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Lap Timer 2019 - Which to Get

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  • Lap Timer 2019 - Which to Get

    Hello all. I'm putting the finishing touches on my 2 Lane analog build and am trying to find information on simple lap timers. I tried looking through old posts here and on the interwebs, but haven't come up with a top 3. Any suggestions on ones that are relatively newly developed and don't need DOS to run?

  • #2
    My first question would be do you have a routed or a manufacture's track?

    Carrera and Scalextric each have their own respective race management products.

    Alan ( Slot Car Illustrated / 132slotcar.us ) sells the DS race management product which is a stand alone system which does not require a computer.

    You have the products manufactured by Trackmate and Viasue/Race Coordinator.
    Both companies sell a software base race management program with plug and play hardware.


    Mike
    Last edited by mike SoCal; 07-13-2019, 11:43 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply Mike. I'll look into the hardware of the products you mentioned. I have a custom Carrera track layout and I'm still trying to figure out where I can put some kind of digital display that shows the lap times. I'd love to make a digital billboard and put it back at the corner where I have some monster truck tires as guardrail. I know I don't want a Light Bridge. I want to incorporate the timer trip into the slot of a lane. The more I think about it, the more I think I need a custom setup that I'll have to make from parts.

      Comment


      • #4
        I did a bit of a timing systems 101 on here a few years ago to cover the main "after-market" systems. Here is an updated version - not a lot has changed. Trackmate has been gradually updated, but not a lot more functionality. Race Coordinator is continually having more bells and whistles added, and is well supported by the owner and the user base. My own club just use Trackmate on most of our tracks, - status quo.
        Substitute "available in Australia" under the DS systems for "available from Alan Smith in USA"
        TIMING & RACE CONTROL

        There are a number of free 'software only' packages available in Windows and DOS. There are also pay to download Windows ones, and some systems you can purchase which consist of both a hardware board or box, which you plug into your PC; and a software package that controls it.
        No one size fits all. ** The most commonly used packages

        SOFTWARE ONLY

        ** Race Coordinator ** - Donation-ware - powerful and friendly, well supported. http://www.racecoordinator.net/
        Race Coordinator now works as software only or using the Trackmate interface board, Arduino interface
        boards, DS Systems, Slotmaster and other hardware boards. Widely used as alternate software with the
        TRACKMATE hardware board below. Fully programmable screens, and there are many clever users offering
        their customization for free on forums. The developer often visits Auslot, SCI and Slotforum UK to interact.


        OR, you can buy a Viasue package https://racecoordinator.net/viasue.html, which adds an Arduino
        robotics hardware board, programmed to work with Race Coordinator, so you get greater functionality

        ** Laptimer 2000 **- Freeware, http://www.hoslotcarracing.com/ been around many years, doesn't
        have a lot of fancy features, but for home racer who don't need lane rotation and totaling, is typically
        the easiest to set up and use. It is easiest to use with an OOOOLD PC with a DB25 printer port.


        However you will need an old PC with a DB25 parallel port or a Joystick/serial port

        ** Ultimate Racer 3.0 - Donationware http://www.uracerweb.org/ (includes powerful track designer)



        SCRaceTime - http://www.scracetime.de/ (German package, don't know anything about it)

        SlotRaceManager -
        DOS based, no longer available online or supported. I have a copy should anyone need it.

        SlotCarManager (Donationware, includes track designer)
        No longer available online. I have a copy if anyone needs it.





        HARDWARE BASED

        ** TRACKMATE - http://www.trackmateracing.com/shop/
        A medium priced solution which is rock solid. The latest version has Cat5 cable connections to the
        timing loom and USB connection to the PC, whereas older versions needed a serial to USB adapter
        which often made matching it with modern PCs an issue.
        Purchase of the board gives you the software as well, and free updates when they come out. It is also
        widely used for the hardware package only, in conjunction with Race Coordinator Software.





