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CaptOblivious

Railstars: Gauging interest in decoders for EMUs

Were specially designed EMU decoders (see below) to be offered for sale, would you buy?  

24 members have voted

  1. 1. Were specially designed EMU decoders (see below) to be offered for sale, would you buy?

    • No.
      7
    • Yes, but they'd have to be cheaper than what's out there now.
      4
    • Yes, and if it makes my life easier, I'd pay the same or more than what's available.
      10
    • Yes, I'll take 10 sets please.
      3


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PhilipS

Hey Captain, any way that you could just ship regular USPS to Canada? $15 is a little steep for shipping for something that will fit in an envelope.

 

It's the shipping company that sets the price.

 

$15.00 is a deal and barely covers shipping materials even with a free or recycled box. As an experience global shipper, the goal is to get it there safely.  Packages must be able to survive a one meter fall. All the big shipping services literally throw packages into the trucks.  A padded envelope might work for a decoder however it's risky and a tiny box like the USPS small flat rate boxes are perfect for shipping items provided bubble wrap or an inner parts envelope is used to protect the decoder from flopping around. Flat Rate to Canada is the lowest price.

 

All these things add up.

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mwsteele

Yeah I know that everything adds up. I ship a lot internationally as well. Just that for decoders I'm sure a padded envelope would be fine.

 

Now it's saying $29.95 to Canada. Is it possible to add an option that's not express just regular USPS?

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CaptOblivious

Yeah I know that everything adds up. I ship a lot internationally as well. Just that for decoders I'm sure a padded envelope would be fine.

 

Now it's saying $29.95 to Canada. Is it possible to add an option that's not express just regular USPS?

 

We'll get it sorted out! I've added parcel post, although I dislike it, the price is at least in line with the product.

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CaptOblivious

Here's a rendered image of the decoder's current design. L = 11mm, W = 7mm

 

Decoder-image-147x300.png

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CaptOblivious

At KenS's suggestion, I've changed the pre-order procedure.

 

Right now, secure a 20% discount by placing a $5 deposit (per decoder). This tells me you're interested (since you have money in it), but it doesn't tie up your money for the next couple of months while I complete development of this project. Once the decoders are baked later this summer, I'll ask you to pay the remaining balance (right now, I estimate about $15; it won't vary much from that), so I can send the orders off for manufacturing. If the project falls through, I'll refund your deposit.

 

I still need 50 pre-orders total to make this work, but hopefully this will entice more of you to throw in, given that I have only just completed the first draft of the hardware design.

 

Does that make sense?

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PhilipS

Yeah I know that everything adds up. I ship a lot internationally as well. Just that for decoders I'm sure a padded envelope would be fine.

USPS has added flat rate padded envelopes to their line of FREE shipping supplies.

 

Decoders in their static safe bags taped to a postcard sized index card should have no problem arriving safely.

 

End of my shipping tangent. :laugh:

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The_Ghan

Here's a rendered image of the decoder's current design. L = 11mm, W = 7mm

 

Decoder-image-147x300.png

 

That would make it the 7-11 decoder ...

 

What are the pads along the bottom?

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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CaptOblivious

That would make it the 7-11 decoder ...

 

What are the pads along the bottom?

 

Ha, that's good.

 

The pads are the programming interface that I need to load the firmware, or to upgrade the firmware later. They might also be used to attach additional leads (unlikely), or they might simply be trimmed off after programming. They might not even make it into the final design (instead, programming the chip before assembly), making the decoder even smaller.

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The_Ghan

Ha, that's good.

 

The pads are the programming interface that I need to load the firmware, or to upgrade the firmware later. They might also be used to attach additional leads (unlikely), or they might simply be trimmed off after programming. They might not even make it into the final design (instead, programming the chip before assembly), making the decoder even smaller.

