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Custom hardware control/switch panel - simpit WIP

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This is something I've been meaning to start work on for years... originally I planned this for Orbiter but now I will build it to support both orbiter and KSP.

The grand plan....

Stage 1

A. Construct a custom switch panel for spacecraft controls.

B. Construct a custom dial panel linked to ksp data.

C Construct misc supporting panels... specifics to be confirmed.

Stage 2 (this will take place in a year or so once we have bought a new house and have the space!)

Construct an inclosed simulator cockpit (or "Simpit") and mount the control panels inside.

This will be a fictional cockpit but will take influences from the spacecraft of the 1960s

Update 30/01/15

I've been a little lazy updating the OP in this thread! To see what has been going on since the last update just check through the thread.

But to bring people up to speed, I have ditched the prototype panel and started a completely new build...

Here is the nearly completed facia panel for the MK2!



Sometime very soon I'll tidy this OP up to show key details of the project.

Update 20/04/14

Getting close to completion of the main functions on the first panel. Just the warning lights to install (once new cables arrive). Thanks to this fantastic mod by Diazo...


... I am no longer limited to 10 action groups (I now have 250!) so I can put a lot more detail into my controls. For example on a single engine I can now have a separate control switches to turn the engine on/off, toggle the gimbal etc. without ever running out of action groups to assign the switches to. I will be using multiple arduinos as keyboard emulators as I add more controls.

So the first panel now has...

27 inputs (some switches are dual position)

3 gauges

16 indicator lights (some dual colour, some single)

and there will be many, many more gauges and switches on the next panels I make allowing full control of every single ship component right down to turning off individual engines, deploying individula solar panels or even isolating specific RCS clusters. The sky is the limit!

Anyway, I can't update without a picture, not much lloks different on the front of the panel but thought people might be interested to see the nest of wires and components that is building up behind the scenes.


Update 21/03/14

Made some real progress this week, decided to include the small dial cluster in the first panel. Also added an additional 10 notification lights for various custom functions. Zitronen has released a new version of his plugin to drive gauges so will now star work on wiring and programming the new components.


Update 11/03/14

Work began today on the second panel. This will likely eventually be a lower centre console that sits below the main switch panel between the two seats and in front of the joystick. Again for the present I will make it free standing and fit it into a simpit later.

The first dials are converted from an old dial set from a 1970s/80s Fiat!





Update 24/02/14

First go at labeling some switches! Quite pleased with the way it looks.


Update 20/02/14

Panel is now wired up and is working quite well... although I'm considering replacing the board with an Arduino once Zitronen has finished his plugin. At present the switches all toggle properly. Otherwise I'm enjoying testing the panel out, it really adds an extra level of immersion.

Still to do on this panel...

Notification lights

More switch guards

Finish case


Update 27/01/14

The U-bolt/switch guards arrived today! Started fitting them but still plenty more to go. This is quite time consuming! Also had confirmation that my order has been processed and dispatched for the control board.


More updates as parts arrive and are fitted!

Update 22/01/14

Bottom panel and feet fitted.


First test wiring of momentary switch (Stage), circuit boards recycled from an old joystick.... it works great!


Switches arrived today! From my local electrical supplier these would have cost me about £100... I bought them from China for £10. Shipping was surprisingly fast.


Dual state switches installed.


Close up of switches... I think the retro look is coming together nicely.


Ok... first WIP update!

I have various switches on order which should arrive in the next few weeks, I will also be ordering a custom control board from the US which converts the constant "ON" signal of a toggle switch into the short pulse needed to replicate a button press. Push buttons and momentary switches will be wired to boards taken from old game controllers.

I have decided to use aluminium composite board for the construction as it is lightwight and easy to work with but also has the strength needed. The supporting frames are PVC.

Here is the proposed switch layout for the first panel....


First pieces of Alu composite cut.


And the panel starting to take shape... with the first switch in place!


Edited by Mulbin
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Okay, between you and Mr. Orange Suit over there, you guys have inspired me to shamelessly copy your idea and build my own custom control panel thingy. Plus, as a bonus, it means I can do things like put a guard over the staging button to avoid accidental staging, and to hardwire the Abort to also shut down the engines.

Also, this'll be a great excuse to get me some AVR MCUs (the same chips at the core of Arduino) -- I've been looking for a fun, simple project for those things for a while now, and this looks to be it! Ooh, I wonder if I could simulate finer-grained control of the throttle by shortening the keypress pulse the chip sends to the computer...

