi based system is quite different from, for example, bluetooth based systems.  This system is based on the message sever of nControl, so you always need a computer (PC, mac or Raspberry Pi) that is on your WiFi network that runs nControl.  Once configured, your train automatically connects to the message server of nControl when you switch it on.  We will also provide a webbased app that you open in a browser that connects with that message server.  This will allow you to pilot the train with your phone.  There is no practical limitation on the number of devices that can connect to the message server, so you can use multiple trains and multiple phones.  Note that there is no direct pairing between the train and the phone, so you can control multiple trains from the same phone or the same train from multiple phones/tablets.  It's a very flexible system...

On 6/10/2017 at 0:57 AM, scralings said:

This would be GREAT !

Indeed, we started working on this controller so it would be possible to integrate the trains in the layout automation.

On 6/10/2017 at 0:57 AM, scralings said:

2 now, 2 later

Great!

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6 hours ago, Lowa said:

Actually, the first set of narrow gauge tracks has been available for a while: we have a full straight (16 studs), half straight (8 studs), quarter straight (4 studs) and a half curve (22.5 degrees). All narrow gauge tracks are available in online store in dark gray and black.  

Now that we have mastered making switches, the 'long-term' plan for the narrow gauge is switches...

Hey, I'm sure I looked and couldn't see anything. Must've not been looking beyond the end of my nose! Although, will you be launching the single curved rail piece needed to make narrow gauge curves using the original LEGO straight/curve rail pieces? The style where you connect it all using 2x6 plates as sleepers. I can't wait for the switched by the way...

The whole control system sounds excellent, a constantly evolving, all-inclusive system to operate every aspect of a layout...
Looking at the signal offerings so far, how about making a servo designed to operate semaphore signals? I don't know how much interest there would be for such an item, but it would be pretty cool.

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Hi, love what you're doing, I'm currently mucking around with Arduino and RF pairs to control trains, and I am wondering why you decided not to go with RF??

Cheers,

sPy from Oz

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