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Old 07-10-2009, 06:25 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Reseach into track materials and setups continue ...

Just a quick update to let you all know how the testing is going.

I'm continuing to test several custom surfaces for the D'nano, in attempt to replicate the performance/grip of racing carpet and EVA foam, without the associated problems of a car that is content to run for 20 minutes at near 700 KMH scale speed. Here's what I've found so far:

Carpet: The d'NaNo's front wheel axles eat carpet fibre like my teenagers inhale Mac n' Cheese ... resulting in a time-consuming clean-out of the front assembly every 15 minutes. (the cars, not my kids!) This is unexceptable, and will result in eventually stripping the front-end screws. Moreover, any endurance racing would be determined by this factor also, as your steering slowly goes away or gets lop-sided as the fibers build up. I sure hope the HTUSA tracks have no fibers, or they are in for a nasty surprise on any race longer than five minutes. And I'm curious as to why they continue to sell HTUSA the carpet-like tracks, after showing a new interlocking plastic surface at the '09 hobby show?

With respect to the carpet fiber issues, I'm also experimenting with modifing the front end (larger overhang on the rims, foams, etc.) to see if that helps in keeping the fibers out.

Of note, I have tried a least 10 different types of carpet -- including the best Mini-Z Ozite with the very lowest/compacted fiber, all have the same issues ...if it has fiber, it will eventually find its way into a d'Nano's axle. Carpet is also difficult to get to lie perfectly flat if it's not fastened down. And if it's fastened down, it's not portable.

On the upside: nothing beats the roll-out convenience and light weight of racing carpet. Handling is so natural -- I can run near full throttle on a banked oval with car drifting up to the high side just a touch -- just like NASCAR or Indy car. Rails and track barriers attach in seconds with Velcro.

EVA foam: love it, very natural handling to the "smooth side" of the foam, but the interlocking joints are just too annoying -- feels like I'm constantly driving over the expansion joints of a bridge in my Dodge truck. And interlocking foam is far from portable -- my fascination with puzzle pieces evaporated about 40 years ago.

EVA roll-up foam -- oh yes, there is such a thing -- it has issues with deploying wrinkle-free though -- working on that problem with the manufacturer. My current rail system has to be redesigned too.

Regupol: I'm also working on a roll-up surface with a variant of this type rubber -- very popular in Europe. Awaiting shipment of two custom formulations (regular Regupol has too high a coefficient of friction ...or simply, too much grip). Needs to be anti-static also. A little heavy also, as it's much denser than EVA or other foams.

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve that I cant reveal at this time - but I'm determined to make this work -- a big (at least 16-20' x 8-10') light-weight, portable track that rolls up in seconds .... all with full-scale race feel and without the puzzle piece issues. I'll check back in a couple of weeks to update. - Lorne
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:25 PM
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Interesting as always. Look forward to your update.
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Old 07-11-2009, 11:01 AM
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yep, always a good read. keep up the testing and your reporting.
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Old 07-24-2009, 07:26 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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...finally, real progress on track surfaces ...

One of the manufactures sent over a test sample of a Regupol-like rubber material. I was originally disappointed because the stuff had a friction coefficient that was far too high -- over 1.0 -- causing traction rolls. So, I tried the Autoscale tires on Aluma-Tech rims, and behold, the combination was perfect - not to mention how nice the car looks. This was even more ironic, considering Kyosho intended AutoScale only for show, and not for racing.

Moreover, I created a realistic "runoff" edging that causes the car to lose about 50% of the traction (you lose some steering sensation and the car will not turn very well -- just like a real track, ... or at least like that video game sensation). The experience was the closest I have experienced to racing karts and stockers out at Mosport track in Toronto back some 25 years ago. And you would have needed three Sham-Wows to wipe the grin off my face ... especially after three months of getting nowhere with track surfaces and having relegated the AutoScale tires back to shelf they were originally intended for.

I now have three surfaces that work well with the d'NaNo and will be working over the next month on some very interesting mods and track designs.

This new track surface also solves two other problems, in that it deploys completely flat, with none of the wrinkles associated with carpet, and there are no fibers to gum up the front end or differential.

The only draw-back is the weight -- a 15' x 8' track will be around 65 lbs. -- but still light enough to be portable. I'm now working on the rail and infield parts and am making good progress -- the best part of all this is that the track rolls up in 30 seconds when my kids come down to reclaim the basement.

