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BMW E36 sim (furniture style)

Discussion in 'DIY peripherals' started by Mbakos, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Hello Everyone,

    Let me share my building experience of a static but comfy simulator that brings joy to me and the family.
    This is not my first attempt to build a sim-like structure that uses up a large portion of an otherwise small apartment.
    This time I had no fear and took the opportunity to buy a used Logitech G27 and build something around it. I had another lucky star around this time, being a smaller advertising board manufacturing company being so kind as to go bankrupt nearby. My father having a friendship with a worker doing the decommission, we could put our hands on a lot of useless junk that was meant to be bound for trash anyway.
    Another friend working on old, hopelessly rusted BMW-s, offered me a deal for a pile of E36 interior parts that raised my interest. All of it for 60 Euros worth of ever-so-worthless Hungarian currency.
    Given all this, including my girlfriend's patience, the journey into sim-building began. That was more than 2 years ago.
    Yes, a sim like this is never really finished, and no, I'm not single after all this happened. :)

    Let the journey begin...

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  3. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    While I was working on the hardware in the daylight hours, I spent the dark nights inside, trying to figure out how to bring life into that Frankenstein of an instrument cluster that the E36 has.
    My work was not as hard as I first thought it would be, thanks to Andreas from sim-pc.de. He shared essential information about the understanding of the E36 instruments, which helped a lot.
    The software itself that we used was made from scratch by a friend of mine who volunteered as an experienced programmer to take the challenge and make this work.
    This was when our "SimulatorJoiner" program took its shape in VisualStudio. We used an Arduino Mega 2560 to drive the instruments and a lot of overkill TIP120 transistors to drive all the possible light bulbs with 12V we could think of. The result was promising if we look away from that horrible mess of cables we produced.
    Once it was ready, feared to touch any of that mess we considered the work as finished. It took another 2 years and a move to another apartment to finally tidy up the cabling (than a year later another move back to where it started). Long story, really.
    Pictures after the clean-up will come later.

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  4. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    The bulk of the job was mostly woodworking. We had a lot of 30mm thick plywood sheets and used salvageable transport pallets lying around as resource. I bolted up a large 5mm metal sheet to the plywood "firewall" for holding the pedals. I used as many components of the G27 pedal set as possible, one way or another, to keep everything simple, but as it turned out in the long run, over-complicated.

    For the brake, I went for a progressive feel, that required 4 different springs and rubber sheet from whatever industrial machines I don't even know the name of. That was part success, after a few days of use a big failure really, so I went on tweaking that contraption with more springs and rods and screws and grease and everyhing it required to keep it together for longer than a few practice laps.

    I needed the clutch to feel life-like, with the ease-up point as it would on a real E36 that is still far from a real race car but this was the closest I could compare to. For this, I separated the big red piston thing with the spring from the G27 pedal assembly and installed it in a weird angle on a metal bar with some alu brackets. It was satisfying on the bench trying to push the pedal by hand, but just like the brake, it also ended up with even more additional springs as it was just too light and lifeless later in action. The main pedal part from the G27 was being put there just for the potentiometer. Easier to add this way than using the pot separately. It takes up a lot of space for no reason but space is not an issue, yet.

    The accelerator was tricky to do, ended up using the stock G27 pedal with the brake's spring to get the strength required by the system of levers to transfer the motion from forward to backward then upside down.
    Works, why wouldn't it? Only one spring was added here later.

    You can imagine all the squeaking it produces during usage. A spoonful of grease can do wonders. :)

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  5. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Compared to the work I had done to the pedals, some taxidermy with the floor carpet and placing the dash to where it should be is going to be a walk in the park.
    I had to cut out small parts of the dash to fit the G27 wheel base under the instrument cluster. Later I had to remove the top cover from the G27 base to raise the wheel not to be blocking the view.
    I also cut, sanded then painted some pallet wood to cover the rear side of the simulator base where the carpet ends.
    On the last picture you can see a yellow fiberglass handle of a broken axe. That became the handle of my handbrake later on. :)

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  6. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    The hard part of the work done (I thought so), it's ready to place it where it should meant to be. Off the bench, out of the garage, up the stairs, into the house... oh-oooh. There's a door, it won't fit in either dimension.
    Let alone the weight it represents, imagine piano transportation here, I had to take it apart again, to smaller chunks to make it fit in the door.

    Another good question I did not think of before, a sim is not a sim by itself, it needs a PC to run the games on.
    No problem, just screw the mainboard straight up on a flat surface, add a wooden stick as support for the video card, find some place for the power supply where it's not in the way and we're done. :)

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  7. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Since it takes up most of the room space, why not make it multi-purpose?
    I sit in a car most of the day, why not do it at home as well? I could have come up with a better idea but we use what we are given.
    I added a tray for mousepad, drink, food, more projects or whatever. It's custom made and removable, sits firmly between the gearshift and the handbrake. Yes the handbrake is made of a broken axe handle and the remaining G27 pedal assembly.
    Just too perfect. The setup is also ideal for video editing. Not for extended time periods though or else I need to crawl out and learn to walk again.

