Friday, October 05, 2012

BK-117 Dummy Gauge

As one of a few customised projects that we've been working on lately, this is a (very) small dummy gauge that's destined for a local BK-117 helicopter simulator. The outside measurements of the gauge (not including the mounting bracket) are 36mm; a physical size that's not really conducive to its being made functional. 

Below is a larger-than-life photograph showing it in more three-dimensional detail ...

Fuel Valve Switch Guard

This post roughly details the evolution of the Fuel Valve Switch Guard that we designed recently for our Bell 206 MIPs, as we were never entirely happy with the look of the standard plastic missile switch cover that we had originally employed.

Through various discussions with those more intimately acquainted with this particular component than ourselves, as well as some online research, we've now developed a new version of our switch guard that we feel better reflects the real part.

The above photograph clearly shows an unpainted version of our initial trial - with the relative switch depths being taken into account on a dummy section of panel.

Here, with the cover lifted out of the way, you can see the lower section of the part sitting beneath the nut, through which we've fitted the appropriate switch. Because of the limited amount of room available to us behind the switch body itself (as the MIPs are designed to be positioned directly in front of an LCD monitor and thus can't have hardware protruding out the back!), we've needed to use the lowest profile switch that we can find whilst still having it maintain a decent quality and feel.

Below is a fully-painted finished version, complete with fitted spring etc.

And here it is fitted to the Fuel Switch Panel itself. 

These newly-designed aluminum switch guards are supplied as a standard part of one of our fully-populated Bell 206 MIPs, and there will be no increase in price. They can be purchased separately as well, with or without the Fuel Valve Panel itself, and we'll be getting those details up on our website shortly. 

Bell 206 MIP: Fully-wired, low-profile

As mentioned in the previous post regarding our needing to limit the amount of hardware extending out of the rear of the Main Instrument Panel's body (and thus preventing it from being held flush against the LCD monitors where the gauges are positioned), below are a couple of photographs to show the profile of a completed, fully-wired Bell 206 MIP that's ready to be sent to a customer. Please note that normally the sealing of the MIP is done with black material and not red as shown here (which might now be considered an easily identifiable mark of the first completed unit we ever supplied!) ...

This effect (the flattening of all wires and hardware) has been achieved by machining the appropriate recesses into the rear of the MIP itself and then running all of the cables and wires through these. Similarly, all five encoders, the Fuel Valve switch, the GPS/NAV switch, and the two pushbuttons have been recessed and/or modified so as to 'disappear' beneath the panel's rear surface.

The cables that we use are a combination of CAT5E and 6-Core, all of which extend out of the bottom of the panel where the pedestal would normally extend from. This keeps them all hidden away and tidily restrained. The 6mm bracket which covers these four cables together and holds them in the correct exit position is actually positioned well below the depth of where a normal LCD monitor would fit.

Our fully-wired and tested Bell 206 MIPs are naturally more expensive than our standard version (again, more details on our website soon), although for customers who wish to use the Ruscool range of Bell 206 hardware and software it might take a few extra hassles out of realising your own completed helicopter sim.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kiowa Bell 206 Annunciator Panel

This particular panel has been designed for a Kiowa simulator (a military variant of the Bell 206) and will employ 14 specially engraved annunciators that we've already supplied to our customer. As a result of this panel being supplied separately however, this unfortunately means that we don't have a full set of the proper annunciators fitted. 

For purposes of illustration, we've populated the panel in these photographs with some spare annunciators that we had sitting around the workshop - the legends, of course, will not be correct (!) ...

This first photograph shows one of the indicators illuminated on our workbench. For the annunciators to be made functional, we're supplying a slightly modified version of our usual Annunciator Controller and LED Circuit Boards along with this panel (some modification was necessary to account for the annunciators here having slightly different dimensions and layout to those normally supplied with our Annunciator Hardware).

The panel again uses our dummy Dzus fasteners and the switches shown above are captured 'between panels' so that it becomes a stand-alone unit. 

As with all replicas of course, certain aspects just aren't viable to reproduce in exact detail, and so the glass window here is merely a dummy feature; there is no actual hinge for it to swing open. Our goal, as always, is to find (and hopefully provide) a good balance between cost, functionality, and appearance for our customers.

The dimensions of the entire panel are 230mm (high) x 55mm (wide) and the design was developed from the photographs below along with some measurements that were supplied to us.

