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Lap Timer 2019 - Which to Get

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  • dinglebery
    started a topic Lap Timer 2019 - Which to Get

    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?

  • Maddman
    replied
    I used a garage door opener remote as a wireless control with Trakmate years ago. When the remote was triggered the wireless receiver sent a momentary close contact signal to the Trakmate "Track Call" input. It worked perfectly. The wireless remote and two normally open push-buttons made up the "Track Call" inputs.

    For track power control you should be switching the DC output of the power supply as opposed to the AC mains. The DC is a bit more user friendly if you make a mistake and as most DC power supplies have filtering the voltage does not go from 18V to 0V instantly when the mains are switched. Some power supplies have a slow or safe startup circuit and voltage doesn't go from 0V to 18V instantly either when the mains are switched. A relay provides a safe, reliable way to switch DC voltage.

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  • RichD
    replied
    It would not be a good idea to turn the track power on and off by doing that with the power supply. In the majority of cases the power supply is left turned on the whole time that the track is in use and in the case of computer based systems a relay activated by the Trackmate interface, Arduino board, Phidget board, etc. turns the track power on and off. In Ed's case the timer is plugged into the switched outlet and the track relay is plugged into the timer. At the start of the race the outlet is off, the race time is set on the timer and the timer power switch is on. The TrikTrax should be reset to read 0s. To start the race the outlet is turned on and that activates the track relay and starts the timer. If there is a track call the timer is stopped and the track relay is deactivated so track power is off. When the outlet is turned back off the timer starts running again and track power turns back on. When time is up the timer turns the track power off and the TrikTrax will display the laps for each lane. To get the final results you also need to note the finishing positions of the cars in case there are ones with the same number of laps. Things start to get complicated when you have more drivers than lanes and you are doing lane rotations, you need to write everything down and tally up the results when all of the heats are done. With Ed's system you have to remember to turn off the outlet before you reset the timer for the next race and the TrikTrax needs to be reset as well. Since the TrikTrax toggles between counting and timing laps the reset button must be pushed twice or it will be in timing mode rather than in counting mode. My TrikTrax has a remote reset feature, note the small box with two small red buttons in my previous post, that is for the TrikTrax reset.
    It is too bad that the TrikTrax has not been made for some time, it is a good solution for people that do not need a computer based system. TrikTrax do turn up on eBay from time to time, a lot of people used them when computer based systems used a dedicated board inside of the computer and were very costly.

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  • HO RacePro
    replied
    Simple solutions are usually worth a try. It is very embarrassing to bypass a simple solution because you 'know' it won't work, and then find out different. A rookie mistake I once made as a rookie.
    Ed Bianchi

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  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    Ah Ed
    Not having experienced Trackmate, and perhaps other systems, I guess you just didn't know what is assumed by others.
    Trackmate doesn't switch off the actual power supply, it opens the DC output circuit, that is how every race control system works.
    Switching off a power supply by killing the AC feed would be . . . well not logical to put it the polite way.
    You would have all sorts of issues. Bad enough in the 110ac world of the USA, worse in the rest of the world with 220/230 volts where arcing and spikes would be serious issues.
    And yes, as you saw when you did do that, any linear rectified supply would be discharging the energy from the smoothing caps for up to a couple of seconds.
    Last edited by SlotsNZ; 07-24-2019, 05:11 PM.

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  • HO RacePro
    replied
    I've never worked on a TrackMate system. My GrayLab/TrikTrax system is very simple and reliable. I like that.

    As Rich has mentioned elsewhere, he gifted me with a pair of used Lambda power supplies. Very generous of him -- they are great power supplies! I hate to think what they would have cost new. Thank you Rich!

    But when I tried using the wireless remote to cut off the AC to one of the Lambdas I found out it took a moment for the DC to power down. Too long for my liking. So rather than use the wireless remote to turn off the AC to the power supply I instead used it to open a relay on the DC side to shut off the power.

    Since my remote was designed to switch 110VAC, and I had a 12 volt relay ready to hand, I repurposed an orphaned 12 volt wall-wart battery charger to power the relay and used the remote to shut off the AC to the wall wart. Wall wart on, relay on, track on. Wall wart off, relay off, track off.

