Build your own motion simulator

Build your own motion simulator DEFAULT

Introduction: Arduino-Pneumatic Flight Simulator

Hello, my name is Dominick Lee. I am a senior in high school who is also a programmer and inventor. I created the  "LifeBeam Flight Simulator" (name of my project) because I wanted to challenge myself and utilize my software and hardware skills. I was able to successfully plan, build, and run my Flight Simulator after a few months of diligent work.

I would like to thank my physics professor, Dr. Bert Pinsky, for helping me make this project successful.
I also want to thank Karl Anderson (CEO of Teco Pneumatics) for his generous donation of essential parts for our project.

In this Instructable, we will show you the steps to building an Arduino-Pneumatic Flight Simulator so that everyone can enjoy the fun of physics, robotics, and aviation.


The LifeBeam Flight Simulator is basically a motion platform that can make full rotations tilting at about 40-degrees. This is an efficient equivalent to the traditional "Stewart platform" simulator. Our simulator has same physical movements (2DOF) except it only runs on two pneumatic cylinders while the Stewart platform needs six cylinders.


The LifeBeam Flight Simulator is a full setup of equipment that runs simultaneously and collaboratively. The data is first sent from the Graphics or "Gaming PC"  through a custom software program that acquires game data. The game data is scaled and converted into specific coordinates for the roll and pitch (X and Y) axis. The program sends out the final signal which is received by an Arduino (Duemilanove). The Arduino has a complex program on it that combines the serial commands and parses certain values to calculate a voltage which is then converted into PWM and sent to a low-pass filter which smoothes the PWM into analog voltage. The analog voltage is connected to a Pneumatic Valve Amplifier which controls the pneumatic cylinders to make the platform move accordingly.


This is a quick demonstration of our finished project. We have everything running and connected the simulator to a Logitech joystick to test the full movement.

Step 1: The PVC Construction

PVC Plans:

Before you can start any construction, you must have a rough idea of the construction of the simulator. We based our simulator off the classic "Joyrider". It is recommended that you purchase the PDF plans for $15 at Acesim.

Our Flight Simulator's main structure is the physical foundation of the project. It consists of a racing seat mounted on a series of schedule-40 PVC pipes. We have layered certain parts of the PVC tubing. All pipers are secured with screws. The PVC structure rests on a large wooden base, which is where the pneumatic cylinders are mounted. My simulator is different from other designs in the aspect that it uses an Arduino to control pneumatic cylinders instead of motors.

Building the Platform:

Once you've acquired and familiarized yourself with all the PVC parts, you can proceed to building the "Joyrider". The only part that you should omit is the "PVC to joystick" base. You should not install the PVC parts that connect the joystick to the seat.

There are certain parts on the plans that may be outdated. For the seat, you can either use a sturdy plastic chair, or an actual racing seat. It is important to firmly mount the seat with nuts and bolts otherwise it will risk falling off. Before you actually mount the seat, make sure your construction is symmetrical and balanced. Once you are finished, you should have a balanced platform that looks like an infant's rocking crib. 

Be sure to drill holes and insert screws in your PVC connectors so that it will not fall apart. We chose to reinforce our setup by inserting galvanized steel pipes into the PVC to prevent them from bending and breaking. Once you are finished, you may build a wooden base to elevate the simulator. The base will be useful for implementing pneumatic cylinders.

Step 2: The Gaming PC

You will need a dedicated high-graphics computer. Be prepared to spend around $200-$600 to build or acquire a gaming computer. The reason you will need a gaming computer is because the Flight Simulator will run several pieces of software at the same time which includes the game and the control software.

I personally chose to build my own high-end computer for this purpose. I built my custom computer with a NZXT Source 210 case, 300-watt power supply, HIS 6770 video card, Realtek soundcard, 8GB RAM, 160GB HDD, and AMD Tri-Athlon processor. This is moderately enough computing power to run my applications with stability.

Although you don't need to have the exact same hardware, I recommend that your computer should be able to meet or exceed these specifications:

-USB 2.0 compatible with 2 or more USB ports
-250 watt or higher power supply
-A decent graphics card with at least 256mb of video memory
-Separate sound card
-At least 4GB of RAM
-A fast HDD with at lease 5GB of free space (for your game)
-AMD Dual-Core 2GHz processor or better
-Windows XP or  Windows 7 (recommended operating system)

When purchasing computer parts, remember to include the mouse, keyboard, and USB extension cable. Also, you will need to connect your computer to both your projector and a spare monitor. Be sure to obtain the correct video cables to make the connection.

Step 3: The Pneumatics System

The pneumatics system is the setup that pushes and pulls the Flight Simulator accordingly. Since pneumatic control is a large topic with virtually limitless information, we are only going to explain the basics of pneumatics. After that, we will discuss the pneumatics specifically used in our project.

