MKIV master controller V2

Long ago, when Simchair only existed as an idea in my mind, I mostly tried to use its prototype to control my Trex 450 and used Arduino UNO as the master controller. It had no native USB support and was generally a pain, but one thing was good about it – the reliable and strong USB-B socket. I was never happy with the micro USB one on the Leonardo – so I finally decided to redesign the controller and addressed a few of its problems. Here’s what was changed:

  • changed size of the box to 100x90mm
  • brittle micro USB socket on the board changed to USB-B socket glued into the box
  • 5th I2C socket added (the box needed to become larger to fit the new USB socket)
  • strengthened the front panel so it won’t be bending because of hot glue
  • removed the reset button (never used it)
  • added a rib that will help to hold sockets in place and protect the board from glue
  • fixed nut sockets height and chamfered their edges
  • new rounded design

I will publish the files after some testing.

Documentation improvements

In the process of building another cyclic, I have taken some photos of improved cable management in the base – this way everything can still be detached for repairs with ease, yet looks cleaner than the old variant. I have also uploaded a pic of what goes where to the rates control panel manual – with it its much easier to get it right from the 1st time.

If you feel that something can be made better – and e.g. you can contribute some photos or a description of the part you found to be hard to understand / badly described in the wiki – please let me know, we will improve it together =)

New hardware and an important software update

It’s been a while since my last post, mainly because I have been working on the project wiki, which is now filled with documentation! Some stuff was just copied from MKIII manuals, but a lot more has been written from scratch. I am happy to say that we are nearing the point where each of the released components will have a detailed building manual.

New hardware piece is coming soon – the MKIV simple collective.

It’s an awesome thing in its own way – beautiful in its minimalism, inexpensive, compact device that still supports all MKIV features, sporting 2 physical buttons and a momentary switch, which are extended to a total of 12 buttons when used with MKIV base mode switch. It supports advanced throttle features (software idle-stop detent) and can be operated with or without the pneumatic mod. It’s also very portable and can be used with motion platforms. You can also fit MKIV base extensions (pedestals at the moment) onto this lever, enabling you to control switches and knobs in your virtual cockpit with your left hand, which is especially useful in VR!

This is a perfect device for helicopter enthusiasts that have limited space in their sim pit or want an inexpensive but feature-rich device.

The latest software update contains the following changes:

  • MKIV simple collective support added
  • fixed a bug in tactile detent mark handler function, that was affecting all collective levers; If your lever does not press joy button 3 after you have pressed the IDLE REL button and closed the throttle, or advanced functions do not work – install this update.
  • cyclic/pedals filtering is now disabled by default; It really doesn’t affect anything but input lag. The hardware is definitely precise enough to fly without filtering.
  • a few other less significant special throttle functions related bugs fixed.

Stay tuned!

Bell 206 collective head release

The final version of Bell 206 style collective head is now available for download, along with a special version of the lever body with a 104-degree throttle turn range! I have also added its assembly manual to the wiki and updated the firmware to support the new head =)

This one looks really good, and, although simple, has everything one needs to fly helicopters – as its starter button and GOV RPM switch support MKIV collective mode switch functionality.

If you want something scale-looking, this one is definitely an eye-catcher.

If you’re using MKIV software, please update – this version has some important fixes related to throttle operation in ALL of MKIV collective levers and related advanced functions:

  • throttle stabilizer works properly now for all collective levers
  • button press on throttle cutoff and DCS Huey compat mode now work correctly with inverted throttle axes

Bell 206 collective head is here!

I am happy to show you yet another Simchair MKIV device – the Bell 206 style collective head. Its made from photos with measurements, so it should be almost exact 1:1 scale.

To make GOV RPM switch look scale, I’ve made a special adaptor for MTS-123 E1 switch. Another option is to use a regular 12mm spring-loaded SPDT switch for GOV RPM control. Small parts need to be printed at the highest possible quality and have built-in supports.

I will also be releasing a scale 206-style version of throttle frame part 1 with 104 degrees throttle grip travel range, as per information from an IRL 206 pilot.

This head is best to be used with MKIV collective with a physical throttle latch. Will release firmware for it in a few days =) You can find it in simchair4_models repo on GitHub.

MKIV cyclic is here!

Finally, after months of testing, all problems are addressed, and the new cyclic is here – and it feels great! Here’s the video which shows the new base up close – and then there’s a test ride in an epic freeware Hughes 500 for XPlane11 by Brett S – which is a pure joy to fly!

Important changes in master controller software

I have just rolled out an important software update, that includes some cool new features:

  • Huey head support added
  • Single throttle MKIII collective support added (all spring-loaded switches so far)
  • fast EMA filtering added for cyclic and pedals
  • ADS1115 sample rate reduced for absolute smoothness of controls

Addition of support for single MKIII collective lever along with the Huey-style head means that most of MKIII users can now try upgrading to MKIV version! And the latter two features is why they probably should.

The idea of EMA filtering and sample rate reduction was offered by our DIY community member, Pablo Castro, quite a while ago. Sadly I could only try it today, and results turned out to be great! While controls were already very smooth, now they are even more precise, yet filtering doesn’t add noticeable input lag.

Thanks, Pablo!

Note that for the new version to compile, you will need to remove old ADS1115 library from your IDE and install the new one from z_libraries folder in simchair4_software repo. That library is a fork by soligen2010 that allows ADS sample rate tuning.

If you are upgrading from MKIII version, please don’t forget to select your devices in device_definitions tab manually.

A very important poll

I have been able to calibrate my printer in a perfect way using a micrometer recently, and found that some clearances between certain parts may be too wide. That made me think that maybe we need to adjust models for a perfectly calibrated printer. Right now it seems that everything is tuned for a slight over extrusion.

There are a few problems that worry me:

  1. How to reliably calibrate any printer? – We can use a method of calibration that assumes using a micrometer to measure the wall thickness of a calibration cube model printed in vase mode.
  2. How will tuned extrusion affect durability? What needs to be changed in print settings? – This requires testing.
  3. Is there a problem with an average factory-made printer at all?

So I decided to make a poll, if you’ve built something and used PLA for that, please select one of the options and write a comment about your experience. The comment part is important – because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish real builders from bots.

How do you find clearances between parts?

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