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Xlot's new digital track in progress....

114525 Views 458 Replies 71 Participants Last post by  h00ch
Our friend Beppe has been hard at work!

Here are a couple of pictures of the new track under construction. I'll leave it to Beppe to explain.....

With kind regards

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Sorry folks,
I'm visiting some friends and their connection is utterly unreliable - so bear with me and wait until tomorrow

(sorry for the delay)

These are pictures from the 3rd (and hopefully final) prototype - it's a 19.5 m track + pit lane, on a 6 x 1.6 m area

Happily it's a vast improvement, being cheaper and faster to build - I like a lot the new track material (3 mm thick HP laminate) which is extremely tough and comes with a surface finish fairly similar to Ninco - in fact, it was recommended by Italy's top track router who uses it in the more customary 0.9 mm incarnation
BTW, on my first experience with a CNC router, I chickened out and designed a slot width of 2.5 mm in the Xwitch area (as opposed to 2 mm elsewhere). Turns out accuracy is even higher than with a laser cutter, I'll keep that in mind for the future

You also see the LC actuator, which came out very simple - just an electromagnet and an L shaped rocker

I'll start the next series of running tests at the end of the month - I have selected a Scalextric Porsche 911GT3 (but a 956 would do just as well) - I hardly need to touch the chassis at all, I'll just use the front body retaining screw post to install the new guide (you may remember it's 1.6 mm stainless steel tubing)

Actually, the toughest part will be waiting until year end for Scalextric to issue their electronics package - unless I somehow managed to get an advance copy - fat chance !! - or is there anybody who might intercede with Adrian on my behalf ??


PS : Narcis, your idea (installing the LC LED directly atop the guide, so that the sensor in the slot will pick it up even if the car fishtails) is very good for a conventional slot track - for Xlot, however, it doesn't really matter because the decoder etc. ride in the guide pod, travelling in the channel below the slot - so they do not rotate
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Hi Maltese,

correct on both counts - although Scalextric is limited to "only" 6 cars, 12 or so would be ideal (on a longer track)

As for the commercial aspect : I don't know yet . The track is obviously aimed at clubs, but my real ambition is to resuscitate commercial tracks - the fact that cars do not deslot (they spin, recover and get an automatic drive-through as penalty) and that both collisions on LCs and shunting are prevented makes car rental a real possibility

As the design stands today, once you get the track parts from the CNC router the rest is much simpler tham building a conventional routed track - it is still time consuming though, say 400-500 man-hours

The way I see it, a couple of enterprising youths could build a track and be in business for much less than opening the 1,000th pub or pizza place - but I may be out of touch with the times
Yess!! Many thanks to Photobucket and Tropi's idiot-proof (and printed) directions

This is the first half of the track [er, Russell, when are you sending that A380 over to collect it ? I need the space for the other half]

At the moment, I'm patiently (!!!) waiting for the new guide parts : it now works like a phone jack, the pod is simply attached with a set screw/ no wires to be connected - so effectively a driver will only need one pod (with decoder chip etc.) and swap it from car to car

The other change is in the spin recovery action : before, a spring made the car counterspin back in place - now it's a cam, so if a car makes a 360 degree spin (as is the case more often than not) it will be able to continue immediately

Of course, the drive-through automatic penalty is maintained - this meets Maurizio's comment about a spinning car holding up the others

thanks as usual for the appreciation - but I'm afraid my track is inextricably linked with MCPL/Digital
Quite apart from the added excitement, this is due to its cost (man-hours mainly), which is proportional to the number of lanes

the only possibility of physical interference (i.e. carnage) is between cars on different lanes, while one car is recovering from a spin. But lane spacing is 10 cm and the guide is located just behind the front axle, so the window of vulnerability is fairly narrow - and cars will be on the same lane most of the time
The rest is taken care of by the anti-shunting protection - much to my regret, that's the one aspect (together with pod details) I'm coy about, but I assure you that absolutely does not detract from driving skill
(obviously, the finer points of web editing still elude me....)

edit Nov 3 : I deleted both my file copy of the picture and the Photobucket one - it doesn't get any dumber !!

