Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spring-loaded Engraving Tool

Over the past couple of days, in our continuing quest to improve our products and methods of manufacture, we designed and built this Spring-Loaded Engraving Tool, which helps to counteract any inconsistencies in the levels of the material to be engraved.

As a measure of scale, the engraver cutting tool has a diameter of 6mm.

So far it seems to be working very well ... !

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wiring the overhead

Several components have recently been added to the overhead and for the next month or so work will be concentrated primarily on wiring more of it up. It's been operational enough to perform engine start-ups for a while now but the time has come to make it a more functional component of the simulator.

Below is an early picture of the overhead, just after the panels had been made:

And here is what it looks like more recently:

Since this photo was taken, all of the buttons and annunciators have been correctly placed and any and all spaces have now had their appropriate fittings made. The annunciators will all be backlit with their correct colours and each button will have their bracket attached, ready for wiring. Before this is done though, we're currently in the process of colouring each 'flow' area of the overhead in the appropriate shades of green or blue. This morning was spent developing the right technique to do this accurately and was very time-consuming, even on just a small section, but now that a method has been successful the rest should be much quicker.

Here's a closer view of one of the panels:

And here are the gauges that've been fitted:

Note: The graphics on the last temperature gauge are actually properly positioned and readable - the angle at which the photo was taken is just deceiving.

Also manufactured have been several varieties of 'switch gates' that prevent switches from being activated accidentally, a couple of which are pictured below (the second one with the gate open):

Included in the wiring schedule over the next few weeks will hopefully be a fair amount of backlighting work too.

An updated video of the overhead in operation will be uploaded once this work has been completed as well.
We actually took a multi-angled video of the simulator in operation a couple of weeks ago, although the day after we did this I purchased a third LCD screen for the flight instruments and decided to wait and upload a version that was free of the annoying CRT flicker ... only we then had placement problems with all of the on-screen panels. This has now been remedied by utilising the Flight1 ATR software, which looks great.

But now the overhead is in pieces!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making the Fire Handles

Just in case my ATR72 simulator has an engine fire, I thought it'd be a good idea to finish off the Engine Fire panels on the overhead ...

I machined the base section of the handle from some 8mm thick clear acrylic which I then painted with a couple of light coats of red paint. The upper section of the handle is actually made from two 3mm thick red transluscent acrylic, and then I engraved the lettering into the top layer, which my son 'in-filled' with white paint. It turned out great, and I am very pleased with it.

The engraving on the brown panel was done in a different manner, so that it can be back-lit. The panel is made from white (opal) acrylic, and then the surface and edges were painted with brown paint. When the paint had dried and hardened up after a few days, I then engraved the lettering into the suface. This is done to the depth of 0.2mm, which of course goes through the paint and into the white acrylic underneath. Now, when I put white LEDs or small 'grain of wheat' lamps on the back, the light shines through the lettering creating the back-lighting.

Ultimately there will be some high-intensity red LEDs fitted inside the handle, which will light up the whole handle whenever there is an engine fire. The shaft is a short length of 1/4" brass rod. Yes, I will bore a hole down its centre for the LED wires when I fit them!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Upgrade of the Captain's Flight Instruments

A failure of one of my 19" CRT monitors for the Captains flight instruments has made me finally fit an LCD screen for this purpose. With the flat surface of the LCD screen, it means that the panel with cutouts for the gauges fits much more nicely. I had already machined some thin bezels to fit into the cutouts but, now that I have the opportunity, I think I'll make these again and alter the depth that they protrude through the panel cutouts. They can then virtually touch the surface of the LCD which will make the gauges look much more like they are 'real' gauges.

One of the problems with changing the monitors however, is that they mount in a totally different manner and the heights are totally wrong now, but with a bit of trickery I've fitted the LCD screens upside down and inverted the display coming from the video card.

And here's the end result with the front panel put back on again:

Because of differences in the size of the old monitor and the new one, I've temporarily had to remove the Speed Selector Knob, which accounts for the small hole on the left side of this photo. Strictly speaking this should actually be positioned at the top right of the gauge, but that would put it right in the middle of the new LCD screen! A solution will be found for this later on.

