Interfacing Print
Written by Vidar Fagerjord   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 19:55

Okay, so it's been a LONG time since last update. But we've had a beautiful autumn this year, and I've been pretty busy with my other hobby (yes, I do have more than one! Shocking, I know...): Photography. I got a Canon EOS 400D this summer, and has bought a couple of "addons" since then. But enough about that.


Today was a really great day simwise. I mounted my overhead onto a stand and mounted some LED's onto a couple of annunciators - and I got light!

But there was some work to be done first. Namely making small PCB's where I soldered two LED's. This will make interfacing a lot easier, and will clean up the whole contrapment.

The small PCB's was made out of an experiment PCB I bought at ELFA. It has a lot of copper rows with holes in them, and all I had to do was to chop it up:

I mounted the PCB between two MDF scraps to make it easy to cut. I used a standard metal saw. As you might notice, I cut every three rows. Be gentle, or you will break the part you're cutting off...

After a lot of chopping and vacuum-cleaning, I could start soldering LED's. Here's a shot on the final product:

Pretty easy. I used flash-glue to mount the PCB. A small drop in each hole will secure the LED's good enough, and it will still be possible to remove them should the need present itself.
Another thing I did, was to measure how to mount the SYS cards. FDS does make great products, but they couldv'e included longer wires (5-10 cm / 2-3 inches would do it).

The PCB is placed in the middle. The image shows how I plan to run the wires.

IMPORTANT: I do not care about being consistent with how I run my wires. The InterfaceIT software does not demand that - all I have to do is to let the program identify LED no. XX by flashing it for me, or to show me which input is being acivated when I move a switch. And then I just have to assign pre-made XML files to that function. This is as close to PnP as you can get! This is why I allways recommend the SYS cards from FDS!

And since I am the impatient type, I had to run a quick test:

Here's a shot of the back of the fuel pump panel. The PCB and the white plastic piece will be painted with black liquid tape (stops lightbleeding from the backlighting and will insulate the PCB's). And here's the reward! 4 beautifully lighted annunciators! Now all I have to do is to wire up the rest of'em.101 annunciators to go. Yipee.......

More to come in the near future!

Update 01. november 2007

Okay, not much has happened - but here's a couple of images of the process:

Here's an image of the progress so far. A lot of work still remains, but most of the annunciators on the left side of the overhead (right side in the picture) are done.

Some of the blue annunciators has two stages: Bright for "in transit state", and dim for "on state". A good example is the crossfeed valve, where the annunciator is bright when the valve is in transit, and dim when the valve is open (extinguished if the valve is closed). To cope with this, I need to use two outputs where one output is connected to the annunciator via a resistor.

To the left, I've just finished preparing some wire bundles. Each bundle of wires has 9 wires; 1 black (common ground) and 8 white. Each wire needs to be stripped for insulation (about 5mm will do nicely). Then I apply solder to the wire ends to make it easier to connect them to the annunciator PCB's I made. I highly recommend using a wire stripper like this one. There are cheaper ones on the market, but that type is THE best. It is adjustable for different wire gauges, and you can sharpen it should you need it.

Some annunciators in the picture hasn't been fitted with LED PCB's yet - I ran out of prototype PCB thingy's.

The printed image is a GREAT reference when you navigate the backside. You only need to remember that everything is mirrored.


Update 02. november 2007

Soldering. I am TIRED of that now! Anyway, here's a couple of images showing the latest progress:

I made a holder for the two SYS cards (SYS1 + SYS2) I am going to use for the overhead. In the picture, the SYS1 card is mounted.

Here's the SYS card holder mounted at the back. I hooked up the wire bundles to the SYS1 card to get a feel of how it's going to be. Turns out I will have to do some adjustment later on, as the blue LED's barely light up. Will have to investigate that a bit...

So - here's some images of the progress so far:

Click on each image to see a larger version.

Now I have to wait for some more prototype PCB's and some other stuff, and I'll be ready to move on with it. The next step will be to finish off all annunciators and wire them up. Then
I will make and mount the dummy instruments, mount the working instruments and move on to the backlighting. Meanwhile I will finish mounting hardware (knobs, switch heads).

MAN, this is a lot of work! But it is FUN! And in the end I will have the coolest toy in the local community.

I would like to use this opportunity to send a BIG thank you to Peter Cos at Flighteck Solutions for making the SYS cards! They make the interfacing bit VERY easy. And you will save a lot of work by using the FDS SYS cards in your setup! As I have mentioned, I don't care too much about how I connect the different annunciators and switches. I simply connect the closest items, and then use the InterfaceIT software to create order in the mess. For instance, I choose (right click) output #45 (LED 45) and select "identify output" - and the LED connected to output 45 start to blink. Then I just assign the correct XML file (which is downloaded from the FDS servers) to that output, and everything works. It is EXTREMELY simple!


Starting over!

17. feb. 2012

It has been a number of years since I worked on the sim. Things happened in my life that placed the sim on standby. I even considered selling the whole lot. BUT - I have now decided to continue. My life is back on track, and I have the motivation again.

So - I started by removing all the wires I previously soldered. Not only was the previous attempt very messy, I also made a few mistakes. The blue annunciators need to be separated from the rest of the annunciators since blue LED's require a different voltage. Adding a blue annunciator to an amber group resulted in a very, very dim blue annunciator. I also wanted to have dual state blue annunciators - for instance, the "Valve open" for the fuel cross feed is bright when the valve is in motion, then dim when the valve is opened (and of course out when the valve is closed).

