Not everything we develop for Iowa Scaled is destined to be a product. As part of our demo layout that we take to shows to demonstrate our “Interlocking In A Box” product, we needed a set of throttles – one to control each main line. There was no particular need for DCC as the two track segments were isolated, and the simplicity of good old DC control would be more reliable anyway. Wireless would be even better, as then there would be no cords to drag across our display or get yanked and damaged. However, the only option on the market at the time was the Crest Electronics throttles and used Aristocrafts, which all commanded a hefty price. As of writing this in September 2017, I’m not aware of anybody manufacturing new wireless DC throttles.
So, we’re electronics guys, why not build our own? Over the course of a weekend in the spring of 2014, I threw together a prototype, and over the few months before the 2014 St. Louis Railway Prototype Modelers meet, Michael and I turned that prototype into a reasonably polished design. Since then, we’ve had a number of folks ask where they could get a set of their own, or how to build them, so I thought I’d write a blog post on how they work and how to build your own from our design.
One of our customers was trying to build an accessory decoder using our I2C-RELAY16 to drive a bank of relays for high current loads, and they were having a bit of trouble. So, I thought I’d sit down and work through the issues tonight, as I’ve always thought having an accessory decoder with isolated, high current relay outputs might be nice.
Our day jobs are taking us away (some farther than others…) the week of April 24-28. We are still available for technical support, but expect some delays. Shipment of orders will resume May 1.
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.
A Raspberry Pi 3 controlling a 16-channel relay module on my bench
ISE is currently on Spring Break. We are still available for technical support (though responses may be delayed) but shipment of orders won’t resume until April 3.
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.
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.
ISE is going on vacation! OK, only one of us is going on vacation – the other has to travel for the day job – but we will not be shipping any orders October 22 through October 30. You can still place orders during that time and we will still be occasionally monitoring support emails.
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.
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/-3 Bracket