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My MS FFB2 extension project


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#1 milopapa

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 10:14

I’ve started a joystick modding project and since I did a lot of research (with varying success) and got a lot of inspiration from other posts around the net, I thought I’d share my progress here.

My goal: extend the MS FFB2 so I could enjoy the enhanced precision provided by a longer throw. Along the way, I also found that this might be a good opportunity to replace the grip with something that has more buttons.

 

Background:

I needed something that could be easily removed as I have two small kids who can’t be expected to show proper respect to Daddy’s flying equipment – which (for now) lives in the living room until I can get my own room (next year’s project). I’m already using VESA mounts for the CH Throttle which I routinely install and remove on the arms of the chair (with the help of some 3M velcro).

I won’t be needing the built-in twist rudder as I plan on using my namesake’s excellent Crosswind rudder which is expected to arrive in the next two weeks (fingers crossed!).

I found these posts to be really inspiring:

http://forums.eagle....86&postcount=51

http://forum.il2stur...k-2/#entry46228

 

 

My project plan:

  1. Prepare MS FFB2 base
    1. remove original grip (incl cabling and twist rudder)
    2. add carbon tube extension (length TBD)
    3. create hole in base for cabling (see next)
  2. Grip replacement
    1. strip down Thrustmaster F-16 FLCS joystick for grip only
    2. add Teensy board
    3. add mini-USB cable connected to Teensy, lead through the shaft extension and out in the base
    4. install grip on carbon tube
  3. Seat modification
    1. cut away parts of my office chair’s seat to allow enough movement for stick  between my legs
    2. install some sort of shelf to hold joystick base below leg level
  4. (Optional) Motor boost
    1. if needed, figure out how to increase current to FFB motors to compensate for longer leverage

Materials:

I’m planning to keep this thread updated (I've already started on the project plan) and would welcome suggestions and questions as we go along.

 

 


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#2 milopapa

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 10:37

So here is the first step, removing the grip and trying on the carbon extension.

I had to remove the buttom plate to get access to the wiring - I wanted to keep the original grip intact and the only way to do that is to pull it through the shaft.

Attached File  IMGP8109_2.jpg   237.96KB   12 downloads

 

The central 3 screws scared me first - I though they were stripped as a regular philips head wouldn't catch them. Fortunately I found this guide which assured me these were normal heads and all I needed was to experiement with different screwdrivers till I found a fitting one. Basically the grooves are a lot deeper that in a regular phillips head - I eventually just used a trusted old flathead.

You can see the cable strip going into the shaft on the image above - that's the one carrying the signals of the grip buttons, the twist rudder and the IR sensor.

 

Next I tried the tube on:

Attached File  IMGP8110.jpg   94.9KB   9 downloads

It's a bit long as the original tube is 50cm long - I will cut it to a comfortable size once I made a few tests with the new grip.

 

During the disassembly process I came unto an interesting find. The twist rudder's centering force is achieved through a U-shaped spring.

Attached File  IMGP8112_2.jpg   413.47KB   10 downloads

 

By bending and twisting it a little (well, I'm saying little but it took me more than half an hour) I could lessen the centering force which previously made it very difficult to apply small movements in the rudder. Once happy with the result, I took out the spring from this stick (I won't be needing it) and installed it in my backup joystick (which I'll be keeping as a regular MS FFB2 in case I mess up the extension :D). It made a huge difference in my ability to use the twist rudder and I wholeheartedly recommend everyone using the twist rudder in this joystick to give it a try.

Attached File  grip_inside.jpg   130.11KB   9 downloads

 

Next step: modifying my chair.

 


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#3 milopapa

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 10:46

Alright, so I've been busy over the weekend and also finished modding my chair.

Here's where I started:

Attached File  IMGP8116.jpg   175.4KB   5 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8117.jpg   627.92KB   2 downloads

 

Cutting the sitting materials out, preserving the leather:

Attached File  IMGP8119.jpg   639.71KB   1 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8120.jpg   717.78KB   1 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8122.jpg   220.4KB   1 downloads

 

The result:

Attached File  IMGP8123.jpg   271.32KB   3 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8125.jpg   611.35KB   1 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8126.jpg   222.5KB   0 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8127.jpg   399.46KB   2 downloads

 

And here's how it is going to be used (currently by my junior observer officer):

Attached File  IMGP8129.jpg   683.85KB   5 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8130.jpg   159.71KB   2 downloads


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#4 Pirato

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 10:51

Something that could be of interest incase you find the motor beeing too weak with the extension http://forums.eagle....ead.php?t=83814. But I think 1 motor is enough for your project.

 

Great work so far.