        ** Arduino robotics boards
        Arduino is the name of a line of Italian robotics boards, of which many Chinese factories make clones
        - or close to clones.
        With a firmware patch available from Race Coordinator, and theRace Coordinator software, two
        versions of this board called UNO and Mega can be used as hardware to run the race control on tracks,
        and perform the functions like track power switching.
        The advantage is that they are much cheaper than a proprietary board made by a company specifically
        for Slot racing.
        The dis-advantage is that it takes a fair bit of computer savvy to configure the electronics side, and wire
        them to the timing and power control correctly, and not all cloned Arduino boards work properly.
        Also, some PCs seem to need certain windows updates and extensions manually installed to enable
        them to work properly.



        DS-RacingProducts - DS-Racing Products - Sophisticated and more expensive system made in Spain
        by IBB Slotracing. More suited to large club or public raceway setups. The most favoured solution in
        European clubs. It is now available in Australia.
        I haven't used it, but those who do swear by it as being rock solid and capable of recording lots of data
        - which they love analysing.


        IBB are currently developing a new race control system with smaller boards. I am not aware of when it will
        reach the market.


        Slotmaster - www.slotmaster.com



        PCLapcounter - http://pclapcounter.be/ hardware & Software package, fairly pricey




        Startline http://www.startline.net.au/
        Australian made hardware and software package, unsure if still available or supported.


        Most of these can be used with several types of sensing to activate the software counting.

        1) Photo-transistor sensors that respond by turning on and off in response to the presence and removal
        of some kind of visible light, or infra-red light.

        2) "dead-strip" which is a short section of track where the left and right rails are isolated from the rest of
        the circuit (on each lane), The braids of the car short from one side to the other through the motor like
        turning on a switch for a moment as the car passes over that isolated section of track.

        3) Micro-switches or magnetic switches, which just act like the above, usually triggered by the car guide,
        or the motor magnet.

        In all these cases, the "sensor" is simply acting like an electrical light switch, ie, it completes the circuit
        as when you turn on a light, or "opens" it, as when you switch off a light.

        The software is "looking at" the wires connected to these "switches", and goes
        "oh yeah, it turned on for a moment", - or "it turned off for a moment" - better add one more lap to that
        lane count, and oh yeah, it's been 4.65 seconds since it last happened, so that's how long it took the
        car to do the lap
        .
        . I better add all that into the race data for the guys and store it till the race ends"
        . . . really, it's that simple.....

        Some packages such as Ultimate Racer can also be driven by a web camera attached to the PC,
        where a defined screen area of what the camera sees, gets triggered by the movement of a car.
        [sounds weird, and I haven't tried it, but I've read a number of reports where people use it quite
        successfully.] To me the downside is that between the car and the camera, hands can get in the
        way and falsely trigger it, and also, if the camera gets bumped, you lose the actual correct "triggering"]

        Ultimate Racer can also be configured to work with outside hardware boards to do more sophisticated
        things. . . but that's another story.

        1) PHOTO-TRANSISTOR SYSTEM WIRING SETUP

        These days this is the most common way to trigger the race control software.

        You wire up SENSORS to the appropriate pins on a lead which connects to the hardware board
        of your timing system if you have that kind; or directly into a port on your computer which is specified
        by a software only system.

        SENSORS : You can use photo-transistors which sense visible light, or ones which sense "I.R."
        Infra-red light which is invisible to the human eye. I.R. is popular because you don't have to "see"
        the bright light shining down onto the track, especially if you do night racing, but you do need a bit
        more electrical savvy and confidence to set them up. (They are visible as a pink light through the
        lens of a digital camera or cell-phone, which is how I always check that they are working.)
        Then; you supply a light source for the photo-transistors.



        A typical 4 lane timing cable/loom, wired with a Cat-5 connector to go into a Trackmate board, and 4
        photo-transistors on the other end.

        If you have a red coloured Trackmate board, or an older PC with a DB25 printer port, you can wire a cable to go directly into that DB25 port
        You wire up the Photo-transistors to the appropriate pins on a lead connected to a DB25 printer plug (the old standard printer plugs.) These are SENSORS – a switch operated by light. Below is a 4 lane sensor wired up.

