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
- Controlling more than one locomotive, including controllable acceleration
and de-acceleration to match the modelled performance of the actual
- 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.