Now for something completely different, I have wanted to create a USB Joystick Board Controller for a while so I figured it was time to get cracking.
This is aimed to be a perfect addition to those builing their own Flight Sim Cockpit who want an easier solution for wiring it all up.
The aim of this is a nice compact breakout board , that will interface with an Arduino Pro Micro. The idea of this is it will allow those who are knowledable to write their own code.
I plan on offering these as a breakout board only, or with a Pro micro configured to work as a HID Joystick (or possibility DCSBSIOS)
Coming in at 65mm x 80mm we have the below little beauty
This unit will allow 40Digital Inputs for switches buttons etc. The pins are aligned in rows of 4 so that you have Input-GND-INPUT-GND This way you can have 2 way switches on each 4pin header, or its easy to have a 3way switch with the GND in the middle. Also the 9 Analog Inputs are broken out to a GND-INPUT-VCC.
I have also allowed for some Green SMD LEDS on it that can solder jumped to activate, and also there is an LED output header as well. This is controlled by ALOG9 input so we can use PWM to adjust brightness etc.
We also have 6 onboard digital pints broken out with a GND and VCC that you can use for Encoders, or Digital LED’s etc
Pic with Arduino mounted.
I will be writing the software initially for this as a pure HID device with no frills, but as time permits I will make a GUI so you can do some configuration.
This can even be used with the great MMJOY firmware if you wanted to install it yourself, I may even provide a guide as well to help with the pin mappings.
Sat down last night and knocked out an easy one. the “first” for the F18 Hornet Left panel Controllers.
This is the model for those after the replica to match the right replica. It has the Fuel. FCS VOL and OBOGS Controls. Nothing you wouldn’t expect but a pic below.
This will come in at 371mm x 152mm the same size as the F16 Right Panel Unit.
First challenge is the Manual ILS Chanel. I don’t have a 20 position rotary switch. What I am thinking here is I will use a Rotary Encoder. This means you won’t Truly “know” where the switch is at without setting it prior to loading the game to the game default and it may not line up exactly. For how often it gets used I think thats ok IMO..
Second Challenge is the Rud Trim. Again to be able to PUSH i need that to be a rotary encoder, but it won’t give the right feel or setting, a Potentiometer will be best for that purpose, but a Rotary Encoder will give the push button ability but it will have the same issues above with aligning on launch and remembering position.
The real condundrum now is for the replica version what do I do with the other panels?? Ant Sel, APU, Formation GND PWR etc.. I feel like perhaps they may just not warrant making the cut in a working left replica panel. Also as peoples throttles are quite different there is no one size fits all replica lay out option.
One thing I am thinking Maybe I will integrate the APU Ext Lights and GND PWR into the bottom of a box with the Left Aux panel?
I would love to hear the thoughts of anybody that might be interested in a left “close to replica” panel and hear what they had to say.
Next up is I am working on the Left “Multi panel” this will capture more of the common controls from the left side into a single box without a replica layout. Keep an eye out, and again if you have any thoughts on what you think must (and must not) make it into a multi Left box
Boy has the world changed since I last did an update on the UFC… My problems in January of just sourcing parts from china seems so insignificant to the issues we are facing now. I’m sorry for judging you so hard January..
I am still of course having delays with shipments from China, but some parts have been dribbling in. Enough so that I am able to come up with 2nd beta of the F18 Hornet UFC with all displays.
You have already seen the scratchpad in action, now I have added the Comm displays and the Option displays. For the Comm Display I am only using a single digit.. Of course we can get 2 digit comms but sourcing a suitable display just was not possible. My solution is completely workable I feel and so you can tell when you are on a channel greater than 10 I am turning on the Decimal point. this should be enough of an indicator.
Now onto the Option displays, I have the displays, and I received my PCB board finally …. great lets solder this puppy in.. plug it in push some text and oh… this isn’t right. Turns out the suppliers datasheet is incorrect and one row of pins is around the wrong way. This means I get garbage text. This is easily overcome with a new PCB design but very dissapointing.
This Video below showcases the current state of the unit (with garbage text)
We are getting close, I am already contacting those who are after a VR only unit, they are ready to go (subscribe on my page https://www.tekcreations.space/product/f18-ufc-usb-controller/ , and I will contact you with a survey link)
All thats left is for me to work out what pins are what on the Option display, redesign the PCB for those, and then test. Once thats done I can start ordering in larger quantities of stock in preparation for assembly.
So things have been a little quiet, I have been promised that my suppliers will be able to start shipping in the next few weeks, they are starting to come back but at limited capacity.
I have taken this time to do some work on R&D, I have very rudimently prototyped the displays for the UFC, Designed the Circuit for the Left Aux for the F16 (will update post later), but I have just finished spitballing the Hornet Left Aux Panel.
So I have gone through and worked out what I am thinking, The unit I am aiming to keep the size of the Hornet Multi Controller as there is not as many controlas s the Viper, after a bit of thought I’ve come up with the below draft.
There is a little bit of “dead space” here, not entirely sure if I need to add anything else but if you have any feedback drop me a message I’d love to hear it!
So unfortunately UFC has been delayed and my stock running low due the Corona Virus running rampant in China. I have taken this time to start doing more design work and see what is next.