Well, I finally got hold of the guide parts

What you see in the first picture is the guide, as installed in a Scalextric Porsche 911GT3. The tip is electrically insulated from the rest, that's where the internal copper wire is connected

The second picture shows the complete assembly - the flat ring is part of the pod and rotates freely, there's a set screw collar to hold it in place and the spin return cam will be soldered to it

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Thanks, Maltese

At the moment, I'm playing it safe and running the car as a tripod - with front weight on the braids and wheels barely touching the track. This because DCC experts from trains are paranoid about good contact to limit electronic noise

Another thing : perspective makes the guide look bigger than it really is - consider that the track surface is 3 mm thick, and the contact strips 19 mm below
Hola Narcis,

having the car run in the opposite direction before it re-spins (a la Carrera Universal) with other cars on the same lane would have spectacular - but perhaps undesirable - consequences !!

What happens is that as soon as the car rotates beyond 60 degrees (with respect to the pod, which runs inside the channel and therefore does not rotate) a spring starts intervening. For rotations beyond 90 degrees this effectively jams the pod against the channel, and the car stops.
If you then give full power, the car wheelspins in place, rotates back to the correct direction and then takes off

As I said before, the new feature I'll be testing now is a cam action on the spring : so, if the car stops between 90 and 180 degrees, it will rotate back - but between 180 and 270 degrees it will do a full 360 - from what I've seen so far, this should be the most frequent occasion

Do let me know if you have time available - when the time comes to adapt the Scalex Digital electronics package, I'll need help !!

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QUOTE running backwards in reverse direction means running forward
this would be the case if polarity was reversed when spinning, but I'm keeping it the same. Matter of fact, the initial idea was indeed to reverse polarity (memories of Scalextric pin-guide cars) - but tests showed there's too much drag on the guide/pod, and the car didn't swing back to the correct direction

You are right about invading the other lane - I'm keeping that to a minimum with a 10 cm lane spacing and moving the guide behind the front axle. Limiting the swing to 60 degrees (I believe some arcade game does that) wouldn't be realistic and put a high strain on the 1.6 mm stainless steel tube/brass sleeve junction

About Scalextric Digital/prices : you have seen the thread in the News board, right ? Indeed, if you developed an anti-collision on LC add-on, I believe you would have plenty of customers !
An update

I've completed the latest series of running tests on the 10 m half track, and I can say I'm pleased

- Track surface. Grip is satisfactory even with stock Scalex tires - probably slightly less than Ninco
There's a clickety noise as the pin guide goes from one piece to the next - I've put a 0.5 mm swage on slot entrance which seems to be the culprit, it's not needed and the next track will have far fewer discrete pieces

- LC. Silky smooth in one direction, a small bump in the other - can fix that, no problem

- Spin recovery. The new cam/spring action is a real beauty !!
I can keep the trigger fully pressed all the time and (depending on accumulated speed) the car will either do a 150 degree spin, stop, rotate back with wheels spinning and restart or do a full pirouette [ er, to be totally honest this works when the car's on the inside lane and spins on the track - the green Forex "lawn" is too slippery and I'll have to paint it with anti-skid - but again, for the next track I'll use HP laminate for the lawn as well] Of course this must look rather weird to a traditional slot racer !

Well, I'll take a rest in August. Come September, I'll rent additional space in the car park and proceed at a leisurely pace with the other track half.
When Scalextric Digital finally becomes available, things will get serious !!

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QUOTE or just to entertain yourself?

are you kidding ?? Mine is just sheer, advanced-middle-age, mule headed stubborness

I have come to accept the fact that if this thing has a future, it'll be outside today's slot racing
So, once the prototype is completed and working, I'll see whether there's any interest from bowling or bingo (yeech) operators and tool up for a limited production run
Julian/slik is a real master : he worked wonders with the crude "movie mode" (??) camera material I gave him

What you see is the spin recovery mechanism in action, and of course it can be modulated - right now it's very quick, which is good for not holding up following cars and minimizing the "window of vulnerability" with the other lane - but perhaps a bit slower would be nicer (thoughts of putting in a shock absorber from RC cars

I've noticed that as the track gains traction, the car doesn't seem to make 360 degree spins any more - so maybe I'll shelve the cam concept and go back to spring/lever, I can modulate return torque better this way

I'd like to seek advice on one thing : I'm not quite happy with the 2 mm slot still being visible. I selected a dark gray track (a lighter gray is also available), and I tried painting the bottom of the channel black (no, even more marked), white (no, it shows) before settling for medium gray - at some viewing angles the slot disappears, but mostly it's still there

I wonder if lighting the track from below would help

Other than that, SSD's arrival is suddenly imminent and the rent for the adjoining space in the car park runs from today ! I've already bought the wood for the track's second half, and you'll be relieved to know that I'll be rather busy for the next two months

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From the moment I saw PDL's concept for a Cox motorbike track in the seventies, I knew this question would come up !

