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  #1  
Old 08-14-2009, 02:26 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Preview of the new Porta-Trax ... your opinions and thoughts please.

Here are some preliminary pictures of a new Porta-Trax system I've developed for our d'nano in-school leagues.

This project draws on the many tests that we conducted on running surfaces, infield materials, and improvement to/adaptation of, the Porta-Trax rail system. The new track system will be used in our Canadian school racing leagues, beginning 2010. That market called for the development of portable, roll-up tracks with a 10 minute setup time; and since none existed, this project was born to see if that was feasible, and if the d'nano itself was a good candidate for the school league. Eight months later, the answer is "yes" and "yes" to both those questions.

Depending on interest, this system may be sold as a ready-to-run, as a kit or as an 'open system', in that you would be able to buy the track components you wanted separately... for example, the base, the rail systems or infield system. The system is expandable, and the entire infield layout is easily changed in less than 10 minutes. (The 10 minute setup goal is possible with an oval, this design would take 15-20 minutes).

This particular track uses a completely seamless base and is 14'x6', but any size or shape can be built using this system, including multi-level or even exact replicas of full-scale race tracks. (I've always wanted to build Germany's Nürburgring)

The pictures below are of the very first prototype, constructed to test the base material -- this is still very much work-in-progress. (The rail system, although elegant, needs to be simplified, and there will be some changes to the infield material and the adjustable corner run-off strips).

I also need to get the material costs way down, as the rails system and infield designs are expensive.
---
The goal was to build a portable track system for home use (and our school leagues) with the same scale detail as the d'nano, while offering the very best racing experience by letting the d'nano use all its speed and handling. This particular layout, with its banked corners coming off the main straight is very fast (beyond my driving skills) and is designed to reward a carefully chosen racing line, just as in full-scale racing. To slow things down with the same layout, I simply add to the warning ramps that change the racing line, as shown in the bottom picture.

Another major difference between this system and other tracks is the variable radius corners and sweeping chicanes that narrow into a "chute", just like an Indy Car or FIA course ... you have to pick your spots to pass. Lane widths are 22 inches on the main straight, narrowing to as little as 15 inches in portions of the chicanes. Templates would be made available for other widths and course designs -- useful if the HPI 1/32 class catches on. By making the system 'open' and thus allowing hobbyists to purchase the raw materials, I'm sure it would only be a matter of time before many interesting designs were built using the system.

The rails have considerable 'give' so that cars will not be damaged, cars will not get stuck on rails (but riding the rails will slow you down)

The whole system is completely portable and rolls-up for easy storage.

Let me know what you think...






Last edited by lornecherry; 08-14-2009 at 08:49 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-14-2009, 08:56 AM
cosmicsoul cosmicsoul is offline
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Wow!

Man this is so cool! It looks really nice and well made. I wonder what the cost of one of these units would be, I am very interested. I wonder how this surface compares to the one being used at the Hobby Town locations.

The thing that I like about RCP is that is sort of the standard for Mini-z racing in the US. Even though there are variations in tracks across the country more traction, less traction you can easily adjust.

Anyway don't mean to take away from your creation, your work and attention to detail are very impressive that is mostly what I wanted to say. Great job!

Jay
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  #3  
Old 08-14-2009, 10:02 AM
patrick38 patrick38 is offline
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wow nice looking track you made there .i like the way you can make the track by using the flex gide rails
is the track raised from the ground ??
keep up the good work patrick
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  #4  
Old 08-14-2009, 02:44 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Quote:
I wonder what the cost of one of these units would be, I am very interested. I wonder how this surface compares to the one being used at the Hobby Town locations.
Let me address the pricing and marketing of such a product, (as I see it). As my full-time job is an NPD consultant (new product development) and I've taught marketing at the univeristy level, a lot of thought was given to that aspect, as I built this system. Suffice to say that I'm wary of even entering the small scale R/C market in the first place, especially up here in Canada, where every Mini-Z track or Mini-Z hobbyshop in my province is now closed. (If R/C helicopters needed tracks, then that would be an attracitve growth market).

At best, this is probably a break-even project -- my justification being not business, but rather that I very much enjoy the creative and engineering aspects of track design. And although the cottage-type industry is antithetical to what I know, there's an otherwise unattainable smile when you create something by hand that other people enjoy -- even if its a time and money sink. (that line is well-rehearsed, as I continually try to convince my wife of the logic).
---
Firstly, I have no intentions of postioning this product against RCP ...the market is much too small for that, and reaching CM (critical mass) would be very difficult with the end result probably hurting everyone in this small market. Besides, John is nice guy -- we are much more likely to cooperate than compete and I can assure you that we are searching for some common ground that will make sense to market.

Rather, and considering the costs, this track system will probably be postioned up-market with respect to pricing. The professional entertainment/party market is where this type of track system will be most successful. I am already working with a few entertainment suppliers to add lighting, sound, scale buildings, etc. And I also hope to bring over some high-end slot car hobbyists -- once they've experienced a properly prepared d'nano on this track they will switch.

