Archive for August, 2006

X45 collectiveectomy part 1

Here is a photojournal of the process I used to modify my Saitek X45 throttle into a helicopter collective. I’m writing this as I go, so don’t be surprised if I undo something later. If you’re reading this after I’ve finished the collective and you’re trying to replicate what I’ve done, make sure you read the whole thing in case I later undo something or decide to do it differently!

Disclaimer: I can’t believe I have to say that, but I bet some litigation-happy numbnuts will try to follow this howto and blow up their computer and blame me. So. This is a hack. A mod. Doing it will void your X45 warranty (duh) and quite possibly cause your X45 to stop working permanently if you bugger it up. I’m making this up as I go, and am taking chances with both the X45 and any computer I plug it into in the future. So if you burn out your motherboard, drill through a finger, solder your nuts to the bench or anything else whilst following this guide, it’s your own damn fault. If you are in any way unclear about that, or in any way mechanically, electrically, intellectually or otherwise incompetent, find some other way to spend your weekend other than following my experiments.

Still with me? OK. First of all, plug it in and check it works. Run the joystick calibration utility and check each button on the throttle (and stick too for good measure). Best to be certain that you started off with a good stick, so if something stops working, you know it’s your fault and can be fixed or undone.

I like to “operate” on a soft white surface like a towel. Soft so that screws etc won’t bounce and roll when they inevitably fall, and white so they can easily be seen.

nurse… screwdriver
x45ce_start (44k image)

The plan is to extend my X45 throttle with a long arm that will both give the throttle a natural helicopter collective action, and accommodate two customised governor throttle rotaries. I plan to use PVC pipe and plumbing connectors as much as possible for ease of workability, but we’ll see how that works out.

Next step is to unscrew the throttle arm housing. There are seven screws, two short and five long. I put them in a ziplock baggie for safekeeping. There’s not much slack in the wires, so be gentle.

not a lot of wiggle room
x45ce_crack (22k image)

You’ll note that a lot of the wires are the same colour. Because I’m going to extend the throttle grip away from the base, I need to cut the wires. So, I sequentially number each wire with folded-over tape and a small piece of paper. I’ll avoid getting them confused that way – and I avoid using 6 and 9 for the same colour wires to avoid any possibility of miswiring a button when I sew her back together. Label one wire, then snip, then move on to the next. Put the tape flags (two identical numbers on the same wire) as widely separated as possible, then cut in the middle.

carefully… snip
x45ce_wiresnip (58k image)

And after 25 wires and 50 labels and a sore back from hunching over it, you will have separated the handle from the base. Neat operation, Dr McDreamy.

oh dear lord, what have I done? no going back now
x45ce_separate (38k image)

update

Not a lot of progress on the pit of late. Too busy with work and stuff.
I have the design all ready for the right console and hope to cut/assemble that this weekend. I’ve also just about figured out how to mount my old X45 as helo controls. I’m still debating whether to carve up the throttle to extend the arm for a realistic action, but I do want to add twin throttles wired to the plasma analogue inputs. The problems associated with creating a throttle arm which is structurally solid enough to support the handgrip and the throttle action, but is also able to be cut for twin throttle movements, plus coaxially mounting dual analog pots inside the throttle arm, is leaning me towards mounting it as-is in a vertical position and tacking the throttle onto the rear.
Still, it would be cool to hack it properly, and I’m getting enough joy out of EECH, and soon Black Shark, to justify putting in the work.
I’ll post a howto whichever way I end up doing the throttle.
In other news, I’m considering creating a commercial aircraft/airport package for FSX when that’s released. I figure that a) I’m an experienced 3DSMAX/GMAX modeller, b) I have real time in the aircraft I want to model and at the airport I want to model (secret for now) and c) people pay real money for FS9/FSX addons. It’s the perfect paid hobby for me. All I need is time, around work, Fighter Ops and family (not necessarily in that order!)

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