Apologies for not attributing the above photos to the photographer - 
we're not exactly sure where they came from!

Airbus A320 Parts

A couple of weeks back we were asked to design an Airbus A320 Gear Extension Panel to complement the label that we'd originally made and supplied a while ago (as part of a request for several small decal panels which included High Voltage, Call Sign, IAS Speed Limits, Park Brake, etc.) ... 

Below is a photograph of the finished panel.

Also, in the previous post we mentioned that rebates can be machined into the rear of our panels to allow for backlighting, although we don't currently offer panels that already have LEDs installed. We've made several prototypes for various backlighting designs, and whilst we're confident that this is readily possible, we just haven't had the time to properly focus our attentions in this area.

As this A320 panel is destined to have backlighting applied to it however (as we assume will be the case with most of our panels), all of the necessary precautions with regards to light bleed have been taken ... !

This particular panel will also be added to our website shortly; alongside the A320 decals that we mentioned earlier and which are already available.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bell 206 Hydraulics Panel

Nothing too extravangant with this post, just a couple of quick shots showing the Hydraulics Panel we made this week. It's been designed as an entire unit, complete with a set of our replica Dzus fasteners and fitted switches, and (once we get the moulds completed) there will also be two small 'dummy' light diffusers positioned where there are presently just two small guide holes. The appropriate 5mm diameter detents can also be machined into the rear of the panel for fitting LEDs if backlighting of the text is required.

Throughout the design process, different customers have provided us with a wide range of measurements for this panel - and even our own personal measurements of a real one differed from these - so we've tried to come up with a design that satisfies as many of its elements as we can. 

A few photographs we've seen have shown the Hydraulics Panel attached by Dzus fasteners which sit outside of the smaller grey panel's extents, so we've made this measurement suit the standard rail measurements that Dzus fasteners require. This makes the inner panel somewhat smaller of course, although we've tried to keep the proportions of this balanced so that this panel can be utilised separately if necessary.

The entire width of the panel (as seen here) is 145mm, with its height being 49mm.
The grey panel, if used by itself, measures 120mm wide by 44mm high.

When used with the rest of our Bell 206 panels and electronics (and Dodosim 206FSX), all three of these switches operate in the correct manner. The Caution Lights BRT / DIM facility is actually utilised by placing a different voltage onto the LEDs in our Annunciator Panel.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Latest Bell 206 Indicator Configuration

As a result of a customer's request (and always wanting to improve our products), we've now added another possible configuration to our Bell 206 Annunciator Panels. Whereas our initial design employed black legends with orange or red illumination, this latest version uses a more accurate combination of orange on black, black on orange, and black on red. 

The following photographs show the relative differences when the indicators are illuminated in different light conditions. The top photo is how they appear on our workbench beneath some fairly bright overhead fluorescent lights, and the middle one is an approximation of how they look in condirtions that are much darker and probably closer to that seen in actual simulator (my amateur camera work is responsible for the slight 'burning out' of the legends ... !) 

Above is also a more detailed view of the Replica Korry Legends whilst the photograph below perhaps gives a better perspective of the various thicknesses involved.

As for the method of illumination, we're using the Annunciator LED Circuit Boards that are supplied along with the rest of the Annunciator Panel. There are actually two boards connected side-by-side (below you can see me holding just one of them), as configuring the boards in this manner allows us a greater range of freedom in the future and means that we can use them for units housing more annunciators than the twenty shown here.  

In the picture above, the circuit board at the top left of the photo is actually our Annunciator Controller Board, which is supplied as a separate item along with its own software. The software allows the user to program a variety of conditions under which certain annunciators will be illuminated. We'll write up some more detailed information about how exactly this works shortly ... 

Shown above, this is how the LED circuit boards and the annunciator panel look like from the rear, and to accommodate for the fact that each builder's glareshield thickness is likely to be different (and to allow for the widest range possible) our LEDs are actually mounted (unshortened) into adjustable LED sockets. This allows them to be simply pushed in to sit at the correct depth without any soldering or screwing etc. (or to change LED colours if you use them for a different application) ...

The LEDs used here are all ultra-bright, rounded 5mm LEDs, with all of them except for those behind the red legends being white in colour. White LEDs are good for illuminating most colours, but when it comes to lighting red material, red light will work much better.