A generic air pneumatic system consists of an air compressor, valve(s), pneumatic cylinder(s), amplifier, and feedback module. There are different types of pneumatic cylinders. Pneumatic cylinders can also be called pneumatic actuators.

When choosing a pneumatic actuator, be aware of the bore, stroke, and rod diameter. Also, you want a double acting cylinder. It is recommended to purchase all your pneumatic parts from the same brand so that the tubing and connections will be compatible with each other.

The bore is the overall diameter (measured in inches) of the pneumatic cylinder. The stroke is the length that the cylinder can fully extend. The rod diameter is the measurement (in inches) of the shaft of the cylinder.

We chose to use an air pneumatic system with servo valves because it allows you to precisely control the position of the pneumatic rod. This is different from a regular valve, which just opens and closes.

When using a servo valve, you will also need a servo amplifier. Servo Amplifiers work as a PID controller which calculates an "error" value as the difference between a measured process variable and a desired setpoint. For example, if we had a scale of 1 through 10 and we sent a value of 8, the PID controller would first check the difference between it's current position (through feedback) and then move until there is no more difference between the current position and the setpoint.

Now, this is only a basic explanation of the PID system. If you would like more information, search YouTube for "PID control".

We know the servo amplifier controls the cylinder by sending a precise amount of voltage to the servo valve. With a servo setup, you will need a feedback module such a potentiometer or anything that gives variable feedback of the position of the rod.

Some expensive pneumatic cylinders already have feedback built in. In that case, all you would need to do is to plug in the feedback cable into your servo valve.

However, if your cylinder does not have internal feedback, you must must look at the documentation of your Servo Pneumatic Amplifier to see it's specifications. Once you know the requirements of the feedback property, you must create your own source of feedback by using a variable sensor such as an optical sensor, rotary sensor, or linear potentiometer.

Different sensors have different accuracy. You may want to research for the best sensor that suits your project.

We used two pneumatic cylinders, two servo valves, and two servo amplifiers for our Flight Simulator. This is because we plan to have each cylinder control one DOF or Degree of Freedom. In other words, we built a 2DOF system.

Update: I've gotten many requests from people who would like to buy the pneumatic parts online. Although my firsthand experience with pneumatics was from a generous donation from TECO Pneumatics, I have done my best to find similar parts that may be suitable for the project:

Step 4: Pneumatics Control Box

Now that you are familiar with the basics of pneumatics, we will discuss the specific parts we used in the project.

As we mentioned previously, you need a servo valve amplifier to run a servo valve. We enclosed both our servo valve amplifiers inside a nice acrylic box. We call this the Control System because this box contains not only the amplifiers, but a few other essential circuits that run the simulator.

Our Control System contains a 24v power supply, an Arduino microcontroller, a Low-Pass filter, and two servo valve amplifiers.

Let's explain the purpose of this circuit boards. Knowing that our main goal is to control the pneumatic cylinders, we need to find a way to communicate with the Servo Valve Amplifiers. We chose to use the Arduino as our solution to send signals to the pneumatic actuators. Although Servo Valve Amplifiers may vary from one another, they generally have similar properties.

To control one of our Servo Valve Amplifiers, we needed positive and negative voltages of 12 volts. In other words, if you sent a voltage signal of 0 volts, the pneumatic actuators would extend to their midpoint. If you sent +12 volts, the cylinders would fully extend. If you sent -12 volts, the cylinders would fully retract, and so on.

We now know that we need a positive and negative range of 12 volts. However, that voltage must be Analog voltage in a sine wave.

Because of this reason, we  have two issues that obstruct us from directly using the Arduino with the Servo Valve Amplifier:

Issue #1:  The voltage that Arduino gives out only has a range of 0 to 5 volts.
Issue #2:  The Arduino only gives out Digital PWM voltage, not Analog.

Our solution to this problem was to create a circuit that scaled 0 to 5 volts to -12 to +12. In addition, the circuit needs to function as a Digital to Analog converter. Finally, the circuit needs to be duplicated because we have two Servo Valve Amplifiers.

We started to build a circuit that consisted of a few capacitors and resistors, serving to smooth the PWM voltage. After that, we made numerous tweaks with it, while testing the circuit with an oscilloscope. Once the voltage was stable, we used an IC chip to scale the voltage accordingly. Our circuit can be known as a custom Low-Pass Filter.

Since your model of Servo Valve Amplifier may vary from ours, you should research about the specifications that it needs to run properly.

Connecting to the Arduino

To connect your circuit to the Arduino, you only need to use 3 pins GroundPitch, and Roll.

