Categories for Simplicate

About that DIY keypad


This panel is part of a long-running project to build a simpit for Elite Dangerous. It is the keypad for the navigation computer that will replace the standard QWERTY keyboard, adding some nice features and a immersive design.

I made the panels and switches by painting transparant acrylic sheets with Humbrol modelling paint (comes in a small spray can). This paint is specially made for plastics, has very good adhesion and doesn’t melt when lasercutting. I have to paint several layers for it to become opaque (hold it against the light and check that no light bleeds through).

After the paint is done I can engrave the panels so that the white below the paint comes through.

The comes the engraving/cutting. All the panels we lasercut with the 40W lasercutter we have at my local hackerspace; i must have spent several hours sitting next to it by now! At first I wanted to make a proper PCB for the switches. But as this is a one-off prototype and PCB’s for this size are pretty expensive i tried to do it by hand. After designing the layout in AutoCAD 2016 I added several layers in my diagram:
1) switch solder panel (2mm,my alternative for the PCB)
2) support panel (actually wasn’t needed but it serves as a good standoff panel right now).
3) button panel (5mm thick creme transparent white with black paint)
4) button retaining panel (2mm white)
5) front panel (3mm thick creme transparent white with dark grey paint)

Because the buttons are 5mm and the front panel is only 3mm, the buttons stick out by 2mm which gives are nice glowing effect when they are lit.

Layer #4 is something that came up last-minute since my previous solution didn’t work. These are little plates that are glued to the backside of the buttons so they do not fall out. The buttons themselves are 13×13 (wider ones are 21×13) and the backplate is 15×15 to give them a 1mm border.

This all comes together in a stack. The distance from the pseudopcb to the buttons is fixed with a few stand-offs, but exactly high enough so that the spring tension of the switches pushes the buttons against the front plate without actually making contact. These tact switches have only 0.5mm travel.



Load of wiring because of the LEDS and the Switches






Sorting the buttons


Button back side



HT16K33 breakout board

In line with my previous board i’ve designed a custom breakout board for the HT16K33. Much inspired (cough) by Adafruit’s break out board, this design allows for oriented connectors and a I2C passthrough chainability. As an added benefit i have added mounting holes with the same dimension as my controller PCB so they can site next to eachother.

The HT16K33 is a very nice led driver chip that allows 128 individually addressable leds on a single I2C ID. These leds aren’t individually adjustable in brightness like the MCP7219 but for me that isn’t a requirement.

The board is primarily used to drive the throttle and joystick led effects. Currently it is a little mess with all the wires sticking out.

I just sent it off to the PCB maker, I’m guessing i’ll find a design flaw within the next 24 hours.



UPDATE: The PCB’s have arrived. You can tell they came from the other side of the planet because everything is upside down (bading tssss)


Updated 3D-printed gimbal and throttle design

Here’s version 2 of my joystick mechanical bits. Improvements:

  • Metal control stick
  • Hall Effect sensors
  • Ball bearings
  • PETG filament
  • Adjustable throttle resistance

The metal pipe is what caused the new iteration. Not only is it much more solid, but because the wall of the pipe is much thinner without a change to the outside diameter means more wires can go through.

The change to A1302 Linear Hall Effect sensor was a logic move after the use of the same sensor in the foot controller proved very reliable.

Also I move from 3Dprinting with PLA to PETG. My Vertex K8400 give much stronger and consistent parts now.

With the use of ball bearings everything feels solid and absolutely free of any kind of play.

Gimbal_v2_explode Throttle_v2


IMG_2708 IMG_2928

1-euro Nespresso coffee cup holder

I got tired of the bin of coffee cups sitting on my counter top. So i took some alu L strip, and made me a wallmounted cup holder.

The L profile strip was cut to 50cm and flattened to a 45˚ bend so the cups won’t fall out. At the bottom I made a little space to pick out a single cup. The other cups then fall downwards. To refill, just add cups on top.

What do you need?

  • 1m (or 2x 50mm) 20x20mm aluminium strip L-profile
  • metal saw
  • something to bend the strips, I used a bench vice.
  • superglue
  • 30 minutes

Total cost: €1





Simpit entry/exit display mechanism

I’ve finally worked out how to mount my display(s) in the simpit. I was aiming for an easy entry/exit, but wanted the display(s) to be within half a meter for best immersion. This LEGO mockup shows how the latch will work, the black thing should represent a seat and the grey thing should be the screen. The mechanism will be mirrored on the left and right of the screen for your legs and feet to fit in the middle.

Dr. Emmett Brown: “Let me show you my plan for sending you home. Please excuse the crudity of this model. I didn’t have time to build it to scale or paint it.”

Also check this @13:00 and onwards. That would be an awesome solution too!

Buildin my own joystick article

When I noticed the availability of Elite:Dangerous for OS X, I immediately investigated my options on getting a proper Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick, or HOTAS to play this wonderful game. You can get a very decent joystick combo at €30 and upwards but what’s the fun in that? I decided to make my own.


read all about it here

Throttle done

I’m finished soldering and wiring the throttle assembly. All the buttons work and are recognised in-game. All the leds work and all the animations a properly triggered.

Pretty proud.

Final touches on the HOTAS project.

No picture this time. I want to save them for when i’m done.

Today I finished the soldering of the prototype board and I am very much a happy camper now. Dropping the breadboard and switching to properly soldered wires made the whole contraption much more stable. The potentiometers have almost no jitter anymore even though there’s 2 meter of cable between the two modules. The data is looks pretty solid. The potentiometers I am using right now were taken from a scrapheap, but after I sprayed some ‘Kontakt’ contact spray into the potmeters they runs absolutely smooth and jitter-free.

I have a few more solder joints to do to finish up the lighting scheme for the throttle housing, and then I have a few lights left on the yoke (X/Y stage). This second module doesn’t have the throttle lighting bar so it hasn’t got as much leds as the other one.

All this means that i am close to finishing the project. I need to figure out a way to mount the modules to my desk or my chair. The modules aren’t heavy enough to sit solid on the desk. Some mounting fixture is needed and i’m not ready to drill holes in the desk just yet.

Lighting day

Today and yesterday was lighting day. I’ve been working on assembly a 32-digit multi-color led bar. Man this take a lot of time. Next time i’ll just buy the specific parts and design a PCB to mount them on. I’ve been soldering and stripping 64 wires and i’m barely halfway.

Yesterday I also received vinyl sheet for masking out the leds. This time it’ll be blacked out instead of the white you see in the video above.

The joystick itself is fine. I will have to do a lot of work on the stability of the base plate and the mounting because it feels a little loose (which wasn’t my plan at all). Also one of the hat switches broke down (already!). It may have something to do with me prying the button hat on and off and on and off a little too many times since the other one that i use most still feels solid.

Back to the picture, you see a lot of wires which is a lot because there are a lot of leds. By using the concept of multiplexing all those wires come down to 4 groups with 8 leds each where each led has 2 wires (red+green) which makes 64 pins. By switching the lights very very fast (several kHz or so) i only need 4 + 16 pins to drive 4×16 = 64 led pins