The Annunciator LED Circuit Boards have the 'Lamp Test' functionality built in, so you just need to connect your pushbutton. (The pushbutton is already supplied with our B206 Annunciator Panel, of course)

Friday, July 27, 2012

64 Input Board - Update

We're also in the final stages of testing an update to the 64 Input Board in which the user can now specify whether individual inputs should be switches or momentary pushbuttons. This remedies a reported issue where switches were occasionally being misread and stored as momentary pushbuttons. 

Previous to this latest update, our software would automatically determine the input action as either momentary or static. This, however, meant that sometimes a switch could be rendered inactive if the system happened to misinterpret the function as a momentary action. The physical manifestation of this would be the affected switch appearing to become 'stuck' and non-operational until the software had been restarted. 

In order to resolve this, the user can now individually define the required action of each input in the configuration program itself (as indicated by the red section of the screenshot below) ...

You might also notice that the Bytes column is no longer used in order to streamline the user interface. 

This update will be made available in the Software section on our website shortly.

Note: We try to provide various ways and means of keeping our customers informed about such updates via Twitter (also tracking on our homepage), MailChimp, our Support Forum and, of course, this blog.

64 Outputs Board: Lamp Test Function

Due to a customer's suggestion, we are now incorporating a lamp test function into our 64 Output programs. This update is now in the final stages of development and will be made available through our website once fully tested. 

This addition allows the user to flag a selection of outputs that they wish to have included as part of a lamp test. For example, all outputs confined to a particular panel (say, the annunciators) can be flagged for a lamp test. The user then assigns an offset which will be used to trigger the lamp test, so that when this offset is changed the outputs that have been 'flagged' will then be lit. This offset can be changed via either Flight Sim, a Ruscool 64 Input Board, or any other means available (as long as the offset changes, the lamp test will be triggered). 

Another slight modification to our 64OUTS is that the Bytes column has been replaced with a Calculation column instead, which means that the On/Off or Range values can now be set to the 'calculated' data as opposed the 'raw' data. This information is more useful as it reflects what is actually seen in Flight Sim. 

Below is a screenshot highlighting the changes ...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cessna Citation Switch Panel

Having just supplied one of these panels to a customer recently, it was good chance for us to finally take some decent photographs of a fully populated unit, as previously all of our Citation panels have either been fitted and populated off-site or have been supplied as separate components. We've never had a completed panel actually here in our workshop in front of us - hence the basic unpopulated pics on our website!

Also, due to several requests, we've recently decided to try and supply clear backing plates for each of our panels where possible. This is usually a fairly uncomplicated process as any necessary recesses have been built into the rear of the main engraved panel itself - and it makes sense, as we already have the correct shapes and sizings etc. The photograph below hopefully gives an idea of how it's fitted and how it works ...

As a result of doing all this, it makes sense for us to actually fit all of the components in our workshop as well, which also provides us one last chance to verify that all of the parts are both present and fit as they should.

With this particular panel (as with most), the rear backing plate upon which the componentry is mounted has been designed to sit just inside of the confines of the main panel. This allows it to be fitted into position and screwed securely into place from the front, whilst also keeping the panel's height above it's housing kept to a standard 6mm. 

The backing panels are generally supplied in clear acrylic to allow builders the ability to backlight the panels via flooding the area with light (floodlighting) or however else they might choose.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Bell 206 MIP

Here are the latest photos of the Bell 206 MIP that we've been developing in conjunction with our other B206 components. The MIP, the Overhead, and the Annunciator Panel will eventually all be interfaced with our own software/hardware and offered as a combined unit. 

The photos below show the MIP temporarily positioned (or rather, strategically balanced) in front of the 22" LCD monitor that it's been designed around, with the glareshield sitting carefully on top. This is essentially a mock-up as the separate parts aren't fitted together yet due to us still having a few small adjustments and finishing touches to make before it's 100% complete. Hopefully it gives a good idea of what we're striving to achieve though ...

The Annunciator Panel is fitted to the MIP in these photos, although the circuitry in behind it hasn't yet been fitted. As of this morning, however, we are now in possession of the new circuit boards we designed in support of these new products but it'll take us a few days to populate and program them. Once this has been done (and we get some time) we'll try to upload a video of the MIP actually in use. 

