Mech Console Construction

We made the Mech Simulator console!  From its humble pre-visualization beginnings, it is now a reality!

On the far side of this picture we have a yellow and red e-stop button fitted into the console.  This button will be wired directly to the motion base platform, bypassing the Unity3D simulation and all other electronics for a true full-emergency stop.

The three circle buttons (engage, start, shutdown) fit perfectly, but there was one problem.  There were incandescent bulbs in each bulb that ran on 12 volt power.  We didn’t want to create a 12 volt power supply, plus the bulbs weren’t bright, were too hot, wouldn’t last long, etc.  I ended up raiding my personal stash and grabbing three 10mm “ultra-bright” LEDs.  These looked great!  Well, mostly great:

Yeah, there’s a definite hot-spot in the button.  The LED was close the plastic cover and so there was a bright spot in the middle.  Fortunately we are Makers and had several solutions at our disposal.  We went with my favorite… sandblasting!

See that clear LED on the left?  That’s the normal clear bulb.  The one on the right?  The sandblasted one!  We literally took the LED out back and blasted sand at it so the light would diffuse.  The result:

Perfect even lighting in the button.  Awesome!

Next we needed to put the 10″ LCD monitor in the middle.  We 3D printed a border facade for the front, but needed some way to attach the monitor back to the console so that it wouldn’t fall through.  We could have used screws and some bent steel strips, but ultimately went with something more awesome: vacuform a back!  Fortunately we had a spare console front, so I used that as the base for the mold (as well as the monitor itself):

We heated up the vacuform machine, heated the plastic, turned on the suction and:

We had a plastic mold that fit our monitor!  Let’s see how it looks in the console:

It looks great!  And it works great, too!

Our console as a whole was designed to take 30 different pieces to create.  That might not a lot, but it was a real-life giant jigsaw puzzle!  I spent a couple of hours on Sunday meticulously recreating the console at one-tenth scale.  It was invaluable as a reference when putting together the real thing, both as a guide and to reference angles and part numbers (look closely in the following picture and you can see the numbers).  It even revealed a mistake in one of the pieces that we were able to fix with little ado.  Check out the painted console in the background:

There are a few more pieces to this puzzle (decals, wiring, etc.) including the mysterious gray object at the far corner of the above table.  Hint: It’s a custom holder for the Oculus Rift CV1 IR camera that will be mounted to the center of the console.

Stay tuned to see the console up on the platform with the chair and controls in the Mechbay!



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