A Model Train Shuttle
Microcontrollers Facilitate New Product Range
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Machinery Sector
    333 Manufacture of Simple Control Systems
    365 :Toy Industry

Hobbies Models and Crafts (HMC) is a sole trader company involved in the design, development, manufacture and supply of all types of equipment for the model railway enthusiast. The company therefore, operates in the toy manufacturing sector (Prodcom code 3650). Company sales of these products at the start of the application experiment were 122 KEURO. Currently, 98% of the company's turnover is within the UK, with some low level exports to France, Germany, Spain, the Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong as a result of mail order sales achieved via specialist magazines or attendance at specialist exhibitions. The company's supplies accessory products for the model railway enthusiast market.

The current products manufactured by the company include simple discrete electrical and electronic components only. The current train shuttle, the HMC003, can only control one model locomotive at a time and cannot control the speed of the locomotive because of the limitations of this discrete technology in the small spaces available in a typical model railway layout. This lack of realism is a major disadvantage, and the objective of the product development is to produce a more realistic controller to obtain increased sales.

The objective of the application experiment was to improve the functionality of the train shuttle unit so that a much more realistic operation can be achieved. The company's customer's requirement is for model railway layouts to operate as closely to the "real thing", for example a model of an actual train network in UK, France, Germany. The introduction of microcontroller technology allows this effect to be achieved, and opens up new market opportunities.

The functionality introduced by the microcontroller in this application includes:

  • Controlling more than one locomotive, including controllable acceleration and de-acceleration to match the modelled performance of the actual train.
  • Trains moving in the background at different speeds for example a train travelling between two stations
  • Trains stopping at stations for controlled periods.
  • The capability to stop at several stations.
  • The capability to record and repeat vehicle movement patterns.

The introduction of the microcontroller based Train Shuttle will provide HMC with a distinctive competitive advantage in the market, leading to increased product sales. The increase in sales will result in a payback period of 12 months on the prototype development costs of 28 KEURO. The return on investment over a four year project life is anticipated to be 447 %.

The application experiment was completed in 14 months. The original duration of 10 months was extended due to unrelated sub-contractor difficulties.

The introduction of microcontroller technology into the company has provided the company with many potential replication opportunities for the development of other control unit requirements for the model enthusiast. HMC therefore, anticipate continued product innovation and sales growth to occur based on this new development capability.


    Station House,
    Vale of Glamorgan,
    CF62 3AE
    United Kingdom.

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided HMC with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
Pontypridd CF37 1DL
United Kingdom