The Universal Flight Simulator

Phil Smith

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Hey guys!

As mentioned in another topic I've decided to start new one related to my sim-pit build.

Little introduction.
The Universal Flight Simulator will consist of several logical modules:
1) 2x 15" Primary MFDs;
2) 1x 10" AUX MFD (Vehicle monitoring);
3) Atmospheric side stick for controlling pitch and roll during atmospheric flights, mechanically similar to Airbus sticks;
4) Rudder pedals w/ Toe brakes;
5) Rotational hand controller;
6) Translational --//-- --//--;
7) Engine throttle quadrant.

It should work with Orbiter, specially with XR vessels, and other flight sims such as X-plane and DCS.
Right now I'm in the process of developing custom MFD panels, translational and rotational hand controllers (Apollo-style of course! :) ).

I start off with the Primary MFD Panel.

One panel breakdown:
1x 15'' IBM 6636-AB2 screen in portrait mode (2mfd's per monitor) - $5 (yep, I got a good bargain here - 2 of these monitors for 10 bucks);
1x Raspberry Pi - driving the LCD from VNCMFD addon - $10;
27x push buttons - $27;
1x Arduino Leonardo with MMjoy firmware emulating usb joystick - $8.
Total cost of electronics - 50 bucks (Excluding wiring and encoder).

After several days of tinkering with the adruino and MMjoy firmware, I've managed to connect it to PC and Orbiter (Using breadboard and 2 tablets).

Case is 3d Printed on my Tevo Tornado. Not pained yet )
Wiring of the buttons is still in the process, I'm waiting for 1n4148 diodes to arrive.

Drawing and circuit diagram of the panel are in the attachments as well.
After completion, I'll post all docs and CAD files with a little tutorial :)

Stay safe!:hailprobe:
 

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TCR_500

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Orbiter only recognizes 4 joystick axis and zero buttons. I take it you're planning on writing an orbiter module to take care of that limitation. Also, I'd be interested in seeing how you get the MFD data out of orbiter and onto those displays. The hardware definitely sounds impressive.
 

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For joystick buttons you can use something like Joy2Key to remap any joystick button to any keypress -- it works great with Orbiter for me. :thumbup:
 

Phil Smith

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Orbiter only recognizes 4 joystick axis and zero buttons. I take it you're planning on writing an orbiter module to take care of that limitation. Also, I'd be interested in seeing how you get the MFD data out of orbiter and onto those displays. The hardware definitely sounds impressive.

Actually MFDs and buttons are piece of cake to implement! (Thanks to Kamaz addons!! )
Here's a pic of 2 MFDs (on 10 tablets) fully controlled by 26 buttons and arduino leonardo on the breadboard. Works fine & dandy.
https://www.orbiter-forum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=17032&d=1586456514

Axis inputs.. ok, I didn't dig them yet, but I think nothing is impossible :)

Here's a list of planned axes:
Code:
1. Control surfaces PITCH;
2. Control surfaces ROLL;
3. Rudder pedals (YAW);
4. Toe brake LEFT;
5. Toe brake RIGHT;
6. LEFT Main engine;
7. RIGHT Main engine;
8. LEFT Scram engine;
9. RIGHT Scram engine;
10. Hover engine.

My main concern is getting separate engine control.

For joystick buttons you can use something like Joy2Key to remap any joystick button to any keypress -- it works great with Orbiter for me. :thumbup:

Indeed!
Or use arduino leonardo or even uno with changed bootloader for being a Windows Human Interface Device.
 
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Fabri91

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For joystick buttons you can use something like Joy2Key to remap any joystick button to any keypress -- it works great with Orbiter for me. :thumbup:

Only thing I'm worried about is it losing compatibility with new Orbiter versions.

I'm not familiar with Orbiter's SDK though - is this a risk at all?
 

Phil Smith

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Primary MFD

Only thing I'm worried about is it losing compatibility with new Orbiter versions.

I'm not familiar with Orbiter's SDK though - is this a risk at all?

Hmm, I've been working with Orbiter 2016 right now, and it works, for now :)


Initial display test is passed :cheers:(see attachment below).
 

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dbeachy1

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Only thing I'm worried about is it losing compatibility with new Orbiter versions.

