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?

View Results

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Progress on MKIV documentation

I am happy to tell that our nice documentation wiki grows every day. Our awesome DIY community helped me to port MKIII docs, so now we finally have MKIV collective build process completely documented! The first lever body added is the most advanced one – single collective body with a physical throttle latch. If you need other lever bodies, just use this one as a reference.

You can find all of supported (and planned for now) MKIV hardware modules on the modules list page of the wiki. If you’re here for the first time and want to know more about the project, please visit the start page.

I have adjusted MKIV menu on the site accordingly.

MKIV documentation wiki goes live!

I have been asked multiple times to change documentation format to wiki – so other guys who build Simchair could fix errors in manuals, or improve them, or even write their own.

So, here it is! I have already ported the manual for the collective base, fixed some errors along the way. My first impression is – a wiki is a MUCH better place to write docs, rather than WordPress pages. The result seems to look a lot better, formatting options are way richer, I really like how it looks =)

Hopefully, this step will help the project to grow further! If you want write access to the wiki, please contact me, and I will sign you up.

Stackable throttle quadrant MKIV

Here’s the MKIV stackable quadrant, the helicopter edition!

If you fly twin-engine stuff like MI-8, BK-117, etc – and also want to be able to fly warbirds sometimes – you’ll like the new quadrant!

The current, helicopter themed, version supports 2 axes with detents (for things like WEP and reverse in planes, implemented as button presses, because why not) – but you can stack as many of axis modules as you want. The default “GA” version that will soon be available will include 3 axes and trimmers.

This version is much more thought out than the MKIII one – so the latter will be outdated with its release. Each lever is equipped with a spring-loaded pull handle that allows movement past tactile detents on both ends of each axis and provides friction at the same time. Lever caps are fixed with screws – so you can change them to whatever design you like.

The first helicopter-themed version will come with spherical caps and no trimmers. I have just added support for it to the software.

AB412 style collective head support added to MKIV software

The first MKIV variant of this head is a generalized device – it has 8 spring-loaded switches in it. This means, with the mode switch, we can use 3 sets of 19 joystick buttons each!

The head itself was updated to MKIV standards – it features 2 Ethernet sockets and an MCU RST button for easier flashing. The former mode switch on the side of the head no longer works as one (we have it on the base now!) but is left in place for generic purposes (e.g. gear, floats, etc, why not!). The 2-pot version is now a default one. Expect an updated manual soon!

Joy button presses on middle positions of the switch and non-spring-loaded switches support are not yet implemented, will be adding those a bit later.

Do you guys use MKIII switch modes and non-spring-loaded switches in your heads, or do you prefer a more generic approach of having a lot of joystick buttons instead? Please let me know in comments =)