Instrument Panel Pt.2

The transparency laminate is carefully glued to the back of the resin panel with Formula 560 glue.  Very strong, it dries clear, and if any seeps into an instrument on the front, it can be cleaned with a damp Q-tip easily.  Once dried, we take a look at what it will look like once backlit.  The 20 white holes are for LED's that will be mounted next.  

The LED's are CA'd into the panel, and again we use wire wrap techniques, this time to take advantage of the small gauge wire.  We need to run the wires from the LED's to power and ground "in between" the cutouts for the gauges.  Otherwise, they will cast a "shadow" from the panel's upcoming backlight.  They Kynar insulation glues easily to the epoxy laminate using CA.



Almost all off-the-shelf LED's have a 15 or 30 degree pattern.  That is, they shine a "spotlight" pattern 15 or 30 degrees wide.  To look at these on-axis is almost painful.   In addition, even careful preparation has left the LED's at slightly different levels of protrusion.  In order to fix both of these issues, we simply mill off the dome of each LED, leaving a consistent height.  This fixes diffusion angle by replacing the bubble top (which was essentially a lens) with a frosted, flat surface.  The end result is minimization of on-axis glare, and maximization of off-axis visibility!

Below you can see the result so far.  The upper and lower panels are both running off a standard BEC, and are terminated with standard servo plugs.  The back of each colored LED is painted with multiple layers of matte black, so the white backlight (next step) does not wash out the colors.


Now we start moving forward.  First the upper Instrument panel is aligned, and affixed to the main with CA and screws from the back side.  Then, we build a light bucket out of balsa.  Small diameter wooden dowels reinforce the long joins, as they are at an angle, as the box is slightly asymmetrical, to match the instrument panel.  The inside is lined with shiny aluminum tape, and 8 Luxeon LED's are mounted equally spaced.  Affixed with servo mount tape for insulation from the aluminum, they are fixed to the back of the unit with standard 15 minute epoxy.  The outside of the light bucket is painted flat black.

The rat's nest of wires from the 8 Luxeon lights gets cleaned up using an insulation displacement connector (remember those 40 pin connectors from your hard disks before SATA??)  This one got cut down to 16 pins, and connects all 8 lights simultaneously.



This is what we started with, small keychain-sized photo frames.  These were purchased from for $14.95 each, and they have a 128 by 128 bit display, run off 4.2V (a little teeny LiPo is inside), and most importantly, automatically page from frame to frame sequentially......  Just like an animated GIF!


So, the next step is to create an animated GIF displaying what we want.  I created this GIF with 14 frames.  We have a target come onto the screen, and when it approaches, it is identified as a MIG 23 (a common Airwolf aggressor at the time). It is then shown to actually be TWO MIG's, separating as they come into range.

The animation shows two missiles being fired at the approaching and diverging targets, with the targets disappearing off the screen as each one is destroyed.


The tiny LiPo is replaced with power leads, and the display is mounted inside the recess machined inside the back of the panel.


Now, we attach the light bucket to the back, apply power... and voila!  Exactly the effect I was looking for.


And here is the finished Instrument panel:



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Professional Photography by Les Bidrawn    |    © 2010