I'm not familiar with Orbiter's SDK though - is this a risk at all?

Don't worry, Joy2Key doesn't use any custom APIs; it's just a normal Win32 application: all it does is read a joystick button press and send the corresponding, mapped keypress to the active foreground window, just as though you had typed it. You can even test it out using Notepad, for example. :thumbup:
 

TCR_500

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Impressive. I am working on implementing joystick data for a project of my own (irrelevant to Orbiter), perhaps I should make it into a DLL or static library (when I get it working that is). That would solve all of the problems with joystick input limitations.


Do I understand correctly that those screens are simply small monitors that the MFDs have been dragged onto? Or are you going for something a bit more advanced?
 

Phil Smith

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Impressive. I am working on implementing joystick data for a project of my own (irrelevant to Orbiter), perhaps I should make it into a DLL or static library (when I get it working that is). That would solve all of the problems with joystick input limitations.

Sounds nice!


Do I understand correctly that those screens are simply small monitors that the MFDs have been dragged onto? Or are you going for something a bit more advanced?

Not exactly. That's done by VNC.
Orbiter sends MFD information via VNCMFD addon ( https://www.orbiter-forum.com/showthread.php?t=28474 ), Raspberry Pi just connects to 2 VNC ports (via VNC viewer) showing MFDs. Simple as that. It can be any device - phone, tablet, laptop - as long as it has Ethernet / WiFi connectivity.
 

Phil Smith

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MFD Panels

Good day!
A Little update on MFD panels.

Finally I've painted them - 3 layers of filler, 2 layers of dark grey paint (RAL 7012) and 1 layer of clear coat, but there's always a "but".. :)
Meh, this clear coat gave me strange result - almost all surfaces got some nasty wrinkles and cracks.. So Lessons learnt - dont use a coating on 3d printed parts - just a filler and a paint are more than enough.
I got an idea to "mask" those perfections - VELCRO (Every spacecraft should have it right?? :lol: ) - simple yet elegant. I've ordered a roll of it and wait for delivery from my local hardware store. So, stay tuned!

Cheers!
 

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Fabri91

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Don't worry, Joy2Key doesn't use any custom APIs; it's just a normal Win32 application: all it does is read a joystick button press and send the corresponding, mapped keypress to the active foreground window, just as though you had typed it. You can even test it out using Notepad, for example. :thumbup:

Ah, see, that's what happens when one doesn't read well, or at all: I somehow confused it with the fly-by-wire add-on module, which, for what it's worth, still seems to work well-enough with O2016. :)
 

Phil Smith

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Ah, see, that's what happens when one doesn't read well, or at all: I somehow confused it with the fly-by-wire add-on module, which, for what it's worth, still seems to work well-enough with O2016. :)

Yep, but too bad it [Fly-by-wire] doesn't allow you to implement a split throttle control..
 

Phil Smith

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MFD Panels

Hey guys!

Little update on MFD panels.

After 15 hours of soldering wires of the one MFD panel is done, including display power off button and status LEDs. Green PCB on the back is the actual display's front panel board - I've just hardwired [to self destruct :lol:] needed functions.
Still thinking how to implement brightness control with encoder though. Got one solution but it requires a microcontroller to interface an encoder with two brightness +/- buttons of the display.

Front view (power off):
49970515808_9781eda691_b.jpg


Front view (power on (Green status LED)):
49970515858_7cc283e5d6_b.jpg


Front view (power on, standby mode (Amber status LED)):
49970515848_a291c097e5_b.jpg


Shot of the back in the middle stage of cable management:
49970515488_1b69004e82_c.jpg


One thing I've consider - is to make as least connections as possible. Cause one panel requires - 1 LAN cable, 1 USB cable, AC Mains, +5VDC for Raspberry, +12VDC for backlighting. So I've design and printed an enclosure to fit all MFD's external electronics and interface the world with just 3 Dsub connectors - DB9- fir AC mains, DB15 - for keypad, and another DB15 for LAN+USB.

