Print your own Track

Note: Everything in here is DIY and at your own risk, this stuff WILL void your waranty

Moderator: schoey

Print your own Track

Postby RichG » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:17 pm

Hi Guys. Lots of opportunities for mods here, although most of them will need some hardware to play with. :) One area that particularly interests me is printing our own tracks. Yes I know this has been posted in the backers Comments.

The track just looks like a simple gradient… Couldn't I just photocopy or print the track to extend it?
1. The sensors don't read black, they are measuring reflected Infra Red (IR) wavelengths. This essentially means that what the cars are seeing is not the same as what you can see with your eyes.
2. The material used, as well as the ink / toner, all have different qualities. It is impossible to predict the difference that variants invisible to the human eye can make on the IR reflection. White print media, even if supposedly the same composition, can have significantly different characteristics for IR reflectivity.
3. The gradient we work with has been carefully constructed to give the maximum response across track width, as well as functional components like edge detection, barcodes etc. Consequently, any 'shift' or compression of this gradient will do all sorts of weird things to the cars response, not just in terms of track positioning, but also the systems ability to recognise laps, pit lane etc. Everything about the functionality in Real FX depends on this being accurately calibrated.
4. Because of this, attempting to print your own track, or photocopy a genuine track, may work to some extent, but performance is likely to be disappointing. For example, even if we ignore the issue f differing IR reflectivity, the contrast will almost certainly be higher in the photocopy, which means the gradient will be higher in the centre, where the car may become unstable, and at the edges it will 'wander'. Attempting to add 'rogue' track copies onto genuine track pieces will also cause all sorts of nasty behaviour in the cars as they transition between the two differing prints.


But we are not going to let that put us off are we? :D and who knows Graeme may even decide to help us? I have in mind that you might create a layout on large pieces of paper, these could be for temporary use or perhaps a permanent installation. They could even be made modular like the Slotfire system so that they can be made into different configurations.

Image

So the main issue here is printing the gradient to have a similar IR reflectivity to the RFX track. In the absence of a spec I would approach this with some trial prints and see how the cars respond relative to their performance on the RFX track. This process could be aided by measuring the output from the IR receiver in the car on the RFX track and then comparing that with a range of prints on the test track. Would be very surprised if after a few iterations you could not come up with a very similar performance, at least for the test paper type & printer / print shop.

This could then lead to some very nice layouts, at very reasonable prices. So in the meantime back to waiting for the goods to arrive....

Rich
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby dvs-626 » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:18 pm

This also interests me, you seem to be more on top of the ideas though Rich, but some guidance from you and the rest of the community could help us all out.
Looking forward to trying this stuff out.
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby Jonny B. » Fri Jan 01, 2016 6:54 am

This is an area of interest to me as well. Although Rich and dvs-626 are likely far superior to me in knowledge in this area, I'd love to hear more and learn how these experiments work out.
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby wildeast » Tue Feb 23, 2016 6:21 am

Hi,

I recently experimented with self printed tracks. I think the result might interest you. If anyone is interested, I can send images to test on their own vehicles.

1. Printing gray scales:
Self printing grayscales is not an easy task. Every printer has its own methods and characteristics to print different gray levels.
Tested on different printers with different settings I found, that on home b/w laser printers it nearly always leads to stripes of discreate gray patterns.
Only a large office colour printer was able to visually reproduce a gray shading equivalent to the original, but:
The cars behaved different. They were bound to the very middle lane, as if there was a large contrast. No steering possible whatsoever. I guess the reason is, that the good gray shading is implemented with using the colours of the colour printer. But they behave anything but like real gray shades in IR-domain.

I concluded to create my gray scales as pure black/white random noise pattern. Black toner supposedly behaves the same way in visible and infrared domain.
My home printers both did well, however it seemed to be darker on one than on the other. So there is still a printer dependency.
Steering is possible again.
But: currently there is a problem on my mostly available A3 printer. It shows an interference like "dark/bright stripes" pattern.
I still experiment with different resolutions. (highest resolution I can create is: 500dpi on A3)

2. Scaling:
The original scaling of the RFX track does not really fit onto DIN A3 format.
To avoid any excessive cutting, I scaled the track down to 90% of its original size (width and radius).
Radius scaling isnt really necessary, but it help to keep the scaling factor as large as possible (smaller radii need less space, otherwise I would need to reduce the width a bit more).

3. Shading
The original track shading is physically not correct. The center lane is shaded/calibrated to be "straight ahead". WOW! keeps this shading also for curves, but:
In curves, the colour of the center lane should force the car to steer exactly the radius of the center lane. So the car would consistently follow the center lane during the whole track. That means the center lane must be colored according to curve radius. However that needs knowledge about the car calibration or some experimentation.
My tracks do represent this, but due to the problems mentioned above, I am still not at the point to test this.

If anyone is interested in testing tracks, just send me a message.
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby wildeast » Thu Feb 25, 2016 10:06 am

-removed-
Last edited by wildeast on Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby wildeast » Thu Feb 25, 2016 10:09 am

Does this posting arrives?
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby admin » Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:41 pm

Sorry wildeast, you were still on a 'newly registered list' (anti-spam measure). I'll sort it out now.
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Re: Print your own Track

Postby Runge » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:15 pm

Hi,

I'm interested in testing tracks. Can you share your Images?
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