theluke91

ArduTrain WiFi - Control your LEGO diorama with smartphone, tablet and PC!

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Hi everyone! :classic:

Few years ago I started thinking about a system to control my LEGO diorama because I did't find any "official" system (I found Mindstorms very expensive for my budget and limiting); so I create a system that allows me to control all the diorama and roll out automations when I show my diorama in fairs and exibitions.

These are the features of ArduTrain WiFi:

  • Control up to 8 Power Functions trains (but also 9v old trains with relays)
  • Control up to 6 motorized LEGO switches
  • Control the LED lighting and the Power Functions motors on your diorama thanks to the 4 relay output
  • Roll out automations: detect passage of the trains by triggering up to 6 sensors on the tracks
  • Watch realtime video streaming of your diorama thanks to webcam streaming (remote control of all diorama, I play with mine from smartphone when I'm in the bathroom :laugh:)
  • Is multi-device and works on browsers without installing anything
  • Easy to implement, does not require any specific expertise

After a while I decided to share ArduTrain WiFi for free, so I made an easy guide (in english / italian) and I made software (in english) available on my website at this address:  http://www.lucabellan.it/ardutrain/

There is also a Facebook page to follow all the updates:  https://www.facebook.com/ardutrainwifi

Here you can see ArduTrain WiFi in action:

This is not a commercial product but it's licensed; the project can be supported through donations from the website: in this way it will be kept free for everyone and there will be new developments.

I hope you enjoy! :classic:

 

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Wow!

This is another and very comprehensive solution to train layout automation! Congratulations, this is very nice work. Must have taken some time to get all this going, particularly the software!

Now you are mentioning that the product is not "commercially" available, but on your webpage listing of all the items one would need to get this going, the links point to the same shop. So with "product" you mean the entire suite of elements along with the software, you developed, right?

And what product exactly is licensed? The hardware I guess not, as most of the items are also available elsewhere, right? Is it the software? Or the entire approach? Or do I miss something?

Anyway: Beautiful and very impressive work!

Best regards,
Thorsten  

 

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44 minutes ago, Toastie said:

Wow!

This is another and very comprehensive solution to train layout automation! Congratulations, this is very nice work. Must have taken some time to get all this going, particularly the software!

Now you are mentioning that the product is not "commercially" available, but on your webpage listing of all the items one would need to get this going, the links point to the same shop. So with "product" you mean the entire suite of elements along with the software, you developed, right?

And what product exactly is licensed? The hardware I guess not, as most of the items are also available elsewhere, right? Is it the software? Or the entire approach? Or do I miss something?

Anyway: Beautiful and very impressive work!

Best regards,
Thorsten  

 

Thank you very much! :classic:

Sorry, in the first post I did't explain well what is protected, now I try to explain better.

In my website I have listed all the electronic components that are needed to build my project: these components can be bought everywhere (like Amazon); so I have "protected" only my idea and my software: you can download it, you can use it, you can modify it to improve (if you are a programmer) but you can't sell it :classic:

 

 

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@theluke91 Very nice solution - thanks for sharing.

 

I was looking at the 4DBrix solution for automation but this seems like it might be simpler with its browser based access and support for generic off the shelf components (always a good thing in my book :)

 

Couple of questions:

1-Can you give a bit more detail on how the "9v support with relays" works and what you can do with it?

2-Have you seen the Pfx brick and do you have any plans to support that?

 

I would also love to see an example of a larger automated layout in action if you have one

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15 hours ago, ElectroDiva said:

I was looking at the 4DBrix solution for automation but this seems like it might be simpler with its browser based access and support for generic off the shelf components (always a good thing in my book :)

@ElectroDiva, I completely agree on the "generic off the shelf" bit. Also, as said before, I think @theluke91's solution is brilliant!

However, there are also a couple of very strong points regarding the 4DBrix approach:

  • The switch drive modules are ready to go, i.e. snap on the switches, same is true for the train detectors and other devices so you don't need to build brick stuff around bare electronics or motors.
  • Most importantly (and this may be the case here too!), the 4DBrix approach scales with the layout. Having one or 20 controllers on the layout doesn't make a big difference (administration wise, I am not talking about money): Give them an address within the program and off you go: 4 more switch drives seamlessly hooked-up ...
  • The 4DBrix nControl software is not web based (hmm - I am having a hard time to figure out the striking advantages of web based solutions as I play with my layout "in front of me":wink:) but dedicated; did you check out the functionality of the nControl software? "Flipping" a generic tile lets you type in your personal code (Python scripts). That gives you so much freedom!
  • And I simply like to see the entire layout on my screen (made up as "tiles"), change switch positions "graphically" and see that happen on the real layout as well, regardless of size.

That may all be possible with this solution as well, I just wanted to point out that there are now so many nice an essentially "tailored" solutions for automation that fit individual needs and that each has advantages and disadvantages. I'd prefer the 4DBrix approach, others the ArduTrain approach and so many more! Which really is cool.

Best regards,
Thorsten  

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You make a really good case for the 4DBrix solution @Toastie - and I agree that it is definitely more polished and scaleable at this stage. 

