Thursday, December 24, 2015

Embraer Panels

This has been a long-term project that we've been working on for a customer who's thankfully been very patient, which has allowed us to employ new and much better techniques along the way, resulting in a much tidier end product than might otherwise have been the case.

By way of disclaimer, these three separate panels were designed around a combination of measurements that were provided to us by our customer (he has a real Embraer cockpit already populated with a lot of real parts), various online images, screenshots, and several dimensioned sketches.

The Altitude and Airspeed Panel

This panel has been temporarily connected on our test bench to show the colour of the digits. The pushbuttons would normally be backlit as well, although in this particular photo they aren't. This was simply a first fitting to verify that all of the basics are okay - fully interfacing it all is the next step. The panel will eventually be interfaced using our own input and output boards.

The Flight Mode Selector Panel

It's a little difficult to see in the photo, but this panel has some fancy newly-designed pushbutton heads, all of which are subtly backlit with a bright white. The 'Test' pushbutton is actually only a dummy, but the rest of the unit will be fully interfaced with our customer's program. 
There are still a couple of minor light bleed issues to be remedied here, but in general terms we're pretty happy with the result.

The CRS/HDG/Vertical Speed Panel

A mercifully simple panel really, and again, this panel will be fully interfaced. You might just be able to make out the 2-way header for the backlighting in the third photo down, which exits from the built-in backlighting PCB.

P-51 Mustang MIP

This was an interesting project that we completed earlier in the year, again based on good information which had been provided to us by our customer and then worked around the available dimensions, in this case an LCD monitor that was to be placed behind the eventual MIP.

Here was one of our original previews, based on the image shown below it. You'll see subtle differences between the two pictures, as whenever you have to work within space/proportion restrictions there are inevitably some compromises. Keeping these to a minimum is of utmost importance, of course.

Below are some photos showing the finished product:

Some engraved labels for added detail.

Again, little details like attempting to replicate the specialised knobs (above) 
are an important, sometimes challenging, part of the process.

The photo below shows the rear of the panel, which is designed to sit flush 
against the face of the LCD monitor and so has all of its wires etc. 
recessed neatly out of the way to avoid unnecessary damage.

And a photo sent to us of the MIP sitting 
in front of it's screen upon arrival ...

For further information about the P-51 Mustang simulator this instrument panel was built for, you can see more of the stunning job being made of the project here. The attention to detail is phenomenal, and he's provided lots of photos!

Some custom 737 panels

As a continuation of the custom job previously documented here, the three panels shown below have all been designed to fit specifically dimensioned holes in an existing build, with our customer providing us good measurements and sketches of what he required. As a result of this, some artistic license has necessarily been applied here and there, although a good balance between authenticity and compromise has always been striven for - and hopefully achieved ...

The Doors Panel

This view from the rear shows how the backing panel has been fitted onto the main panel itself, which means that the entire unit can be easily fitted into place without needing to make any allowances for any additional backing plate etc. and it's secured in place by a multitudinous array of screws to make sure that it's nice and solid.

This last photo shows the backlit panel from the side (before the rear 'light bleed' had been attended to, obviously) and gives some idea of how the embedded lighting allows it to now be kept well out of the way of the panel's 
associated hardware and/or backing panel.
The TCAS Unit

For some idea of what's involved in the design process, specifically relating to the placement of text and components on any given panel, the following image 
was the basis for the above TCAS unit. 

As you can see, the shape of these two panels are very different - the original (above) is not very high, whereas the space required to fill in our customer's simulator (below) is - and so a lot of time was spent on trying to get the proportions right. 

Below is the end result ...

The Wx Panel

An important part of designing any new panel also includes trying to replicate, where possible, knobs and buttons that also reflect those used on real aircraft parts of course. The above buttons and dual encoder knobs are an example of this.

This Weather Panel is actually going to be interfaced with our boards and so the buttons, which are backlit, have been fitted onto the rear of the panel by way of vero board. This might not look very pretty (hence no photograph from the rear!) but it's more than likely a once-off design and it'll work fine. It also means that once again there's no need for an additional backing plate - the components are already fitted.

Again, the screen capture shown below (along with the dimensions 
provided to us by our customer) provided the basis for our design,

which is here ...

The GCU475 Unit

Finally ...

This unit has been a long time in the making and initially started life in our workshop back in 2013. Since then the design has been heavily-modified and improved however, with new hardware being employed and various profiles and sizings sharpened where possible to better reflect the dimensions and 'feel' of a real unit.

The above shot is of the GCU475 sitting in a box that's been designed around it being used in a desktop situation as opposed to the normal simulator environment.

Some photos to show the backlighting 
(with special highlights given to the dust!)

For some context, the photograph below shows some of the earlier design work, although this has now been totally re-worked.

Colibri Annunciator Panel

Below are some photos of a newly-designed annunciator panel that we recently made for a Colibri simulator.

This first photos shows the panel unlit.

With the Annunciators ON ...

A view from the rear ...

And finally the interconnection board (complete with 
post-production, silk-screening modifications!)