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  • SlotsNZ
    started a topic Timing Systems 101

    Timing Systems 101

    hey guys, there are a huge amount of great data out there, contributed by many people, but it's kind of scattered about, and I notice on some threads the pics have disappeared as people have moved on, deleted pics etc.

    So here is the "101" I wrote up a while back, and share with people as a document. It is always subject to improvement and correction. I build I.R. and photo-transistor based timing systems, and have never built one with reed switches or dead strips, and I am more familiar with some software packages than others, and Trackmate is the only external hardware package I am familiar with, so others may want to add data on the other packages out there and alternate methods of data collection. But this will go a ways towards giving the non-technical an overview of the options.

    Paul or Alan, if it's helpful, maybe you could "sticky" it, so it stays in view and we can add/correct the initial posts.
    To anyone whose pictures I have used, I am happy to add credits, I just can't remember where some stuff came from, or to remove them if you object, - I can replace them with alternates. - and please accept my advance apologies.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    TIMING SYSTEMS 101
    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, and a software package that controls it.
    No one size fits all.

    ** The most commonly used packages

    ** Laptimer 2000 - Freeware http://www.hoslotcarracing.com/
    ** Ultimate Racer 3.0 - Donationware http://www.uracerweb.org/ (includes powerful track designer)
    ** Race Coordinator - Donationware - (designed to work with TRACKMATE hardware), very powerful and friendly, well supported. http://www.racecoordinator.net/
    SCRaceTime, http://www.scracetime.de/ (German package, don't know anything about it)

    SlotRaceManager http://www.cenobyte....lotracemanager/
    SlotCarManager http://www.slotcarma...l_frames_e.html (Donationware, includes track designer)

    ** DS Electronics - Integrated counting and timing systems, with or without a PC. http://www.132slotcar.us/store/index.php?cPath=398
    ** TRACKMATE http://www.trackmateracing.com/shop/
    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,
    1) "dead-strip" which is a short section of track where one rail is isolated from the rest of the circuit (on each lane),
    2) or with 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.
    3) Micro-switches or magnetic switches.

    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 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 turned on, so that's how long it took the car to do a lap." . . . 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 wierd, 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.

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


    LED and PHOTO-TRANSISTOR SYSTEM WIRING SETUP

    You wire up Photo-transistors to the appropriate pins on a lead connected to a DB25 printer plug (the old standard printer plugs.)
    This is a 4 lane sensor wired up. For a 3 lane one, I would simply omit the top and bottom pins at very left of the DB25 (parallel printer) plug (pins 13 and 25, which represent lane 4)
    BEST SENSOR TO USE : The Dick Smith Z1951, Infra-red and visible light sensitive darlington photo-transistor. As Dick Smith are going out of raw components, you will only find them at shops which haven't had the new store upgrade, - so get in quick. Jaycar have a supposed equivelent, the ZD1950, but I have not found it as reliable myself.
    In the picture,
    the brown wire is connected to pin 10 for lane one of the sensor, and it's brown/white "partner" is connected underneath to Pin 22
    the orange wire is connected to pin 11 for lane two of the sensor, and it's orange/white "partner" is connected underneath to Pin 23
    the green wire is connected to pin 12 for lane three of the sensor, and it's green/white "partner" is connected underneath to Pin 24
    the blue wire is connected to pin 13 for lane three of the sensor, and it's blue/white "partner" is connected underneath to Pin 25



    If it were a 4 lane setup
    the brown wire would have been connected to pin 13 for lane four of the sensor, and it's brown/white "partner" connected 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.

    You can do a "dry run" by leaving one leg of the sensor (photo-transistor) unsoldered, but make and break the circuit for each lane by just touching the two wires together, which should trigger the software! That forms an easy test of your parallel port, your wiring, and the settings of the software.

    LIGHT SOURCE FOR Photo-sensors
    To power these sensors, you can use a small flourescent tube or other light above the track, but the more reliable, - and discreet way is to mount some LEDs in a "bridge" or other scenic overpass sort of arrangement. The shot below is what I made for my track. I mounted the LEDs poking out the bottom, 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.



    The image below shows a start finish banner at top, which has the infra-red LEDs built into it. Wiring hidden, very simple - not flash modelling, others will do it better than my ham-fists can acheive.





    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 the Infra-Red LEDs

    To power the LEDs you need a small DC source. This only needs to be about 30ma 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 3 to 12 volts or so. Wire the resistor in series to the positive, (long leg) of the LED.



    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 its nominal voltage output, the rating of the LED - usually about 1.2V and the normal driving current - usually 20 or 30 ma.

    Then choose a resistor near as, but slightly greater value than the big blue figure the sheets kicks out at you.


