Instrument Panel Pt.1

The Fuselage is coming from Germany, so there will be some time to kill.  The first part to arrive was the resin Instrument panel from Thompson Fuselages, created by Airwolf_Crazy from the ScaleRCHelis forum. This resin panel had all the instruments in the right places, and was pretty darn well made.  I started playing with one of those "Pocket Picture Frames" you see online for 15 to 40 bucks. Hmmmm...  I wonder if we can get this darn thing to work as an OPERATIONAL Display?  


The first step is to drill (mill) out the holes for the instruments, displays, and LED's that I plan to populate the panel with.  I have end mills in Metric in .5 mm increments, so it was easy to match up the instrument holes with just a few individual hole sizes.  The X-Y table on the mill allows accurate placement of the mill head before you drill, and the sharp cutting tools make holes in resin cleaner than a laser.


Below, you can see the back side of the upper and lower instrument panels. The back is milled out to accept the display and has relief's for the LED's where the thickness of the resin changes due to surface details.  The hole at the top of the larger panel is to pass wires for the smaller.

Now that the panels are milled, it's time to paint!  I cleaned off the little "dingleberries" left over from the casting process, then airbrushed a base coat of Tamiya dark grey.  Break out the tiny brushes!

Here they are, 90% painted (I did a bit more later).  The screw heads were in the casting, apparently made with Starwood rivet material.  I painted them gold leaf, which was very bright, as I knew that after painting on the screw slots with a teeny-tiny brush, they would lose some visibility.  The two smaller "glass" displays were merged into one, to accommodate the color LCD display.

After painting, it was time to install the LED's in the Upper Instrument Cluster.  To get everything to fit in the chamber I milled in the back, I used a 1970's wiring technique called Wire Wrap.  Basically, you use Kynar insulated 30 gauge wire, and a tool wraps it around the component pin. Very compact.  To further reduce space, I replaced the 5 inline resistors with a SIP (Single-inline-pin) resistor pack- another relic of vintage electronics, but it fits the requirements exactly!  The assembly terminates in a standard servo plug, and can take 4.8 to 6 volts.


Below we have the main panel, ready for it's own embellishment, and the recently completed upper panel.

To create the instruments, I first scanned the back of the panel and created a 1200 DPI reference.  Using Illustrator and Photoshop, I located a high-resolution version of each instrument on the internet, and placed it on the graphic.  Each instrument has a black surround, to prevent "light creep", and the places where the overlay must be cut out for LED's and displays are coded in grey.  The panels are now airbrushed with 2-part automotive clear, to protect the paint, and give me a glossy surface to apply the dry transfers (we will cover that with matte satin later).

To get the needed contrast (something I was not happy about with the Dauphin), I printed one copy on transparency film, the other on ultra white bond.  After registering them EXACTLY, they were laminated together with West System epoxy and a roller:


Here is what the completed laminate looks like when held up to the light.  Sorry, but it is a bit out of focus, my camera wants a bit more distance than I was shooting from. From a 1200 DPI master, the characters on the instruments are actually very crisp and clear.  I will get a better picture after it is mounted and has proper backlighting later.....


I created the lettering in Adobe Illustrator, and sent the file off to Ambient Graphics (now known as Cliff Digital).  As usual, the next morning I had my overnight package with the dry transfers!  Applying them was relatively easy, although the individual letters are only 1 millimeter tall (and that's the capital letters!), After they were applied, I covered them in a coat of Satin Clear (Krylon)



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