    The work is not done here. More will come later. :)

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  8. minimus1899

    minimus1899 Member

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    looking smart man ill keep watching this

    got a update coming tonight just finishing the video and stuff and ill post an update, with my health its hard to keep up hobbies

    keep up the good work

    kind regards
    andy
  9. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Time for some update to this log. I've been using a bass shaker under my seat for some time with success.
    I chose this brand from Conrad as it's relatively cheap compared to its power.
    https://www.conrad.hu/hu/bass-shaker-100-w-sinustec-st-bs-100-378979.html
    The amp I'm using is a cheap one from ebay, Lepai or Lepy 2.1 whichever is cheaper. The shaker is wired to the bass output. I'm using a separate USB stick type sound card to drive the amp.
    My homemade app which controls the instrument cluster has been extended with a sine wave tone generating addon. In Assetto Corsa I can get vibration for rpm, suspension travel and wheel slip.
    I might share my software sometime, not sure if anyone could make use of it since it's built and tuned for my specific rig and for this type of bass shaker.
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  10. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    The gear indicator was found in the junk from some leftover electronic projects from previous generations. It uses 12V light bulbs to light up perforated glass sheets each representing a number, resulting in an effect kind of similar to nixie tubes. This thing could be more than 60 years old. I could hardly find any info about it online.
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    I also made an analog input from the heater fan control knob with a resistor ladder and applied a potentiometer to the heating air selector knob.
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    Initially this panel in the 1 DIN radio slot was functional but messy in the inside with cables hanging everywhere.
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    A year later I made a nice and tidy board for all the transistors needed for the gear display and the arduino leonardo which controls the button and pot inputs.
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  11. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    There has been a lot of upgrades going on since my last post, but I always lack documentation.
    First, I would like to present my pedals upgrade. I decided to decommission all the Logitech G27 parts and replace them with my custom made design to make it cleaner and more robust.
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    Here are some pictures about the parts I didn't need any longer.
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    The clutch pedal was way too over-complicated.
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    I replaced all that mess with a BMW E36 bonnet opener telescope and a helper spring to ease the force as it was too powerful. Now it gives a hydraulic feeling with dampening and a bit of hint for the bite point.
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  12. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Next up, the brake pedal mechanism was re-built from scratch. I made some heavy duty parts for a 20kg load cell that is operated through a hinge that balances a maximum brake pressure of 50kg to be within limits for the 20kg sensor. The pedal movement is not all stiff, there are a couple of heavy springs dampened with rubber stoppers to allow some travel.
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  13. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    The gas had many components and was not reliable at all. I decided to upgrade it to load cell operated wit a single puller spring that is linear in its motion with respect to force.
    I chose a 10kg load cell I had in around my scrap parts.
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    This was before.
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    ...and after.

    The pedals now all look nice and clean overall.
    P80207-224307_s.jpg
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  14. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Now that the pedals look okay, next I looked at how I could re-wire the instrument panel control board to remove that mess of temporary wires.
    I made a hand-made mainboard for the Arduino Mega for the instruments and the Uno for the pedal rumble motors. All wired by hand, no PCB etching involved. For the 12V control lights, an addon card was built with transistors.
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    All of it became plug and play with DB-25 connectors for data and a 4-pin ATX connector for power which I can switch using the light-switch on the dashboard.

    Since then, I moved to a more sophisticated software, namely Simhub and leaving the home-made only for the tactile transducer.
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  15. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    This year, I took the leap and retired my G27 wheel after 3 years of service. I didn't want to make small steps, I went straight for the big fish.
    That's right, a 20Nm direct drive wheel with the new Simucube controller from Simracingbay, flashed with the new beta firmware out of the box.
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    Needless to say, I had to take apart the cockpit almost entirely to fit the motor under the dash. I had an ugly looking cutout for the G27 base that I had to cover the best way possible. The main idea was to hide the motor behind the instrument panel, which was quite a challenge as there is very little room in that compartment. I had to remove the air duct from the dashboard, but no problem because I didn't use it anyway. Now it got me thinking I should install a blower fan, once it's not possible anymore. :)
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    I cut out and bent a piece of aluminium sheet to the shape of a G27 wheelbase and covered it with a rubber sheet to give it a matte and smooth finish.
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    The next thing I need is a steering wheel shaft extension and a nice looking steering wheel. :)
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  16. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    It was a challenge to create a steering wheel shaft extension which holds up when high torque is applied, and also small enough to fit the clearance under the dash.
    Luckily my father has a long time friend who is a retired machinist with all the tools required for the job in his shed. We came up with the idea of a 40mm diameter aluminium cylinder in the length of 60mm, with an off-center 22mm hole for the shaft and a slot cut out for gripping by a pair of 6mm hex-headed bolts.
    The tests proved the design, there is no high enough force within reasonable limits that this adapter can't hold. A 22mm diameter steel shaft was machinedwhich accepted the wheel adapter provided with the OSW kit. Job done.
    Another problem was the paddle shifters, not present on the OSW. I downloaded a magnetic paddle shifter mechanism design from Thingiverse and had a friend 3D-print it for me. I cut out the paddles and parts of the enclosure by hand from a piece of aluminium sheet. The rest of the covering was 3D-printed by measurement and my own design.
    The cable for the shifter was from a desktop phone handset cord with a 4-pin 2mm JST-XH connector.
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  17. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    I decided to exile the last part of the G27 from the sim, the shifter. I acquired a used lathe for cheap and managed to scratch build a H-shifter from metal parts that I found in the shed.
    It turned out pretty good. The main idea was to build something resembling the Frex-H shifter.
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  18. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    This rig deserves a decent monitor setup.
    I found the Viewsonic VX3276-mhd monitor for relatively cheap and I bought 3 of them.
    I wanted to save some cash on the monitor holder assembly, so I built one myself from some scrap metal.
    The result came out much better than any of the commercal ones I found, not to speak of my custom needs.
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  19. Mbakos

    Mbakos Member

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    Here are some more pictures of the monitor support and how the rig looks like today.
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  20. Raredog

    Raredog Active Member

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    That is really impressive!

    Nice to see a build that is not only functional, but also looks stunning - keep up the good work :)
  21. ahoenksiluman

    ahoenksiluman Member

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    that shifter looks crazy...