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I love this unit. It's very clearly a low volume hand-made electronic product for a very niche market. It shows the quality results that can be achieved when somebody inventive uses a 3D printer.
The circuitry also has a very distinct hand-rolled feel to it. I'm not going to go too deep into it, because it would be unethical to reverse engineer such a specialist product. And a huge amount of the work is done in the software locked in the microcontrollers anyway.
Subsequent to the video I stripped the battery holders that had been damaged, neutralised the alkali damage with vinegar, rinsed them off with isopropanol, cleaned the contacts and then reassembled with fresh batteries and a note to the owner to remove batteries when in storage and use a complete fresh set for all major events to ensure reliability.
Here's the manufacturers website if you need an infrared beam race timing system:-
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This is a really interesting and unusual gadget to take a look at it's a timer with two sets of light beams and when you break the light beam, it starts the timer when you break the other light beam, it stops the timer, and this one is for A dog club where they have competitions they, the dog, goes around the course and uh they measure the time it takes. But apparently it's been playing up. It's been giving them problems, so i volunteered to take a look at it for them. So what we have here, we have green rx, and this is really.

This is so specialist that this is 3d printed. This is 3d printed. This looks like a piece of plastic uh square sections of drain, pipe almost like a narrow down pipe and this box. Here time it perfect cool uk uh, the top of it hold on i'll just pop out it's a standard case, but they've 3d printed their own top here with the on off switch when you switch it on it says time it perfect, dot, co, dot.

Uk. Yes, that's our website start timing. Right, tell you what i shall set this up. So here's what we have.

We have green tx and green rx. The transmitter when you click the switch in the bottom footery switch. A red led doesn't like this is one of the problems i think they've got with it. Now.

It's lighting now i've wiggled that connector uh, i'm thinking what's wrong. With these it's the curse of battery operated equipment. Is it going to work right, say? Well, it's lit. So that's this one's transmitting.

Is it just transmitting continually? Is it doing anything, can we see the glow from the i'm, not really sure, don't really see that, but anyway, that's the uh, the green transmitter, here's the green receiver, i'm not sure a gas greens start. So it's little red leds lighting and when you aim them at each other, see the green led there. It's only when they're aimed properly that that green, led lights, that's good! That's a very handy thing! So i'll put that over there and i'll get the red one here and put its transmitter on noting. If i point the red's transmitter at the green receiver, it's not going to do anything.

It's actually detecting the its own receiver. Oh actually, is it detect that hold on? Let me oh no, it is. It is detecting i'm wrong. I thought they were coded to each other.

That kind of makes sense. That makes things a lot easier. So that's uh, that's set up there. This one is transmitting down here.

I will put this in the middle and i'll turn this one on. It's also not lighting up. Oh, i really have. I think i hope these haven't suffered too much damage right.

Tell you what this ain't working one more, i'm just going to set this up! Okay and we're ready! So i'm shining like this because i don't think it's backlit um so start timing, i'm going to press enter! It displays that time, low battery red! Oh, it actually shows low batteries for the different transmitters. That's quite good! So now i break the beam here and it immediately starts counting and then, when i break this beam, it stops counting and if i break this one again to start the cycle again, it starts counting break the beam it stops counting. It seems to reset automatically. I wonder what they use to communicate with each other right.

Tell you what let's investigate this, although to be honest after trying to get that going, i've discovered the problem with it's, not good news right i'll pick that out of the way, ah and i'll turn these off and i'll. Show you what i've already discovered lots of. Little switches, i wonder how much current they'd take so we'll get the batteries out of this one and it starts off really well, it's uh! Well, it's simply duracell i mean simply: duracell actually means simply crap duracell they've got lower capacity than normal duracells and i, like all duracells, are prone to leaking, but not as much as this virta battery has leaked wet. That's a disaster.