On the other side of the market, the DIY (do-it-yourself) aspect that the Porta-Trax system has the potential to offer, should attract new hobbyists to this scale, and that is good for all market players and Kyosho. I can't set or even guess pricing, but I will say that the track in the pictures above cost about $180 - $200 in raw materials. Hopefully, I can design less cost into the rail and infield systems, as that stuff is expensive for the industrial grades used.
---
Finally, exposing this track to thousands of 12-17 year olds through the school leagues will also increase the overall market.

In marketing, there are two ways to enter a market -- by competing against existing products or by growing the overall market -- our strategy is based primarily on the later. I can't disclose any more of the marketing or distribution plan at this point, but try to invision this track system as opening up new markets for the d'nano, or perhaps the HPI 1/32, should Kyosho falters in their NA strategy.
---
OK, enough with the market position soliloquy; let me address your other questions:

Traction is a mid-level coefficient; probably a little less than RCP and in-line with generic EVA tiles. You can invoke throttle-induced oversteer (track-speak for a controlled slide) but tail-out, snap oversteer is rare, even with stock rears. (Trust me when I say that I did not even begin to design the track aspect until I was 100% sure of the realism and usability of the running surface.) You do need to upgrade the front tires to about 20-35 degrees, as the stock Kyosho tires feel like they've been injected with a high dose of Viagra.
---
The track in the pictures is indeed laying flat on the floor; only the portion nearest the camera is banked to test high speed handling and turn-in. I do not want to disclose our leg system at this time, but yes, you will be able to quickly raise the track off the floor.


Last edited by lornecherry; 08-14-2009 at 10:05 PM.
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  #5  
Old 08-14-2009, 03:42 PM
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Namuna Namuna is offline
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Hi Lorne,

Very enticing progress you're making. I had a few questions:

1. How is the surface material at Keeping clean? How much and what type or routine maintenance is required?
2. From rolled-up to layed-out, does it lay flat? Lumps? Bumps, bubbles?
3. How do the infields, rail system, etc... adhere to the surface?

Thanks.
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  #6  
Old 08-14-2009, 07:51 PM
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very nice looking track bro.... looks like it was built with dNaNo in mind
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  #7  
Old 08-14-2009, 09:50 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Quote:
Very enticing progress you're making. I had a few questions:

1. How is the surface material at Keeping clean? How much and what type or routine maintenance is required?
2. From rolled-up to layed-out, does it lay flat? Lumps? Bumps, bubbles?
3. How do the infields, rail system, etc... adhere to the surface?
1) The surface is very simalar to EVA tiles in its ability to shed or attract dirt. In earlier posts, I was adamant that the d'nano's front end was poorly designed in that almost anything fouls the front axles quickly, even on a supposedly "clean" track. With our school programs using 12 cars, this is a problem X 12 that needed to be solved.

The secret to keeping EVA, or any other synthetic foam surface clean is to get rid of static. Static attracts dirt and especially pet/human hair. If a surface is static-prone, even vaccuuming/washing will not keep it clean -- you need to eliminate the problem.

I find vaccuuming and then spraying with Endust (antistatic dust spray) works best. As I have five long-haired pets in my household (not including the kids), finding the best solution to this problem was very important and almost a deal-breaker for the dnano, when I was using both carpet, felt and even EVA tiles. Got rid of the static, changed my furnace filter and the problem is all but gone (my cats live on the track).

To answer your question directly, the surface is very similar to EVA foam -- but because it also is textured, the top of texturing where the car's wheels contact remain clean.

Cleaning your furnace filter and air ducts regularly and doing the wider front wheel mod will also help, as will raising the track off the floor. Of the 50+ materials I tested, it was not the materials themselves that mattered so much for debris accumulation, but rather the static properties. Hope this helps.

2) This first track constructed is more a proof-of-concept than a final-speced product. The base material, on its own, curls up at the edges and does have some interior rolls ... not an issue in permanent installs, but again a major hurdle in making the system truly portable.

I have two effective methods of controlling, and/or completely eliminating, the natural curl in the rolled-up base material, without fastening the base down.

For now, those methods remain proprietary, but will be disclosed once I finalize infield materials/design. I can say that much of the this surface "taming" is done through the rail system and the tension it places on the various surfaces, a method left over from having the same problem with Mini-Z Porta-Trax carpet tracks some 5 years ago.

In sum, I am cautiously optimistic that I have completely solved the problem of an uneven base material and base curling ... however I need to roll-up and and then re-deploy the track at least 60 days continuously before I can be completely confident.

I also want to see if the base material will lay flat without the Porta-Trax rails system ... i.e. with just the infield materials ... and that is something I'm working on now, as I realize that not everyone may want to use our rail system ... in addition to satisfying my goal of keeping the entire system open to multiple build methods.

3. I have not finalized the infield, ... again what you see is merely a proof-of-concept at this stage. The infield is a combination of two different materials with completely opposite properties; however one of those materials (very thick rubber) is hard to work with. I have thus speced a different material that I should receive in early September. We also have some simpler/cheaper solutions to the infield that I am testing, as keeping the current layout consistant from track to track requires expensive water jet cutting, an expensive industrial process not for DIY. And simple is better.