Some screenshots from Inventor:
49970515598_6dbd974c98_k.jpg


49971029831_407dc94556_k.jpg


In the flesh:) (with Raspberry Pi, Arduino Leonardo, and MeanWell RS-15-5 power supply are installed):
49971298722_7b88f8fe90_b.jpg



Next step in interfacing 3 MFDs with PC. As I described above, I wouldn't like to see a bunch of Ethernet and usb cables running down to computer.
So I've made little box for interfacing them all. Let's call in simply MFD Interface Unit, or MIU for short :)
You get in several DB9/DB15's and get out one DB37 plug with harness of 3 LAN and 2 USB wires running to an ethernet switch and powered USB hub. Also it houses two 12VDC MeanWell RS-15-12 power supplies for 3rd 10" MFD and all MFD's backlighting.

Screens from Inventor:
49971029931_b41e79b23b_k.jpg


49970515703_eb1c1dc5d6_k.jpg



After 29 hours of printing (quite a few of printing defects there, but I couldn't be bothered to reprint such a long job - just cover these unperfections later, haha) :
49970515798_c62b49152b_c.jpg



Began to wire first 1.5m long custom harness (DB37 to 3xLAN+2USB):
49970515748_4592412562_b.jpg

Now I crimp RJ45 connectors like a pro LoL


Still waiting for 8 buttons to arrive to complete the second panel..

Oh yeah, a roll of velcro finally arrived and is ready to be cut! Of course in color of spacecraft blue xD
49970515873_7ef9ef0910_b.jpg


That's all for today's update.
Stay tuned & safe!

Cheers!
Phil.
 
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Notebook

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Very impressive and interesting project, Phil Smith.

One thing, do you really want to put mains voltages on a Cannon D connector.
I'm sure you know they weren't designed for it?

Why not use conventional mains connectors, don't want to lose any Orbiters!
 

Phil Smith

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Very impressive and interesting project, Phil Smith.

One thing, do you really want to put mains voltages on a Cannon D connector.
I'm sure you know they weren't designed for it?

Why not use conventional mains connectors, don't want to lose any Orbiters!

Thanks, Notebook! :cheers:

Yep I know that. I was planning on removing 6 pins and leave 3 pins (most left/most right and central ones) to maintain safety clearances (100 thou min).

But I'm still concern about voltage creepage between a pin and connector shell.
So I've been designing ac supply still.
Of course, fast blow fuse at each supply line is no brainer .

Perhaps something like this:
8096_1.jpg


But its size though.. :)
 
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Phil Smith

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That would help, but I'd still be uneasy about it. The pins aren't very large on Cannon D.

What about the XLR mains connector?
https://www.google.co.uk/search?sou...iw=1536&bih=759&dpr=1.25#imgrc=1tzoU8wNdv2FfM

Lockable, metal-shroud, small size. Used them before, quite robust.

Hmm, I used them for connecting mics and speakers - quite neat.
But I presume, an average XLR plug is not designed for mains either, need a special one, like this:
PICT6267a_XLR-LNE_PLug_and_Socket.jpg


Seems using usual 240VAC power sockets will be much cheaper and more robust, but not as sexy as XLRs.:)
 

Notebook

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Right, they use the XLR shell, but they are designed for mains use. You cant mix an audio XLR with a Mains type, honest...

Been around a long time in the Broadcast world, especially for audio desks and equipment.
Maybe not used on the continent much?
 

Phil Smith

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Right, they use the XLR shell, but they are designed for mains use. You cant mix an audio XLR with a Mains type, honest...

Been around a long time in the Broadcast world, especially for audio desks and equipment.
Maybe not used on the continent much?

Seems it is. Googling for a XRL-LNE type connector gives me UK sites only. Mouser search gave me nothing either.

Judging by a wiki article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XLR_connector), it's an obsolete type as well:

Obsolete patterns.
Many other types of connectors using the XLR type shell exist, with various pin configurations. One is the now obsolete three-pin power pattern connector manufactured by ITT Cannon.

The power Cannon (also called the XLR-LNE connector) had shrouded pins and red insulation; it was intended as a mains power plug, alternative to the IEC 60320 series of connectors, but was only used on a few pieces of equipment.
 

Notebook

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Power Cannon! That's what you want!

Maybe not. Little used outside USA/UK and obsolete.
Maybe not the best advice ever...

I'm sure you'll find something. :)
 
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