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Dann gibt's Heulen und Zähne klammern, für das ganze Lumpenpack.
Dann ist Schluss mit "Tischlein deck' dich", da gibt's "Knüppel aus dem Sack"!


#5 J2_Trupobaw

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 11:41

That's one of things I was always afraid to try - will the motors handle the extra weight?. Can't wait to hear how it worked for you.


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#6 milopapa

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 13:50

That's one of things I was always afraid to try - will the motors handle the extra weight?. Can't wait to hear how it worked for you.

 

Well, I did some preliminary tests (after ousting my observer :) from the seat) and while the centering forces seemed okay, the shaking effect was reduced significantly.

There are two factors contributing this:

1. added weight of the handle - this is probably insignificant in my case as the total weight of the carbon extension is even less than the original grip

2. added leverage - meaning due to the longer arm, larger force is required to achieve the same torque. In other words, I'm able to counter the effects of the force feedback motors much more easily than before, hence I'm able to control the shake without wanting to.

 

The second one is the one I'm worried about.

Unfortunately, apart from the dual stick solution linked above, I only found this for boosting motor output and this guy replaced a bunch of things on top of adding some resistors. Not sure if I can get away with just increasing current.


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#7 Pirato

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 13:57

What about using a shorter extension, let's say you initally wanted it 30cm long without grip,what about "only" 15cm without the grip? You have to consider the throw anyway. More is not always better,you may want it to have a comfortable distance so you don't need to stretch your arm too far.


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Dann gibt's Heulen und Zähne klammern, für das ganze Lumpenpack.
Dann ist Schluss mit "Tischlein deck' dich", da gibt's "Knüppel aus dem Sack"!


#8 milopapa

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 14:04

What about using a shorter extension, let's say you initally wanted it 30cm long without grip,what about "only" 15cm without the grip? You have to consider the throw anyway. More is not always better,you may want it to have a comfortable distance so you don't need to stretch your arm too far.

 

Yes, this is exactly what I will need to experiment with. My initial tests indicate I will need around 20cm extension to make it comfortable. Longer could work but will not be that much better.

I will probably end up trying multiple version - luckily all I need to do is cut the 50cm tube. It could be split for example to a 10cm, 15cm and a 25cm piece and I could go on swapping them on the fly - the connection with the stick (Teensy) is going to be USB-plug based so I could replace them without soldering!

That's going to be the fun part :)

 

I'm currently waiting for these things to arrive:

1. F-16 FLCS grip (next Monday)

2. Teensy board (next Monday)

3 3. MFG Crosswind (maybe next week?)

 


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#9 Plank

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Posted 02 November 2015 - 20:42

Great work!

 

After extending my stick I found that the pitch for some planes was pretty good,

However the roll was way too long and reduced that in the response curves.

 

so I ended up with long throw pitch and medium throw roll.

 

Seems to work with the Camel etc. 

 

Salute!

 

P.


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Captured again!

 


#10 milopapa

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Posted 03 November 2015 - 06:38

I did some more testing last night. It seem the sweet spot will be somewhere between 15-20cm.

 

In the meantime I found this great thread:

http://forums.eagle....ad.php?t=125281

 

This gave me some confidence about simply boosting the current without having to replace a bunch of other components including the motors.

I placed an order for some SMD resistors (RC1206 1R 1Ohm 1/4W 1%) that should do the job. Once they arrive - solder time!  :icon_lol:

 

The biggest difficulty I have at the moment is the suspension for the joystick. I need to figure out how to attach the joystick in a semi-adjustable way that would keep it from moving around... especially when I boost the motor power.

I might need to fabricate something myself...


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#11 milopapa

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Posted 04 November 2015 - 12:41

Alright, since I haven't found anything that would work as the joystick holder, I decided to put it together myself.

Here is the result:

Attached File  IMGP8143.jpg   186.97KB   4 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8150.jpg   375.8KB   2 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8151.jpg   507.28KB   3 downloads

 

Yes, I know the cutting is rough, I was in a hurry to finish it before the kids went to sleep - I might adjust it a little later on. Also, I want to paint the shelf black to make it blend in more. 

I added some sponge to the top part so the fit is pretty snug. Hopefully the base won't move even in the most heated dogfights. I will probably also add something sticky to the bottom - can't use velcro as I will need to remove the stick after every flight. Just something that would allow the base to slide in and out.

 

I'm also not sure about the final position, I will probably move it forward a bit compared to what's shown on the photos.

 

In other news, Milan sent me an invoice for the MFG rudder! Next week is going to be a big week  :icon_e_biggrin:


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#12 milopapa

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 00:12

Tonight I did the resistor mod and it WORKS!!!  :icon_eek:

 

OMG, it's absolutely amazing! The force feedback effects are back in their glorious strength! :icon_mad:  I actually had to reduce the centering effect from 100% to about 70% in Rise of Flight, same as with the unmodified stick. Shaking is now clearly noticable, not to mention the bumping on the ground effect (that was always crazy strong anyway).

