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Boltz's A-10 Build


Boltz
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It’s now definitely time for me to start my own thread on my A-10 build. This is what it looks like currently. The first thing I want to do though is thank everyone who has helped me so far. Dimebug's plans have been excellent, without Gadroc's Helios I would not have this cockpit, Duckling's panel layouts have helped with hugely with my panels and also all those of you who are also building pits. It's these that have inspired me to have a go.

CockpitOverviewRight_zps5c69525c.jpg

It is based on Dimebug’s plans but the MIP has been changed to fit around my two screens. The height has been increased and the part of the right hand screen sticking up will eventually be covered by a glare shield. These two things have caused the MIP to be around 80mm too high which makes a significant difference so I am looking at redoing the MIP with smaller screens and custom instruments.

Cockpit1_zps9f7a6ea2.jpg

CentreConsole_zps68644e3a.jpg

MIP_zpsab7fece4.jpg

There is also an Instructor Station behind the cockpit. I has the exports screen which is connected to the main sim computer. It renders things like the MFCDs which are then captured by a screen exporting programme (I can't remember exactly who made it; I think it was y2kiah) and sent over the network to the Helios computer.

InstructorStation_zpsd3f47e5b.jpg

The panels are currently made from a single layer of 4mm clear acrylic which is then cut to size and drilled on a pillar drill. The acrylic is then painted black. Labels are then printed from a small desktop label printer and clear coats of paint are used to seal them in place.

AHCP_zps1d817416.jpg

This is my second cockpit but my first attempt didn’t get particularly far before I began to notice a lot of very fundamental problems like the height of the MIP…

SimpitV10_zps92e40039.jpg

For it I did build a radio but after finishing the electronics I started on the new cockpit so it was never completely finished. Used the same process to make the panel and 74HC595 shift registers to drive the 7 segment displays.

RadioFront_zpsec24cd90.jpg

RadioWiring_zps44a19347.jpg

This is by no means a complete write up. I will add more pictures and info when I have time but please if you have any questions then I would be more than happy to answer them or if you want to see any photos of specific things just let me know.

 

Boltz

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Going for the glass pit also, that's my plan. Main monitor is a 40" LED, below that is a 26" LCD and I have a 19" and 15" in the garage not doing anything. Gonna add one of them, just don't know what's going to go on it.

i7-4820k @ 3.7, Windows 7 64-bit, 16GB 1866mhz EVGA GTX 970 2GB, 256GB SSD, 500GB WD, TM Warthog, TM Cougar MFD's, Saitek Combat Pedals, TrackIR 5, G15 keyboard, 55" 4K LED

 

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Input and Output

This isn't so much an update but just a more in depth look at how I implement the switches and output in my pit. Obviously there are not many panels yet and the only one properly connected up is the AHCP. On the rear it has a 15 pin D-sub connector which via a standard VGA cable goes another D-sub connector next to an Arduino Mega. For now this just plugs in directly as the solution is still mainly in its design and test stages. The arduinos (which handle switches, rotary encoders, pots, output and everything else) are connected to the Helios computer.

 

The computer runs a piece of software called A2DCS which I have designed and now have it working with all input and output. I can use Arduino Unos and Megas and probably any others although it hasn't been tested. The software can handle as many Arduinos as is required and uses its own communication protocol. You simply flash the Arduino with a simple sketch depending on its job (switches, LEDs etc) and then add it to a config file. The program then writes it to an export port on the Sim computer which is coded into the Export.lua file. It runs alongside Helios perfectly but uses a different port just to be sure.

 

I will get some screenshots and photos posted up soon, but it isn't particularly user-friendly. I prefer to focus on functionality. When it is further forward I will post it up along with the program and all codes, sketches and export.lua. I will look at using a "dofile" command so it can be added into the Helios A-10C Interface in Helios when you set it up. This is a much lower cost solution IMO than using Joystick Controllers and multiple different types of IO boards but it just requires some programming which will be finished soon and I will be able to get the results to you guys soon.