The Pitch and Roll pins are defined as the two output that are used to control the pneumatic cylinders. You will declare these pins as Analog output in your Arduino programming code. Whatever pins you choose, they must be PWM.

For this purpose, we used Digital pin 9 and Digital pin 10. So we would connect the Low-Pass filter to Ground, Pin 9, and Pin 10. This will be where your 0-5 volts are coming from. Your Arduino is supposed to send the PWM voltages to the circuit you built.

Connecting the (Arduino + Low Pass Filter) to the Servo Valve Amplifier

Scrutinize thoroughly to find the connection terminals that will be taking in your control signal voltage. Observe carefully as you securely connect the grounds of the Low-Pass filters to the grounds of the Servo Valve Amplifiers. Then proceed to connect the voltage wires accordingly.

Connecting the Power Supply

Make sure you obtain a power supply that meets the specifications of your Servo Valve Amplifier. Make sure it has enough amperage and voltage to simultaneously supply voltage to both circuits. Observe the polarity and connect the power wires to both Servo Valve Amplifiers. 

The Low-Pass Filter circuits should either get it's own voltage from the Arduino or from a separate power supply.

Step 5: Pneumatic Cylinders & Feedback

Now that you have the Control System ready to use, the pneumatic cylinders are ready to be mounted. Again, the type of mounting that you need will vary depending on what type/size of cylinder you have. However, your entire setup should be bolted together securely because pneumatics are strong enough to rip apart your construction if not securely mounted.

Being aware that our motion simulator would pivot, we used mounts that freely swiveled and rotated. This prevents breakage or wear-and-tear of the simulator.

We wanted our Flight Simulator to tilt 40-degrees all sides. Through simple trigonometric calculations, we were able to conclude that in order for us to achieve this, we would need approximately an 18" stroke cylinder. Our cylinder had a 1" bore connected to an iron ball-socket joint. The pneumatic cylinders rest on steel hinge platforms which are bolted on the base and the cylinder itself.

As we mentioned earlier, we used a PID control system, which needs a feedback module. We decided to connect a linear potentiometer to our Servo Valve Amplifier. The linear potentiometer is attached to the rod of the pneumatic cylinder so that it tracks the precise location of the rod.

If you decide to use linear potentiometer, be sure to handle them carefully. These components are fragile and can break easily. In fact, a one of ours were broken when we received them in the mail. To reinforce the durability of these sensors, we attached them to a transparent acrylic strip.

Step 6: Pneumatic Valves and Connections

It is essential for you to mount your valves and connections at a stable place. One of the best places to mount them could either be in front or back of your simulator. We bolted our servo valves and pressure equipment to the front of the simulator.

After everything is mounted in place, you may cut appropriate lengths of tubing to connect to your valves and cylinders. Make sure to yield extra length for the tubing because the cylinders are expected to move freely. Label your connections and valves to prevent accidental mismatch. 

Insert the connectors for each servo valve. Attach the other end of those wires to the corresponding terminals on your Servo Valve Amplifier. At this point, it is necessary for you to familiarize yourself with the connections for the Servo ValvesServo Valve Amplifiers, Feedback wires, and the PWM digital pins on your Arduino that control everything on the simulator.

Step 7: Air Compressor

The most essential yet basic need to any pneumatic setup is a pump. You will need to acquire an Air Compressor that can store a few gallons of air for an extended amount of time. 

We used an 8-gallon 130 PSI air compressor with our setup. Although it is not important to buy a powerful compressor, you still want to buy a compressor with a large tank.  Our simulator is able to run efficiently at only 10 PSI. However, it frequently refills itself with air every 10-15 minutes. If your tank is very large, you will not need to refill frequently.

If you are concerned about the price of buying an air compressor, look on eBay for good deals. However, if you are concerned about the reliability of the air compressor, then buy from a retail store such as Home Depot, etc.

Step 8: The Programming

As we mentioned previously, the Arduino is supposed to give 0-5 volts on two Digital PWM pins. I know that we've talked about converting this to ±12 volts, though we will only be focusing on the Arduino's capabilities for now.

You must be familiar with how to use an Arduino before doing this step. Wrong connections or programming mistakes can cause damage to the simulator or risk personal injury. Please understand that the Arduino is not used as a toy in this project.

If you are a beginner with Arduino, I advise you to do simpler projects to increase your knowledge.

The Arduino Code

Open Arduino sketchpad. We need to write a program that does the following things:

1. Accept serial input at 57600 baud (for high data transfer).
2. Parse the signals by byte.
3. Be able to convert voltages (from 0-5v) to the tenth decimal place to analog 255.
4. Do an inverse conversion to reverse the voltage command.
5. Recognize which pin to turn on the PWM signal; 'p' for pitch, and 'r' for roll.
6. Send the PWM signals rapidly and efficiently every millisecond. The less code, the better.