Let me just wipe that off. Uh, you do not mix batteries. The reason you don't mix batteries you've seen these warnings about mixing batteries is that if you put in an old battery with about half charge and you put in a new battery with a full charge as it runs down, it starts reverse charging this battery. When it reverse charges the battery when that one's depleted to zero, but this one's still good charge, it causes a pressure build up inside and it makes them leak.

So you never ever mix batteries, and that means can we see this? Can we see it? Oh! No. It's toast uh. The contact in there is not good. Let's see we can do about this.

Let's see if we can fix this, because i don't see a spring. I think this. This reminds me of a popular bargain type connector, a battery holder right. Tell all these batteries are getting binned, let's see if we can open this to what just before i start this i'm going to pause and i'm going to take all the batteries out with other units right now, just as a precaution, all the batteries are out.

Yes, there was corrosion on others. What a shame, but this happens. It's not really uncommon, particularly for things like this that they have an event. Then they put them in the box and sometimes they might not get switched off properly or they might just store them for a very long time and then, when they need them again, they just fumble about for batteries and they can't find the batteries so they're.

Just stuffing whatever they've got, it happens, it's just part and parcel of what it is. Hopefully it will be straightforward to change the battery holders or at least fix them clean them up if it's the springs and the negative - and i don't think it is in this one - it's very odd battery holder, then that would make it a bit trickier uh. So this is sealed, i'm not sure how well this is going to come out. Oh it actually slides out ooh, okay, okay! Oh that's neat! That is super neat uh.

They got a bit of silicon in that for vibration. Resistance, oh hotmail, glitches said yep, that's uh! That is a standard. It looks like a bargain battery holder, okay uh. What do we have? We have the little rf module with the antenna inside of that oh they've cut the top off it.

Okay, we've got another 3d printed object with the modulated infrared receiver and little uh power supplies. I wonder why they've got two of them. There's the uh focused led, that's very smart, oh and there is a maker controller and another mystery chip. Ah, with the number scrubbed off and they've written r on it, uh is that another microcontroller or is that a remote control, encoder chip? There's the crystal for the uh, the microcontroller there right tell you what this is the red uh? Oh, that's neat, look they've got a.

Is that screwed in or is it just? Oh, it's going to come out easily. It's sort of sticky gooey stuff, but it's not that hard to slide out of the suit with. Oh, that's neat! That's how they're holding this in position nice design, very, very specialist. It's not! You know it's not something that you're just going to get it's not a common thing.

You're just going to buy them off the shelf. It is like really low volume manufacturing. That's a nice designer case as well. How have they stuck the lenses in they've got little round discs, they've actually kind of i think they've drilled in, but only so far yep and then they've just glued a little lens, just a little clear plate over there in front of these sensors i'm liking this.

So far, i'm liking it a lot. Where is the partner in crime, red tx? I would guess it will have similar construction, so little screws coming out of the 3d printed bits at the end, probably the wrong screwdriver for them not to worry. I have no regrets. Oh, that's our screws going across an angle as well so slight misalignment issue, but that's all right.

It's going to come out as easily it's kind of like a it kind of feels like it's sticky and then slides out. What do we have here? Another little uh three-pin, i think that's a boost regulator. Of course it's three volts, isn't it so that's a boost regulator, oh and another rubbed off chip here that says t is that going to be dedicated? Is that good about my controller? What about this set? Can i get this off here looking for clues looking for clues here, not really sure, that's a microcontroller, it's an atmel but they've they've hidden. What this is led battery warning all right, there's a battery warning, but they've not actually used it.

There's the cluster of three leds up there there's the power on led the cluster of three leds. I guess they're in parallel, maybe a resistor, each or not, really sure i don't see unless this has been used to switch the oh, it's a fat. This is being used and these resistors have made before those they are. The resistors are for the leds.

The fat is being driven and is pulsing the leds in that code. This is nice, it's nice construction, especially for something so specialist. Now this thing here can this contact be lifted out? That is so corroded in there. That is a disaster.