 

Hmm ... interesting.  In that case, my preference would be for you to design the board so that the pads are a little branch that you simply snap off after loading the firmware.  This would help minimise the dimensions.  By the way, there may not have been enough discussion on dimensions, especially two things:

 

1. The Z dimension; and

2. The "effective length"

 

Z dimension:  This is important to me.  It would be nice to find a decoder that will slip nicely beneath the plastic seating or into the plastic a/c piece on the roof of a car.  Those plastic wrapped digitrax decoders are pretty hard to hide sometimes.

 

Effective length: is the length of the decoder when the flex of the wires is taken into account.  This adds 2-3mm to the length sometimes, especially with the plastic wrapping of the digitrax decoders.  Is this really the optimal design?  How about if the wires were connected perpendicular to the board (coming towards the viewer in your rendered image) or out the side to the right, or left?  Must all four wires be together?  What if two were at one end and the other two down the other end?

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Martijn Meerts

I've done the perpendicular soldering of wires on a lokpilot micro decoder in one of my father's European trains. The lokpilot micro was the only one that would fit the terrible NEM651 socket placement in the thing, but the shell wouldn't fit without desoldering the wires, and soldering them back on perpendicular.

 

It's pretty rare when an install needs perpendicular soldered wires though :)

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CaptOblivious

Ha, that's good.

 

The pads are the programming interface that I need to load the firmware, or to upgrade the firmware later. They might also be used to attach additional leads (unlikely), or they might simply be trimmed off after programming. They might not even make it into the final design (instead, programming the chip before assembly), making the decoder even smaller.

 

Hmm ... interesting.  In that case, my preference would be for you to design the board so that the pads are a little branch that you simply snap off after loading the firmware.  This would help minimise the dimensions.  By the way, there may not have been enough discussion on dimensions, especially two things:

 

1. The Z dimension; and

2. The "effective length"

 

The_Ghan,

 

I'm not yet sure what the "Z dimension" will turn out to be. Eyeballing it based on the parts list, it's not going to be record-breaking probably. I think that A/C installs are going to be a tough nut to crack, unfortunately. One limiting factor is that the diodes necessary to rectify the DCC signal into a DC power supply are, of necessity, kinda tall.

 

I hear you about the total length; sometime I have to bend the wires to 90º or so for a tight install. I've found that with a gentle, careful hand, achieve that bend close to the decoder is possible without damaging the wires. I could include holes in the pads, so that you could desolder the wire, and reinsert it through the hole, but this procedure is guaranteed to send you hitting your head against the wall, because the hole will invariably fill with solder as you remove the wire. I'll see if there are other areas where the holes could be put that wouldn't fill with solder. Would that be a workable solution for you?

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Martijn Meerts

Or have 2 versions.. 1 with pre-soldered wire, 1 with wire as part of the package (or without wires at all)

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The_Ghan

Cap'n,

 

I don't have a specific install in mind when I talk about the effective length eL.  I'm simply bouncing more ideas that might help you get an edge over or difference to the competition.  Everyone does the same old thing - a bunch of wires at one end of the decoder.  I'm asking if that is the best thing to do?  You're in the design phase.  Now is the time to see what would happen if the input and output leads were at opposite ends or sides of the decoder ... things like that.

 

There are obvious limits on how much you can miniaturise a decoder, so think about a different shape for a minute.  If you put all 3 ICs in line, rather than the smaller two being side by side, the width of the decoder would be dictated by the widest IC.  In the space beside the narrower ones you might put the leads and pads.  You might end up with a decoder that is 12 x 6mm which has a slightly less surface area than your existing design.

 

How many layers do you have? 4? Perhaps you could move the largest IC to the opposite side of the board and have a thicker decoder which is only 7 x 7mm?

 

I'm just asking you to consider these things as well.  You might make some Z guage modellers very happy along the way.

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Martijn Meerts

I usually find the height of the decoder to be the biggest issue, so adding height just to make it a bit shorter seems a bit strange to me :)

 

Height is also often a problem in Z-scale loco's. 7mm width fits in pretty much any loco, but I've found that only decoders with component on 1 side (and therefor really flat) would fit in electric/diesels.

