Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

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Silh
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Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Silh » Sun Jul 31, 2016 19:24

With a Gladiator Pro hopefully arriving in a few days, I've started some more planning with what would be involved with creating a custom (left-hand) grip for it. I was wondering if there was any information available (or is it even possible) to add more buttons with the existing circuitry of the KG12 grip?

I have a Vintage Black Mamba already, using the Warthog adapter + Warthog grip, so I've disassembled the KG12 grip that came with it to have a look, presuming that the grip that comes with the Gladiator Pro will be the same one or similar. I've made custom grips before, so am familiar with working with plastics and soldering, but I know little to nothing about electronics/circuit design.

On the circuit board there's a connector marked 'MaRS', which I presume is for the twist sensor such as in the regular Gladiator (no chance of acquiring a sensor that I could connect to it, is there? Word is that it's a digital protocol so not something you can connect a regular pot or hall sensor to). There are connectors for the 8 existing switches (trigger, thumb, pinky, and 4-way hat). There's also another unused 4-pin connector inside as well.

If unable to expand buttons via the existing board inside the grip, I could always run wires down to the buttons in the base, but it would definitely look a lot cleaner if I didn't have to.

(Also, would I have better luck finding info on the ED or Simhq forums?)

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Bourrinopathe
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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Bourrinopathe » Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:15

Hi Silh,

It looks like an interesting idea.
That forum could be a start to gather the required information but keep in mind the VKB engineers are russian and currently (always?) really busy. However they keep an eye on the english section but any reply might take some time, especially if it's about technical information.
The english side is mainly managed by Stratojet and, afaik, Jason Williams does not dive into the tech stuff as it's VKB engineers' playground.

You can also try to ask about the technical details and feasibility on the Il-2 russian forums, and of course Eagle Dynamics, SimHQ and r/HOTAS.

I'm don't have the technical skills myself, so I can't help you any further. Afaik any MaRS connector on the circuit board is specifically designed for the MaRS and not compatible with Hall sensors or regular pots (as the digital signal is specifically processed by the NJoy32 controller).
In the past, VKB has sold some sensors and standalone controllers but I think they're not selling them anymore (not enough demand). It doesn't hurt to ask though.

Let us know how it goes!
/// ВКБ Black Mamba MkIII / ВКБ T-Rudder MkII / ВКБ Gladiator / X-55 Rhino throttle / OpenTrack /// UTC +4 ///

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Sokol1 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 22:50

Just 0,02$:

What translate the HAT and buttons press in KG-12 (or Mamba M-5, Warthog grips) for main controller is the Shift Register board - in Warthog grip using is CD4021, in M5, KG12 using another mc, I forget what - why is easy use M5 or Warthog grips with VKB controller.

Some joysticks, e.g. CH instead Shift Register use Diode Matrix (5x4) for this function (1).

Shift Register circuits, who handle 8 buttons per mc, have a nice feature that is allow chain one in another, so can easily increase the buttons number - the limit is the main controller ability for manage buttons, seems Njoy32 is 110(?).

Obviously are physical limitations, one can't fit 10 Shift Register circuits inside a joystick grip. :)

Debolesis in ED forum share PCB layout for easily make DIY CD4021 Shift Register board, with physical size of Warthog one.

http://forums.eagle.ru/showpost.php?p=2 ... stcount=89

Possible issue, this Shift Register interfaces use 5 wires like in Warthog, what require additional circuit interface between this Shift Register and NJoy32 since in Gladiator is used a use a new interface with 3 wires only. Mamba Vintage came with this extra interface card for use Gladiator KG-12 grip.

Opera Resume: Technically viable, in practice... maybe. :)

(1) Njoy32 can handle Diode Matrix too, what make feasible use CH grips in, e.g. Gladiator PRO, the issue became the interface to make this practice. So is need VKB help for this. :)

CH grips have the advantage do don't be heavy as Warthog grip (~1Kg) and his induced inertia/out of balance "collateral effects" and are more affordable. And I have 3 there. :)

In the past, VKB has sold some sensors and standalone controllers but I think they're not selling them anymore (not enough demand


Little demand (e.g. MaRS sensor for Cobra M5 twist) and lack of skill from buyers to assembly/set/use correctly - the guys don't RTFM, only "plug" in any way and expect "play" :) - so they are "burned" with DIY market. :)

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Silh » Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:20

Thanks for the replies guys.

The Gladiator Pro arrived today, and it's the same KG12 grip with 3-wire as far as I can tell. At least that means I'll have a spare if I mess things up. :)

I will have to do some reading about shift registers. As I have mentioned, I don't know much about circuit design, so this could be interesting! I did run into Deblosesis' post already, and figured that with the 3-wire interface I wouldn't be able to translate his design directly.

All that said, I might end up running the custom grip off another board anyways, since I'm considering adding an additional axis or two (analog thumbstick perhaps) to the grip, on top of the base with its nice metal gimbal :)

Next to figure out the actual design of the grip. Good ergonomic design is tough...

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Bourrinopathe » Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:22

Ergonomics can be highly complex indeed. Especially if you want to achieve different functional goals with the same device (which is the case for most of the flight sim controllers). It implies physiology, biomechanics, engineering, and cognitive psychology…

I'm curious about your project. What kind of material would you use for the shape of your custom grip? (I'm not familiar with the different options - I've only seen some grips made of glass fiber, 3D printed plastics, wood, bare metal, and such).
/// ВКБ Black Mamba MkIII / ВКБ T-Rudder MkII / ВКБ Gladiator / X-55 Rhino throttle / OpenTrack /// UTC +4 ///

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Silh » Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:05

I usually use a combination of ABS plastic (plumbing or old computer case panels) and polycarbonate (Lexan) sheet (preferred over ABS or plexi when I want to tap a hole) in combination with body filler or similar material. Lots of grinding with a Dremel and sanding. I've thought about learning fiberglass, which would let me make thinner parts, but just haven't got around to it.