    Not the simplest setup, I grant you. But I could kludge it together for minimum bucks, and it works. Works just fine, thank you.

    Ed Bianchi



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  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    Rich, Interesting, I've heard of TrikTrax, but never seen one. Always something to learn eh.
    Ed confused me in the discussion a little by not mentioning he is using TrikTrax, not Trackmate as we had under discussion - without aluding to that fact. But I get the idea now.

    That aside, the "because my power supplies store a bit of power, and they don't shut off instantaneously." is a kind of weird statement. I presume he is talking layman-speak, and means there is large capacitor based smoothing built into the power supply, with a linear supply, not switch-mode. eg Manson Linear supplies as I have seen sold in USA under a few brands. [They were marketed as "Dick Smith", Powertech and Jaycar in Australasia, and as Palstar and under the maker's name in other markets. - and probably many more] Various generations of their EP-925 are everywhere in our market under various names, I have some live and dead ones in my garage - [or smoke still inside and smoke escaped]
    But a relay is a relay, so that doesn't itself explain "doesn't shut off instantaneously" a relay is a relay, and open circuit is open circuit.
    A few of our guys use the 25 amp Linear supplies, it makes no difference. One steel chassis club in our country has 6 x 100 amp linear supplies appropriated from a telephone exchange, and they simply used one relay hooked to the Trackmate trigger, to then trigger 6 larger relays that could cope with the high draw of G7 and G12 cars.

    You CAN build a circuit for wireless transmission which will allow a single trigger signal, by using a opti from memory, so that a long press, or multiple press allow a single "blip" (in layman-speak), to be accepted by the receiver within "xxx" ms timeframe. Better garage door remotes actually encompass such control. That would allow use of wireless remote with Trackmate. But building such a circuit from scratch is beyond me these days.

    But I am sure Dean will find the basic Trackmate Software will do all he needs in his situation

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  • RichD
    replied
    I have raced on Ed's tracks and he has been using a TrikTrax lap counter/timer along with a GraLab mechanical timer and the remote controlled switched outlet. When the remote is activated the timer stops and track power is shut off. I used a similar system for my HO track. Originally track calls were done by flipping the power switch on the timer, but I later added a track call system that had two control boxes on extension cords, each with a green go button and a red stop button. Red and green indicator lights were mounted behind the track. I don't think that remote controlled outlets were commonly available at that time, it would have been much easier to use one of those. With the two control boxes on extensions I could run a race if there was no extra person to man the pause control. I would put one box between the driver's stations for lanes 1 and 2 and the other between the ones for lanes 3 and 4. That way if there was an off the driver could easily reach a button.



    You would not want to use a wireless remote controlled outlet to activate the pause control if you are using Trackmate, that requires a momentary contact, an extended contact would cause the pause to turn on and off, probably a number of times. I did try using a wireless mouse to activate the pause control, but that was not reliable if you were standing too far from the computer, ten feet was about the limit.

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  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
    I've installed a wireless system on both my tracks. It is a radio-controlled 110VAC switch that interrupts power to a relay, opening the DC power circuit. The relay was necessary because my power supplies store a bit of power, and they don't shut off instantaneously.

    Ed Bianchi
    Wireless seems a clever trick Ed, but I'm confused. The Trackmate relay trigger on the board simply opens or closes a pair of contacts in a typical auto relay, and regardless of what power supply you use, an open circuit on the relay means DC to the controller stations is stopped. end, finito.

    So why not just use it to create a signal on "push to make" to the relay switching on the Trackmate board.
    The way you are doing it, might stop power, but if you aren't activating the relay via the TM board, time continues to count.

    If you ARE using the wireless remote to trigger the TM relay contacts on the board, the delay isn't debounce, it is related to the wireless signal having a lag to output of a few ms.