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The_Ghan

Hi Martijn,

 

Like I said ... just bouncing ideas.  I also like a flat decoder and was going to ask another question: how thin can we get it?  Here's another idea:

 

I recently had to do a DIY repair on the guts of my Acer notebook.  In the area around the on/off switch and power connector is a circuit board that is actually 2-3 chips on FCB - flexible printed circuit board.  Just google "flexible printed circuit board" and look at images to see what I mean.  This could literally halve the thickness of a decoder, but my guess is that it comes at a premium.

 

Still, I'm looking at ideas that might help Railstars stand out from the rest !!!

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Martijn Meerts

I've opened several MacBooks over the years, there's a lot of very flat circuitry in there as well :)

 

A 'flexible' decoder would be cool actually, I can see a lot of potential for that. There are a lot of motor cars where they modeled the interior, including the bathroom. A regular decoder usually JUST doesn't fit in there, but if it were flexible, it could fit :)

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CaptOblivious

While I appreciate the great ideas for future projects, there hasn't been very much actual interest in the first project, the universal EMU decoders. I've got one person who's put a deposit down on a set, but that's it. I think that if there isn't any further interest in the next week or two, I'm going to go ahead and refund the deposits and kill the project, at least for now. We'll see where things stand then.

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The_Ghan

Cap'n,

 

I really wish I could be ordering from you, but I want transponding on my mobile decoders.  Sorry mate.

 

When you do stationary decoders I'll be more interested.

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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CaptOblivious

Cap'n,

 

I really wish I could be ordering from you, but I want transponding on my mobile decoders.  Sorry mate.

 

When you do stationary decoders I'll be more interested.

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

 

No worries! Really, this was an exercise in gauging interest; and sometimes there isn't as much as there seems, and that's OK.

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CaptOblivious

Well, some interesting news: The decoders seem to have generated a flurry of interest among a group of Italian N-scalers over night. We might make the 50 pre-order minimum after all! Anyone else here (jappomania?) hang out at http://www.scalan.org/ ?

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jappomania

Well, some interesting news: The decoders seem to have generated a flurry of interest among a group of Italian N-scalers over night. We might make the 50 pre-order minimum after all! Anyone else here (jappomania?) hang out at http://www.scalan.org/ ?

 

Yes  :grin

you find me with my real name "Massimo Biolcati", if you want I think you can also contact ASN forum

http://www.amiciscalan.com/forum/index.php

I'm not so interested on DCC (the reason is because I need more than 10k USD for DCC conversion of my roster) but maybe my ASN friends can be happy to know your project.

If you want I start immediately a new thread for you

 

ciao

Massimo

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CaptOblivious

Well, some interesting news: The decoders seem to have generated a flurry of interest among a group of Italian N-scalers over night. We might make the 50 pre-order minimum after all! Anyone else here (jappomania?) hang out at http://www.scalan.org/ ?

 

Yes  :grin

you find me with my real name "Massimo Biolcati", if you want I think you can also contact ASN forum

http://www.amiciscalan.com/forum/index.php

I'm not so interested on DCC (the reason is because I need more than 10k USD for DCC conversion of my roster) but maybe my ASN friends can be happy to know your project.

If you want I start immediately a new thread for you

 

ciao

Massimo

 

The members of Scala N started the thread for me! That's how I found out about their interest. But if you think a conversation at ASN would be worthwhile, I'm all for it too!

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CaptOblivious

An update on my progress: I have /very/ basic firmware working on a test board I had lying around. I have prototype boards being manufactured right now, and should have the first hardware in my hands in a few weeks, so I can begin testing my firmware, and developing it more fully.

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The_Ghan

Cap'n,

 

Judging by the poll above you should have around a dozen orders.  How are things going on that front?

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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CaptOblivious

Cap'n,

 

Judging by the poll above you should have around a dozen orders.  How are things going on that front?

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

 

I've got but one (with thanks to Kens, if he doesn't mind me outing him).

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