Iowa Scaled Engineering designs, manufactures, and sells many unique and cost effective products intended for model railroad and electronic hobbyists. Explore below for application notes to inspire your designs or browse the store to see all the products we have to offer.

Controlling Relays with a Raspberry Pi

Ever wanted to control some real world hardware with your Raspberry Pi?  Every now and then, we get questions about using either our I2C-RELAY16 or I2C-XIO boards from the Pi, and it’s been on my eternal backlog list of “I should do a quick article on that…”   So let’s break this logjam and get down to controlling a cheap Chinese 16 channel relay board with a Pi (available from SainSmart and others).  Because this provides 16 relatively high current, isolated output channels, this seems a great place to start, and it’s an easy hour project.

raspi-relay16-small

A Raspberry Pi 3 controlling a 16-channel relay module on my bench

Continue reading

Using MRGui on Mac OSX

MRGui is our configuration utility for MRBus based devices.  It simplifies the process of setting the various EEPROM configuration options for each node, using a user-friendly GUI that runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux.  In addition to setting EEPROM configuration options, MRGui can also be used for general purpose programming of AVR microcontrollers.  The instructions below take you through the steps to get up and running with MRGui on the Mac OSX platform.

Continue reading

Automatic Interchange

Iowa Scaled Engineering products were recently mentioned  in one of the Model Railroader Video Plus episodes, featuring Tony Koester’s Nickel Plate Road.

In this video (subscribers only) you’ll see our CKT-IRSENSE and ACC-RELAY1 products used in an automatic interchange.  Each time a cut of cars is picked up, a new cut of cars is automatically pushed forward.  For those wanting more details, Tony has written an article about automated interchanges that appears in the December 2016 issue of Model Railroader.

Continue reading

Introducing Modular Signal System Components

You may have heard about the Modular Signal System – it’s been slowly gaining support in the Free-mo modular community for about a decade now.  If you haven’t, read on – it’s an exciting new (well, somewhat new) option to bring ABS signalling and more to your model railroad.

The initial Modular Signal System (MSS for short) proposal was put forth by Gregg Fuhriman in the February 2005 issue of RailModel Journal.  He’d developed the idea along with others to bring simple signalling capabilites to Free-mo modular meets.  Traditional solutions, using pieces such as C/MRI or Loconet-based systems, are impossibly cumbersome to deal with in an infinitely-reconfigurable modular setup with participants coming from all over.  What was needed was an acceptably realistic signalling system that was plug-and-play – no reconfiguration required for the myriad of ways their modules could be put together at each meet.

Continue reading

3D Printed MRServo Brackets

While I’m still a firm supporter of the tried-and-true industrial foam tape method we’ve sold for MRServo servo switch machine mounting since the beginning, there’s always room for improvement.  Several customers have asked about alternate, mechanical mounting methods, and there’s definitely places that would be useful.  I always have a machine or two that keeps getting knocked loose as I accidentally catch the wire with a tool, or sometimes a spot on the plywood that just refuses to adhere well.

The “conventional” solution would be to have injection molds made, and then have a run of several hundred or thousand parts produced.  This is obviously expensive for us, highly speculative that somebody will actually buy them, and beyond what the meager profit margins on servo switch machines justify.  Fortunately, we live in an absolutely amazing time in terms of manufacturing processes, and nothing is more exciting right now for manufacturing complex plastic parts than 3D printing.

The 3D model of the MRServo-2 / MRServo-3 Bracket

The 3D model of the MRServo-2/-3 Bracket

Continue reading

Introducing the CKT-BD1 DCC Block Detector

I’d like to introduce you to ISE’s latest model railroad product – the CKT-BD1 single channel DCC block detector!

The CKT-BD1

The CKT-BD1 – our brand new single channel DCC block detector

This little DCC current-based detector is designed to be highly sensitive while being resistant to false triggering, robust, and very easy to install.  All you need to do is pass one of the bus wires to the block to be detected through the current transformer and provide 5-18VDC to power up the detector.   It can run on as little as 5VDC at 15mA, so it’s perfect for connecting to digital logic such as Arduinos or C/MRI systems.   It has open drain outputs for both detecting and not detecting states, so it’s compatible with a wide range of other model railroad products such as the Modular Signaling System, C/MRI, input modules for systems like JMRI, standalone signal sytems, or even just seeing if there’s something in that hidden section of track on your layout.  It also has adjustable sensitivity, so you can tune it to ignore leakage current through your trackwork while still picking up minute currents from rolling stock.  Precision current measurement circuitry and a little digital microcontroller onboard helps filter the response so that you achieve maximum sensitivity without false triggers.

Continue reading