    Or, for short
    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 stated voltages 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 drive them at around 25ma for the past 3 years, and none have failed – and we never miss laps!

    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 separated 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 for your track and the location of the dead-strip), the pick-ups of the car close/complete that small length of 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. You may have to experiment with them wired each way.

    I am not experienced in these but many resources state that you should have a 10k resistor between the wire from each rail to pins 10, 11, 12 and 13 and a resistor from the other side that is tied together to common pins 18 - 25.
    others say 320 ohms, and the one pictures below says 800 ohms.
    There are two reasons for the variation so far as I understand it
    a ) Not all DB25 ports are created equally sensitive to reading the 5 volt trigger a closed circuit represents, and
    b ) Tolerance to outside voltage supplied eg the back EMF from a motor, may vary, and some people are more cautious than others.
    Sorry, that's all I know.........

    Also, you absolutely have to keep track voltage away from the dead strips. This can be done by either having “guard strips” which are basically a short dead strip 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, or, have a section say 25mm where there is no braid/tape at all.

    The diagram below is for three lanes but you get the idea.

    Reversing switches are not shown.

    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 bunch of different add-on facilities, and Race Coordinator can work with at least 8 lanes, thus requiring use of some pins usually configured for uses in 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 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.
    Last edited by SlotsNZ; 01-28-2012, 12:00 PM.

  • Leadfoot46
    replied
    Sprint Timer

    I have just made my first wood routed track, one lane for testing only. Of course I needed some way to measure progress so I found an app for my iPod and iPad called Sprint Timer which fit the bill perfectly. Set up the camera next to a lane to be measured and press start, each time a car passes by the zone it records the lap time. Simple to set up , no wiring and the price is right.

    Leo

    Leave a comment:


  • heavyweather
    replied
    Scrap glovepie...
    Download http://joytokey.net/en/

    now that has a wizzard...you move the joystick or remote control in my case and assign a key to it.
    It works with laptimer 2000 and will probably work with any other lap timer that takes keyboard input.
    Maybe someone better than me could get the dongle to work directly via joystick input.

    The mapping tool can assign 2 keys per axis...I could time 12 lanes with the 9$ USB-Stick...maybe laptimer2000 could also run 3 parallel instances...

    Another great mapping tool is Xpadder
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/xpad...e=typ_redirect
    that's the free version.
    It also lets you configure sensibility and other trigger related events.
    I read those programs are used that people can play emulator games with a gamepad on the pc...
    I have to try that with SuperMario on the Gameboy emulator now...

    Now I just have to buy some hardware to trigger the joystick emulator.
    Does anybody know how that works?
    I want to use these
    http://www.conrad.at/ce/de/product/1...f=searchDetail
    Last edited by heavyweather; 02-05-2015, 02:08 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • heavyweather
    replied
    To answer my own question....

    I started LapTimer 2000.
    I tried Joystick input but it does not trigger.
    I tried keyboard input...obviously works.

    Now I downloaded a software that maps input to any other output.
    I am not very good at this but I will try.
    Tried to map one axis to keyboard button "one".
    Did not work...maybe I am doing something wrong.
    I already succeeded in mapping a mouse button to keyboard button "one". I now can trigger lane one with my mouse button.
    I am sure this can be done...I wish I had graphic feedback in the mapping tool to see which axis I have to map.
    Maybe there is a better software though this one seems very comprehensive.
    Its irritating though that I can do this "111111111" with my mousbutton or a tip on my trackpad now....
    http://glovepie.org/glovepie.php
    I am using glovepie 0.45 it works with any input device...also with kinect so you could probably link some usb motion sensor to a keyboard button and thus use it with any laptimmer that kann be triggered with keyboard.

    Leave a comment:


  • heavyweather
    replied
    I wonder If I can use a cheap USB dongle with one of these software timers?

    I got box with 6 channel input. It is recognized by the PC as a joystick/gamepad.

    Every time I keep coming up with some idea it has already been done...see
    http://slotcarillustrated.com/portal...ad.php?t=84799
    Would be great if someone could connect a USB Joystick/Gamepad to a timer and report if you can trigger it with buttons/axis movement.

    This is my box.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/F0184...646995936.html
    There is also a cheaper dongle available that does the same thing.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/USB-D...224139562.html

    Both are for connecting rc receivers to the PC so you can use your own transmitter wireless with RC-sims but any game that can be played with joystick/gamepad works.

    If it works I would put a lightbridge in the slot and power it with batteries or the output from the box.