Well, there are a couple of issues :

- Moto GPs are what, 1/18 scale - a 2 lane track looks terribly narrow, if you make it wider you need more space, and floor space is expensive for the revival of commercial tracks that is my ultimate goal

- for the pendulum/counterweight to work, the channel under the slot should be deeper than the 20 mm I've adopted - so I'd need to redesign the track

But I guess that basically, I'm not a bike person (sorry Edo & Thomas) - as much as I like the mechanics, the rare times my sons give me a lift on their maxiscooter in Rome, I kiss my kneecaps goodbye !!

Everybody, thanks for your encouragement - it's very much needed/appreciated - expect an update in a few days

And, once the basic work is done, I think there is a way to introduce actual understeer in the cars - it'll be a scratch builder's hog heaven !!!

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Well, I've assembled the base, pinned down track pieces and cut out lawn parts for the second half of the track - this is roughly 20% progress, and confirms my estimate of 400 man-hours being needed for the entire track. Of course working alone it's a pain in the backside, but for three people it would be actually fun (hint, hint)

I should complete it by mid November - SSD will be on sale in Italy by the end of October, take two weeks for the adaptations.... hey, that's good planning !!
Seriously, I expect to have digital cars running by mid December

One feature of the layout I particularly like : entrance to the pit lane is from the "normal" semi-lane, while exit is on the much less trafficked "overtaking" semi-lane. All the same, there will be an interlock preventing ingress if a car is approaching (actually, it's part of the anti-collision interlock in the LC before) - don't call me a control freak, it's just that with restrained cars collisions are definitely a no-no


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getting there, inexorably.....

The first picture shows the track assembly method : quite simple and forgiving, if a bit long

I've also been thinking about Tropi's suggestion that the automatic drive-through penalty on spinning is not needed - it has the additional merit of making my life simpler, so I'll adopt it and see what happens

Further thoughts on track layout : in the present configuration, it's 19.5 m long on two 3 x 1.6 m modules. With SSD, I'll run 6 cars and I figure up to 8 could be accomodated when (not if) higher capacity/ampacity aftermarket electronics packages become available - that should be right for commercial tracks, where floor space is at a premium
But for a club track, the two modules can be expanded like a domino : inserting another module in the middle (and just one more LC) you get a nice 30 m track for 12 cars, add one more in a T and you reach the ultimate 16 car capacity
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Hi Cools,

thanks for the tip - I'll keep that in mind (if I ever get to the stage where I can deal with aesthetics !

I still think, though, that the solution is "optical" : there's a 2 cm chamber between the base board and the track surface where one could fit some "cold" lighting, the idea being that indirect light would seep out from the slot and hopefully hide it

By the way, you can see from the pictures that wiring for a digital track is very simple : you only need two contacts, as same polarity strips are in parallel - what with the oversize braid I'm using, I figure you could run digital wing cars on it !!
I'm leaving braid pigtails at each junction, and use hi-tech quick release connectors (namely laundry pins)


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Et voila !!!!

So, the track is done - now, as soon as SSD becomes available in Italy, things will get interesting

The other good news is that I've met the owner of a largish CNC shop : he has no less than 5 routers, the smallest being the same as the one that cut my track pieces, the largest a 7 x 3 m, 5 axis monster
He likes my project, and has already sketched out how the track can be made almost entirely on the machines - no tooling required !

Planning is now :

- run tests on the prototype with SSD until February

- make a 2 module, pre-production track in March with 8 cars

- add a third (middle) module in June, and go to 12 cars

- ........

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Hi Jim,

since you asked....

I don't visualize a glass top, but yes I'm planning to test market the pre-production track to bowling alleys : they have the space/infrastructure, are accustomed to a modicum of maintenance (unlike video arcades) and aren't doing too well generally with their traditional line

And yes, my main functional requirement has always been that it must be suitable for rentals - "conventional" slots aren't, I remember only too well the dire results when this was tried in the sixties

That said, I'm making no bones about the aspiration that this provide the basis for a real revival of slot racing, bringing it back to the status of most popular model hobby bar none - if the two gentlemen in white don't take me away first !!



P.S. : one limitation I've found is that Xlot doesn't cater to my recently discovered vocation for nerfing - but you'll be much more relaxed when we meet again
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