        In the picture:
        the Brown wire is connected to pin 10 for lane one of the sensor, and it's Brown/white "partner" underneath to Pin 22
        the Orange wire is connected to pin 11 for lane two of the sensor, and it's orange/white "partner" underneath to Pin 23
        the Green wire is connected to pin 12 for lane three of the sensor, and it's Green/white "partner" underneath to Pin 24
        the Blue wire is connected to pin 13 for lane four of the sensor, and it's blue/white "partner" underneath to Pin 25





        One quick note - Make sure you have the "legs" the right way around on the photo transistor, or it won't work.
        The diagram below appears as being switched left to right because it is displayed from the PINS side of
        the plug, not the REAR of the plug where I took the photographs.




        But as it shows, you need the short leg of the sensor wired to the TOP pin, and the long leg of the sensor wired to
        the BOTTOM pin. It also does show you the pin numbers each wire is connected to. You will need those numbers if
        you use UR3.0, because that software package allows you to decide which pins are assigned to which lane counting.

        I have run a software patch with my own old red "Trackmate" system which causes most PCs and versions
        of windows operating system to recognise USB inputs as serial "com ports" for input, given that PCs
        with old fashioned DB25 cables are becoming rarer. You use the DB25 to USB adapter lead that comes
        with that software. This is called the PL2303, and the patch for various systems can be
        downloaded from here http://www.prolific....loads.asp?id=31


        LIGHT SOURCE FOR Photo-sensors
        For visible light, some people just use a fluoro lamp across the track, built into a bridge, others use
        some small LEDs which emit visible light, usually built into a bridge of some kind. I don't recommend
        the basic room light, as it is often too low, and can be affected by people moving about.
        if you use IR photo-transistors, you need to use IR frequency LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes.)

        One quick note - Make sure you have the "legs" the right way around on the LEDs, or you will blow them up.
        One side is positive, the other negative. Generally, the long leg is the positive side, but do check the
        specification sheet that should come with them.

        To power the LEDs you need a small DC source. This only needs to be about 30milli-amp output for each
        LED, so if you have a 2 or 3 lane track, an old cell phone charger of 100ma or so will be fine.
        You can adjust the value of resistors used, to work with anything from say 3 to 12 volts.

        Here is a wiring diagram with some typical values and the very simple circuit outlined, and below is a link
        for an excel spreadsheet which will calculate the resistor value needed to wire in with either visible
        or Infra-Red LEDs



        Click the link below to get a spreadsheet which will help you calculate the resistor value required to
        use in a circuit with your choice of LED and power supply.

        LED Powering Formula

        Choose an old phone charger or similar wall-plug DC supply.
        Input the nominal voltage of the LED (usually about 1.2 volts), and the current rating of the LED
        - which is usually about 20 milliamps; then choose a resistor of near as value to the big blue figure
        the spreadsheet kicks out at you.

        Some common results would be
        4.5 volts use 160 ohm resistors
        6 volts use 240 or 270 ohm resistors
        7.5 volts use 300 ohm resistors
        9 volts use 360 or 390 ohm resistors
        12 volts use 510 or 560 ohm resistors

        These resistors values at the 1.2 stated voltage will give you a current through each LED of about 20ma.
        This is the most common rated drive current for LEDs, but in practice, I have driven some myself at
        up to 3 times that for short periods, and on my own track I have driven them at around 25ma for the
        past 3 years, and none have failed – we never miss laps as we have plenty of "invisible" I.R. light.



        The shot above is a custom PC board in which LEDs are mounted with current control resistors ready
        for installation in some kind of light bridge. DC power can be fed to the + and - points at either end.



        The shot above is what I made for one of my tracks. I mounted the LEDs poking out the bottom of this
        bridge, then added the 2nd sidewall, and painted and decorated it. The power wires for the LEDs came
        out one end and disappeared into the Superstructure of the track, where I connected them to a small
        DC power supply robbed from a defunct cellphone.