    Leave a comment:


  • 007
    replied
    Ok

    Leave a comment:


  • dwtyler
    replied
    Originally posted by hepkat63 View Post
    there is also a guy selling a beauty online called slot dragon i think - but it doesn't work with non-magnetic cars (read Tjets) - which is what I race.
    Slot Dragon has Photo Eyes Sensors now that detect anything under the sun and still under a hun for a complete system(includes shipping!). They are also available installed in 15" AFX straights. Check out the links page at this forum.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=U0_AG4rgd7c

    Leave a comment:


  • snurfen
    replied
    Nothing much to add really mate -you've covered it all pretty well.

    One thing I lucked out on was buying LEDs and resistors in Clas Ohlsen - they are matched sets and also teach you how to read the colour markings on resistors and the abstract about how to calculate the resistor value needed for each differently rated LED.

    I'd also suggest looking at old optical mice for transmitters and receivers, a nice steady 5volts out of the PCs USB ports - though it's an exploration to decide where to take off the signal for you to wire back to the D-sub 25.

    Another bit of luck is I work in a factory where we damage a lot of handheld scanners - again an almost endless supply if USB fed LEDs. So keeping your eyes open for sources of switches and LEDs is always useful for your testing phase.

    Your tip about taking the time to get the rollers on the microswitch arms properly adjusted is also very important. Again I got lucky as I'm scrapping a load of very old Dell servers in work - they have roller arm type micro switch cut outs to prevent prying fingers opening the lid when the server is running.

    To date, I've found the webcam to be very hit and miss. I'm going to plod on until I find a suitable piece of software so it triggers back to the programme correctly. I wouldn't risk a club event with a webcam yet as I haven't had 100% results over a long enough period.

    Leave a comment:


  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    thanks and any suggestions to improve article

    Hi Snurfen,

    glad to be of help. Having learned and done with all these types of "sensor", can you suggest any ways I could re-write this, or things to change or add, to make it more clear or accurate for others?

    Leave a comment:


  • snurfen
    replied
    Thanks for taking the time to write this all out in one post. Very helpful, as I'd found loads of other articles, most of which seemed to almost contradict other ones.

    I've now managed to successfully rig up and test micro switches with a roller arm, dead strips and LED's. Am now building several of each using different components just to try them out.

    I'm using the various devices with Race Coordinator on a few rally tracks, with some very nifty screen skins sent to me by Gazza, of Auslot fame.

    Leave a comment:


  • hepkat63
    replied
    Originally posted by SlotsNZ View Post
    Firstly, I have updated the original post, corrected some small details, used a better picture of a wired up DB25 plug.

    I think Alan Smith is going to write up something for the professional DS systems which he sells, when he gets time, then that can be added here. DS link http://www.132slotcar.us/store/index.php?cPath=168

    To those who found this useful - glad to be of help, and thanks for commenting, nice to know it is worthwhile doing these things.
    5 years ago, when we set up our local club, there was no-one who could do this in the region except an electronics tech who intended to join our club, but never did. He made our first loom, and I didn't even know the sensors had to be wired one way round, not the other.
    Eventually, I understood what was required and made my own, then ones for other guys in the club. So I drew a circuit for a light bridge board, got it cut for my track, mounted some LEDS. Then for other clubs and home tracks around the country . . . last month I think I sent 3 to Ozzie....

    It amazes me how many people are still popping out of the woodwork around New Zealand with mainly routed track, who generally have no idea that there is a "club scene" in NZ now. They mostly think they are about the only hobby slotters n NZ.

    We have Nationals each March, Proxy racing, and 3 to 12 hour teams enduros with people coming from around the country to them.

    - Most events are held in our small town of Napier. One of our club guys took over organising the enduros from me, and also set up the Nationals, got us affiliated to the NZSCA (NZ Slot Car Association), and the events sanctioned and promoted. We get about 8 or 10 of the high end metal chasis guys racing our RTR enduros and nationals as well now.
    I run the proxy racing, and we get entrants from USA, Australia, UK, and a couple from Asian locations.

    These days, about 100 looms later, I forget that other folks have such grief getting a timing system working.

    Next, re: the bottom pins. 18 through to 25 are common to each other. I simply wire to individual bottom pins as it is convenient for using placement of the 2nd wire. If you hooked all your bottom pins to any one of those pins the result will be the same.

    As to CharlieTuna's question on the state of the pins when more lanes were hooked up. I am not technical enough to know exactly how a DB25 works in detail, but I am told that different PCs have different tripping resistances for state (open/closed) and the addition of a 2nd and subsequent sensor may be taking this into a different state.

    If it gave a problem, you could try adding a low value resistor in the line - something below 200 ohms, on the bottom pins, to see if it chaages the resting state back to green, but still works.
    Maybe if someone more knowledgable than me reads this they can make a correction . . where is RichD when you need him...
    I'm just getting back into it again (after selling my old track - then regretting it and now buying another one ) but I want a timing system that does not use a computer - it is just neater I reckon. I looked at the DS products and there is also a guy selling a beauty online called slot dragon i think - but it doesn't work with non-magnetic cars (read Tjets) - which is what I race. Any other non-PC based timing systems out there?