If there are any other d'Nano enthusiasts in the Toronto area, send me a PM, I will invite you over later in August to get your impressions once I am closer to finishing final designs.
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:27 AM
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very glad to hear the twist on your recent finds.

is there any hope that hard stock tires would work as effectively as the asc tires? i can't imagine it would be hard to convince pn to make tires to accommodate the material given it would offer choice to buyers and increase option part options.
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:45 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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...yes, the other two types of surfaces that I'm testing work well with the stock tires (need to upgrade them to 10-30 degree fronts). Thus, I hope to be able to offer more than one surface as a portable/removable overlay...testing that over the next week or so.

At this time, I'm not sure if this will be a commercially viable product, except for say a custom order. The costs of some of the surfaces are quite expensive, the tracks are labor-intensive to build and the market size is a too small to achieve critical mass. For now, it's still a hobby (defined by my wife as a sink-hole for disposable income) and a project for the local school racing leagues. That said, the racing experience will second to none with respect to realism, and setup will be fast with roll-up convenience.
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:58 AM
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don't overlook the market for custom club tracks. i am certain there are clubs checking your progress before deciding what to do with thier custom tracks. i know on mini-zracer there has been plenty of discussion on track materials for custom tracks, many with elevations changes.

the recycled rubber materials are going to be expensive in cost and shipping due to mass/weight. they do offer the ability to advertise them as eco friendly products however which no other mass produced track that i am aware of is doing.
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Old 07-24-2009, 09:05 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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... arch, I realized I never really answered your question: As I think, there would be no need for AutoScale tires or special rims if a tire manufacturer simply made tires to fit stock rims with the same coefficient as the current Autoscales.

What I learned in last night's testing, is that you can tweak grip/oversteer/understeer via the tire coefficient, the track coefficient, and the width of the tire in any combination. Of course, the differential, dampering and suspension settings also play a (much smaller) role.

Before last night however, I had deemed overly sticky surfaces as unacceptable because of traction rolling -- now I know that by using a really "bad" tire, I can dial-in the handling to match the track surface if the there is too much grip. Before that, I spent most of my time trying to get more grip on traditional surfaces.

The other nice aspect of the overly-grippy track surface is that a box-stock d'Nano will handle perfectly at 80% speed without the need for upgraded diffs, gyros, etc. -- and this is perfect for my racing leagues, where I dial down the speed anyway. Ditto for kids learning to drive and "family" racing.
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Old 07-24-2009, 09:40 AM
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the market for asc tires is that small niche that prefers the scale look and appearance of the asc tires and wheel size. i don't think it's a performance based upgrade however it's clear that is has the potential to work well given the right track surface.

tires are always 90%+ of any setup no matter the track material. you either dial up or down traction with tire selection based on the track surface. it's been the status quo with mini-z's for nearly 10 years.

Last edited by arch2b; 07-24-2009 at 10:48 AM.
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  #10  
Old 07-24-2009, 09:58 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Point well taken, there is probably a good market for the materials-only aspect also, as I know from distributing Ozite up here in Canada. Oh, and that rubber ...one 'factory' roll weighs 1600 lbs!
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Old 07-24-2009, 10:49 AM
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what is the roll/sheet thickness options, can you go with a thinner sheet to reduce weight?
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Old 07-25-2009, 04:30 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Ok, another full day of testing and some interesting observations - I'll also try and answer some of the questions:

The optimum thickness of a track material is very important with respect to both weight/portability and deployment. The material that I'm testing is just over 2MM thick - quite thin, but still heavy enough to weigh down its own wrinkles (wrinkles and creases are a common problem with carpet, and whereas the Mini-Z can handle some bumps, the d'Nano gets airborne if the surface isn't flat).

This "rubber" appears quite imperfect on top, almost like a real road course after a rain, complete with minor dips and lumps - but the d'NaNo has no problems and tracks dead straight at full throttle.

It is the material's density that makes it comparatively heavy - recycled (and in this case, reformulated) rubber is heavy by nature-- but this actually helps the rubber lie flat on a variety of uneven surfaces. Many of the previous problems encountered with testing so many materials is that I now understand that 90% of the materials I examined would not lie flat after being unrolled because the density was far too low.

I have the tire selection/traction questions figured out -- Autoscale tires are only needed in the front ... and they seem to fit/work fine over the stock rims ... so no mods or special rims needed, other then a quick widening of the wheel wells with a Dremmel tool. The backs are good with stock rubber, or in case you are using the wider Aluma-Tech rims -- Epoch Spec 2 tires seem to work very well and don't look too bad either (I knew the Epoch's would come in handy for something). Please keep in mind that this is a setup for this material only and does not work with regular EVA foam or carpet -- that said, you just need to swap front tires for those surfaces.

