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  1. #1
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    General questions to get started...

    Hello everyone. I recently decided that I wanted to go ahead and build a flight simulator. I have a huge amount of question that I would love some help on before I start to get my ideas onto a piece of paper. Here they are:

    1. What are the benefits of hydraulics vs. servos controlled platforms (ie. cheapest, less maintenance, availability, quietest)?

    2. How much computer knowledge is needed to build a simulator (is code knowledge needed)?

    3. What are the core programs used to run the simulator? I would like to use 2 computers in my setup.

    4. Is the OpenCockpit interface a good interface? Is it recommended to go through another company?

    These are the base questions that I am curious about. Any help is appreciated.

    O'Malley

  2. #2
    Administrator W9XE/Project777's Avatar
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    Mycockpit.org

    O'Malley

    You have posted some interesting questions. Might I make some comments for you to mill over.

    1. What are the benefits of hydraulics vs. servos controlled platforms (ie. cheapest, less maintenance, availability, quietest)?

    I don't think there is any benefit to hydraulics but more of a danger. Hydraulics are usually used for high pressure actuators and there are many disadvantages. One is hydraulics can get very messy, leaks can be hard to clean up. Easy to find but hard to clean up. Pressure is very high and a small pin hole can cut right into you or parts near by. Heat, lots of heat is generated from the fluid movement. Heat is one thing you want to avoid as much as passable. The electronics alone will have you putting AC in the sim. A note regarding a motion platform. Make sure you have safety fence around your sim. The last think you want is someone getting under it while in motion. If you noticed most airlines sim such as United have their sims like an island. A bridge to reach it so no one can get close. Got some time in their 777 last year was really great

    2. How much computer knowledge is needed to build a simulator (is code knowledge needed)?

    Computer knowledge is a big help but you don't have to be a computer geek. Basic operating practices will get you by. Now for the coding. This all depends on your interface. Some will require code work such as EPIC while others like FDT, FDS, and Phidgets have software that is more plug and play with window menu and drop downs. There will be others that can give you more detail that are farther along than I.

    3. What are the core programs used to run the simulator? I would like to use 2 computers in my setup.

    FS9 and FSX are almost necessary for the platform. Using 2 computer With running a motion platform you may need 2 just for that. Depending on how realistic you plan on the project and how deep the pocketbook will be may dictate the computer requirement. Many are using 6 - 8 computers to run their sim. Programs such as Project Magenta will require several to maintain all the features.

    4. Is the OpenCockpit interface a good interface? Is it recommended to go through another company?

    There is a lot of builders working with OpenCockpits interface boards. I don't believe they are ready for true plug & play. Some you have to build by installing the components. There software sounds like it's coming along nicely. Many in Europe are going that way because the cost to them is much cheaper. Conversion rate hurts from US to Europe. Depending on where in the world you live, interfaces from that region are usually the top seller.

    These are the base questions that I am curious about. Any help is appreciated.

    This is only 4 questions, you haven't even began to scratch the surface of what you think you may need. There is no set rules on what's the best interface, software, hardware panels and computer systems. Each build is unique to the builder. The is no set cost. You can easily spend a few hundred for a desktop sim up to well over $100,000.00 in a project. I have seen basic motion platforms go for $25,000 just to start. Weigh of the sim is important. Matthew (user name 777-300ER) can really give you the hard facts about a motion sim. The biggest thrill is to finally set down and make up your building plan. I needs to cover a few years of time. Even if you are a millionaire you can't just go out and buy all the parts you will need to make the project in a few months. Unless you buy someone Else's project. Have FUN building and take pride in your work. And always be safe

  3. #3
    1000+ Poster - Fantastic Contributor AndyT's Avatar
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    Something else you need to think about.
    Even if you decide to build a generic cockpit, you still have to decide if it will be a single engine, twin or, a mid-sized transport or will you go full out and build a large ship. Each one of these has different requirements for it and different parts available to the general public.
    God's in command, I'm just the Pilot.
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  4. #4
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    Thank you. Those questions are just to help direct me to the next step. I appreciate the time you took to respond to my questions thoughtfully. At the moment my plan is to build the simulator in several steps. The first thing I am concentrating on is the platform itself. I have a few more questions based on your answers.

    1. What are the limits of a servo? It seems to me they would be cheaper and quieter but more programming would be required?

    I am suprised to hear that AC is something that a sim would actually need

    2. My personal ability level is nonexistant when it comes to coding. I really could not do it without a step-by-step.Becuase of this I plan on using a plug and play interface.

    3. I do not have a huge budget so I will not be able to have as serious a sim as most on here. The reason why I mentioned two computers is becuase I have a spare one laying around that I repaired. I thought this might help me out.

    4. I am in Southern California, but even with the conversion rates their product seems the cheapest. I can solder nearly anything so I thought I might be able to save some money by building the kit. I am good with electronics but I am no electronic genius.

    O'Malley

    *EDIT*
    Quote Originally Posted by AndyT View Post
    Something else you need to think about.
    Even if you decide to build a generic cockpit, you still have to decide if it will be a single engine, twin or, a mid-sized transport or will you go full out and build a large ship. Each one of these has different requirements for it and different parts available to the general public.
    Just saw your post. I am still deciding where I want to go. Initially I was thinking of a setup similiar to Thanos', then moved to a fighter styled cockpit with more generic features to make it adaptable to various aircraft, and now I'm thinking of a two seater (more fun) with a larger aircraft styled controls. I am still uncertain as I fly various aircraft in FSX and do not have a particular favorite.