    Leave a comment:


  • CharlieTuna
    replied
    Thanks for the responses. Im currently finalizing my wiring, and I'll test individual gnd pins before finishing the timing wiring. The software seems to work fine as is, but I like things to be "right". Not just work. Im assuming the UR software just looks for a change in state, not whether its normally open or normally closed.

    Leave a comment:


  • RichD
    replied
    RichD has an old TrikTrax that you just hook up to dead strips and it works great once you get the polarity right, later he got Trackmate, which is hard to beat if you can afford it. My reference for homebrew hardware has been the HO Slot Racing site. I seem to recall that 180 ohms was the recommended resistor value. In some cases the signal for one lane can get coupled to another lane and you have to put capacitors across the leads for each lane. Each lane should have a pair of wires that go all the way back to the plug on the computer end, even though the grounds can all go to the same pin. If you are using dead strips you can put a 5 volt zener diode across each pair of wires to keep track voltage away from the computer port.
    Last edited by RichD; 01-28-2012, 05:25 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • SlotsNZ
    replied
    A couple of things

    Firstly, I have updated the original post, corrected some small details, used a better picture of a wired up DB25 plug.

    I think Alan Smith is going to write up something for the professional DS systems which he sells, when he gets time, then that can be added here. DS link http://www.132slotcar.us/store/index.php?cPath=168

    To those who found this useful - glad to be of help, and thanks for commenting, nice to know it is worthwhile doing these things.
    5 years ago, when we set up our local club, there was no-one who could do this in the region except an electronics tech who intended to join our club, but never did. He made our first loom, and I didn't even know the sensors had to be wired one way round, not the other.
    Eventually, I understood what was required and made my own, then ones for other guys in the club. So I drew a circuit for a light bridge board, got it cut for my track, mounted some LEDS. Then for other clubs and home tracks around the country . . . last month I think I sent 3 to Ozzie....

    It amazes me how many people are still popping out of the woodwork around New Zealand with mainly routed track, who generally have no idea that there is a "club scene" in NZ now. They mostly think they are about the only hobby slotters n NZ.

    We have Nationals each March, Proxy racing, and 3 to 12 hour teams enduros with people coming from around the country to them.

    - Most events are held in our small town of Napier. One of our club guys took over organising the enduros from me, and also set up the Nationals, got us affiliated to the NZSCA (NZ Slot Car Association), and the events sanctioned and promoted. We get about 8 or 10 of the high end metal chasis guys racing our RTR enduros and nationals as well now.
    I run the proxy racing, and we get entrants from USA, Australia, UK, and a couple from Asian locations.

    These days, about 100 looms later, I forget that other folks have such grief getting a timing system working.

    Next, re: the bottom pins. 18 through to 25 are common to each other. I simply wire to individual bottom pins as it is convenient for using placement of the 2nd wire. If you hooked all your bottom pins to any one of those pins the result will be the same.

    As to CharlieTuna's question on the state of the pins when more lanes were hooked up. I am not technical enough to know exactly how a DB25 works in detail, but I am told that different PCs have different tripping resistances for state (open/closed) and the addition of a 2nd and subsequent sensor may be taking this into a different state.

    If it gave a problem, you could try adding a low value resistor in the line - something below 200 ohms, on the bottom pins, to see if it chaages the resting state back to green, but still works.
    Maybe if someone more knowledgable than me reads this they can make a correction . . where is RichD when you need him...
    Last edited by SlotsNZ; 01-28-2012, 12:22 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • CharlieTuna
    replied
    Just wanted to pop in and say a big THANK YOU. I used this thread to successfully get a pair of IR emitter/detectors from the Shack working with UR. A cell phone power supply, couple resistors, and a parallel port and Im in business. Also skipped the light bridge and put led and detectors in the slot. Found that this set from radio shack doesnt have the best range and alignment is very critical, so they are only 1/8" or so from each other. When I flex the track, it breaks the alignment, but the only times Ive had issues so far is when Ive pulled the track section out and put it back in. Once I get it aligned, it typically stays that way.

    One quick question...I originally wired only 1 set up for testing on pin 10 and 25. The state was normal (normally green, then gray when tripped) in UR, and is how I got it aligned. Once I hooked up the second set, using a common connection to pin 25, the state on pin 10 became inverted (normally gray, then green when tripped). Lap counting seems to be unaffected, even though it wouldnt let me invert the state. Everything is still kindof temporarily wired up, so Im thinking of running each set to individual gnd pins. Should I bother? From what Im reading, I may want to use pin 25 when I set up call functions...

    Leave a comment:

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