This is the very first step towards a more tactile flight simming experience that I designed all by myself using Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD tool. Turned out pretty well. In its current form, it does have a few shortcomings but I’m already working on a new one, which will come with all the bells and whistles.
The design itself was a rather simple process once I got the Fusion 360 basics down. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube but I found a Udemy course called Designing for 3D Printing with Fusion 360. I knew more in just four hours than I learned watching those videos on YT for several weeks!
Anyway… The goal was to create a box with two engine master toggle switches, one rotary engine mode switch, and a total of 4 annunciator lights to indicate engine fault or fire that would then be attached to the Logitech Throttle Quadrant. Also, I wanted the throttle lever angle feel more realistic so I added an angle ‘adaptor’ part.
I did make the mistake of not measuring the angle at which I’d want the Logitech Throttle Quadrant to sit. I made it 45° and when I was taking off I had to push the levers all the way to the front and down, which was very uncomfortable. Made my wrist hurt, actually.
So I updated it. Turned out 30° works very nicely, and it’s a lot easier on the wrist, too.
Photo on the left shows the original 45° angle adaptor, the one on the right is the new 30° version.
You can download the STL of a slightly updated version of the box on my Patreon page. You’ll find the STL files for dummy FIRE/FAULT annunciators over there as well. And I’ll be adding printable files for the ENG 1/2 toggle switches handles and engine mode rotary switch soon.
As I mentioned before, my first version has some limitations. At this point, it can handle the switches but cannot light up the LED fault/fire annunciators. This is because I went the easy way to start with, using an Arduino Mini Pro board. It is based on an ATMEGA32U4 chip, which makes it very simple to create a universal switch matrix.
Here’s what hardware you’ll need to make it all work:
- Arduino Mini Pro board
- Micro USB cable to connect the Arduino board to your PC
- Heavy Duty ON-ON toggle switch x2
- 3-position rotary switch
- signal wires to connect the switches to the Arduino board
- Logitech Throttle Quadrant if you don’t already have one.
Obviously, you’ll need a 3D printer to pull it off You don’t need an expensive one, I use Creality’s Ender 3, which is a 200 quid machine and works like a charm. Or just use one of the many online 3D printing services. And, unless you opt for switches with screw terminals, you’ll also need a soldering kit.
Coming up in Part 2
In Part 2 I’ll go over the electronics and software that will allow you to assign the switches to your flight sim’s commands. I will focus on X-Plane and FlightFactor’s A320 Ultimate since it is what I’m building my boxes for but with a little twist it should work with FSX or P3D as well since the board is basically just an input device that behaves like a keyboard.