After building the first prototype and later the multipurpose hardware, it was time to collect the experiences and design new updated hardware for X-plane and SimVim.
The multipurpose I/O board was good for smaller areas, like MCP and EFIS, but insufficient for larger areas like the overhead panel. So the setup called for a more modular approach.
New modular X-plane setup
The new design is build up around the existing MASTER board, which has an onboard Arduino and connects with X-plane through USB. The MASTER board connects to a series of EXTENSION boards, each going to different locations within the cockpit. From each EXTENSION board, a set of I/O boards can be connected, from the types: IO-INPUT, IO-LED and IO-7S.
Read more about the complete setup here: SimulConn X-plane hardware solution.
Supporting both X-plane and SimVim
The PCB’s are designed to run together with SimVim, a free software interface, easy to use without any need for programming skills. In SimVim the mappings are done between the SimulConn PCB’s and the controls in the X-plane cockpit.
The heart of the system is the MASTER board. This board serves as the interface between all the pcb cards and the PC running X-plane. It has an Arduino MEGA 2560 PRO onboard, and power input to drive the entire system from one power source.
The MASTER board (rev1) has connections to 4 EXTENSION boards. The coming rev2 supports a much larger amount of EXTENSION board connections. Rev1 was originally designed to control the Multipurpose I/O-card, but supports the EXTENSION boards as well.
UPDATE: Master rev2 can be found here: Connect your hardware with X-plane.
It is possible to leave out the MASTER board if you have your own Arduino and can manage the wiring.
Extending the hardware
The EXTENSION board manages the connection between the MASTER board and the different types of IO boards. It was designed to minimize cable connections to the MASTER board, acting as a single point of entry to the MASTER board from each physical part of the cockpit.
Each EXTENSION board can have up to 7 IO boards attached, in a mixed environment between IO-INPUT, IO-LED, and IO-7S.
f the power from the MASTER board is not sufficient to drive the entire system, a power input in the EXTENSION board can be used. A jumper selects whether the board takes power from an external device or the MASTER board.
Read more about the Extension board here: Cockpit expansion.
Connecting X-plane with switches
The first thing you might think about when building a cockpit is to touch those buttons! The IO-INPUT board is mapping your switches with X-plane. It connects 16 input switches to a single master board pin in SimVim configurator.
The board supplies both GND for the switch and an extra 5V. This is useful when connecting hardware like rotary encoder, which needs both GND and 5v for making pulses.
The IO-INPUT board is connected to the EXTENSION board by a ribbon cable, which also powers the board.
Read more about the board here: Input hardware for X-plane.
Connecting X-plane with LEDs
The IO-LED board is what is making your cockpit blink!
The board connects 64 LEDs to a single master board pin in SimVim configurator.
The LEDs are easily connected using screw terminals.
The IO-LED board is connected to the EXTENSION board by a ribbon cable, which also powers the board.
Read more about the board here: LED hardware for X-plane.
Connecting X-plane with 7-segment displays
The IO-7S board is controlling the number displays. The board connects 8 different 7-segment displays, each with up to 8 digits, to a single master board pin in SimVim configurator.
The 7-segment displays are connected with IDC connecter ribbon cable, which also powers the board.
The IO-7S board is connected to the EXTENSION board by a ribbon cable, which also powers the board.
Read more about the board here: 7 segment hardware for X-plane.