Eurobricks Citizen
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About Lowa

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    automation, train, monorail, robots, software, Arduino


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  1. The decoupler is 8 studs long, so it easy to integrate it into a layout; the picture might be deceptive because the part that blocks the wheels is in the middle of two studs. The clearance is about 3mm on both sides. It's not straightforward to increase that because of the range of the servo motor. With this design only 6 stud wide objects will pass; 8 stud wide objects will only pass unless they are at least 2 plates (6.4mm) above the top of the track. The decoupler now extends 6 studs out of the track, the motor extends it with another 2 studs. With the current design you can fit the decoupler into a set of parallel tracks that are 8 studs apart. If the decoupler needs a larger clearance this would no longer be possible. A decoupler with a wider clearance is most likely possible, but as you pointed out every design will have limitations and nothing will work very every possible build. But if there is a clear demand, we can certainly look into that.
  2. Absolutely! We're waiting for the cables; we had to custom order them. They are currently being manufactured by a supplier, once we have them we can start making the sensors and lights. The goal is indeed to have a system that is on one hand easy to set-up and does not require an in depth knowledge of electronics or programming; but on the other hand is open to be used by with a DIY control system. We try to make it easy to use for beginners but fully customizable for advanced users. This is the beginning, if it takes off there's indeed nothing that stops us from making a whole range a gadgets to automate the layouts including proximity sensors, LCD displays, etc.
  3. I'm glad you like it! I still need to do the final price calculation but the decoupler track you see on the pictures would be around $10-$12. You also need a servo motor to actuate it, the motor will be the same price as our track switch motors: $15. To control the motor you need one slot of a quad switch controller ($39.95); that's the same controller as for our track switches, so you can use the three remaining slots of the controller to motorize track switches... or connect additional decouplers. As an alternative to the controller you can also use your own Arduino board.
  4. 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
  5. We're working on a Raspberry Pi based layout controller that can run nControl and manage the system; and then use a tablet/phone to interface with that controller. That will allow you to take the traditional computer out of the loop. What do you think? About the double crossovers, we're working on a 'modular switch system' that will allow you to make a variety of different switches with a limited number of track pieces; double crossovers being one of them. The main difference with the 7996 will be that ours has 4 fully independent switches, so you can run the trains parallel at the same time... We're making good progress and if all goes well we'll I should be able show the first 'final' prototypes beginning next week. Thanks! What is still missing for you ? Indeed, we have customers that are using our track switch motors like that! Yes, that's what we're working on!
  6. Great, let us know how it goes! We just uploaded a YouTube video to show train automation with a tablet: we control the switch motors, traffic lights, train head lights and the train from nControl. As this is broader than 'track switch motors' I posted it in a new thread:
  7. We have been working on expanding our train automation system. The video below provides a glimpse of the (near) future. In this video we control everything from a tablet: switches, traffic lights, train head lights and the train itself... The layout automation system is connected to a PC that runs nControl, the tablet interfaces with the PC using a remote desktop app like TeamViewer. The train uses a prototype of our WiFi based train controller. The train communicates with nControl using nControl's internal MQTT server. The track switch motors and controllers are available; the traffic lights should become available the first weeks of April. The train controller is in development: the goal is to be able to control the direction, speed, head lights, check the battery power, and use a position sensor so nControl can track the position of the train on the layout. Let us know what you think!
  8. The sensors are working with our controllers but I still need to see how to do it for 'generic controllers'. We'll certainly add a 3 aspect signal, I have been looking into making the actual lights and it seems to be possible to get everything I need into the housing. We also ordered 4 wire cables to make those lights. 'Dark night running mode' That's a nice idea! I don't see much issues for the track layout, all the graphics are programmed so it's just a matter of changing the pen color. The tile layout is going to be more complex as the graphics are bitmap. But we have vector drawings of all the bitmaps so it's feasible. I like the idea; we could also add a light sensitive sensor so the switch happens automatically... and that could also switch one other illumination in the LEGO setup.
