Category Archives: New Products

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.

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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 – 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.

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From The Workbench – Products in Development

Michael and I have this concept called INYAP.  Between our day jobs, personal lives, ISE, and our hobbies, we both have very busy existences and often finding room to mature a project idea into a product is difficult.  It stands for “I Need Yet Another Project,” said with every bit of sarcasm that you’d expect.   It’s the stock response whenever one of us comes up with some interesting project that we want to tackle, but don’t quite know where to fit it in.  It can be roughly translated as “that’s a cool idea, but I’d need to be an insomniac with 27 hour days to actually get it built.”

However, every now and then, something is just compelling enough to make it through the INYAP stage and become a prototype.  If the prototype tests out and seems like something other people might use and can be manufactured at a price point we think they might pay, it might mature into a product.  I wanted to take a moment to share a couple of the new products we have in the pipeline here at ISE.   These are things that have escaped INYAP but you won’t find in the web store just yet.

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Data Acquisition Arduino Shields

After developing several products focused on data acquisition, like the MRBW-RTS and a few currently in development like the MRB-DCCM (DCC Meter) and MRBW-DAQ (Data Acquisition node), we realized some of the ICs used in those designs would be useful on their own.  To enable rapid development with these ICs, a series of ArduinoTM shields was created allowing you to easily implement a wide variety of data acquisition applications.

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Why Open?

oshw-logo-100-pxMaybe you’ve noticed that funny looking gear logo on our advertisements or on our website and wondered, “What is that?”  Maybe you’ve heard of open source, and you’re wondering how a bunch of products aimed at model railroaders really fit into that.

What that logo means is that we release all of the design files necessary to produce or modify any of our products – schematics, board layouts, and source code – if you were so inclined.  Generally speaking, you’ll find the latest production version on the “Documentation” tab of any product in our store.

So, at this point, half of you are probably thinking we’re crazy, and the other half is just wondering how this benefits you, the customer…

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AS3935 Lightning Detector Breakout – Coming Soon!

Even before actual silicon was for sale, Michael and I have been wanting to try the AS3935 “Franklin Lightning Sensor™” from ams AG (formerly austriamicrosystems AG).  It comes in a very inconvenient MLPQ-16 package, and requires an on-board antenna, so it was a natural for a breakout board.  It’s been on the back burner for a few months, but I completed the PCB layout on Saturday and it went onto a panel this morning.  For those of you who, like us, can’t wait to experiment with this intriguingly unique part, we should have boards for sale within two weeks.  Price to be announced soon.

Here’s the board image (click to see the whole board):