This mod makes a world of a difference to the extension, makes it feel exactly like the original. I'm not sure what the longevity effect is but if it last for at least 2 years, I'll be a happy man. :icon_e_salute:

I tested for about 20mins, no noticable heating although I suspect if it's the chips (capacitors, whatever), I won't be able to feel it from the outside. I might add a small fan in the long run.

Highly recommended for extended MS FFB2 sticks. (Btw, all credit goes to this thread.)

 

For the record, I used these:

Attached File  rc.jpg   10.93KB   3 downloads

 

I couldn't believe my eyes when I open the box, they are tiny little f*ckers! Photos did them no justice - they are really small! I was already scared shitless about the soldering (for me soldering is a necessity not a skill), but I did some practice runs on an old HDDs circuitry and managed to figure out the right technique. 

This video also helped a lot:

In the end, the actual soldering took maybe 10 minutes.

 

Here's what the result looks like:

Attached File  IMGP8162_z1.jpg   256.67KB   2 downloads

 

Zooming in:

Attached File  IMGP8162-z2.jpg   495.83KB   2 downloads

 

 

 

 

 


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#13 Plank

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 00:23

Wow.

Result!

 

D.I.Y joysticks rule.

 

Champion!

 

Salute!

 

Plank ( I drink too much coffee to solder SMD's.... Wobbly soldering iron syndrome...)

 

PS. Have you tried low temp solder? ( I am still using my reel of Pb alloy stuff... eek...)


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Captured again!

 


#14 Dr_Romeo_Chair

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 18:06

Nice job! I like the way the stick is mounted to the chair


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#15 milopapa

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 20:32

Nice job! I like the way the stick is mounted to the chair

 

Thanks! I wanted to be able to adjust the tray's height in relation to the seat to achieve a tight fit. The slotted brackets allowed me to do just that. I finetuned it for almost an hour to get the right distance :)


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#16 Dr_Romeo_Chair

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 22:50

You should rig up a motor with cable and pulleys to change the pitch of your seat  :icon_e_smile:  not even sure if the game outputs anything that could be used as an input for such a thing, but it would be a fun idea.


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#17 BrassEm

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 11:41

Excellent work milopapa!

 

Well done with the SMD soldering too! It can go pear shaped real quick. Glad it's all working as it should. Looking forward to seeing the finished result.


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#18 milopapa

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 09:57

Alright, so I got two important components yesterday: the TM F-16 FLCS (for the grip) and the Teensy.

I started out by disassembling the joystick and then the grip itself. Surprise: as opposed to the CH Fighterstick, the handle is chock full of wires and a control PCB so I had trouble finding a home for the Teensy.

I will post pictures later tonight (it was 2am by the time I was done with the soldering) but in the end I got all the buttons and hats working in windows!

 

The buttons on this grip are a bit of a disappointment, though - most of the hats are hard to activate and have a slightly sticky feeling (well, they are really old!) and I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to make them work better.

Should I try contact cleaner? I already sprayed a little bit of compressed air in, that didn't seem to make much difference.

I'm also thinking about getting some spare parts (maybe from CH?) but I haven't been able to locate anything online. Where does one get CH spare parts?


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#19 milopapa

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:50

As promised, sharing some photos of the latest updates to my project :)

 

So here is the original F-16 joystick from Thrustmaster:

Attached File  IMGP8168.jpg   80.61KB   1 downloads

 

The inside of the grip is extremely busy and it took a long time to figure out where to put the Teensy... or more precisely, the Teensy + the mini USB cable going through the handle.

In the end, I put it on top of the exisiting PCB but I had to reroute some of the existing wires to different parts of the grip. Soldering was also a bitch... This was probably the most difficult part of the whole project.

Attached File  IMGP8174.jpg   493.71KB   2 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8178.jpg   560.1KB   2 downloads

 

The two-stage trigger was worn down, I ended up replacing the hard foam for the second stage as a large part of it was missing.

Attached File  IMGP8175.jpg   407.04KB   1 downloads

 

Getting the Teensy to work in Windows was relatively easy (apart from a bug). I need the Arduino IDE (only version 1.6.5 works with Teensy) and the Teensyduino extension.

Then I pasted in this code (credit: NonWonderDog):

Spoiler

 

I had to choose "Serial+Keyboard+Mouse+Joystick" under Tools > USB Type as the one without the Serial wouldn't show any buttons or axis in joy.cpl - this looks like a Windows bug. I also chose 1MHz speed as some reported issues with faster speeds - didn't bother to test.

