Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life of a Tsunami and Setting Up Hyperlight Effects

Well it’s time for another edition of SoundBytes. This week we’ll take a look at how a Tsunami is born. Then we’ll talk a little bit about all of the fun that Steve and Jeff had in China on a recent engineering trip for Blackstone Models upcoming projects. Finally our tech tip this week will take a closer look at a feature found in all SoundTraxx Digital Sound Decoders, Hyperlights. On a personal note here at the office, it was a fun week of celebration for one of our employees. Dan Szabo in production graduated from Fort Lewis College here in Durango with a bachelors degree in physics engineering. So again enjoy all the latest happenings here at SoundTraxx and remember to send us any requests you have for SoundBytes to GeorgeB@soundtraxx.com.

The Life of a Tsunami

One thing we take great pride in here at SoundTraxx is that we actually manufacture all of our decoders right here in Durango, Colorado. For those of you who are visiting in the area don’t hesitate to stop by and let us show you around. 

The first step in a Tsunami’s life is to program its sound file to the correct steam or diesel sound file. When the sound memory chip is programmed it is instantly verified so we know right away it has been successfully programmed.

Next, all of the sound chips and components on the Tsunami are loaded into our pick and place machine. Panels of raw boards are placed on the machine and one of the sides of the decoder is built.

Then the board is run through the “pizza oven," which melts the solder paste to hold the components to the board.

Then the board gets turned over and the process is repeated. In this case adding the “side B” components to the boards. At the same time this is going on production is busy making wire harnesses programming for the next build, or assembling the capacitors to be attached later. After the parts are placed and the board has gone through the “pizza oven” again the boards are ready to be cut from the panel into their final size.

After the boards are cut they are returned to the programming station to program the processor on the decoder. The code is verified when it is programmed so we know right away if an error occurred during the process. The next step is to actually hand test every single decoder to make sure it will work as intended. We hook the decoder up to a decoder tester, which contains all the needed LEDs, a voltmeter, a motor, a bookshelf speaker, and a command station. Each decoder goes through a brief 2-minute test procedure to ensure that it works correctly.

Finally when the boards pass all of their tests they move onto final assembly for completion. For TSU-1000 decoders, this means attaching the wire harnesses, adding the capacitor, heat sink, and shrinking the purple wrap around the board. At this point we now have a complete Tsunami. Production’s final task will be to package every board they built and check their work with one final inspection before taking them to the stock.

China Connection!

Jeff and Steve returned from an engineering trip to China on the C-19 project last week. They were there for a week to ensure the C-19s have the detail that you have come to expect from Blackstone Models. They had a very successful trip. On a side note though, they did bring back some exotic foods and candies from the east.

They had a selection of chocolates, chocolate covered jellybeans, cookies and what appeared to be chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.

However, the ‘catch’ of the day was a package of freeze-dried squid or jellyfish, or something. They opened the package inside the lunchroom and sent everyone running for the hills as the smell emanated out of that plastic bag. Some who were daring, not either of us, tried it and quickly un-tried it! The office smelt like a fish market in about 5 minutes! Joanne, our accountant, decided to take them home.

No word on whether she ate them or not. Just for grins, the production staff tried to re-hydrate one in a cup of water (outside of course) just to try to see what it turned out to be. Some of the goodies were great tasting. (With the ladies around, the chocolate did not last long!) What a day.

Tech Tip: Setting up the Hyperlights

Prototype locomotives came equipped with headlamps that were used for illumination of the road ahead. Many railroads used lights as visual warning devices for pedestrians and motorists as well. Tsunami sound decoders allow you to re-create many of these lighting effects.

To configure the lights we will be programming CVs 49-52. Within the CV, there are various options to choose from. Besides the 15 different lighting effects, there are 2 phases, and grade crossing logic, which means that a given effect will be activated after the horn or whistle is blown. Lets take a closer look at programming the lights.

All 14 Hyperlight effects are available on each of the lighting outputs. To set the value, lets look at the chart and determine the lighting effect we want. For our example, lets set CV 51 for FX5, to a double pulse strobe. First, we consult the chart to see what the value for our light effect is.
We find it to be 6. Next we look at the phase. Phase gives you the ability to have multiple lighting effects out of sync, for example strobe lights, alternating ditch lamps, or firebox flicker, using phase A and phase B as listed in the chart. For our example, lets select Phase B. We would then add 16 to the value giving a total of 22. Next bit to look at is for grade crossing logic. Do we want this to be activated when the horn or whistle is blown? For now, we will not, so our total remains at 22. Rule 17 would not apply for this now; so next we look to determine if we installed LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to illuminate the light. LEDs have different lighting characteristics that can cause the visual effect to appear unrealistic. In all Tsunami decoders, we have added an LED compensation bit, and this helps the LED react more like an incandescent bulb. For this example, lets say we did install LEDs, so we would add the value of this bit, 128, to our total, which will now be 150.

Following this method, you can add realistic lighting to all of your models and steal the show. Remember, that with the new Tsunami TSU-AT1000s and TSU-GN1000s, you can use 1.5v micro bulbs without the need for external resistors!

Upcoming Clinics

One last note, for anyone who is in the Greeley or Denver, Colorado area May 22-24, 2009, come by the NMRA Rocky Mountain Region meet in Greeley and see us. Jarrette and George will be at the show for SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models. We will also be presenting a programming clinic for Tsunami decoders at Caboose Hobbies in Denver on Friday, May 22 at 3:00 p.m.