There will also (shortly) be two new bezels made so as to finish this panel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A continuation of the throttle quadrant

This entry details the completion of the throttle quadrant ...

The first step in this process was to make an initial template of the throttle quadrant's cover from paper, which was done to ensure that all necessary slots were correctly positioned before any of the more complicated, time-consuming work was started.

Thin strips of MDF (approximately 3.2mm thick) were then cut and formed into the correct arc by wetting them with hot water and clamping them across the top edge of the side wall. Once they were damp they went soggy and could be formed into shape very easily. After this process, they were then left to dry and harden for several hours.

The notches in the sides, and the slot in the centre, ideally should be done after the correct shape has been formed as detailed above. If done before the hot wet forming, they tend to twist too much.

Below is an overall view of the unit once the document holders were fitted. There's actually an artificial bottom in the outer one because the smaller sheets kept disappearing out of sight!!!

This picture shows the clamps holding the rubber strips in place whilst the glue was drying.

Here's the almost completed throttle quadrant before the painting of the flap knob, reverser levers, and park brake lever.

And this is it with just the thrust reverser levers to paint.

Another view showing how the manual and approach charts sit in their pockets.

And the final photograph shows the completed throttle console fitted into place in the simulator. You might also notice the addition of two new pushbuttons, a red switch safety catch, and a black handle.

Note: The rest of the centre console with the radios and audio systems is not yet complete, but is sitting in place so as to make things look a bit prettier!!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Software release: Monitor FSUIPC Data

Our latest software release - Monitor FSUIPC Data - has been developed to allow users the ability to monitor (in real-time) any data that FSUIPC is able to read from Microsoft Flight Simulator, as this data is not always viewable and is often cryptic.

Within the program itself, there's a 'Settings' tab which allows you to choose up to 8 different items that you wish to monitor and analyse. This information will then be displayed under the 'View Data' tab, where all of the items will be shown as 'Raw Data' and as 'Calculated Data'.

Below is a screenshot of the program (click on it to see a larger version):

Further information (including additional screenshots, more in-depth explanations, and other details) can be found here

And here's a short video of the software operating:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Early stages of the ATR72 Throttle Quadrant

From photos and other pieces of information I'd collected from a wide range of sources, and with some minor adaptations to suit both my abilities and the material available, here's how it all started life ...

The throttle and condition levers are made from some aluminium extrusions I found at our suppliers, and although the dimensions are not quite true to the real aircraft, they're close enough to be used in a simulator. Most of this stuff is hidden below the top cover at a later stage and is barely seen.

The flaps lever and the gust-lock lever are made from some stainless steel tube, which was found just laying around in the workshop - or rather, awaiting its purpose. There's an inner and outer tube, which (as the outer tube has the axle pin going through the bottom) allows the inner tube to slide in and out over a short distance. Seeing as there are no great stresses put on these parts however, they could just as easily have been made from aluminium. The flap knob was carved from a piece of scrap wood that I found lying about.

The park brake lever is a flat aluminium bar and there's a spring mounted on the axle which enables the lever to be moved sideways to clear the stops (a thin strip of plywood) for releasing the brake. The parking brake has a spring return when it's released.

Inside the condition levers is an aluminium bar, and attached to this is the pin that slips into the notches along the top arc of the quadrant. You will see that it protrudes out the other side slightly, which creates an attachment point for the spring return. The longer pin which you can see protruding (near the top of the photograph) is the actual release lever for the condition knob. The small cables are for Fire Warning lamps that one day will go in the head of the conditon knobs.

The brass pin in the flaps lever (which is a tight press-fit into the inner tube) slips into the notches along the top arc of the quadrant, and has a spring return on the other side in a similar manner to the condition lever.

This is a view of the mechanism behind the gust-lock lever, showing its return spring, throttle stop bar, and the arc in which its latching pin travels and locks into at each end.