 

Boltz

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That I/O software sound really interesting, Boltz :thumbup: I think I am almost fully covered with input but on the output side I am starting to run short so your software and Arduino sound very promissing. Looking forward for more updates. Keep up the good work.

 

Cheers

Hans

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Thanks everyone for the kind words. They have inspired me to continue with the software development. I will have to decide whether to make a user interface for adding new switches and output or leaving it as code. The latter would mean that you would have to copy some code and change the a couple of numbers. The first option would be better obviously because it would be much easier to add in new IO commands but the second option would take more advantage because you would be able to add in "logic" and I may be able to look at simulating some missing avionics and other panels such as the circuit breakers and SAS paddle switch on the stick and magnetic switch integration. The list goes on and on so I will see just how much I can include. I will probably leave it for now with editing a bit of C# code and in the far future when I am nearly finished it (in our hobby nothing can ever be finished :)) I will look at adding some sort of user interface just to make it easier to use.

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A little work in Excel has now meant that I have a spreadsheet that will generate the code for me that I just copy into the config file.

A2DCSSpreadsheet_zpsbbb295cb.jpg

It only works for switches at the moment but it should speed up the process. The example above is for my AHCP. Controller just means Arduino number. The keyboard part is because before making an export.lua file I tried using keyboard commands. That section still functions and may come in useful for sim commands such as views and pause if I can't find controller and event IDs.

 

Also here is a screenshot of the software. I am not on any sim computer and have no Arduinos attached so it says error but with an Arduino connected it works great. The large space is a network monitor which is monitoring the export port and displays anything that DCSW is sending out. It's mainly just there for the development. At the bottom is a textbox and a "Test" button. Simply type something in there, hit test and A2DCS will send it straight into the input port. Great for testing the software without having to use any hardware and also for testing controller and event IDs as they seem to vary wildly across the internet. From my first attempt at a cockpit I have another very similar program designed for Flight Simulator X which worked very well and I based the DCS version off of it. I may look at connecting the two so multiple sims can be flown without having to reassign switches. Just make a profile and select it for different planes and entirely different sims.

 

A2DCS_zps6a558731.jpg

 

Boltz

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It can use single (input and output through same port e.g. 9012) or multiple ports (input on one port and output on another e.g. 9012 and 9013). There isn't much of a need to use multiple ports so at the moment I just keep it simple and use one. That's on the lua side of things (really nothing's is definite so anything can be done without too much work.)

 

My program simply monitors the port/ports from a separate networked computer in just the same way Helios works. It then does all the logic and sends it to the Arduinos (no need to use one per panel, just use a few megas for everything.) Communications to and from the arduinos use a set format for example "C02D19V1"

C=Arduino Number up to 99

D=Arduino Pin

V=Value, not limited to 0,1 so potentiometers and other analogue devices can be used

You don't need ethernet shields or anything like that either.

 

In all of it there is minimal lua scripting as I had never heard of it before I found DCSW. I prefer to use C# and with my own program I get huge amounts of options available.

 

Sorry for the long reply but I hope something in there answers your question which I'm not completely clear on. I just want to say again that nothing has been finalised so really anything is possible and it has been tested using many different input, output and software conditions. Please give me any suggestions that you have and I will try to implement them.

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Up Front Controller

 

UFC

 

UFCOverview_zps287c407e.jpg

UFCFront_zpsef3c3d83.jpg

UFCProto_zpse57a4e7e.jpg

UFCArduino_zps6bdca414.jpg

MasterCaution_zps88df4fe9.jpg

 

This is my UFC so far. It has a front plate of 4mm clear acrylic drilled on a pillar drill which was then sprayed matte black. The tactile switches are soldered to a piece of prototyping board. The two parts are not yet screwed together and mounted to the enclosure, which is made from 6mm plywood and varying types of baton wood which was also painted black. All the electronics will be controlled by the one Arduino which will be mounted in the back and connected to my A2DCS software. The front panel has not yet been labelled and it may not due to the size of switch caps that I had. The switch caps themselves are round and grey (not pictured.) They still need to be labelled and then all labeling will be sprayed with matte clear coat paint to seal them to the surface.

