Introduction: Arduino Racing Simulator and Cockpit
In this instructable I will show you how I built a completely arduino controlled VR racing simulator with a powerful force feedback wheel, 6 speed shifter, and aluminum pedal rack. The frame will be constructed out of PVC and MDF. My goal for this project was to produce a racing experience that feels extremely real in VR. I was not concerned about how the simulator looks, only how it feels when the VR goggles are on. I also wanted to make this a budget project, and all materials not including VR goggles cost me less than $350 from a local hardware store and Amazon. Do note that his project is not complete, as this is an ongoing project and I will be updating this Instructable frequently, but I am starting it now as this project is my capstone in my highschool STEM class.
Materials for this project can be easily sourced from online retailers and big box hardware stores. That being said, i will not be providing a full list of pvc components or pvc dimensions, as this simulator was built with a specific car style in mind, and was also built with size constraints to fit in the room I chose to put it in. There are many diffrent things to take into account when designing the frame, such as car style, (GT Car, Drift Car, Time Attack, Formula 1 and other Open Cockpit classes...). For My design I chose to emulate a drift/Time Attack drivers position and layout. Now onto Materials.
Aprox. 40ft of 1.5in pvc
Aprox. 12 1.5in 90 degree pvc elbows
Aprox. 25 1.5in PVC T-fittings
3/4 MDF Sheet
100 pack of #10 Sheet Metal Screws 1in long
100 pack of #10 Wood Screws 1.5in long
75ft of 20awg Solid Core Wire
Arduino Leonardo (1)
10k Ohm Potentiometer (3)
AMT103 Rotary Encoder (1)
BTS7960 43a Motor Controller (1)
12v 30a Power Supply (1)
Standard Limit switches (7)
VEX Robotics 2.5in CIM Motor
VEX Robotics CIMple Gearbox 4.61:1
1/2in Keyed Hub from andymark.com (Product #am-0077a) (1)
3D Printer and Filament (ABS and TPU)
xt60 and xt90 connectors
Heat Shrink Tubing
Steering Wheel with 6x70mm Mounting Pattern
Optional Steering Wheel Quick Release
Bucket Seat and Sliders
Optional 4pt Harnesses
Step 1: Construction of Frame
The frames dimensions are very fluid and depend on a couple different factors. Things to take into account are the seat you choose to build the main frame around, the size of the user to determine pedal distance, where the sim is going to be put, as after it is assembled it is not easy to move, and of course the car style and feel you are looking for. After you have worked out all of these details, the construction process is very similar across different sims. Start with building the rectangle that will house the seat. Note that the steering wheel is mounted at the front of the seat rectangle, and also make sure that there is enough room for the seat to slide through its full range of motion to insure adjustability. Next, cut a rectangle out of 3/4in MDF, as wide as the PVC seat rectangle, and as long as the mounting holes for your seat sliders. From there, you can bolt your seat down and begin measuring how high the steering wheel needs to be, as well as how long the pedal frame must be. Using a triangular construction to connect the end of the pedal rack to the top of the steering wheel mount helps greatly to stiffen the frame. If you choose to install harnesses, you can simply mount bolt the harness ends to the seat rails through their bolt holes. While this would not be safe in an actual car, it is more than enough rigidity for a simulator. The photos above can help you get an understanding of frame design and plan your frame. I did not go into the build with any hard dimensions, as things start to change when you sit in the seat and try to make it comfortable and usable. After your frame has been assembled, insure every joint is secure by giving every fitting a once over with a rubber mallet. Then you can drill pilot holes through every PVC joint and install a #10 Sheet metal screw to hold the PVC together. For most joints one screw is enough, though on the vertical steering wheel mount you may need to install more. Once your frame is together, you can begin electronics installation.
Step 2: Electronics
Installing the encoder is very simple, as the encoder hole is 1/2in and fits perfectly onto the gearbox shaft. The encoder with interface with the arduino Leonardo to tell the computer where the steering wheel is facing. Next, follow the wiring diagram to make all necessary connections. You can either directly solder to the arduino, or use the pin headers. I chose to solder to make sure that no connections accidentally come undone. Next you need to pick an enclosure for your power supply, motor controller, and arduino. I chose to use an ammo can, as they are cheap and easily available, and very durable. I drilled holes in the side and installed rubber grommets to protect the cables from sharp edges. I then ran all of the connections off of the arduino and out the grommet with braided nylon cable sleeve. I also installed xt60 and xt90 connectors about 6 in after the grommet to make replacement and future upgrades easy. After All wiring has been done, you can mount your force feedback motor to the steering wheel mount. To attach the steering wheel to the motor hub you will need to 3D print an adapter. The Solidworks File for the adapter can is linked.The shifter was not my design, after multiple failed attempts I opted to use a popular design on Thingiverse. This can be found with a quick search, and has all the documentation needed to assemble, so I won't bother gong through it here. To mount the shifter, you will need the Shifter mount and Shifter Strap files. The Mount should be printed in ABS while the strap must be printed from flexible TPU. This mount allows you to quickly adjust the shifter, and even swap sides for LHD and RHD cars. As of right now, I have completed up to this point. The next steps are assembly of the pedal rack and box. This will take place soon, and the instructable will be updated to reflect my progress. There are great examples of DIY sim pedals on YouTube, which can be adapted to work with this project easily, but I have decided to build the pedal assembly entirely out of aluminum to increase the realism aspect.
Step 3: Next Steps
After completing the pedal assembly, wiring can be finalized, and then the simulator is ready to use. Remember that this simulator was not designed to be used with a monitor setup, so there are no accommodations to mount any screens. I chose this route because a good set of VR googles are much less expensive than the traditional triple monitor setup, and I believe that the realism of being able to look around the inside of a car in games like Assetto Corsa or Project Cars 2 brings a whole new dimension to the simulator experience.