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? 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.
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....