 

I just need to finish up the hardware of it and then it's on tot he software implementation which shouldn't take too long. I figured it would be best to tackle the hardest panels first so I've also acquired all the parts to build a CDU so it's back of to the workshop soon...

 

Parts_zps9619a24f.jpg

Thats a 4.5" portable DVD player screen, VGA to Composite Adaptor, 4 port USB hub, another Arduino Mega and plenty of tactile switches and caps.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Looks like my build is about to drop off the first page so I better update. Finally today I had a major breakthrough... my first panel working perfectly with DCS and it runs very reliably. I finished the UFC by labeling the buttons using a Dymo LabelManager 210D with "White on Clear" labels on the buttons and face plate. All the buttons were then painted with a clear gloss model paint and the face plate sprayed with clear satin. The caps were then glued to the tactile switches with poly cement.

Finished_zps6e0c53d6.jpg

Buttons_zps55b59d0f.jpg

 

Now even better, it works! A friend rewrote a lot of my code for A2DCS and we managed to get it working along with the AHCP, Fuel Panel, Fuel Select Panel and HARS Fast Erect. To accomplish this two Ardunio Megas were used. One for the UFC and one for the other panels. The Receiver Light potentiometer can be read by the Arduino and sent to A2DCS but its implementation is still to be done. Here's a screenshot of it working.

 

A2DCSUFC1_zps42f23d1e.jpg

 

The string in the Output Values From DCS World is the state of the lights in the warning panel which will soon be implemented in the pit. At the top you can see that it is setup for three Arduinos (MIP1,UFC and Various Stuff.)

 

When we were programming today we spent a lot of time looking in the Scripts folder of DCSW for the "clickable actions" of the UFC. No matter what folder or file we tried we just couldn't find them anywhere so we started up a flight and clicked all the buttons and then spent a while going through the generated log files to find the arguments and values needed. In case anyone else is looking for this same stuff I have attached it as a PDF below. Also attached is a PDF of a diagram showing how A2DCS works.

UFC Clickables.pdf

A2DCS High Level Design.pdf

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Very nice, Boltz. I'm always interested in I/O, and always looking for ways for help in my own pit. Keep up the great work and I'll be watching with great interest! Thanks.

Buttons aren't toys! :smilewink:

 

My new Version 2 Pit: MacFevre A-10C SimPit V2

My first pit thread: A-10C Simulator Pit "The TARDIS."

Dzus Fastener tutorial, on the inexpensive side: DIY Dzus Fastener

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A small update. Today I realised that I needed something to handle all the common ground connections. It had to be something that made good connections and secure ones but still be simple to remove each panel's ground separately. I had some 13A terminal block in my drawers so I put this together and mounted to the left side of the centre console.

 

GNDPanelWide_zps9de99fd9.jpg

 

I know the 13A is a bit excessive but its all I had. Now a pic of it up close so you can see the writing that I quickly did in CorelDraw. I am using DB15 (VGA) connectors for my electronics so I included a small label showing the pinout of one to help with wiring. What you can see at the bottom is terminal block for any signal wires that did not fit on a VGA connector. For example if I had 17 connections then using an extra two VGA connectors and cable for two connections isn't worth it.

 

GNDPanelClose_zpse9b658f4.jpg

 

The next photos show the VGA connection system I use. The first image shows it for the Fuel panel. You can also see that I had two extra connections that didn't fit on the VGA connector so I used a 2.1mm power connector and socket for the RCVR potentiometer and the common ground which are both connected to the terminal block construction above.