        The image below shows a start finish banner from anther track I built, which has the I.R. LEDs built in.
        Wiring hidden, very simple - not flash modelling, others will do it better than my ham-fists can achieve.




        There is another type of "all in one" photo-transistor unit with LEDs that can be mounted in a slot.
        The wiring principles are the same but you need to know which side is the photo-transistor to connect
        to your timing, and which side is the LEDs needing some DC voltage to drive them.



        These need to be mounted in the slot so they are as near as possible to flush with the surface.
        The advantage of these is that they are discreet and false triggers above the track by hands or
        de-slotted cars passing under the light bridge are eliminated.
        However as the light source is broken by the slot guide, which is a very short pulse, and blue
        colour guides are often transparent to the IR light, laps can be missed.

        For those who don't feel able to build the timing cable or light bridge for themselves, ask around
        your club, or on forum for someone who could do it for you.If that fails, contact me, as I still make
        up systems for people.


        DEAD STRIP SETUP
        ------------------------------
        The idea of a dead strip is that you have a short strip of the "track" where one side of the copper
        tape/braid or rails of a plastic track is actually isolated from the power. So, as the car passes over
        the "isolated" section of track which may be 5 to 10cm long (depending on things like typical car
        speed on your track and the location of the dead-strip), the pick-ups of the car close/complete
        that small length of isolated circuit from the left to the right side, and you run a wire from each side of that
        small piece of track back to your timing software to the computer, where it is connected via a
        printer cable as if it had the photo-transistor type of sensor.
        So in effect, the pickups of the car become the "switch".

        This USED TO BE the default system for counting laps, and in practice is very reliable if you set it
        up with the right sort of length of "dead-strip".

        If it is too short, and the cars go over it too quickly, it may not 'trigger", and if you out it somewhere
        where cars may have just de-slotted, you can miss laps, or get a car straying from another lane to
        create a false count as it's pick-ups brush across the dead strip. Too long, and the car slows more
        than is desirable during the dead strip - or even stops ...... but done right, they are just fine, and
        have the advantage of there being nothing needed above the track surface, and never needing
        maintenance or alignment.

        Dead strips are polarity sensitive due to the “back EMF” created by motors. Wired one way, the EMF
        helps the switching, wired the other way, it tries to prevent it. If you connect a dead strip backwards
        they will only count properly with very low powered or if the car is moving very slowly.
        Many people that encounter that problem think that the dead strips need to be longer, but if the
        polarity is correct dead strips as short as 1.5 inches will work perfectly.

        Here is a diagram showing correct wiring, and some basic components to use, which are to protect
        the PC input at the "other end" of the cable, and assumes that each of four lanes will connect to pins
        4 - 7 on a DB25 printer port.





        Also, you absolutely have to keep track voltage away from the dead strips.

        This can be done by having a gap either side of the dead strip….. long enough to ensure that car
        braids cannot simultaneously short out the dead strip while being on live track, ie a section say
        20 - 25mm where there is no braid/tape at all.

        If you want to run a track which has dead-strips for timing both ways; you will need to use some DPDT
        switches to reverse the circuit so the wires still go to the right pin numbers on your computer, and the
        PC is protected by the circuit drown above.

        If using a DB25 (old parallel printer port, you may need to set the parallel port to 'SPP' mode in the
        pc's BIOS, depending upon how many lanes you have, and whether you want to use the software
        to do tasks other than counting laps.
        eg, Ultimate racer is capable of running a lot of different add-on facilities, and Race Coordinator can work
        with at least 8 lanes, requiring use of pins usually configured for the Bi-directional modes of printer ports.

        You can then use pins 10-17 for triggers.

        These three lanes are wired to pins 11/12/13 with a common ground to pin 25
        Make sure you get the port address (ie 0x378) from there and enter it in the settings of Ultimate Racer
        if you are using that package.

        For use of Dead Strips with Trackmate, the correct protection module supplied by Trackmate is strongly
        recommended. Also, Trackmate uses specific pins for input.