Something I think thats going to be next is the F16 left Aux and Misc Panel Controller
So I have gone through and worked out what I am thinking and after a bit of though and keeping the controls as close to a replica layout as possible to suit VR use whilst still mashing them into a single unit that can sit on your desk near your throttle, after a bit of work we come up with the below draft.
I have made the ADV Mode a momentar toggle but the Mer Stores jettison will so definitely be a big button. Also the DN Lock may be a button as well. The LG will be a toggle, but i am awaiting stock for a few things to see if I can jimmy together some kind of gear lever (No promises here as I feel it would mean I have to make the height of the unit a lot bigger)
Now Initially I want to keep the unit the same as the F18 Right panel this is 311mm x 152mm. as you can see this leaves us a bit of room at the top area.
Now an option I can do is just make the unit smaller, but it would be easier to keep the enclosure the same. Perhaps I could look at squeezing in 3 RWR controls somewhere? Maybe an F-ACK and master Caution reset instead?
Not entirely sure and I will keep procrastinating on it, but if you have any feedback drop me a message I’d love to hear it!
So I have now finished off the enclosure, I worked out that I would use a Vesa 100 pattern for screw holes, this would be compatible with the Monstertech MFD Mount which supports Vesa 100 and I’m sure many other options.
I have decided with the UFC I am not going to provide a mounting frame. The ICP has one, and it is only meant to be temporary to get people up and running, but with the size and slightly more weight of this, the simple frame would be even less use.
A pic of the bottom showing the mounting holes ( I could add more or custom holes upon request) The USB port is to the side to allow overhang from a mounting plate.
With the mounting in the enclosure, I Tried to get the top as flush as possible, but a few minor inconsistencies mean it is a bit over the top, so the final enclosure I will aim for a 1mm lip from the top of the enclosure sides to the top plate, just to reduce any light bleed.
The knobs I am showing aren’t my final decision, but the closest I am thinking so far, I will look for something else over the next few days, but these may be the default offering.
A quick video of it in DCSBIOS. As this unit is my beta build and has copped a hammering during the build process being pulled apart and reassembled, the buttons are a bit off, once the build process is finalised this will be less of a problem
Next steps I am awaiting some itty bitty parts to come in and I will start taking orders for a “base unit” which will be just the tactile controls with NO displays. The first few I sell I will stipulate as VR only, whilst they are capable I don’t have all the displays yet to verify they work, I only know the scratchpad does and I don’t want any disappointed people hoping for a future upgrade. At this stage, the price is looking ~500aud for the base unit. The scratchpad will be a simple upgrade its a module ~ 15au on top. The options and comm displays will be more for sure but currently an unknown.
More updates to come once I streamline the build process and have the parts in.
So now it is time to finish off what we started earlier,
I have now added on some bezels and finished off the bottom buttons, I’ve used MDF to fill in the spaces of future displays, For the initial and versions and those happy without I might just use some black acrylic as the placeholders.
Now Unfortunately The Matte black acrylic doesn’t colour match with the top plate material, I spent a bit of time researching today but I just cannot get anything that is going to be a better match. It is just going to have to be unfortunately , but I think its a small sacrifice, and by the nature of them if anything does come up in the future its easy to replace.
I finished up the quick and dirty version of the code and we have a brief video below
So now I have a basic functioning UFC I’m going to finish off the enclosure design and do a bit of tidying on the PCB and tweak a few hole placements.
With this design it is just the UFC, but I have allowed for expandability of a unit for the Hud Controls, that will be able to be connected (I just need to figure out how first LOL)
Still awaiting some parts before I can work on the other displays, Slowly getting closer and closer.
So my F18 Hornet UFC PCB’s Arrived yesterday YAY! I made a few rookie mistakes, not allowing enough clearance for the pots with connectors but nothing to catastrophic as I can just solder the cables direct to the board. V2 will fix that.
I am a bit short on time at the moment, but I was keen to get this lit up.
I went through and put the top plate on, Next up was putting the buttons on (the bottom aren’t going on just yet as I need to work out the Bezel first before I commit to that) and lit it up, yep works a treat.
Next was some quick and dirty DCSBIOS coding to enable the scratchpad, voila
The 4 Option LED is just a placeholder to check the size, I am not doing anything with those until the base unit is fully up and running and Hopefully by then my stock of this will have arrived and I can begin desiging the boards.
For the channel Displays I have something in the works as well, but that one may come later than the options..
Next up I am working on the Bezels, and then the enclosure.
So after completing the Right Hornet Panel, and having the F16 ICP already complete it was only fair the Viper got some love with its own Right Panel.
I went through and made some design decisions, and based on the Practicality / use of some controls and the Size limitations (this bad boy was getting big quick) I decided to drop of some panels. The ones that didn’t make the Cut is the AirCond, KY58 and Oxygen Panels.
Even with this reduction of panels, the box came in at a hefty 375mm Long. The plate has a split in the top plate where the direction of the panels change, I tried and experimented with a full plate but it just wasn’t workable unfortunately.
Below are some shots of the finished product.
A video of the unit in action is available below
Currently there is an issue with the GPS toggle in DCSbios itself not the panel, but I am hoping it is able to be sorted out soon before I start releasing the unit into the world very soon.