Lowa

Eurobricks Citizen
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About Lowa

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  • Website URL
    www.4dbrix.com

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Florida
  • Interests
    automation, train, monorail, robots, software, Arduino

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  • Country
    USA

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  1. Indeed, a system with a start/slope/stop configuration would be the most flexible system. I'm just not sure about the 1 plate per straight slope. What applications are you thinking about ? To me, one of the more obvious applications would be to make a bridge. If you want a train to be able to pass under it you need a least a clearance of 12 bricks. With a 1 plate per straight slope that give: 12 bricks = 36 plates => 36 x 16 studs = 4.6 m or 15ft, on one side so you're talking about 9m / 30 ft for the complete bridge. I would think that's too long for most situations, no ? Another issue would be price, 3D printing sloped track would not be cheap: a) you would need to print with a low layer thickness (more layers to print) to improve the approximation of the lope with print layers and b) you need to print more support material than for a 'flat' track segment. So the lower the slope the pricier the system becomes. I did a quick search and found this interesting article on the topic. http://thetechnicgear.com/2014/02/howto-create-lego-train-inclines/
  2. No, it's not an optical illusion. This track is designed to overcome a difference in height of 1 plate, both ends of the track segment are horizontal so you can connect it to standard PF track. So if you connect them you will indeed have a 'bumpy' track. If you want to create a steady slope you need a set of tracks, like for the LEGO monorail: a lower ramp: starts off horizontally and then gradually increases the slope an upper ramp: starts with a slope that gradually decreases to a horizontal track ramp: has a steady slope and is used in between the lower and upper ramp It's feasible to make that, but I guess you would want to do that with a slope that is steeper than 1 plate / 16 stud segment...
  3. Small 'ramps' to overcome a 1 or 2 plate height difference is one of the things we thought about for our extended range of 3D printed track segments. This is a track we designed a while ago but we haven't tried printing them. It's a 16 stud long straight track that raises the height by one plate (3.2mm). Is this what you're looking for ? If so, I can make a print in dark bluish gray and post a picture...
  4. 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... Indeed, we started working on this controller so it would be possible to integrate the trains in the layout automation. Great!
  5. 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... 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... 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.
  6. That would indeed solve the alignment issues, but I don't see how to make such a connector in practice. I haven't seen any off the shelf 'magnets on springs' (like pogo pins). But when I did the test with the 4 magnet connector, there were always at least 3 magnets that made contact. So most likely 3 plain magnets (no springs) would work fine. Aligning the pins vertically indeed eliminates the polarity issues. The main disadvantage that I see for using a connector above and below the coupling is that it starts looking bulky. But if that's not an issue for you, it should work fine...
  7. That's quite impressive! But if I got it right you'll need a servo motor in each car that you want to be able to decouple ?
  8. 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.
  9. 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... Thanks for the feedback! It's good to know there is an interest in control buttons...
  10. Thanks! With the sensors it does take a bit of time to program everything and get it right... But the simulation mode of nControl helps a lot, you can really test the whole configuration before building the layout and putting the trains on the track. This way of working really makes it a lot of fun...
  11. Good point! I sort of overlooked that in my enthusiasm yesterday... I did take a quick look at the little bits patent (US D752,519 S) and it claims: "the ornamental design for a connector for a modular electronic building system, as shown and described". It's a design patent not a utility patent; they don't make any generic claims on magnetic connector technology. To me it seems like the goal is to make sure nobody makes connectors that are compatible with their products. The original patent on magnetic connector technology for electrical devices: Electromagnetic detachable connector, US 6030229A, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd, https://www.google.com/patents/US6030229#legal-events) expired April 17, 2012 'due to failure to pay maintenance fee'. So there shouldn't be any issue making magnetic connectors for LEGO trains, unless I missed something...
  12. Are you talking about those? You would need a 'donut' shaped connector that you can slip over the coupling but that would look strange it guess... Now, If you don't want buffers would a fully 3D printed coupling work for you ? It should be possible to design and print a coupling with integrated connectors.
  13. Indeed, I was thinking the same thing! Two magnets on the outside for the power lines and two pogo pins in the middle for the data lines. I also think we have to add a notch somewhere to make sure you can only connect them in the correct way. Because if you turn the car around, you would connect it with reverse polarity...
  14. I'm actually starting to think about using a mix of magnets and spring loaded contacts: 2 magnets on the outside to hold the connectors together and two spring loaded contacts in the middle. That should eliminate all alignment issues and always provide a good connection. The two magnets could be used for power lines, the 2 spring loaded contacts for data lines. I should to do some tests with the decoupler to see how strong the additional magnets can be before having decoupling issue. But you have a good point that for heavy trains the additional coupling force could actually be helpful...
  15. I gave the 4 wire option a try, see below. As expected it's trickier as the magnets really need to be flush in order to make contract, but it works! Below you see a quick video that I made. The car on the left has an Arduino that 'blinks' on outputs D2, D4 and D6. The car on the right has 3 LEDs: wire-1 = GND, wire-2 = LED1, wire-3 = LED2 and wire-4 = LED3. As you can see the 3 LED blink one by one, so the 4 wire are connected. This was done with the 3mm diameter magnets that I had. For a 4 wire coupling, the 2mm would certainly be a better option as the 4 magnets make the connection between the cars very strong... I'm not sure the locomotive would have power enough to pull the cars apart on a decoupler.