Question for you: I've never worked with metal at all. How hard is it to get that aluminum sheeting stuff (and what is it exactly)? And how does one work with it -- i.e. do I need special tools to cut and shape it and to cut out holes for the switches and buttons and stuff, or what?

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Question for you: I've never worked with metal at all. How hard is it to get that aluminum sheeting stuff (and what is it exactly)? And how does one work with it -- i.e. do I need special tools to cut and shape it and to cut out holes for the switches and buttons and stuff, or what?

Ive never worked with it before this project... it is ridiculously easy to work with. you cut it by scoring through the aluminium on both sides with a craft knife then snapping it. So just a craft knife and a drill needed... in fact I'm just using an electric screwdriver as a drill. It is available in almost any finish or colour you can think of, I'm using satin silver/grey for the front and brushed steel effect for the sides to be reminiscent of both the apollo and Gemini interiors.

Its called Aluminium Composite Panel (or Aluminum in the US) and is also known as Aluminium Composite Material, Sandwich Board or Dibond (brand name but commonly used to describe all ACP)... there are probably other names for it in America, but I'm in the UK.

EDIT - Some more brand names from wikipedia :)

VillaBOND from Villa Bond, Dibond from 3A Composites and Alcan, WILLSTRONG from WILLSTRONG CO. Max-Metal from Grimco, ALPOLIC from Mitsubishi Plastics, Reynobond from Alcoa, RedBond from is aRedBond Composites, Vitrabond from Fairview Architectural, Alucobond from 3A Composites, Plascore Board from Plascore, Alupanel and Alupanel XT are manufactured by Multipanel UK in their own UK factory, Hylite from 3A Composites, Etalbond from Elval Colour, Larson from Alucoil, AlubondAfrica, etc

Edited by Mulbin
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Awesome, thanks! I'll have to start looking around to source some -- sometimes Alaska's like an entirely different planet when it comes to getting things like this, with no local source, and no online source (especially the US-based ones!) willing to "ship international"! :sticktongue:

Of course I could easily do it in wood, but having an honest-to-goodness metal enclosure would just up the "Cool Factor" the Jeb levels!

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Another update... yes 2 in one day! I've just finished installing the dual state switches. It will be a few weeks before the circuit board arrives from the US so should have most of the asthetic work finished in time for installation.

New pics added to main post!

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....that aluminum sheeting stuff (and what is it exactly)?....

Just realised I didn't answer this part of your question! Aluminium composite consists of a sheet of hard plastic material sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminium. On top of the aluminium is a thin coating which is usually coloured and/or textured.


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Just ordered the switch guards (well actually they are just U Bolts! - why pay more when a substitute is available?) which will arrive next week! Just waiting for my invoice to complete the purchase of the control board and I will have sourced every component needed to complete the switch board!

For those who don't know what I mean by switch guards....

Here is a proper switch guard for about £3-£5 each...


.... and here is a U Bolt... 10 for £6!


Edited by Mulbin
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You've been mentioning how you've never done some of these things before.

Making it seem so much easier for simple folk to achieve projects like this.

Kudos this is brilliant.

It really is very simple once you know how! The composite board has made construction of the case very easy... the fact that this guy - http://www.desktopaviator.com/ sells ready made (and fairly cheap) circuit boards for simulators has made the electronics very simple (no harder than wiring a plug in fact! ). The only advantage I have is being a graphic designer so I'm quite good at planning out the asthetics.

Small update - Switch control board seems to have left the US and is on route to UK customs. I have also just bought my first Arduino board and components to begin learning Arduino for when I get round to making the second panel which will have the flight gauges / flight computer.

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Ooh! You mentioned you learned welding quickly. Can you recommend a tutorial?

Also, how much would such a project cost in total, including all equipment?

Soldering... not welding! They are very different things :) I just played about with the soldering iron, solder and some wire until I got the hang of it.

This looks like a fairly good tutorial though.... http://www.howtogeek.com/63630/how-to-use-a-soldering-iron-a-beginners-guide/

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I'm thinking about doing something like this for myself, but I have no idea how to work with USBs and/or Serial Ports in programming and I don't have the slightest idea on how I would integrate this into KSP. Could anyone give be a basic idea of what I'd be doing or point me in the right direction for some information on this?

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