I've now set-up all for of my D'NaNo's for the surface with a variety of tweaks and upgrades -- and get predictable, reliable and repeatable performance from all the cars. One of the Ferrari's has only $5 in upgrades yet still handles well. (After-market bearings, a foam dampener between the motor mount and chassis, and the Autoscale tires on the front). Of course, adding a ball diff will quite down the car and keep the back end from chattering.

The track material will be available in roll-up sheets of about 96 by 48" -- so you could make a decent track from just 4 squares. I can't handle 1600 lbs rolls and I don't think my wife will trade in her Avalon for a forklift -- even though I've secretly haboured a burning desire to drive one of those things. So 96" x 48" it will be, as this size, the manufacturer can accommodate.

There are some cutting issues to work out (rubber stretches and twists when being cut with traditional factory equipment or even a utility blade -- I'm working on sourcing water jet cutting, which is more accurate and of course, more expensive.

I'll be designing a carrying kit/cart and the infield barriers next (based on my old Mini-Z rail system) -- but I'm happy to have the cars handling so well with no more crud in the front wheels and without having to endlessly tweak suspension and differential.

Once I get a decent video camera, I'll post some footage of the cars doing figure 8's at full throttle -- it's quite impressive, if you overlook my driving skill.

Last edited by lornecherry; 07-25-2009 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 07-25-2009, 11:07 PM
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Interesting as usual. I look forward to your updates.

BTW, driving a forklift is a blast for some reason!
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  #14  
Old 07-26-2009, 01:39 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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some pictures

here's some pictures of the materials undergoing testing.



The rubber is not pictured here -- unless you look very carefully under the green infield material. The greyish material is a newly formulated rolled foam, and looks very scale-like. I may be looking to combine the rubber and rolled foam for two completely different surfaces in one roll.

Also working on a barrier attach/infield system that uses no extra fastening system, similar to the old Porta-Trax system.
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Old 08-05-2009, 07:54 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Possible next generation track materials - very promising results so far...

Test samples of some of the newest track materials have arrived and I'm very impressed by the results so far. If there is demand, some of these materials may find there way into either commerically-made tracks, or as DIY materials. Currently, I'm working on refining the interior rail system and infield designs.
--
Firstly, some of the rejected materials that we have tried and the rationale: The Regupol-like rubber has wonderful traction, but there is simply too much grip on the front and it feels somewhat unrealistic, not to mention the traction rolls if you use anything but near drift-spec tires (i.e. the Autoscale tires work very well, as previously mentioned and I'm sure a after-market tire maker could easily spec tires). On a practical level, although this material does lie very flat, it is much too difficult to work with. (Rubber expands making it rare to get a perfectly straight cut with layman's tools because it stretches as you cut). The weight is also prohibitive; almost a half-pound a square foot. Add the weight for infield materials and barriers and you are approaching 75lbs lbs for a small 8' x15' track. That's not portable unless you are in great shape. Clearly, this material is best for permanent installations, where it can designed into lanes built over plywood. Oh one more thing; it's kind'a ugly up close.

That said, this 'heavyweight' is perfect for the weighted infield areas and for "flattening" down portable sections of the material I will be using. So I'm glad I went through this extnesive testing excersise.

Regupol '6510', the material used on many European tracks seems to shred little pieces of itself, I have thus specified a slightly different (and less ugly) specification, but must note that the company manufacturing this stuff is not the easiest to deal with for a variety of logistical reasons.

My main reasons for testing rubber were: 1) the Europeans have built some nice tracks with it (all permanent though) and 2) it lies flat when deployed for roll-up practicality. Its weight (I hurt my back just lifting this stuff out of the truck) and difficulty to match edges (it comes in approx 48" wide so you have to piece the roll edges together to make your track wide enough) make it a no-go for any portable track.
--
Ozite racing carpet: nice price per sq.ft., nice stuff to drive on with predicatble mid-friction traction ... provided you like cleaning the carpet fibers from your wheels every 5 minutes. I wish it worked for the d'nano, but it doesn't.
--
Now for the good stuff ...
I can't disclose the exact formulation of the materials below, as some of them may end up in production, but I can discuss candidly what they offer, as I have tested the d'nano's out for more than 10 hours on each surface.
--
One of the materials that satisfied all the requirements was thick, industrial felt; not the cheap acrylic stuff you find in craft stores, but rather a high-end felt with highly compressed wool % content. This is the only carpet-like material that would not shed too many fibers, (although still some) had predictable and consistant traction, and was thick enough to deploy flat. I may still build a track from it -- when I win a lottery ... at $22 per linear yard, it sure looks nice, but is just too expensive.