Haven't done much with metal, a small amount of wrought brass work with silver brazing, but can't see any use for that in a project like this. Still telling myself I'll learn how to weld someday... Wood I tend to reserve for bigger projects (furniture). For small parts like this I find the plastics just to be more convenient from a trial-and-error standpoint (especially when trying to figure out ergonomics!). If something isn't quite right, just grind/cut it off, and bond a new piece in there in its place, and you can test a new shape in a matter of minutes. Granted, that doesn't include the hours of sanding that you might need for a truly smooth finish though. :) It's a good choice for a bespoke one-off where you're adjusting things along the way as you're making it, but admittedly not the best choice if say you were putting something into production.

Now 3D printing is something I find quite fascinating, and I've been tempted many a time to buy a 3D printer to add to my equipment, er, I mean toy collection. :) However, 1. I would then have to learn 3D modelling, or at least how to do it better since all I've done so far is a few relatively simple shapes in OpenSCAD (which I sent off to ShapeWays for printing), and 2. I don't reaaaaaaaly have enough fabrication needs to justify the purchase of one at this point. Actually, if I were to splurge, more likely I'd go for one of the LittleMachineShip mini-mills...

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Bourrinopathe » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:04

That's interesting and sounds like a lot of hard work. Thanks for the reply!
Working directly with ABS and plexiglass must be pretty difficult. I already tried some very basic thermo-shaping in the past but I can barely imagine the amount of work required to create a custom grip that way.
3D printing services also seem to be an alternative but I'm afraid, beyond the 3D modelling skills, it might cost an arm.
Depending on the complexity, the fiber glass solution could be very interesting and not that complex (at least, that's how I see it based on some motorcycle experiences ;) ).

Anyway. Please let us know if you start such a project! I'd be very curious to see a modified Gladiator grip.
(I was also considering modifying a Cobra grip for my Black mamba).
Image

Easier drawn than done, right? :mrgreen:
/// ВКБ Black Mamba MkIII / ВКБ T-Rudder MkII / ВКБ Gladiator / X-55 Rhino throttle / OpenTrack /// UTC +4 ///

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Silh » Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:44

It's more tedious than anything. :) I don't do any thermoforming, just cut & glue, fill, and grind, and grind, and grind...

I think I've pretty much decided that I will be using an external board though, since I've set my mind on adding at least another axis.

That said, no point in wasting the existing 7 buttons that can already be used with the existing wiring. Though I would want to repurpose the pinky button as something other than a 'shift' button...

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Sokol1 » Sat Aug 13, 2016 22:04

Bourrinopathe wrote:http://i.imgur.com/mfa9EBM.jpg


Nice concept.

But add that adjustable height palm rest common in Russian grips, or tiltable as in Essex grips.

Imageuploading pictures

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Bourrinopathe » Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:57

Yes, that should be a great feature on any high quality (upcoming) grip :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: (@VKB) (*ouch*, my eye…)

My concept, on the other hand, is just how I'd like to modify my Cobra grip (I could use more buttons). In that case, the grip is already on the small side for my L-glove-sized hand.

I thought about a two-way pinky lever for DCS so I can easily use it for the parking break (pushing the lever) and the momentary-progressive-but-single-button wheel brake (DCS Su-27 and such). A forward push could also be used to engage/disengage the nose wheel steering…
For that lever, a forward momentary button action + a backward (squeezing) axis would be even better, but that's another story.
/// ВКБ Black Mamba MkIII / ВКБ T-Rudder MkII / ВКБ Gladiator / X-55 Rhino throttle / OpenTrack /// UTC +4 ///

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Warpig » Thu Sep 08, 2016 20:59

Bourrinopathe wrote:That's interesting and sounds like a lot of hard work. Thanks for the reply!

Image

Easier drawn than done, right? :mrgreen:

That is the most perfect damn grip I've ever seen. Well.. assuming it has a pinky button behind the pinky trigger.

Please take note VKB!!!!!

SDirickson
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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby SDirickson » Mon Aug 27, 2018 2:01

I've been looking to convert a Suncom stick for use with my Gladiator Mk. II. How does the 3-Pin connection work? Power, Ground and Input?

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby Victorus » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:01

There is custom controller in Gladiator grip. The main controller recognizes it as standalone external device. So 3 wires realize digital interface. You must embed grip controller into Suncom grip to use it with Glad.

SDirickson
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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby SDirickson » Wed Aug 29, 2018 3:34

You must embed grip controller into Suncom grip to use it with Glad.


Is it possible to buy that custom controller from VKB, or get the schematics to build my own? I love my VKB Gunfighter base, I just want to be able to make my own alternate grips for it.

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Re: Building a custom grip for a VKB, adding buttons

Postby AeroGator » Wed Aug 29, 2018 7:19

SDirickson wrote:Is it possible to buy that custom controller from VKB
To begin with, let us know what other controllers and other components you're going to use along with our controller. You may PM me if you don't want to take it out on public. Don't be afraid to get too techy, I will forward your Qs to the engineers if I can'd answer them without help.
But please don't expect quick solution, we're quite busy catching up after vacations.
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