The next photo is from the lower rear and shows the notches that the various levers slip into.You can also see the return spring for the throttle reversers. The row of three small nails was a temporary stop for the flap lever, which eventually had a small wooden block glued and nailed into place.

And this is it mounted inside the throttle box ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rudder Pedals

This entry is dedicated solely to the construction process of the rudder pedals I made for the ATR simulator, and as such is a fairly detailed account. So as to illustrate where exactly it is we're headed though, I'll start at the end ... Here’s how all the individual components eventually turn out.

The next photograph shows the cross-arm which links the Captain’s rudder pedals to the F/O’s pedals.

Here's a better view of the entire push-rods and cross-arm assembly.

Here's how the main push-rod ball joint is attached.

This is the piece you put your foot into. Note the spring that gives a ‘feel’ to the brakes. You can also see the wire push-rod that operates the arm on the pot which is connected to the brake axis.

One completed assembly as viewed from the top.

And, of course, one completed assembly as viewed from underneath.

Next is an under-pedal view showing the bearing blocks and the brake axis pot with push-rod and return spring. I used acetal for the bearing blocks because it's easy to machine, dimensionally stable, and has reasonable wear properties.
– it is hygroscopic and as it absorbs water, the size of the hole will change and bind up on the shaft.

Brake axis pot from a different angle.

Followed by an even better angle of the brake mechanism.

This is another angle of the pedal bearing blocks. The collars which prevent the shaft from moving sideways in the bearing blocks is just a piece of thick walled pipe with a screw threaded into the side of it.

Bearing blocks again, and note the screw with nuts either side of the shaft . This allows for adjustments to be made with regards the angle of the pedal to the shaft when the brakes are released.

This shows the countersunk screws going through the rudder pedal to the bearing blocks. Also, you can see the bearing blocks at the bottom of the rudder arm.
I made them from acetal, and because I didn’t have any larger material on hand, I made two of them side by side to give more strength. Ideally it should be one piece.

Here's a better view of the bearings and collar.

Both completed assemblies.

The next few photos show a trial setup designed to test operation. Note the different type of rod-ends here. These were eventually found to be unsuitable because they're effectively sprung-loaded internally, which produces a sloppy action when using the rudder pedals. The round grey rod-ends in most of the previous photos are perfect for the job.

Another angle on the trial setup.

And yet another one, to better show how all the bits and pieces fit together.

The last photograph shows a trial setup in the actual simulator, with wooden blocks being employed instead of the lovely aluminium pedals which eventually replaced them. This trial was just to get a better feel for the angles and range of movement.

Another entry with regards my simulator's development will be posted next week, concerning what I'm not yet quite sure ...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Humble beginnings ...

The following photographs show the very early stages of my ATR72 flight simulator, which is housed in a recent addition to our home garage (how convenient!). This project goes back to the early part of 2003 and, of course, has been interrupted by the unfortunate necessity of proper employment, although during the process we've actually designed several flight simulator products which are currently being sold. More information about these can be found here.

Anyway, back to where it all began ...

100mm x 50mm beams were used as a base so as to keep the floor high enough to allow for some underfloor mechanisms and cables to be placed (and hidden!) there at a later stage.

This is the first of many modules and everything is screwed together rather than nailed, just in case it has to be moved in years to come. Cockpits don't fit through standard doorways very nicely!

Here you can see the side frames taking shape and the central console holds the mounting bases for the Captain and F/O flight instrument monitors.

A pair of old car seats were employed for the Captian and F/O. It was necessary to slightly modify the front edge of each seat with a cut-out (to allow the control yoke to fit when the seat is positioned well-forward at the same time as the yoke is being pulled well-back) before they were re-upholstered.

Here you can see the initial parts of the glare shield under construction with the F/O flight instruments monitor sitting in place.

And here is a trial fitting of the control columns ...

This photograph shows temporary yokes having been fitted to the control columns. A continuous chain links both yokes together with precision. Just beyond these you can also see that a trial pair of flight instrument panel cut-outs have been fitted.

The next phase of construction will follow shortly ...