 

However, I do like the the openness of @theluke91's approach and think it has a lot of potential.

 

Picking up on a couple of your points:

-The 4DBrix switch modules/sensors are indeed ready to go, but imho they are a bit ugly with the 3D printed plastic housing. I think I might prefer to build my own housing around the bare components 

-The browser based software isn't inherently any better than the more traditional 4DBrix software - BUT it does allow much greater flexibility in terms of your control device (I like the idea of accessing it through a phone or tablet for example)

 

I'm at quite an early stage of planning an automated layout but I'm grateful for the choices available as a result of these third party solutions. They definitely fill a hole in TLG's offerings

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Hi and thanks for all the replies :classic:

On 9/10/2017 at 5:13 AM, ElectroDiva said:

@theluke91 Very nice solution - thanks for sharing.

I was looking at the 4DBrix solution for automation but this seems like it might be simpler with its browser based access and support for generic off the shelf components (always a good thing in my book :)

Couple of questions:

1-Can you give a bit more detail on how the "9v support with relays" works and what you can do with it?

2-Have you seen the Pfx brick and do you have any plans to support that?

I would also love to see an example of a larger automated layout in action if you have one

If you have seen the presentation video of ArduTrain WiFi in my website, you can see that there are 4 relays made to control (ON/OFF) PFmotors and lights like an electric switch: if you don't have PF trains but only 9v trains, you can pass one of the two power cables that goes to the tracks through a relay so you can switch ON/OFF the electricity in the rails making trains stop and restart (this is a solution, but ArduTrain WiFi is made especially for PF trains).

Yes, I have seen PFX brick and I will not exclude in the future to integrate it with ArduTrain WiFi because my system is based on Raspberry Pi which has the bluetooth connection on board (like PFX brick).

I don't have a video that shows a large automated layout because I released ArduTrain WiFi in the half of september, so people (especially in Italy) are starting now to buy components to build ArduTrain WiFi.,  but when I get one, I'll post it here

For now I have this video:

On 9/10/2017 at 9:41 PM, Toastie said:

@ElectroDiva, I completely agree on the "generic off the shelf" bit. Also, as said before, I think @theluke91's solution is brilliant!

However, there are also a couple of very strong points regarding the 4DBrix approach:

  • The switch drive modules are ready to go, i.e. snap on the switches, same is true for the train detectors and other devices so you don't need to build brick stuff around bare electronics or motors.
  • Most importantly (and this may be the case here too!), the 4DBrix approach scales with the layout. Having one or 20 controllers on the layout doesn't make a big difference (administration wise, I am not talking about money): Give them an address within the program and off you go: 4 more switch drives seamlessly hooked-up ...
  • The 4DBrix nControl software is not web based (hmm - I am having a hard time to figure out the striking advantages of web based solutions as I play with my layout "in front of me":wink:) but dedicated; did you check out the functionality of the nControl software? "Flipping" a generic tile lets you type in your personal code (Python scripts). That gives you so much freedom!
  • And I simply like to see the entire layout on my screen (made up as "tiles"), change switch positions "graphically" and see that happen on the real layout as well, regardless of size.

That may all be possible with this solution as well, I just wanted to point out that there are now so many nice an essentially "tailored" solutions for automation that fit individual needs and that each has advantages and disadvantages. I'd prefer the 4DBrix approach, others the ArduTrain approach and so many more! Which really is cool.

Best regards,
Thorsten  

Thank you! :classic:

I want to specify one thing: ArduTrain WiFi is a project I have built for my LEGO diorama and then I decided to share it for free with everyone, so I don't want to push anyone to prefer my system than others, such as 4DBrix for example, which maybe is richer in features.
But behind 4DBrix there is a team of people working every day for years (I think), I do another job (actually 2 jobs) and the time I have to implement this project is virtually zero; but in the future I don't exclude improvements such as display in stations, audio noises and so many other great things; i show you one of my experiment (train timetable) :laugh::

ArduTrain WiFi is scalable because if you are an experiences user, you can modify the configuration and control more than 6 rail switches (for example) and a mobile website let you to control you dirama everywhere without a PC (also multiple control panel running on multiple devices on the same time).

I let the system "open" because now there is a "button and sliders" interface, but maybe in the future I can deploy a graphic interface where you can see the track and real-time track occupation, no problem for the system, the real problem is to have the time to develop all; but I'm taking note of all the things people tell me to improve ArduTrain WiFi because when I have a little free time I'm start to thing about the 2.0 version. :classic:

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Thanks for the additional info and videos @theluke91 

 

I actually have a lot of PF trains but have just started to get into 9v trains. I'm also in the process of switching all of my tracks over to 9v partly to allow both types of train to be run and partly because it just looks better than the all plastic PF track.

 

Good to hear you are aware of Pfx bricks and might support that someday - I think the combination of something like the Rasberry Pi to drive automation and displays (for billboards / timetables) and the onboard Pfx brick to drive sounds and lighting effects on the actual trains would be a very good combination.

 

 

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