Faller Top-In Enhancement Project

Problems identified with the model, when built according to the instructions:
1) The cars don't bump into each other, and generally don't move in a realistic or psuedo-random manner.
2) The cars need to be locked onto a magnet before the motor is switched on, otherwise it is unlikely that the cars will automatically latch onto a magnet - there are too many areas where a car can be positioned so that it is never attracted towards a magnet (dead zones).
3) If the model is moved or accidentally nudged, the cars can be knocked off their magnets and end up in a dead zone.

I've made a short video (~2MB) that shows just how pedestrian and tame the 'ride' currently is, and just how many dead zones there are (note the number of cars not moving in the 3rd shot).

Aim of Project:
1) To enhance the model by adding additional magnets to cause more "bumping" and to eliminate as many dead zones as possible.
2) Create a Circuit Board to automate the model.
3) Add LEDs to the model.


Phase 1 - Experimentation


This is the original model's "track" prior to any modifications.



The first thing I tried was to extend the reach of two of the large discs in the centre of the model by temporarily gluing some pieces of balsa to them
and attaching some cube magnets at various positions.
The magnet closest to the central spindle was glued with its polarities reversed
- the hope here was that the cars will be repelled by this magnet and will be pushed away from a potential dead zone.
In this photo, you can also see that I also placed a line of reverse polarity magnets down each side of the model.

The Faller motor had to be replaced - it was never any good and the slightest amount of friction/resistance would cause the motor to stall.
I temporarily replaced it with a DC Motor of the same type that I've used on numerous other projects.

Here's another brief video that shows the effect of these modifications:
Video 1 (~3MB)




I was happy with the way things were going, so the next task would be to remove the three original magnets (and the pillars on which they are glued)
from the three central gears so that I could add more balsa spokes.
However, in order to add spokes to the disc on the right (in the photo above), I would have to remove the small gear wheel that connected these three central discs to the drive motor.
This means that these discs would no longer turn, so an extra motor would need to be added to directly power these discs.

Phase 2 - Implementation




More balsa sticks and magnets have been glued to the three central gears. These gears have now been disconnected from the original drive motor.
Unfortunately, the reverse-polarity magnets idea didn't work all that well,
so there are still some dead areas where cars can get isolated if they become disconnected from the magnets.

The spindle that kept the central gear in place has been removed and replaced with a DC motor mounted underneath the base.
Fortunately, the original spindle and the motor's shaft both have a diameter of 4mm.
The method I've used to connect the motor's shaft to the gear is crude - but works.
In the photo below you can just about see that there's a thin metal strip (taken from an old Faller motor),
that protects the balsa from the turning forces of the motor.



The original Faller AC motor (hidden by the Control Booth) has been removed and replaced with an additional DC motor. This motor will now only drive the chain mechanism.
The hole in the centre of the gear that used to be attached to the Faller motor has had to be carefully increased in size so that it can be mounted onto the new motor.
In order to avoid having to make any alternations to the Control Booth, this new longer motor has also been mounted underneath the base.




At this stage I did some extensive testing and found that the reverse polarity magnets around the perimeter of the track
caused more problems than they solved - especially those at the ends of the track. Cars would frequently get stuck in dead zones at either end.
So, I decided to remove some of these magnets and add a barrier around the edges of the track and some triangular shaped platforms in the corners. This really improved things.
There are still some dead zones where cars can get stuck temporarily, but will eventually be nudged back onto a magnet.





I've made a temporary circuit to power the two motors. This temporary circuit drives the chain motor at a constant speed in one direction,
whilst the central motor changes direction at periodic intervals. This change in direction occasionally causes a car to "jump" magnets - adding a nice randomness effect.




Added 18 Fast-Flash Rainbow LEDs and 9 White LEDs to the model's overhead gantry.


Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUi1FuGgiK4


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