Q&A

Not much new eyecandy while we are busy with the rather tedious work of numbering all the components and parts in preparation of the assembly drawings, cutting patterns and so forth. It may therefore be interesting to reflect on some of the great questions we have received.

Your prototype looks beautiful and many congratulations however I have a item for your consideration about VR use in the cockpit.
Haptic gloves or any other type of VR hand recognition will work excellently with all the controls that require manual manipulation and resulting in a tactile feedback.
However movement of the cockpit rudder pedals will require connection to a set of real pedals like the MFG Crosswinds. I am a dedicated VR flight-simmer and operating rudder pedals are a necessity for good flight simmming.
I plan on purchasing you plans and parts but I am concerned about how the rudder pedal problem be addressed?

Many thanks for your interest and your kind words.

I fully agree with your sentiments. In fact, we will not rely on haptic feedback in gloves. The gloves are only to see where your hands are in the virtual space. All controls and switches are fully functional and linked to the simulation program.

This includes fully functional Elevator, Rudder and Aileron control. The last two, being subject to significant force effects due to airspeed over the control surfaces, have been provided with force feedback.

The design therefore incorporates 75 different operating controls, ranging from primary flight controls to sliders, dials and switches. The easiest way to illustrate this is by providing the full control listing: (see attached)

All of this is extremely important for immersion in VR. The project started on the basis that VR provides a fantastically real environment, however what is missing is being able to reach out and touch and feel your surroundings. That is what we have created here.

An extract of all the cockpit control components, 75 in total. Only the windscreen de-ice pump is non-functional 🙂

What screen are you to using – most seem to place the cockpit on the screen

In this application there is no screen. The whole premise of the design is the use of a Virtual Reality Headset for complete immersion. We have created the physical shell to the virtual environment. You are therefore in the virtual environment and by wearing hand tracking gloves, you will be able to reach out to the virtual controls while seeing your hand and operate the physical controls. 
If you have not yet experienced VR flying I would highly recommend finding someone in your area who could demonstrate it to you. It is quite fantastic. However what is missing currently is being able to reach out and actually feel the environment. This is what we are creating. 

Are all the parts to be available as 3D printed parts?

The cockpit is a combination of many different elements:

  • There are the plywood frame sections and longerons which will have DXF cutting patterns for the various thicknesses and would be routed out by your selected service provider.
  • There are various parts in aluminium plate (and a few in mild steel )of different thicknesses, some of which will need bending, so bending diagrams are included. The plate would be cut by laserjet, again by your local friendly service provider.
  • There are standard aluminium extrusions such as round, square and rectangular which will need to be cut to size and often drilled.
  • There are a number of turned objects, either mild steel or aluminium, which would need a lathe, so either your own or a fab shop.
  • There are bought out items (off the shelf) which would need to be procured. Examples such switches, clevis pins, fasteners etc.
  • Finally there are 3D printed parts to recreate unique elements of the cockpit. These are for instance various shaped handles, compass, gunsight etc.

I have just discovered your site. I am VERY impressed. I have a serious collection of original Spitfire parts, I sure would like to display them in one of your cockpit simulators(,not that I would be equipping the project as a simulator) just a very decent display. Are you selling plans with advice OR a completed cockpit?

Many thanks for your email and kind words.

Your project idea sounds great! You could always augment any missing components with our accurate replicas.

When finished, we aim to sell both plans and complete, museum quality cockpits. The plans will provide comprehensive step by step instructions on how to go about the project and how assembly should be effected. Current timing is to have the plans available for sale early in 2019. We are currently re-doing the flight controls before starting with the build documentation and building of the prototype. Quality comes first. Therefore the actual prototype build is important to pick up on any potential glitches and correct them. As such timelines may shift a little.

I am a huge Spitfire fan and have many static and flying models of this beautiful aircraft. I stumbled across your site while researching information for my current radio controlled Spitfire project and I must say your dedication and commitment to detail for your project is outstanding! I have always been into flight simulators and aspired to delve into the custom cockpit builds that many have done over the years and your work has inspired me to to the plunge into my own project for the beloved Spitfire.
So I took the plunge to see what it’s all about and purchased your Throttle Quadrant plans to get a taste for what might lay ahead. I must say the level of detail and comprehensive documentation you have produced is excellent and well worth the price paid. However… I had in my mind that I would be able to complete the project with the resources I had readily available to me that would make undertaking this project financially viable. I have access to a metal engineering workshop through my brother in-law, my own woodworking workshop and a couple of very capable 3D printers. Which leads me to my question. Will you make available the STL files to allow me to print my own 3D printed parts? I had in my mind that they would be included in the package but now understand that they can only be purchased from Shapeways, which for me the cost would be well over $200AUD for items I am fully capable of producing myself at a fraction of the cost with tools I have already invested in.

I regret the STL files are a fundamental part of our business model, with a 30% mark-up on all parts printed by Shapeways. As such they are not made available. It is stated in a couple of places on the site but I will try make it more explicit in the text. 

We have invested the last 18 months full time with researchers, engineers and designers to ensure the accuracy and  functionality of these parts, during which time we have procured the full suite of available Spitfire drawings, over 3400 of them. Where there was no information, as for many of the cockpit related bought-out parts, we got access to and measured up originals from the SAAF museum. There is thus vast IP invested in these models.

Our shopfront states that the full build of the throttle quadrant will cost in the region of US$400. This compares very favourably with commercial replicas being sold at more than twice that price. 