  5. #5
    1000+ Poster - Fantastic Contributor AndyT's Avatar
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    Talking

    If you are planning on having a motion platform then you really need to do some drawings first and better yet, if you know how to use it, GMAX your pit first. GMAX is free, it comes on the FS9 and FSX disk. Its used to create the 3D models in the sim. I'm in the process of learning how to use it because it will in the long run save me huge amounts of time in design. Plus you can easily share the models you create with us here.

    You do not have to put AC in your sim but it is a consideration you will want to think about since all the electronics generate quite a bit of heat. Also AC adds to the weight of the sim and you will need to take it into account when planning the weight and balance.

    Servos are small electric motors that are very limited in the amount of weight they can move. Use an actual motor instead. You can get motors that are strong enough at All Electronics. For example, here is a wiper motor for less than $20. http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bi...ER_MOTOR_.html These motors are strong enough to move you and the pit. If you want to add another person then you might consider a larger motor. they have a nice selection of them. http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bi...ar_Motors.html

    I run my pit and sim from 1 computer and have no problems with it. You have an extra one so you already will be better off when it comes to setting up the distruibted computing you will be using to keep everything running smooth. I strongly suggest a cheap 10/100 switch, NOT a router to go between them. Gigabit is better but since you will only be running 2 machines, not really needed. It is better to have the same version of Windows on both machines also.

    Programming or Coding is not going to be a factor. Most of the programming you will have to do is;
    1. Choose a function (example, Landing gear up)
    2. Activate the software (example, FSUIPC or Phidgets or, Open Cockpits)
    3. Flip the lever or button you have built for this function.
    4. Watch as the software locates and programs your hardware.
    5. Save your settings.
    6. Fly and test it.

    Now, it can be and often does get a bit more complicated than this but not too much. You might have to program in an offset (A number telling the software where to find that function in the sim) or some other simple tasks.

    Budget? Whats that?
    I think we have all blown our budgets at one time or another. If you can set aside as little as $25 to $50 dollars a month you can have a pit every bit as good as any you see here. It will just take longer and you will learn some creative techniques to build some of your hardware. (Canabalize other systems that you never use anymore like an old video game controller).

    By the time you are done you will have learned many different skills. This is not a 'huge challenge' to overcome, it's more like a fun version of trade school.

    One last thing but VERY important,
    Are you married? If you are then be sure and plan time with her AWAY from the sim. Guys that have projects like this have a tendancy to get caught up in them and forget about the other half. As long as you make sure not to negelect her then you should be safe. My wife got jealous of my pit a couple of times untill I began making sure we had time away from it. Now, no problem.
    God's in command, I'm just the Pilot.
    http://www.geocities.com/andytulenko/

  6. #6
    1000+ Poster - Fantastic Contributor AndyT's Avatar
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    Wow. Did I type all that?
    God's in command, I'm just the Pilot.
    http://www.geocities.com/andytulenko/

  7. #7
    500+ This must be a daytime job mauriceb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyT View Post
    If you can set aside as little as $25 to $50 dollars a month you can have a pit every bit as good as any you see here.
    WOW!!!! I have spent that much & more just on most visits to a hardware store and there have been lots of visits. Please don't ever say that again....if my wife ever reads this, I'm dead

    Seriously now, I think you are grossly misleading any new-comer who reads your post. There is no way on earth that with 25-50 dollars a month, you could "have a pit every bit as good as any you see here" unless you are planning to spread it over 50 years or more, or you are just talking about a desktop simulator and not a full flight deck. If you can, please share your magic with those of us who have spend thousands & tens of thousands and who are still not finished building .

    Maurice

  8. #8
    2000+ Poster - Never Leaves the Sim Trevor Hale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mauriceb View Post
    WOW!!!! I have spent that much & more just on most visits to a hardware store and there have been lots of visits. Please don't ever say that again....if my wife ever reads this, I'm dead
    Maurice.. I know what you mean, but the biggest problem is that my wife does read these forums and is around all the time. I am sunk for sure. I only give her half the total I spend.. and she still complains about that! It's been nice knowing all you guys

    Trev
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  9. #9
    1000+ Poster - Fantastic Contributor Bob Reed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor Hale View Post
    Maurice.. I know what you mean, but the biggest problem is that my wife does read these forums and is around all the time. I am sunk for sure. I only give her half the total I spend.. and she still complains about that! It's been nice knowing all you guys

    Trev
    Everything costs $58.00, right Trevor?
    Bob Reed

  10. #10
    500+ This must be a daytime job mauriceb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor Hale View Post
    Maurice.. I know what you mean, but the biggest problem is that my wife does read these forums and is around all the time. I am sunk for sure. I only give her half the total I spend.. and she still complains about that! It's been nice knowing all you guys

    Trev
    Trevor,

    I was just kidding. It really only costs about 50 to 100 dollars a month max to build a deck. The money that is disappearing from the bank account must be going on groceries and cosmetics for our wives. That is the only sensible explanation.

    Maurice

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