  9. You're a genius! I gave it a try with remote desktop and it works great both with phones and tablets. What are you using ? I ran a couple of tests on Android and found that Google remote desktop works best for my phone and TeamViewer was the best option for my tablet. TeamViewer gives me a perfect image on my tablet. On my phone the Google solution works better because TeamViewer only support 'native touch screen controls' for tablets, not for phones. Also the responsiveness is great, it didn't see any latency. This is a great solution, thanks for sharing this! Yes, we have preparing the production of the lights. We're waiting for the cables, we cannot 3D print those... They are currently being made by a supplier, once we have them we can start making the lights! It's pretty cool to control everything with a tablet. Based on the MQTT suggestions of @skaako we managed to develop a prototype of a WiFi based LEGO train controller. So now we can do the switches, traffic lights and the train (and the head lights of the train) with nControl from a tablet! It's pretty neat, we'll make a WIP video to show it...
  10. Hi Matt, Assigning a custom color to each switch should be possible and could help to identify the switches/tiles. But we released the version 2017.2 yesterday (Windows and Mac) and it has all the features you suggested in your previous post, so now you can flip the switches by clicking/tapping on them in the train layout. Can you give that a try and let me know if with this there is still a need for color coding the switches ? We don't have any track switch motors stock in Europe at this points. The goal is to send some at the end of the month. So depending on your time frame you can get them right now from the US of wait until (half ?) March to order them from our European store. Hi Q3771. Version 2017.2 has a 'Synchronize' function; it loops over all the tile and synchronizes the actuators to the state of the tiles. Thanks for suggesting this feature; it's pretty cool to see it in action... it shows a progress bar and a preview of the tile that is currently being synchronized,so you see what it is doing. I think this is a very handy feature when you make a temporary setup... @McWaffel, @Q3671 The shipment cleared customs today, so 4DBrix Europe should have your motors by the end of the week... Thanks for sharing this. You even managed to connect to the blinking functions of the lights! Super cool!
  11. Sorry for the late reply... the port of nControl to MacOS consumed all my time lately... Concerning your questions: So for every 4 switches i need 1 USB Port? => Indeed, one controller can handle up to 4 motors, but you can connect multiple controllers to one computer. The system is designed to be able to handle multiple controllers simultaneously. The maximum number of controllers is limited by the number of USB devices a computer can handle: 127. Also cabling length might be a problem for usb? How long can the cable from controller to switch be? => We have tested it with a 3m/10ft extension cable between the motor and controller and everything worked fine. This is most likely not the limit, we didn't test it with a longer cable. The motors have 24AWG (measure of wire thickness) while we only found 26AWG (=thinner) extension cables; that what we used for our 3m/10ft test. We custom ordered 24AWG extension cables, the are currently making them. Once we have our 24AWG cables we'll test to see how far we can really go... Maybe any plan in the future to make a Bus-System and only have 1 central interface? => That how it is when you use a USB hub. You connect all the controller to the USB hub and then you can use nControl as you central interface to control everything. You can also combine different type of controllers: motors, lights, sensors, etc. Would then also be nice instead of a USB Interface to something to run this on an iPad/Tablet App instead. => An app for mobile devices would indeed be nice, but we're not there yet... porting to mobile will have consequences on both the software and hardware level. We stared with computer applications because we wanted to go beyond simple 'remote control'; with the sensor you need to program how you want to respond to a train detection; and it seemed more convenient to do that on a computer than with a tablet. But the ultimate goal is to indeed have nControl run on mobile devices as well. I hope you make it available in europe soon. => Yes, we're working on that!
  12. The track switch automation in action on a layout...
  13. FYI: I received the 1.5mm thick orings (9mm outer diameter). I prefer them over the 1mm thick orings because they look sturdier. So that's what I would go with for the medium sized wheels. For the small wheels, the 1.5mm thick rings look a bit too bulky... so I ordered some 1mm thick ones to give it a try on the small wheels...
  14. Indeed, adding the tongue and groove connection to the tiles is an interesting idea...