        Lane 1 = Pin 10
        Lane 2 = Pin 11
        Lane 3 = Pin 12
        Lane 4 = Pin 13
        Lane 5 = Pin 6
        Lane 6 = Pin 7
        Lane 7 = Pin 8
        Lane 8 = Pin 9
        These are all tied back to the same common rail of pins 18 - 25

        OTHER TYPES OF SWITCH
        There are also a couple more sensors that can be used. One type has the lever arm of a micro-switch
        down in the slot. Micro-switches work well once you adjust them properly. HO tracks mostly use
        magnetic reed switches, those would work in 1/32nd scale if you always ran with traction magnets,
        but motor magnets alone are not likely to trip them. SOME reed-switches are also polarity sensitive,
        so you should check that point out if you plan to use these.

        Whichever hardware and software combination you decide to use, you will need to configure the software
        so that it is "looking at" the right pin numbers, on the right connector type and number on your PC
        Last edited by SlotsNZ; 07-16-2019, 02:51 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          WOW SlotsNZ - that is EXACTLY the info I was hoping to get!!! THANK YOU for that Comprehensive response. It clearly illustrates the Methods of how to make the system work - which will help me decide what to use.
          After some further investigation I've made a decision but I think I have to iron out some details... and since I only have 2 lanes putting the system together should be a breeze!
          I'm leaning towards the Trackmate IR system but I don't know which sensors to include in the kit. I'll send them an email and see if they can help.

          Comment


          • #6
            I guess that you have a lot to think about. SlotsNZ did a great summary of the options, I have it bookmarked. Trackmate is probably the most popular system, Both Ultimate Racer and Race Coordinator software work with the Trackmate hardware. Here is a link to an article on dead strips: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1axr...ew?usp=sharing , those may be your best option if you don't want to use a light bridge. The type of sensors that look across the slot have problems because some guide flags are transparent to IR light. If you get Trackmate with the dead strip option you will not need to add any extra resistors, capacitors or zener diodes like the ones in the nice illustration above. If you want to have a big display a computer based system is the way to go, if you wanted to use your track for club style racing that would probably be the best way to go in any case. My HO track originally had a TrikTrax stand alone unit that toggles between counting and timing laps. The display is large enough to to be read from across the track, however those have been out of production for a long time.



            I eventually switched to Trackmate, but the TrikTrax is still there as a backup. One big advantage to a computer based system is that it will hold your fastest lap and give an audable signal when you turn a faster lap so you can drive without having to keep one eye on the display.

            Comment


            • #7
              I use Race Coordinator on my track, with a DS300 system (light bridge and counting boxes). It works extremely well and is very reliable. In the club I race with, a couple of people use Race Coordinator with dead strips, and there are occasionally times when the system will cut power in the middle of a heat. No one can figure out why it does this, but it seems only to happen with dead strip setups. I have never had the issue with my DS300 system. Race Coordinator is a robust, full-featured program that gives you lots of information and can be customized to fit whatever you want to do. The DS300 equipment is expensive, but in the long run, if you're doing lots of racing, it's well worth it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks RichD for your input! The track is for personal use only. My wife and I just want the ability to see how quick we did a lap. Would we use the Race feature? For sure, but I don't think it'll be more than 15-20 laps per race. I dunno, she's surprised me with her interest in building the track, perhaps once the lap timer system is in place she'll be more inclined to use the track for a longer period of time... but right now it's just 5-10 laps per car (maybe 7-8 cars) to see them go around and she's done. Time will tell!

                I definitely don't want to use a Light Bridge, and a dead strip is a last resort. Can't I just coat the guide flags that are "invisible" with a very light coat of HYSOL? or even better, replace them with a new flag that I know works!
                I also don't think I'll need any of those resistors/caps/diodes because I can match the voltage with an adjustable output power supply transformer specifically for the system. I'm doing the same thing with the lights I'm installing - all powered from the adjustable power supply that's powering the track (10A). I plan on purchasing a display, maybe a raspberry pi 10" display to use as the Billboard, which will run the software from a NUC or something.

