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Old 03-25-2015, 10:44 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by G00dnight View Post
John you forgot the cost of a soldering iron and solder. Yes I know its something a lot of us have but not everyone.
Tools don't get factored in when calculating costs...only materials. If that were the case, I would also have to factor in my time under "construction costs. Since I normally bill my time at $125.00 per hour, that would make this little build REALLY expensive.
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Old 03-25-2015, 04:28 PM   #12
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Hi guys.

As many of you know I am working on low-cost hi-quality instruments and hotas solutions.

DCS-bios is very interesting to me because it was the very thing missing, and stopping me from moving forward on the machinery needed to produce replica flight instruments in large quantities. Now that it's here, and kicking but, it's time to go big or go home I have parts for a large industrial 2x3 meters laser cutter, and 2x1 meters plasma cutter arriving in a few months, so I've done my part.

Now, using cheap mini servos is no problem, and a done deal, as far as I know?
But, many of the instruments use continuous rotation, or at least a couple of full rotations, which the cheap servos can't rally provide at decent resolutions.
So stepper motors would really be a big improvement. I know they require additional drivers along with an arduino, and that arduino can can't control as many steppers as servos, but these are still very cheap and would open doors to some amazing and affordable hardware.
As I understand stepper implementation would require an arduino library to make it work? I'm no programmer but if someone is willing to hassle the task I would be happy to supply him with anything from my lineup of products, in any quantity.

With stepper motors implemented, I would also be able to do Force Feedback, or to be more precise Force loading on my joysticks and rudder pedals, through DCS-bios. Also a very hi quality, yet very cheap system that doesn't rely on DirectX and expensive controller boards and software, but on lua export of speed, altitude and some other parameters that dictate flight control "stiffness". But this requires arduino stepper motors.

Or Ian, if it's within your capabilities, and would make it worth your time, I would be interested in a commercial license, with a fee involved for every unit sold.

I am also open to the possibility of making all the instrument designs open source, so one could take the files to their local laser cutter, thus saving even more $$ and bringing the 10$ per instrument dream closer to reality.

So if there's anyone willing to hassle the job of making the arduino library for stepper implementation, speak up. If there's more of you, even better.
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Old 03-25-2015, 05:25 PM   #13
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you can use simple 74HC299 instead of max7219
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:16 PM   #14
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I know they require additional drivers along with an arduino...

...arduino can can't control as many steppers as servos,

As I understand stepper implementation would require an arduino library to make it work?

But this requires arduino stepper motors.
In answer to your three questions:

1. No they don't
2. Sure they can
3. Anything Arduino based needs libraries
4. not sure why force feedback would be involved with steppers controlling gauges.

So you actually don't have any functional machines yet. And your planning on building them your self? Have you experience in CNC and working to extreme tolerances?

DCS_BIOS will have a stepper class added to it in the coming days, weeks or whenever Ian has time to include it. Thats why you see my gauges on here.

While you waiting for all this stuff to be delivered it might be to your advantage to actually build a couple of these gauges so you fully understand the complexity and inner workings of each gauge. Now that I have been through the process I see many potential issues to be dealt with prior to going to mass production. If not, you will be years before you can produce anything. Designing pretty pictures with 3d software is one thing. Taking that to production is a very large leap as I can attest to. I do all my initial design in AutoCAD so I know it will fit together. But will it work? Not always as I discovered since many other factors come into play.

You need to build prototypes of every instrument to be sure. I would be making that the priority before everything else. You might find that its either a money losing operation or your prices will be much higher than you have been suggesting. The prototypes will answer that and also provide credibility.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:12 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Warhog View Post
In answer to your three questions:

1. No they don't
2. Sure they can
3. Anything Arduino based needs libraries
Well, I was thinking of these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/2x-DC-5V-Ste...item43d5c4672f
I haven't seen anyone using them without the driver boards. I read somewhere the limit for servos and steppers and as I recall it could handle more servos than steppers. I could be wrong, it doesn't matter, I don't care, that's for someone else to figure out.

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Originally Posted by Warhog View Post
In answer to your three questions:

4. not sure why force feedback would be involved with steppers controlling gauges.
Can't discuss the system, as I said it uses steppers, that are moving acording to speed, altitude and other instrument related parameters. That's all you need to know, it works in another simulation and I would love to get it working in dcs.

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Originally Posted by Warhog View Post
In answer to your three questions:
Have you experience in CNC and working to extreme tolerances?
I will not be doing any fabrication of machines, just ordering open source components and assembling it all together. I am not the first one to do it, there are dozens of examples of DIY co2 lasers and plasma cutters. Both of these are machines that are not in direct contact with the material they're working on (the very reason I choose them) so there is absolutely no stress transferred into the frame nor the machine itself. It's pretty straight forward and no extreme tolerances are needed to assemble the machine, nor are extreme tolerances needed to make gaming instruments.