Although not currently on our website, all of these parts can be purchased now. Please feel free to contact us via here if you wish to find out more details or discuss your requirements with us. We'll be putting up some prices on this blog etc. in the next few days ...

PS. Also just received in the mail today are the real aviation circuit breakers that we'll be fitting to the Overhead Panel in preference to the operational replicas that we were originally going to supply. The real units - aside from the obvious tactile realism - also offer some advantages on the programming side of things!  

Friday, June 29, 2012

King Air Motorised Trim Unit

After having already sold a few of these motorised trim units over the past year or so - but never having had the time to actually get the product properly up on our website - these will finally be available through our site in the next week or so. (Oops, it was added quicker than I thought ... Link here)

This unit was originally designed for the King Air C90 simulator that we built for a flight school last year, although the entire throttle quadrant that we developed in doing so was based around the dimensions used in our King Air B200 construction drawings. [Note: We don't offer the TQ dimensions themselves as the originals were based around a particular product from a 3rd party that was a one-off design. We are, however, in the process of organising a basic King Air Throttle Kit, which will consist of various, unassembled aluminium levers, acrylic plates, knobs, etc.]

Anyway, back on topic, our complete Operational Elevator Trim Unit is supplied pre-assembled and consists of the following components:
  • Trim Wheel (unpainted)
  • Trim Dial (printed/laminated scale supplied)
  • Gears and Belts
  • Motor and Mount
  • Motor Control System Circuit Board
  • Pot to connect to your joystick controller
  • Push-rod to connect trim dial to pot
  • Physical stops to prevent over-travel

The mechanics of the unit is assembled on a shaped side-plate, and a corresponding side-plate for the other side is also supplied. These can then be screwed to the outer sections of your throttle console/pedestal, where they will then form the correct curve for the rest of your throttle lever assembly.

All you need to do is connect 12Volts DC to the control system as well as connect three wires to the centre-biased rocker switch in your yoke. The rocker switch will then control the forward and backward motion of the trim wheel. The geared down trim dial is connected via a pushrod to the pot (mounted on its own bracket), which will be wired to your joystick controller. (This will need to be set up in FSUIPC as the Elevator Trim input)

The trim wheel can be manually operated as well, as the motor torque has been purposely kept low so to allow it to readily stall.

Below is a short video from our YouTube channel showing the motorised trim actually in operation ...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Custom Annunciator Software

Subsequent to the annunciator panel that we recently designed for the Bell 206, we are currently working on an Annunciator Panel Program and Annunciator Controller Board that can be fully customised to control various annunciator lights. 

The reason for writing this software is because we’ve previously found it necessary to write (sometimes complex) work-arounds for various CAUTION / WARNING indicators because the actions themselves are not normally part of the operations within MSFS or FSUIPC. These calculations have been hard-coded into the various units that we've built for customers, but this means they cannot then be readily altered.

By providing this software as a stand-alone feature (in conjunction with our new Annunciator Controller Board) however, we're hoping it will allow cockpit builders a wider scope as to which annunciators they want to action and how they go about making this happen. Previously, all of this had to be done during the manufacturing/software writing process and required that we learn and understand the detailed operations of each aircraft type we worked on. Whilst we enjoy learning about this of course, simmers with specific knowledge about the actual aircraft they're building, will undoubtedly have a much more intimate knowledge of what they require.

Below is a quick sample of the configuration program showing how you can have multiple conditions to control each light (click on the image to get a readable view!). You can have a combination of conditions grouped together and there is also an ‘OR’ section so that you can set up a wide range of separate conditions to be implemented. By using the 'between' or 'equals' parameters, it is possible to set up most conditions you will need. The example shown here will turn ON the ROTOR LOW RPM annunciator when the Rotor RPM is between 0 and 90%, OR when the engine is not running. This means that the annunciator will only be OFF if the engine is running and the Rotor RPM is above 91% which is what we need of course.

Each annunciator can be named according to its function, and prior to any conditions being set up all of these fields will be empty.

This program operates with our Annunciator Controller Board, which has ribbon cable connections to our B206 Annunciator Panel, but is also easily connected to your own customised annunciator panel. When the program is run, you can see the annunciators being lit on the screen as well on the panel itself, but normally you would minimise this when flying your aircraft.