What is ironic, is that the top layer of infield material was once a rejected material for the track base (running surface) and seems awfully close to that used in the HTUSA tracks. I rejected it because it sheds fibers if driven on ... very few, but still enough to make it an issue.
---
Please, please keep these questions coming ... especially if you are considering a DIY track, as we want to be sure to address any issues that you have encountered in building your own track and ... make constructing a kick-ass track an easy step-by-step process with no surprises.

Last edited by lornecherry; 08-14-2009 at 09:57 PM.
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  #8  
Old 08-14-2009, 10:38 PM
Marcro Marcro is offline
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I've got a big dream that I just posted over in Mini-ZRacer forum. Some day I'd like to build a 1/43'ish scale Monte Carlo WRC-type road coarse with dips, jumps, hair-pins, switch-backs and what not. I'd like to see a track like this that can perhaps offer multiple surface conditions to simulate tarmac, gravel, snow, ice, et'c. I'd like the material to be able to bend and twist like the sharp twisty roads you see the WRC cars fly through as they cut the turns and jump over the next one. You get my picture?
Seems like this might be more feasible for me than going with RCP track's. Can your system be custom made according to the customer's wishes? Could you make the track pieces thinner to look more like the roads you see in "WRC"?
It's a big, big dream I have and I hope to one day accomplish it. I think it would be a blast to have several walls in my house built up with a scale mountain and race all around it trying to get the best time just like in WRC.
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  #9  
Old 08-15-2009, 01:52 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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...if you can dream it ...I can probably build it.

I once had a custom order from a government department for a 30-foot Mini-Monster course that their marketing guy dreamed up. Gravel mosh pit, jumps and obstacles. Was really fun to drive. Fortunately, they had the budget to make it happen.

And then there was the $1200 custom-built Lego track for 1/64th scale ...







...too bad Lego doesn't make 1/43 scale road tiles.
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  #10  
Old 08-15-2009, 08:58 AM
cosmicsoul cosmicsoul is offline
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Funny that you mention government jobs

I was just thinking last night you should try to market your product the government. I bet you could rake in selling to the ARMY, NAVY, NASA with all the stimulus money out there. I bet GM would buy a track or two for thier corportate executives.

Dnanos in space. You could buy them full retail and mark them up a couple thousand percent or more. Not to mention what you could sell the track for. Have you thought of using low VOC products or organic compounds. I hear there is lot of stimulus money availble for people who are making GREEN products.

I was wondering if I could come over and play this afternoon after I get my chores done.

The zip zap on top of the LEGO man is too funny!

Keep up the good work. Let me know when you have some tracks availble.

Jay
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  #11  
Old 01-11-2010, 11:57 AM
JeremyC
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How is progress on this track going? Is it possible to purchase a small amount of the base material? About 4x8 feet?
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  #12  
Old 01-11-2010, 12:28 PM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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The high speed oval and tracks are almost done. I should have some more photos next week and some very cool track-lview shots from our new d'nano HD CamCar.

Yes, you can purchase just the base material. It only comes in 6 ft width though, so smallest would be 8x6 feet. A small caution is that you need either our rail system or another means to make sure the base material lays flat after being rolled. (Or you can laminate/glue heavier rubber to the bottom).

Send me an email to lecherry@rogers.com and I'll work out some pricing and send you more info. Let me know what youa re doing for rails, so I can advise on adhesives or compatabilty, as I've done a lot of testing. - Lorne
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:38 PM
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Sinister_Y Sinister_Y is offline
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Hi Lorne,

Can you please give me a shout? I'd like to talk about this system and other dNaNo related stuff. Thanks.

My number: 647-519-8074

Cheers,

Shawn
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  #14  
Old 01-26-2010, 11:57 PM
mugler mugler is offline
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will there be any pics or updates soon?
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  #15  
Old 03-15-2010, 07:19 AM
lornecherry lornecherry is offline
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Finished Porta-Trax banked oval

Here's some pictures of the finished banked oval with final materials, scenery, props and race management software. The track is a blast to run on and is setup for near full-throttle runs - much like an Indy Car or NASCAR oval. And like a banked oval, it is easy to drive on yet very challenging to master.

The goal was to give the track a "personality" as well as make the racing experience as realistic as possible.



The "So You Think You Can Drive" theme of this track was designed for our theme party operators who liked the idea of having the integrated timing and printout of lap times.

[/IMG]

Here are some of the technical features:
One of the challenges was to make the race-computer/lap timer part of the track system, yet integrate it tastefully; hence the articulating arm monitor attached to netbook underneath.

[/IMG]

The entire track is completely portable and modular and packs up in about 30 minutes.

The running surface is seamless. Rails are "cushioned" with Velcro and slow the car slightly if you try and "ride the rail".

Run-off barrier has tiled surface warning ramps for added realism.
[/IMG]

The Citgo, Byer's Ice Cream and Castrol signs light up using multi-EL circuits, they look just like neon signs. (I will be adding EL lighting to the rail system for night racing.
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