I'm not building space shuttles here. CNC routers, mills and lathes are a completely different story, but I don't see me mention building/assembling those.

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Originally Posted by Warhog View Post
In answer to your three questions:
Designing pretty pictures with 3d software is one thing.
3D CAD has nothing to do with "designing pretty pictures", especially not my 3d cad designs. 3D rendering on the other hand does. And a 3d render represents less then 1% of the total work on any given 3D CAD designed object of mine. Hence why the "pictures" look so "pretty". Because for the 15 minutes it takes to render it, it took about 1.000 hours to design the 3D CAD model itself. I can do much worse renderings if it would raise your trust in my abilities I just thought doing the best 3d cad designed and rendered grips in the world today would do that Cause I don't see anyone else with a conceived, designed and manufactured prototype of warthog compatible grip. let alone the design and building the complete tools & machinery it took to produce it, and near the quality of work that I aspire to.

Not only did I conceive, design and manufacture my product, I actualy conceived, designed and manufactured the complete machinery that machined that product. And every tool/machine for it was cnc, not a single hend held powered instrument was used. And it was all non existent by the way, I had to invent every 3d printing tool/machine myself. Therefore I don't see any reason whatsoever to doubt, nor discuss my abilities. That wasn't my intention. I don't want to clog up the thread.

I was simply sending an open invitation, if anyone wants to share the workload, so I don't have to learn dcs-bios myself too, it would take much less time to get this to production.

Design, prototyping, spending thousand of $$$ and production are my worries, if anyone want's to worry about simply implementing steppers in dcs-bios, let me know.
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Last edited by hegykc; 03-25-2015 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:44 AM   #16
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That sure looks like the same thing Weeb. It even includes the capacitors and the resistor you need. But please be aware that the resistor value may not be correct. You need to get the data sheet for the MAX 7219 and read the section on calculating the resistor value based on your particular application. Its under in the section that describes the "iset" pin on the 7219.
Cheers John, I will do. I'm almost anal about RTFM. I saw it as an all in one solution for absolutely minimum cost outlay, hence I got 4 because I'm sure to annihilate a couple whilst I'm buggering about with them.
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Old 03-26-2015, 10:29 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by hegykc View Post
I was simply sending an open invitation, if anyone wants to share the workload, so I don't have to learn dcs-bios myself too, it would take much less time to get this to production.

[/B]Design, prototyping, spending thousand of $$$ and production are my worries, if anyone want's to worry about simply implementing steppers in dcs-bios, let me know.
There is no such thing as "simply implementing steppers in DCS-BIOS". Just like with character displays, there are different stepper motors and driver chips out there which require different ways to drive them.

I do plan to add a class (and example code generation) for the VID29xx series of steppers at some point, because they seem to be inexpensive, widely used in car dashboard applications, and can be driven directly from a microcontroller. Those steppers have a mechanical end-stop and are designed not to take damage when driven against it, so zeroing them on startup is trivial.
However, that is low on my priority list right now; I want to finish v0.2 of the Arduino library first to get support for connecting multiple boards over RS-485 and handle incoming data in interrupt service routines to prevent the receive buffer filling up when a lot of "slow" outputs like displays are connected.

Keep in mind that just because there is no class that abstracts away stepper usage in the DCS-BIOS Arduino library does not mean that you can't use stepper motors with DCS-BIOS right now.

If you are using steppers without a mechanical end-stop (e.g. for the altimeter pointer), you will also have to implement some mechanism to detect when the needle is at the zero position. The only stepper I know of that has this built in is the VID60-02. That one is intended for analog clocks, so I don't know if it provides accurate resolution (I couldn't find a proper datasheet; clocks only require 6 degree steps). I am also not clear on how the zero detection works exactly (i.e. whether you get a digital output or an analog voltage that you still have to interpret).

If you are planning to commercially produce your boards, you will have to provide customer support. That means you need to understand how every part of your product works anyway. I don't think you can avoid learning basic Arduino programming.

Also, what is your background in electronics?
If you want to get your per-unit cost as low as possible, you want to design and populate your own circuit board to save time assembling and integrate everything neatly. Once you are doing that, you might as well ignore commercially available Arduino boards and select the cheapest microcontroller that still has enough program flash and SRAM to run your panel.

