3D Print Your Way To A Glass Cockpit Simulator

Today’s commercial aircraft are packed to the elevators with sensors, computers, and miles and miles of wiring. Inside the cockpit you’re more than likely to see banks of LCDs and push buttons than analog gauges. So what’s that mean for the intrepid home simulator builder? Modern problems require modern solutions, and this 3D printed simulator is about as modern as it gets.

Published to Thingiverse by the aptly named [FlightSimMaker], this project consists of a dizzying number of 3D-printed components that combine into a full-featured desktop simulator for the Garmin G1000 avionics system. Everything from the parking brake lever to the push buttons in the display bezels was designed and printed: over 200 individual parts in all. Everything in this X-Plane 11 compatible simulator is controlled by an Arduino Mega 2560 with the SimVim firmware.

To help with connecting dozens of buttons, toggle switches, and rotary encoders to the Arduino, [FlightSimMaker] uses five CD74HC4067 16-channel multiplexers. The display is a 12.1 inch 1024 x 768 LCD panel with integrated driver, and comes in at the second most expensive part of the build behind the rotary encoders. All told, the estimated cost per display is around $250 USD.

Even if you aren’t looking to build yourself a high-tech flight simulator, there’s plenty of ideas and tips here that could be useful for building front panels. We particularly like the technique used for doing 3D-printed lettering: the part is printed in white, spray painted a darker color, and then the paint is sanded off the faces of the letters to reveal the plastic. Even with a standard 0.4 mm nozzle, this results in clean high-contrast labels on the panel with minimal fuss.

Of course, while impressive, these panels are just the beginning. There’s still plenty more work to do if you want to build an immersive simulation experience. Including, in the most extreme cases, buying a Boeing 737 cockpit.

9 thoughts on “3D Print Your Way To A Glass Cockpit Simulator

  1. “the part is printed in white, spray painted a darker color, and then the paint is sanded off the faces of the letters to reveal the plastic”
    This is nice, and the ability to do this may even warrant buying a 3d printer. (eventually)

    1. With a lot of printers, you can just print in the dark color, then trigger a pause, filament change to the lighter color, then resume printing. Much easier way to get the same effect!

      1. Yeah, but if you want it to look professional you’ll need to be priming/sanding/painting the parts anyway. So in that case, swapping the filament colors is actually adding additional steps for no gain.

    2. An alternative approach I often use would be to print the panel in grey, then insert a filament change command at the height of the letters and switch to white. Easy to do and no post-processing required.

  2. The idea of painting and sanding put a smile on my face. It is a brilliant idea. I will use transparent filament and put a backlight behind which can change color. A really cool solution

    1. The transparent filament looks different to the white when looking at under non-lit conditions. Someone else did the following: Transparent filament, then white paint, then black paint. Sand away the black paint to leave white paint which is lit up by the transucent layer.

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