I connected output 1-6 on each group of 8 to amber or green annunciators (same voltage). I then reserved output 7 for bright blue annunciators and output 8 for dim blue annunciators. The dim effect is created by wiring a resistor inline. In addition, a diode is wired inline for output 7 and for 8 so that there will be no "feedback" into output 7 when 8 is in use. This solution is what Flightdeck Solutions recommend. The resistors I use are 150 Ohm. The value may differ depending on which blue LED's you have.

And this is how it looks today:

I am not quite finished with the re-wiring yet. I am waiting for some green LED's, and I have to wire all the switches as well. But this is sights that motivate me!

Annunciators lighted and the panel backlighted. The real brightness is lower than the picture shows.

Details from the fuel and elec panel. The blue annunciators is not uniformly lit, but I'll have to live with that now. Not a biggie anyway.

My goal has been and will be "as realistic as I can get" within reason. I therefore try to pay attention to detail as much as I can. The following image is an example:


Notice the rounded switches on the elec test panel. It is such details I find important. All switches operate the same way as in a real plane, except that you do not need to pull them out to change position. That would've been way too expensive, and there's really no need to in a fixed base simulator.

It is good to be back on track again! Certainly glad I didn't sell everything! The goal now is to get the overhead wired up and populated with gauges. The aft overhead will also be completed and wired up. All switches will be wired to the SYS boards, even though some of them might not be implemented (yet) in the software. The only exceptions are switches like window wipers - unless I decide to wire them up so that I can add sound effects. We'll see...


Update 25. february 2012

Finally, the last LED's and other thingamabobs arrived so that I could finish wiring up the annunciators. I made a small card for the blue dual brightness annunciators to hold the circuits. Each dual-state annunciator is connected to two different outputs on the group. I chose to use output #7 for bright state, and #8 for dim state. This means that ALL the output groups follow this pattern. With some planning, I managed to include all the blue annunciators within the existing wire groups. Only a few output groups have a single blue annunciator connected, but with the SYS1 card there's more outputs than you really need anyway.

Here's the card I made:


From left to right: solder loop, diode, resistor, solder loop. Here's the back of the card:

I used a prototype board with soldering strips. I grinded off the strips between each solder point for the resistors and the diodes. I also removed any metal from the corners to that the mounting screws won't short anything out. And here's the final product:

The dim state wires (#8 on each group) passes through this board where a resistor lowers the voltage fed to the LED's. The diode prevents any "stray" signals from entering output #7 - which also has a diode mounted inline with the LED's.

The SYS1 and SYS3 card plus the "dim card" are mounted on a piece of plexiglass:

And FINALLY, after many years I've got my "christmas tree moment" (and for some years, I did not do anything with the simulator, so it was about time this happened!)!!!


A few detail images:

The window heat panel with its green annunciators

The door annunciators and the hydraulics panel above.

The BUS TRANSFER panel with a hint of backlighted text.

I have a few switches left to wire (had to wait for the parts for the DIM panel), and I am waiting for a package from Opencockpits with all the gauges for the whole overhead. I also ordered the display PCB for the electrical panel window. And lastly, I will mount LED digits in the LAND ALT and FLT ALT windows and connect them to the respective cards from Opencockpits. The last item is the backlighting. I've tested a LED strip, and it looks promising. The overhead should then be finished. Finally! After that, the MIP will get my full attention!

By the way: I purchased eyebrow trims, the roof liners and the triangular liner in front of the overhead, all from a real aircraft! Sooner or later, they will add that last bit of realism to the roof! I just need to get hold of some map lights, but that should not be too difficult.

Update 28. february 2012

The forward overhead panels are FINALLY wired! All annunciators and most switches are connected to the SYS1 and SYS2 boards from Flightdeck Solutions. And the software, InterfaceIT, has been a breeze to use! I simply right-click on the SYS X card in interfaceIT, select "identify input" and flick a switch. The software then automatically selects the correct input for me, and I can import settings for the switch. The settings are downloaded from FDS via InterfaceIT, but not all functions are available. However, the software is very easy to use in those cases.

And this is how my overhead looks on the back today:

To keep all the wires - spaghetti would be a correct therm here - neat and tidy, I must have used about 500 zip-ties! Since my overhead needs backlighting (not integrated in the panels like my MIP), I needed to keep the cutouts in the backing panels unobstructed so that I won't get any shadows preventing an even spread of the lights I'm going to mount. And since all the wires are bundled and secured to the framework I won't risk any shorts due to a wire coming loose.

The door annunciators to the right, packs panel to the left.

The fuel panel from the back. Note the yellow wires; they goes to the dual brightness board I made (see above).

Here's two images of the SYS1 and SYS2 boards. The SYS2 board has 3 input groups vacated; they will be used for the AFT overhead panels. The SYS1 board has a dozen outputs vacated; they will be used for the AFT overhead as well, but I won't need all the outputs available anyway.

Now I have to wait for the gauges, which I ordered from Opencockpits. I also ordered the ELEC display unit from OC. From before I had a bunch of LED digits and some OC cards lying around, so I decided to utilize those for the ELEC panel display and the FLT ALT and LAND ALT windows. With the gauges, the ELEC display and the ALT displays mounted, I just have to find the best solution for backlighting the panels, and make a back cover. The next task would be to make a frame I can hang the overhead from, and then it's happy takeoffs! More to come in a week or three, depending on how soon the gauges arrives. In the meantime, I'll work on the FLT ALT and LAND ALT windows - and wire up the AFT overhead as well.


Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2012 00:16