Note: For illustration purposes only, the above screenshot shows our 
annunciator software running alongside the default FS2004 Bell 206

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bell 206 Overhead Panel

Continuing with our range of Bell 206 simulation products, 
we have recently completed the development of the 
overhead panel, which has just this afternoon been 
finalised and assembled as a complete unit.

These panels are fully populated and the appropriate functions 
(relating to DodoSom) can be operated via one of our 64Input 
Boards, which has been especially coded for the Bell 206.

The majority of the circuit breakers you can see here are 
dummy units, although there are also four which can be 
manually 'pulled'. You can see one of these in the photo 
below with the red marker on display. The two circuit 
breakers to the right of this are also operational, 
as is the Field CB on the lower panel.

These panels are supplied with all of the appropriate 
switches fitted and even where there is no specific FS 
uses currently related to them (such as the Heat/Off/Vent) 
we have fitted the correct componentry regardless - 
as they can sometimes come in handy for other functions. 
An example of this is the 'HTR Start', where we've fitted 
rotary encoder that operates the Difficulty Level 
(which is displayed in a hidden panel on the MIP 
we are doing the final assembly work on). 

Hopefully the above photograph reminds you of the DodoSim panel...!

And lastly, a closer view of the operational circuit breakers.

We haven't finalised all of the costings for this panel yet, 
as there are still some details regarding what we will offer on the 
software side of things. We're expecting to have a price for it in 
the next week or so, but we can always be contacted through 
our website before then if you have any questions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bell 206 Annunciator Panel

As well as continuing with the fixed wing variety, we've also been doing a lot of work lately with some new products related to helicopter flight simulation. More specifically, our new range will be based around the Bell 206. Our designs for these products have been geared around the DodoSim FSX206 software and to enable actual encoders, toggle switches, buttons, and circuit breakers to be used instead of key-presses and mouse-clicks, we have written special code for our I/O boards.

This specially written code allows the use of one each of our 64Input Boards and 64Output Boards to interface to the DodoSim FSX206 software through FSX and FSUIPC so that all of the following controls work correctly :

  • Annunciators (including press to test)
  • Fuel Valve Switch
  • TOT Button
  • Warning Mute Button
  • GPS/NAV Switch
  • Altimeter (QNH) setting Encoder
  • Course setting Encoder
  • Heading setting Encoder
  • ADF setting Encoder
  • VOR setting Encoder
  • Hydraulic Switch
  • Anti-Icing Switch
  • Dim Caution Lights Switch
  • Generator Switch
  • Avionics Switch
  • Battery Switch
  • Position Lights Switch
  • Instrument Lights Switch
  • Anti-Collision Lights Switch
  • Dir/Gyro Switch
  • Pitot Heat Switch
  • AFT Fuel Pump Circuit Breaker
  • FORE Fuel Pump Circuit Breaker
  • Caution (Annunciator) Circuit Breaker
  • Generator Field Circuit Breaker
  • Difficulty Level (We use a Rotary Encoder)
  • Audio Ident Switches

The majority of this work has already been done and we've had the programs running in our workshop over the past few weeks. 

Matters of the more external nature took something of a leap forward yesterday however, with the completion of our newly-designed Bell 206 Annunciator Panel (shown below). 

The annunciators we've designed here are individual replicas of a korry 
we've had in our workshop for a while: a beautifully engineered work 
of art manufactured by Les Modeles Francais. 

Below is a photograph of one of our early prototypes 
alongside the original LMF Korry.

The fact that these annunciators are built as separate units means that they
are readily replaced or upgraded as per the needs of each individual
customer. As our software has been designed around the DodoSim
layout however, that is the typical configuration that we would supply.

This annunciator panel fits the Bell 206 MIP we've been developing also,
which is being constructed along similar lines to the
King Air MIP panels that we already sell.

Below are a series of photos which show the annunciators under different
conditions. The first, as attested to by the 'glass'(!), is under the bright
fluorescent light above one of our workspaces. The legends are readable
(though barely), and it's obvious that none of them are lit; hence all is well.

Below, in the same bright conditions, we now have one of the annunciators lit.

And finally, we see how the same annunciator would likely appear in a 
darkened simulator. The light bleed at the rear, and the wires extending 
from the LEDs, would not be seen in the final product of course, 
as these photos are presently just for demonstration purposes.

Once we have this annunciator panel fitted to the MIP and interacting
with FSX, we'll upload a video to our YouTube channel.