It's got a spring hold on. Can i slide that, and that is super spring-loaded? Well, that's no fun! Oh! The spring itself is not looking happy hold on. Let me see if i can turn this sideways and pull it out. How serviceable would these battery holders be or ultimately can't even get them anymore, because they're a fairly retro type? This isn't really going to plan.

Oh that's, coming out, there's a spring. The spring is cruddy, there's the contact. The contact is cruddy to be honest for reliability, that's going to increase resistance, which is going to reduce the infrared output and the transmission distance and stuff like that. So i think new battery packs all around i'll.

Let them know uh i'll see if i can source these first, what is bogan. I was right, uh, but yeah i'll. Let them know about this strain relief and hot melt glue this well made. This is well made, it's that little programming header or is it a test header strange angle, possibly just to get it in properly in the case uh very interesting system? Shame that uh the batteries have leaked, but ultimately batteries leak.

It happens. You know when it does happen and the best thing to do for something as special as this is actually change the battery holders completely because they are extremely corroded and that will pretty much judge a better look at this. That will pretty much return it to full 100 operation. It's quite nicely made it's pretty good.

9 thoughts on “Troubleshooting a faulty dog-race timer”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Steve Guidi says:

    I've had some luck with salvaging corroded AA and AAA battery contacts for children's toys and things where the extra resistance from the corrosion doesn't matter that much. White vinegar will neutralize the leaking alkaline electrolyte, and then a quick scrub will remove any loose material. Of course, depending on the level of corrosion it may be easier to replace the contacts or device entirely.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Kevin Behr says:

    I am electrickery ignorant Clive but I really enjoy most of your videos, as you explain so well and the humour isn't lost on me, I have an interest in what you do, but zero understanding usually, doesn't halt the joy, keep on keeping on lad. I thought I had subscribed years ago, I shall remedy that right away.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Anthony Pilkjaer says:

    Cool solution would be to 3d print a holder like the one used to charge walkie talkies (like a big tray with many holes to put radios in). This way you could just have 2 contacts on the back ofthe units and after the event you just slot them in to charge them so they are ready for the next event.

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Kaedenn says:

    With how precise that timer is, I wonder how much they need to worry about the latency of the wireless communication and the speed of the clock(s) powering them…

    Then again, it displays millisecond resolution and if you have a problem with latency, you can probably just disregard the last digit and be perfectly fine.

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars David Evens says:

    I would expect that these got stored away in a hurry in the spring o 2020, or they weren't ever brought out of storage in 2020 and they might have been playing fast and loose with the batteries back in 2019. It might have been possible to get away with that for the off season, but the off season and more than a year on top wasn't anything like OK.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars bluerizlagirl says:

    Upgrade the units with an 18650 cell and a USB charging port?

    You have to wonder why they didn't use that for a power supply in the first place, but it's obviously a (very good!) Fred-in-the-Shed outfit making these things and perhaps they were just being ultra-cautious.

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars -ƸӜƷ- says:

    I'd like to see if these are really accurate to the milliseconds, or if displaying that number is just a marketing 'scam'. Maybe use a pendulum that swings thru and triggers start and stop, and see if it always comes up with the same time when you release the pendulum from the same position?

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars throttle bottle says:

    I don't know what magic they're using, if any at all. but if it's like every other ancient generic timing cruft, it's highly effected by the suns IR/UV light, possibly even CFL/LED and other lights in the same spectrum.
    they may simply need some sort of tunnel shielding to block ambient and other stray light from directly blasting into them. 🙂

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Christopher Guy says:

    Clean the corrosion with vinegar and rinse with water.

    This is a good candidate for LiFePO4 14500 battery with a hollow pass through AA battery shell. 3.2v is close, they tolerate abuse and are easily recharged. They can remove them after each event to recharge as the capacity is 1/3 of an alkaline, about 600-800 mAh.

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