Sometimes we need components that are particularly suitable to print with a 3D printer. You can think about annunciator boxes, small panels and knobs.
Thingiverse offers a large quantity of 3D printable objects, made by people all over the world. When we do need a component for CockpitConnect, we will search Thingiverse. In some cases the needed component is not available at Thingiverse and we have to make this component by ourselves. To do this, CockpitConnect uses another online tool, called Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a tool to create your own 3D designs in a very simple way.
Visit CockpitConnect on Thingiverse to see the available designs. They are free to use.
To print the components, we use a DIY CTC Anet A8 Prusa I3 clone from a Chinese supplier in Germany. The printer has a price of approximately € 100,- and we did some (mechanical) customization on the rods, bearings and frame.
After importing 3D designs to the software Repetier Host, we can slice (with the CuraEngine) the design to g-code (set of xyz-position instructions to control the printer) and start printing the 3D components!
To build circuits, making circuits boards is one of the things you need to do. We began this by soldering prototype boards ($3.77 for 5 boards), but soldering these boards for your needs can be very hard.
So, to make professional looking BCM boards for CockpitConnect, we design the PCB boards ourselves with EasyEDA. EasyEDA allows you to design a schematic and/or PCB circuit. Schematic designs in EasyEDA are convertible to PCB designs. Completed PCB designs can be exported as Gerber files, which you can upload to JLCPCB, Chinese largest PCB factory. JLCPCB will build your circuit board for a very good price.
The CockpitConnect PCB designs can be found on EasyEDA and are free to use.
For backlighting, acrylic panels (mostly 4mm thick) are cut in the right dimensions and are then painted in the right color. After 2 layers of painting, we use a 500mW laser to engrave the text on the panels.
The laser engraver is following a xyz position path by g-code, like the 3D printer is doing, but without the Z-axis (up and down). To get this g-code, we need to make a design in Adobe Illustrator. Everything in this design needs to be a "path", so if text is used in the design, convert it to a path. All the paths need to have a thickness, otherwise a single line is engraved which is not having the thickness to see enough backlight. To do this, apply the scratch filter on all paths.
When the design is ready to engrave, it need to be exported as SVG (vector) file. The exported SVG file can be imported into Laribo (SVG to g-code converter). Next, the generated g-code can be loaded into Repetier Host to start engraving!
For some CockpitConnect components (mostly panels), we made the Adobe Illustrator designs, which can be downloaded for free. You can find these design files in the sub menu of "Home Cockpit" on the top menu of this website.
Because we use a laser head of just 500mW, the power of the laser is too low to cut through materials. In that case, we can use a CNC mill which will do exact the same as the laser engraver described above. The big difference is the movement of the Z-axis.
Every operation (3D printing or CNC milling), is done in layers with the Z-axis. For CNC milling, the Z-axis level is decreasing every layer (where 3D printing is increasing). For CockpitConnect, we move the layer down by 0.25mm per layer. With acrylic of 4mm, this will be 16 layers.
CNC milling is done with a Dremel 3000, attached to the 3D printer. To achieve this, we designed a mount, free available on Thingiverse: Dremel 3000 and laser mount for 3D printer.