I would suggest that you get an Arduino board and spend a few hours experimenting with DCS-BIOS to get a better idea of its capabilities. For example, the data you would need for your force-loading algorithm is not exported by DCS-BIOS right now. Except for the altitude, where the "true" value is exported as part of the "CommonData" module, airspeed and "other instrument related parameters" are only exported as shown on the actual cockpit instrument. With the current version of DCS-BIOS, your force-loading would stop working when those instruments become damaged.

Writing the software is not as much work as you think. Once you have finished selecting your stepper motors, circuit design, and have a prototype assembled, we can probably get it up and running in an evening (assuming there is an existing Arduino library to talk to your stepper motor or driver).

The hard part is getting the hardware design right -- selecting a suitable stepper motor, making sure your voltage regulator can handle the maximum expected total current, implementing zero-detection (if applicable), selecting components that get the job done reliably for the lowest per-unit cost (i.e. avoid paying for features you don't need).

EDIT: you also want to integrate a RS-485 transceiver chip (and a jumper to disconnect it from the Arduino for reprogramming) into your design to be prepared for the next version of the DCS-BIOS Arduino library.

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Old 03-26-2015, 12:50 PM   #18
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Thanks for the lengthy response.

A zero point would be a very trivial solution on any stepper motor. The pointer/needle can be put on snug enough so that it stands on it's own, yet loose enough so that it can "free-spin" if it hits a hard stop. That's no problem at all.
So you could just have it turn xy full turns backwards at each start of the program so that it hits the zero hard-stop at some point and that would ensure that it's always at zero when starting. No position tracking like that, would allow me to use the cheapest steppers from the link I posted, which are still 1/2 of the price of the auto instrument ones you talk about.

No need to even mention customer support or dedicated electronics. If every project started by discussing the final design we wouldn't have any projects at all.

All I am asking is if it's possible, and if anyone is interested in taking a crack at it. I'm not asking to have it done today and sell it tomorrow.

I can provide the hardware, an altimeter for example, with the motor inside and connections for the arduino and power. That's it, someone else needs to make it work. I would then open source all my cad files and designs and offer the instruments at manufacturing prices (that's zero profit) so that this community can finally have 10-30$ instruments instead of 300$ ones that are available now.

Edit: Regarding the force feedback / force loading, the system is identical to a speedometer with a stepper motor. I don't know if it's possible to "disable" damage reporting or something like that, but regardless, it would get it working. And it would be the first of it's kind, very cheap and very simple. So I believe it's worth a try for a first step.
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:55 PM   #19
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Cheers John, I will do. I'm almost anal about RTFM. I saw it as an all in one solution for absolutely minimum cost outlay, hence I got 4 because I'm sure to annihilate a couple whilst I'm buggering about with them.
Oh, I'm sure you will.

I did, the 7219 that is several times actually shhh! don't tell anyone.

I always buy 3 more than I need. Its a good rule at my age. Too bad I can't use that rule for FINGERS ....just kidding.

One thing Weeb, don't try and solder the 7219 right to the board. Lots of people will but it just makes it hard to replace when it catches fire. (kidding again) I mean when it starts smoking. Buy a handfull of the 24pin sockets and plug it in.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/10PCS-24-pin...item4ae2562ef0

And when you make your connection to the 7 seg displays, use ribbon cable instead of a shit pile of wires. It looks much more professional and the connectors are easy to use/install.
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"NEW PHOTOS" http://s1168.photobucket.com/user/Pi...?sort=2&page=1

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jfwall/

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Old 03-28-2015, 01:31 PM   #20
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A zero point would be a very trivial solution on any stepper motor.
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Originally Posted by hegykc View Post
I can provide the hardware, an altimeter for example, with the motor inside and connections for the arduino and power. That's it, someone else needs to make it work.
You can't develop the hardware completely independently of the software. For your altimeter, the zero-setting is not trivial -- you can't use a mechanical stop because it needs multiple revolutions, so you need a way to detect the zero position and you need to write at least a simple test program to be able to verify that it works reliably.
You will also need to get displays for the pressure setting and the numeric readout, which should have a display controller that is supported by an existing Arduino library. It's not an insurmountable problem, my point here is that you can't build a prototype without thinking about the software that will drive it and then expect someone else to be able to "make it work".

If you post a schematic for a specific panel (I suggest starting a new thread for this) with a list of parts you plan to use, I can tell you whether I see any difficulties writing the software for it.

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I don't know if it's possible to "disable" damage reporting or something like that, but regardless, it would get it working.
It is possible to export data from LoGetSelfData() and friends, which (at least for basic flight parameters -- position, airspeed, altitude, bank/pitch/roll) are available in any aircraft and are independent of any cockpit instrument. So far, I have only exported those parameters in the CommonData module that I needed for a moving map experiment. If there is a use case for other parameters, I will consider adding them as needed/available.
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