Uploading the code was a simple matter and the joystick shows up in Game controllers right away. All buttons work (even is some require extensive force due to the age)!

 

So here is what it looks like at the moment:

Attached File  IMGP8180.jpg   507.71KB   1 downloads

Attached File  IMGP8187.jpg   106.39KB   1 downloads

 

After some measurements I decided a 20cm extension will do nicely and then by mistake ended up cutting it to 23cm :) It wasn't so bad but I think 20cm will work better - so this morning I had one more go at it, I just didn't have time to re-assemble the grip. Routing the USB cable through the insides of the base is also difficult - I'll take some photos of that one too while I'll be at it this evening.

 

Over the weekend I also gave the tray a lick of black paint (the chair spent the better part of the weekend out on the porch as the smell was unbearable indoors). It really changed its appearance, almost makes it look like it was part of the chair :)

Attached File  IMGP8191.jpg   384.87KB   1 downloads

 

Overall - I spent some time testing this setup in Il2 Bos and flying with the extended stick is AWESOME:icon_e_biggrin:  I currently don't have a rudder (well, I mapped it to the ministick on the CH Throttle), so it was a bit cumbersome but even like this, it gave me much smoother control than the original, not to mention the immersion effect of having it center mounted. Btw, I'm going to pick my MFG Crosswind directly from the DPD depot today - scheduled for delivery tomorrow, but who can wait for that? :)

 

Summary of impressions:

  • great immersion, controls feel much more natural
  • precise control of pitch and roll
  • abundancy of buttons (even if they are a bit worn)
  • long throw could be toned down a bit by applying some sort of stopper like this
  • very slight throbbing/vibrations can be felt occasionally, might be due to the increased current to the motors - insignificant overall
  • the grip reduced the force feedback further but it's still pretty good
  • two-stage trigger is NICE - I programmed guns to TG1 (leading) and cannons to TG2 (killing)

 

Remaining challenges:

  • shorten extension from 23cm to 20cm
  • find a way to fix extension tube to grip in a semi-permament way (currently I can twist it around with some effort)
  • clamp down the base somehow to the tray to prevent tiny movements when pulling hard on the stick
  • clean/replace some of the hat controls on the grip as they are hard to use due to their age - I've already contacted Thrustmaster support for spare parts, let's see if they can help
  • limit stick throw by putting some sort of a ring on the bottom of the stick - I don't need the full angular movement now that it's extended. See here.
  • sort out the cabling, possibly install a USB hub

 

I'll keep posting updates as I work through this list - hope it serves as inspiration for those wanting to do something similar :)

 


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#20 milopapa

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 15:30

Last night I worked on some of my backlog, here's an update:

 

Remaining challenges:

  • shorten extension from 23cm to 20cm
  • find a way to fix extension tube to grip in a semi-permament way (currently I can twist it around with some effort)
  • clamp down the base somehow to the tray to prevent tiny movements when pulling hard on the stick
  • clean/replace some of the hat controls on the grip as they are hard to use due to their age - I've already contacted Thrustmaster support for spare parts, let's see if they can help
  • limit stick throw by putting some sort of a ring on the bottom of the stick - I don't need the full angular movement now that it's extended. See here.
  • sort out the cabling, possibly install a USB hub

I also took some pictures of the insides.

This is how the grip looks like. I put a screw perpendicular to the shaft to try and keep it from rotating... we'll see how it works.

Attached File  IMGP8200_ann.jpg   290.3KB   4 downloads

 

And this is how the extra USB cable is routed in the base. For the outlet, I simply enlarged the existing one to accommodate an extra cable. It's tight but it works.

Attached File  IMGP8202_ann.jpg   288.81KB   4 downloads

 

I marked the area where I feel some heat after a gaming session. I will need to think about cooling for the long term.

 

In other news, I contacted Thrustmaster about spare parts for the F-16 hats and much to my surprise they replied, trying to identify what I need exactly. We got the part numbers down, so now I'm waiting to see if I can get those to revitalize the hats - they are pretty nasty the way they are. Wish there were more used CH sticks for sale, I love the buttons on my CH Throttle. They feel much nicer than these.

Oh and the big news is, I could finally pick up my rudders from DPD! They've been sitting on them for almost two days after it got into the country so I decided to go and collect them from the depo. They're in my trunk at the moment (I'm still at work) - I'll get to test them in a few hours :)

I used the delivery delay last night to clean up the cable management around my PC, it's pretty neat now. I'm using a powered USB hub for the extra ports needed - although the one I had lying around gets really hot and kept losing the connection, I bought a new one today which will hopefully work nicely.

 


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