 

VGAConnectorPanel_zps8d7e12d3.jpg

 

At the other end, next to the Arduino I used another VGA connector as you can see below. The other ones are for some of the other panels. The wires are then soldered to 2.54mm pitch pin strip which plugs directly into the Arduino, again filling my design constraints of something that is a solid connection but can also be removed.

 

VGAConnectorArduino_zps4196969e.jpg

 

Sadly I can't work outside or in the garage on the woodwork, simply because of the cold here :mad: which leaves me doing the electronics but now I have done all the panels I have so far and will probably change to getting all the panels laser cut to allow me to backlight them. Not much to do except fly, which is main reason we do this mad hobby! Supposedly anyway, I still prefer building the pit than flying it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I went out today to have a look around some electrical shops in the Boxing Day sales and I found three large boxes that I thought may be of use.

 

IMG_2745_zps82e26dec.jpg

IMG_2743_zps26873a02.jpg

 

Three 42" LG TVs. I haven't even opened the boxes yet as I'm still making space for them but that'll be a project for tonight and tomorrow as well as working out how to mount them. They look a lot bigger now than they did in the shop and I've got a couple of not so happy faces around the house now due to the new additions.

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Yeah they are big! Found some tables from around the house and with a few books got them lined up close enough for a couple of test flights. A couple of pics for now. I will get more later today with everything running. I just need to write the monitorsetup.lua. I've tried the 3 screen preset and it looks good, but I get a very low frame rate. With the 1 screen preset spread over 3 screens I get much higher frame rates but the image is distorted because it should have the 3 screens flat and in front of you. I've only got a GT640 graphics card so thinking of using the 1 screen preset on 3 screens and then upgrading the graphics card at some point so I can render all 3 viewports. Does anyone have any suggestions for what I should do?

 

IMG_2748_zps3ebb43ee.jpg

 

IMG_2749_zps17804b11.jpg

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You're right, the three screen lua cuts the frame rate in about half. I use Helios with my three screen main view with the viewports on the fourth monitor. The viewports are disabled on the main screen which helps increase frame rate. Make sure you use bezel compensation.

I can post my monitor lua file to show you how mine is set up. I'm not at my game rig right now but I'll be in there in about an hour.

John

Asus ROG C6H | AMD Ryzen 3600 @ 4.2Ghz | Gigabyte Aorus Waterforce WB 1080ti | 32Gb Crucial DDR4/3600 | 2Tb Intel NVMe drive | Samsung Odyssey+ VR | Thrustmaster Warthog | Saitek pedals | Custom geothermal cooling loop with a homemade 40' copper heat exchanger 35' in the ground

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Sorry, your reply didn't show up as being new so I missed it. I've also got a fourth monitor running at 1366x768 which has the MFCDs on and soon CDU, CMSP, RWR etc. I've not used bezel correction yet as I haven't decided on the final position. I then run a piece of software that gremlin77 designed along with another member, sorry I don't remember your name. :( It exports them to my second computer running helios on 2 screens (and another for A2DCS.)

 

What I don't like with using a single centre viewport across the 3 screens is that if I fly with a target out to the right and then roll in hot as it moves between the centre and side screen it jumps which means I then spend a few seconds re aligning. I much prefer having a viewport for each screen but the frame rate is ridiculously low.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "the viewports are disabled on the main screen." Is that the MFCDs? If you could post up your monitor lua file that would help a lot. I'm don't know much about tweaking stuff to increase frame rates so something to start me off would be great.

 

Also I had a lot of problems with DCS and when they were fixed I found my stick extension was playing up so I spent most the day fixing these problems and only got it up and running late in the evening with no stick extension.

 

Boltz

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Hi Boltz. Envy your upcomming monitor setup. I swopped my earlier 19-24-19" test setup to a 47" LED Displaay. I bit too large vs resolution and get a bit "pixelated". Think a 42" is a better even if size is a bit smaller.

 

An high-end 3-4G RAM GPU with 4+ outputs is highly recommended. Have you tried out SoftTH ? Very nize to work with when using multimonitor

 

Best

Gus

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