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  • RichD
    replied
    Remember that the OP was talking about a two lane track where it is unlikely that any formal races would be run. Getting back to the voice announcement feature that is included in Trackmate, that would be especially useful if you did not have a display that could be easily read from the driver's positions. If the track had very short straights you would not have a chance to check out the display without slowing down.
    I checked the four versions that I now have installed on my track computer, the oldest is 7.61, that does not have a sound choice in the task bar, you have to go to the settings menu to see the sound options and voice announcements are not an option there. The same goes for 8.40. 8.52 and 9.10 both have Sounds in the task bar and the voice announcements can be turned on there. I also looked at the documentation for those last two versions and the voice announcement choice is not shown.
    I recently installed SlotTrak and that has voice announcements.

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  • HO RacePro
    replied
    I've installed a wireless system on both my tracks. It is a radio-controlled 110VAC switch that interrupts power to a relay, opening the DC power circuit. The relay was necessary because my power supplies store a bit of power, and they don't shut off instantaneously. The remote is battery powered and looks a whole lot like a miniature garage door opener remote. A marshal or a bystander is recruited to operate the remote.

    Being wireless the remote can be anywhere. Convenient. Also, there's one less wire to trip over.

    The only issue with my particular unit is the 'off' button is heavily de-bounced. You can't just jab the button -- you have to hold it down for a fraction of a second. Otherwise it won't shut off. After a few tries you get used to holding the button down.

    This kind of wireless system is available in home centers and onlline at the usual suspects. I can't recommend one over the other. De-bounce times never make it into the published specs.

    De-bouncing is important for push-button controls. Too short a de-bounce and you can get more than one input per push. Too long and the button might not 'see' your push at all. Have you heard of trade-offs? This one is a classic.

    Ed Bianchi

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  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    Some clubs use track call a lot, even when two cars come off together or there is any small marshaling delay. I guess it depends both on the preference of the people in their racing philosophy, the number of marshals at hand, and on the track design. My mob only use it in the case of unreachable cars. We recently ran an event at a larger track (about 100 foot) in our club with 23 drivers, a series of three races, so 69 heats across the full day of racing. The first track call came in about the 50th heat.

    You CAN also just activate a track call in Trackmate by hitting the Space Bar on the PC. Then hit it again to resume. As we usually have someone standing adjacent to the PC during racing, that is about the only one that gets used around the half dozen tracks in our club. Some don't have any other "button". Mine does, - the red button on the central panel sitting between lane 2 and 3 driver stations; but I cannot recall the last time someone pushed it, as all corners are easily reachable, and when our marshals get around to pulling their hands out of their pockets, they're usually passably swift. At least by the end of the heat . . . . . . . or thereabouts [just joking]

    stations2.jpg
    Last edited by SlotsNZ; 07-23-2019, 02:56 AM.

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  • dinglebery
    replied
    Interesting. Thanks RichD for the pics!
    Once I get the system installed and test it out I'm sure I'll know rather quickly if I want that feature.

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  • RichD
    replied
    I was not aware that the newer versions of Trackmate allowed you to activate the announce lap times feature that way. When a new version comes out there is usually not complete documentation to go with it. I usually download and install the latest version of Trackmate as soon as I become aware of it. I do some testing with the new version, including running a few dummy races to be sure there are no glitches. If there is a problem with the program I might uninstall that version or just delete the shortcut. I have had problems with the latest releases of Trackmate that were not an issue with the older ones. Since I run races on my track once in a while and people are coming from a considerable distance I must use software that I feel is reliable. Other people may have used a version of a release that gave me grief with no issues at all.
    Some of the tracks that I race on simply use a doorbell button for track calls. My own track has arcade style buttons mounted in small plastic project boxes on long extension cords. If there are enough racers someone that is marshaling can be in charge of the button, otherwise the button can be moved to a place where it can be pushed by one of the racers. Some tracks have a track call button at each driver's station, If two people push their button at the same time the track call can be cancelled unless you program in a delay. We prefer to have the track call activated with no delay however. It is also possible to include a latching relay in the pause control circuit so that the circuit is deactivated at the first push and a separate reset button must be pushed before racing can be resumed.
    Many of our tracks have stop and go lights, those can be activated by an Arduino board, but ours just use a relay that turns on at the same time as the track power relay, so the light is red when track power is off and green when it is on.




    Last edited by RichD; 07-22-2019, 06:50 AM.

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  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    Clever idea NCSS

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