Back at it... Have started working on the buttons and knobs for the PFD and EICAS. 3D printing both. This looks like a good option for the buttons. Simply need to work out how best to handle the back lighting through the button.
There are two parts to these wireless modules. First, getting the panels and PCB's for fit and function properly. Secondly, the code or software to get these cool wireless modules to talk to each other. While I am proficient at programming, I am far from an expert. Recently hit a hurdle that sent me searching for help. Came upon a really nice freelancer website upwork.com, where you can hire experienced programers on small hourly projects. Have spend a few weeks working through an issue and so far, so good !
Soldered up the latest batch of PCBs. The MFD has a rotary and eight push buttons. Both the PFD and MFD boards will communicate wirelessly with the receiver board via these cool little esp8266 processors... Have hired some programming help to move this along.. more on that later. But.. free boards, of each, to the first person who can spot the error in the board shown in this picture !! Errors seam to be a part of the process...
I ordered this small batch of test PCBs 9 days ago. The company that makes them for me is halfway around the world. Today, I received a shippment of freshly made new PCBs 9 days after sending in the order. Absolutely amazed they can produce and deliver that quickly. Included are the corrected PFD, the fist test of the MFD and a receiver board to receive the individual panel signals. Getting there...
Got the initial test panel glued up and painted. Everything lines up pretty well... the concept on the two push button switches appears to be working correctly. Piece by peice assembly can be seen by clicking on the picture. Next step is to start testing some code... one more step forward.
Have the initial test board all soldered up, minus the LED's for back lighting. Have spent some time playing with some code options and remain very confident this is going to work. Will be cutting out some test panels today and tomorrow to verify things will fit properly..
The ultimate objective is stand alone wireless modules, such as the PFD, MFD, RMU, etc. I think this little esp8266 WiFi module is the way to get this to work... but, it is still to be determined. Have started working through setting up a Mesh network, which might be the trick... still much testing to do.
Knowing that the first PCB order had an error, I was concerned about it functioning at all. Using a FTDI Basic Breakout (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9873) I was able to program the esp8266 board. I'll do a short write up on the esp8266 in the coming weeks. So, looks like I will be able to do some preliminary testing with this first batch of boards. woot !!
It is a shame these are not correct. It amazes me everytime, that you can email off a file, have these boards made and shipped back all within a few weeks... technology and the internet.. amazing stuff. Will get these soldered up and tested and start working on the frame for the PFD.
Good News, the first batch of pcb's are done and on their way. Bad news, I found an error in my schematic, so... going to have to order replacement boards. The error involves the on board LED's for back lighting. I hope the balance of the board will function sufficient for some testing.
Updated a couple of the pdf drawing files. The General layout drawing describing the support frame for the single seat sim was updated and dimensioned. This will develop a little further in the coming weeks. Also, corrected the link to the PFD pdf for the current verions.
All of the drawings listed, with the older 2011 dates will be updated prior to coming back to those panels.
Have the initial pcb done for the PFD. This will have the SMD version of the ESP8266 included on the board. Will take 3 to 4 weeks to get the boards back. Will start working on the receiving keeboard encoder during the wait. Ultimately, the receiving unit will the the FDS Interface IT board/module.
Have worked through printing knobs of differing shapes... pertty much have the 3D software figured out ok. Unless you have your own 3D printer, this isn't going to be the most cost effective source for knobs. But, for those you cannot find commercially available... absolutely, this will work.
Time to get the first panel in the works. We will start with the PFD... simple panel with 2 buttons and 1 rotary. For testing purposes, we will set this up to communicate wirelessly with a simple keyboard encoder... will be a good test of the concept.... and, we'll get the first panel all worked out...
Spent some time playing with 123D Design, by Autodesk. This is a 3D object design software that is free and outputs STL files seamlessly with www.Shapeways.com. Still have a lot to learn to get the finer knob/object details worked out... but, these intial two test objects appear to have turned out ok. Will know more in a couple of weeks when the actual printed knobs are delivered.
The first little test batch of 3D printed knobs back from Shapeways. The quality is surprisingly quite good. I will be gathering 3D files of knobs and other things. Will have them available for download one day soon.
The objective is to have wireless panels, to the extent possible. The esp8266 might just be a viable option to doing just that. These esp8266 modules come in several different shapes and sizes. Pictured from left to right is the esp-12 which has nine accessable gpio pins. In the middle is the ESP-01 which only has 2 gpio pins (which may be enough) with a realy nice small form factor. On the right is the Adafruit Huzzah breakout board which already has a FTDI port for programming and some other nice features. These esp modules communicate via Wi-Fi and are very fast. Little bit of a learning curve to get them programmed, but I am cautiously confident this will work.
Keyboard emulators can be very handy on the simulator. There are a great many FSX or PM keystrokes that can be called from a simple button push. If you can add some additional logic and conditions to these keystrokes, there is a lot of power in keyboard emulator.
The first sim was a full cockpit and it took up a lot of room. The objective now is to produce a single seat with everything fitting within a footprint 48 inches wide by 68 inches long. Small enough to fit anywhere and easy to move around. Initial rendering of the platform and support frame.
I decided to take a break for a few months, and it turned into a few years. A lot has changes in the past few years. 3D printing is now a viable tool... small affordable wireless micro controllers are readily available. I will spend the next few weeks re-accessing where this is going, but it is time to jump back into this project. Wireless, standalone modules is the objective... confident this can be done.
1. Immersive. To be fully immersive, the sim will need to be enclosed and provide multiple environment views.
2. Portable. The ability to move the sim with components fitting through standard doors. The enclosure will have to
be modular with a maximum width of 32 inches per module.
3. Samll Footprint. I don't want the sim to take up an entire room. Will make every effort to have the entire sim enclosure
fit on a sheet for 4 ft x 8 ft plywood. This will necessitate a single seat, half cockpit sim.
4. Functional, in substantial conformance with the processes and procedures of the real aircraft.
5. Accuracy. While some sim builders hold to a very high standard of accuracy and scale, my
goal will be the appearance of accuracy is sufficient. Where deviations from scale are necessary, they are acceptable.