Regarding Shapeways, so far I have not come across another SLS Nylon printing service that provides a lower price. That said, the quality from Shapeways has been superb. I am quite happy to investigate other 3D printing services with shopfronts, I have not found any in Australia though. If you are aware of any, I will investigate that possibility.

Our models in many cases are very intricate and SLS is the only suitable technology to achieve the detail and accuracy required. You are however welcome of course to make your own designs for FDM printing. Some effort will be required but it’s not impossible.

I like your idea of bringing the Spitfire Simulator into next level – to the real world. Do you have any timeline when the simulator parts will be done?Will you supply leather parts, canopy and other parts in the shop?And I would like to know if it will be possible to use simulator also for commercial purposes?

Many thanks for your interest in our venture. In answer to your questions the following:

  • Our planning is to complete the designs and prototype build by the end of the year.
  • We intend making plans, including construction methods for the more tricky bits available and the 3D printed parts will be available off Shapeways. Leather patterns will be made available, not completed products as these are easily done by local leatherworkers. Our designs are being done to make manufacture and assembly as simple as possible. However, where there are more difficult components to the build, as for instance the Malcolm Hood (bubble canopy) could be, we will consider keeping a number in stock. 
  • The purchase of a plans set will licence the builder to build one example of the simulator cockpit. This may be used privately or commercially, for instance by museums or training organisations. The software that forms the basis of the simulator, for instance DCS World’s Spitfire Mk.IX, will be subject to their licence agreements and the builder/operator will need to make their own arrangements in that regard, although we are always available and happy to provide assistance or advice.

I was wondering how wide is the cockpit? 

Attached please find a basic outline dimension drawing. Width at the widest point is 864mm with the skin. 

I was thinking what you said about the number of steps for the throttle control, and I am not certain we will be able to handle it on the first go around. I was wondering if would be possible to purchase all the parts of the cockpit with some parts pre-assembled (like the throttle control). I realize this will increase cost (due to shipping), but I don’t want to get in over are heads and create a bad experience for our students and those involved. Let me know what you think.

I think it’s a fantastic idea to engage your students in the building of the cockpit. I take note of your comment on not having a tech program and would like to share a few thoughts if you would indulge me.

The world is changing rapidly thanks to technology. We are seeing the fourth industrial revolution, aided by the marriage of computing with manufacturing technologies. The great strides being made in additive manufacturing are changing forever the way we view and procure goods and services. The global supply chain, so dependent on mass production, will undergo fundamental change. Why send products across the world and keep huge stores of unused goods when we will be able to print many of our requirements through local agencies. The days of large corporates being the only reasonable means of employment are disappearing. Instead our youth are demonstrating a dynamic entrepreneurship and driving a new village economy with global, online reach. The Maker movement is only one outflow of this, and these are heady, pioneering days.

The Spitfire Mk.IX simulator project is my entrance to this new world. The designs are being prepared in such a manner as to make them accessible to anyone who has ever built a scale model. It relies heavily on making use of local resources and materials. It avoids the use of original parts as I believe these should be preserved for actual aircraft rebuilds and spares.

Putting the simulator together will not require a great deal of technical skill, and such skills that may be required will be easily learnt. The parts are all sent out to local manufacturers, typically maker space type environments, for cutting out and bending to the required shapes. The builder then only needs to assemble by means of bolts and nuts. In the case of the airframe, this is glued together using an epoxy.

And here’s the rub. The build is not only a wonderful team building effort. It takes each participant back in time, providing the opportunity to touch, see and, with VR, relive this watershed period of our history. But more than this. It provides a fantastic vehicle to introduce students to project management skills and the wonderful world of Making.

In essence, skills which will be developed are: 

  • Project planning;
  • interpreting and understanding designs;
  • risk planning and management;
  • the procurement process, including vendor identification and selection, negotiation, contracting, expediting, receiving and storage;
  • construction planning, execution and management;
  • commissioning and close-out, including lessons learnt review.

Benefits to be considered perhaps, before deciding on which route to follow. 

Naturally, I would be able to provide any and all components in a variety of configurations. It is however not something I am actively marketing or particularly interested in. What’s more, these are unlikely to be terribly cost effective when compared with a local procure and self-assembly. I do however intend to offer complete, turnkey simulators to museums and other interested organisations.

In order to allay your fears on the complexity of the build, I have tried to provide as complete a set of guidance notes as possible, amply illustrated. So, voluminous in this case does not represent complexity but (hopefully!), rather the opposite.

And so…. a few answers to some of the questions received. Keep them coming!

4 thoughts on “Q&A”

  1. I’m sure it’s way too early to give an expected price for the ‘factory’ assembled option, but do you have a ballpark figure? I’ll probably need to start saving now!

    1. Hi David, many thanks for your interest and appreciate your enthusiasm. I do regret though that even to give a ballpark before having done the prototype would set an expectation that may ultimately be difficult to live up to. I hope to be in a position to answer your question in a few months time. There remain a number of challenges to be overcome, not least of which is the making of a reasonably priced Malcolm Hood (bubble canopy). If we can’t do that, the cost of a real one will probably cost as much as the rest of the assembly! Bear with us and watch this space 🙂

  2. Well keep up the good work guys. Your efforts will be rewarded, not only in the appreciation of the simulation community (be that for gaming or for training towards a warbirds rating) but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the education of future generations. To keep the historic experience of the spitfire alive and tangible for the future will be a superb legacy.

    Per ardua ad astra.

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