                I just called Trackmate and placed my custom order! I'm excited!! Thanks guys for all your input!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Dingleberry - when powering LEDs, even if you mach your supply voltage to the rated voltage of the 1 or more inline LEDs, you may well still blow those LEDs. The resistors act as a current delineator, and provide and spike protection; especially when turning the power on and off.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SlotsNZ View Post
                    Dingleberry - when powering LEDs, even if you mach your supply voltage to the rated voltage of the 1 or more inline LEDs, you may well still blow those LEDs. The resistors act as a current delineator, and provide and spike protection; especially when turning the power on and off.
                    Thanks again for the clear explanation! - they're included in the kit I ordered and I'll use them for sure! I'm just not sure I'll be using the Track Call Button and associated Relay to kill power to the track, so I didn't get those parts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If you were doing actual races you would need a track power relay so the computer could turn on the power at the start and turn it off at the end of the race. Any relay with a 12 volt coil can be used, an automotive type relay that can be found at any auto parts store. For club style racing when there are not enough people to marshal the cars or there are places around the track that are difficult to reach track calls are used. Most people use an arcade type momentary contact button that has a micro switch inside.
                      There is no point in buying parts that you don't need, however your situation may change in the future and the relay and track call switch are easy enough to add later if necessary.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ok, I have a question. Once the Trackmate system is installed and working, do I need to start a "race" in order to get lap times? Or does the system automatically update the clock after every pass of a flag across the sensor?
                        Here's the typical scenario... I'm in the garage playing mechanic with some cars, perhaps the BRM's and my wife joins me to run some cars. After running thru a couple cars, she wants to "race" me and see her lap times against mine. What would I do?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Dead strips are the simplest and most reliable way to trip the lap counters. They have been the dominant method used since the Day Zero.

                          But there is the issue that if a car stops on the dead strips, well, that's it. No power until you push the car off the dead strips. At least that has typically been the case.

                          Except that it is perfectly possible to wire power to the dead strips. It won't be hooked up to your controller, but you can have a constant six or nine volts of power available at all the "dead" strips so that a car won't stall there. Heck, you can even have full power there if you want to.

                          Some lap counting systems might not like that power on their inputs. In that case you wire in a relay on each lane that closes when a car completes the dead strip circuit. The lap counter watches the switch closure on the relay output, and never sees a voltage or current input.

                          If you don't like the idea of an electro-mechanical relay, a solid-state relay will do the job just fine. Not so bone-simple as a click-clack relay, but a faster response and more reliable yet.

                          Power on the dead strips does make reversing the racing direction more complicated. But lots of people never change that direction anyway. If you insist, it can be done with appropriate switching. Not that hard.

                          Ed Bianchi

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                            Dead strips are the simplest and most reliable way to trip the lap counters. They have been the dominant method used since the Day Zero.
                            Ed Bianchi
                            I have to disagree with you in part there Ed. Yes, Dead strips work very well when set up right, preferably with buffer zones, but they haven't been the dominant option for many years now.
                            I have only seen one dead strip system built in my country in the past few years, whilst I have sold well over 100 turnkey light bridge based systems.
                            I also notice on myriads of home and small club tracks that I see in forums and FB posts, that most seem to have a bridge sitting on the start finish straight, indicating that the owner probably has an LED based system.
                            In RTR racing, bi directional tracks have become more common, and I think perhaps the additional complexity of setting up a bi-directional dead strip system may have contributed in part to the shift, along with other factors.

                            I also don't recall ever having a customer say "your system isn't reliable" or "it misses laps" or "it counts false laps" just doesn't happen, ever. really.
                            Built correctly, and installed with the LEDs above sensors in the slot, a light bridge system is 100%
                            13 years club racing on 6 or 7 local tracks, a few "Nationals" and other invitationals, and some overseas racing in Europe and I just don't ever see issues with LED based systems once set up properly.




                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm not using Dead Strips, I'm using IR. Back to my question... please!

                              Once the Trackmate system is installed and working, do I need to start a "race" in order to get lap times? Or does the system automatically update the clock after every pass of a flag across the IR sensor?

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