Without seeing the HTUSA tracks up close, I can't say for sure, but I suspect they are using a much thinner version of felt or man-made felt. Thinner=much cheaper, but also needing a permanent attachement, and thus no portability.

I did have the felt manufacturer spec out a much thinner version (like that used for pool tables), which makes for a very elegant infield material. I'll have more to say on that once it is finalized, as we are attaching the felt to another material to serve as the infield trim. The material is shown in the pictures in a variety of colors. The ability to deisgn your infield in a vareity of colors other than the traditional 'green' grass also is appealing. Once this material is refined and properly speced, it could also be offered to DIY track builders.
--
Enough talk, cut-to-the-chase
The best material tested, by far, is a type of foam re-developed especially to spec by a Canadian company. It is lightweight (even less than EVA foam), comes in 6-foot widths, and is very easy to cut to any shape with a hobby knife. After struggling to get a straight cut with the rubber material, this stuff was a pleasure to work with. There are other unique advantages that make this the ideal track surface:

1) the material has a low-mid coefficient of friction, meaning that it you would spin or understeer too often without very grippy tires. So, I speced a ribbed texture, thus increasing the grip to a mid-friction coefficient, similar to the EVA foam tiles. It worked out quite well. Get the tires right (10-20 rears with wider 20 fronts) and it carves like a pro slalom skier, even at full throttle. Traction rolls are very rare, but can be induced if you push way too hard, just like a full-scale road course or oval ... lots of fun, easy to learn, hard to master -- and as racing should be ... your lap times improve as you find the right line around the track.

2) it looks like a scale race track, in that the colour is a very dark gray. As I worked on it, vaccummed it, and my cats scratched it (unlike my kids they've been de-clawed) the surface became marked, looking like realistic skid marks.

The old Porta-Trax rail system, although expensive, adds another dimension of realism, while protecting the cars. You can see the outside rails that I made for the prototype track in the pictures.

3) The rib texture allows for some unique infield technologies, in that I can tape down stuff or Velcro and then remove it without ruining the surface. This is proving useful for repositioning infield barriers as I change the layout and for magnetically attached FIA cornering strips and barriers.

4) The material "heals" itself even better than EVA -- if I pin something to the track (as I did when designing realistic FIA warning edges), it stays put, and the pin marks 'heal' as soon as I remove the attachment -- this makes adding to the infield or changing the design of the track very easy.)

5) The material comes in 6' widths (just within the shipping acceptance length for many carriers) and can be cut to any length. If you want a track wider than 6', you can easily adjoin another piece by taping underneath. I will be experimenting with 8 and 10 foot widths after I get the first prototype built.

In addition to the d'nano, Mini-Z's run well on the material, there are no fibers to contend with, and it rolls-up for easy storage.

The only 'negative' characteristic needing to be tamed is its tendency not to lay completely flat (there are very small natural ripples, that some may prefer as being scale-like), or, you can use the infield material to reduce rippling to almost negligible. The curled-up edges you get from constantly re-rolling disappear when the rails are added.

The test track I am building is 14' x 6'-1'' -- a very compact size. At first, I wanted to try something eloborate, with multi-levels and a much larger size; but this size is much more practical for most and still large enough for three challenging layouts: triple chicane, banked oval and perhaps a 'suicide' figure 8. I also want to see how this size will overlay on a pool or ping-pong table.
--
This has been a lot of work and very educational -- but it's important to build a great track if you want to experience the full potential the d'nano has to offer. I would certainly appreciate any feedback on the materials, positive or critical, and whether or not you think there is a market for this as a DIY track material and/or a finished product.

I should have a fully completed track to show in about 2 weeks ...I've even ordered some carbon fiber trim for the exterior rails, as my four teens seem infactuated with that material for some reason and are already looking for places to stick it on my full scale Durango ...there are some things that I'm just getting too old to understand. - Lorne



Some of the various surfaces and infield materials that I've tested. The rubber is on the right, standing up 48", the rolled foam on the left at 72". Infield felts are shown layed out. In the left corner you can see the old Porta-Trax rail system attached to the new surface.

[IMG][/IMG]
a close-up of the unique surface texture.

[IMG][/IMG]
mock-up of what a DIY or pre-fab track might look like. "Look Ma, no track seams, no pins". Sharp eyes, will notice that the fake spectators are 1/32 scale and not 1/43. The lane is also much narrower than is practical.

Last edited by lornecherry; 08-06-2009 at 01:30 AM.
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