I am providing a basic Arduino code that allows you to manually control the Flight Simulator.  Open the file and look at the first few declarations. You must modify the pitch and roll integers to the corresponding Digital PWM pin that you used.

Once you have looked through the code, compile and upload the code to your Arduino.

Step 9: Testing the Flight Simulator

When you are testing the flight simulator, make sure that everyone is at least 2 feet away from the perimeter. Do not ride on the simulator until you have tested it successfully and confirmed it's reliability.

To test the simulator:

1. Turn on the power to your Control System which powers to Servo Valve Amplifiers.
2. Turn on the Graphics Computer that we mentioned earlier.
3. Connect the tube from the Air compressor to the Simulator.
4. Make sure your Servo Valve wires are connected to the Servo Valve Amplifier.
5. Make sure your Feedback module is connected properly.
6. Plug in your Arduino via USB to the Graphics Computer.
7. Open the Serial Monitor on the Arduino Sketchpad. Select BAUD rate of 57600.
8. To test the pitch, type in commands one by one, such as: p5 or p0 or p2.5
9. To test the roll, type in commands one by one such as: r5 or r0 or r2.5

Tweaking the Simulator:

We have done very much to fine-tune the simulator for it's best performance. Much of this tuning is done by adjusting a few potentiometers on the Servo Valve Amplifier. To fine-tune the pneumatics, you must have a firm understanding on PID control. Adjusting the potentiometers on your Servo Valve Amplifier will help stabilize the speed and sensitivity of the pneumatics.

To control the Flight Simulator with a Joystick:

Using my programming skills in .NET application development, I have spent 3 days making a custom software program that allows you to get the position of a USB joystick using the DirectX API.

What does the software program do?

Basically, my software program does the following things:

1. Acquire position of a USB joystick. It returns large raw values.

2. These values get scaled to a range of 0-5 (for the Arduino), with a two decimal floating point.

3. I wrote an inverse conversion that inverts the scaled values. We need to do the inverse conversion otherwise the simulator will go the opposite way that we wanted it to go. The pneumatic cylinders are moving inwards when 5 volts is given from the Arduino. We actually want the opposite. In other words, we want them outwards when 5 volts is given.

4. The program needs to be able to communicate with the Arduino in the serial COM port at a rate of 57600 baud. I wrote a function that will allow us to connect to the Arduino.

5. The Arduino and the software on the computer will do thousands of "handshakes" every millisecond. These "handshakes" consist of back-and-fourth signals that check for the joystick's position and send commands back to the Arduino.

The code for this is fairly long and complicated, so I will be providing it for people who built their project using the exact same method. Once you have already tested your working simulator, connect your USB joystick and download the program that I provided below.

1. Extract the "zipped folder" and run Joystick.exe
   If you move your joystick around, you should see the data-table in real-time.

2. The "administrative password" for the program is: instructables
    Hit enter key after you type in the password.

3 . Then type in the COM port that your Arduino is located on (e.g.COM4). Hit enter key.

4. Type e and hit enter to enable joystick control. Slowly move the joystick to control the simulator.
    When you want to disable the controls, type in to disable.

Step 10: Games and Accessories

When the simulator is fully working, it's time to add accessories such as a screen and speakers.

We hooked up a DVI cable from the graphics PC to a spare projector. If you prefer getting a 3D projector, then your experience will be vividly enhanced. Also, it is important to hook up decent speakers to your setup. We used a pair of Bose speakers for our setup.

Remember, the greatest flaw in your project is usually caused by the weakest asset.

At this point, you may install and run compatible games on your Graphics Computer. Another popular program that may be used with your Flight Simulator is called X-Sim. This program is used by many people to control homemade simulators, and even professional simulators.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable. Please visit for more information.

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Breaking into the world of auto racing is easy. Step 1: Buy an expensive car. Step 2: Learn how to drive it without crashing. If you’re stuck at step 1, and things aren’t looking great for step 2 either, you might want to consider going with a virtual Porsche or Ferrari and spending your evenings driving virtual laps rather than real ones.

The trouble is, that can get a bit boring after a while, which is what this DIY motion simulator platform is meant to address. In a long series of posts with a load of build details, [pmvcda] goes through what he’s come up with so far on this work in progress. He’s building a Stewart platform, of the type we’ve seen before but on a much grander scale. This one will be large enough to hold a race car cockpit mockup, which explains the welded aluminum frame. We were most interested in the six custom-made linear actuators, though. Aluminum extrusions form the frame holding BLDC motor, and guide the nut of a long ball screw. There are a bunch of 3D-printed parts in the actuators, each of which is anchored to the frame and to the platform by simple universal joints. The actuators are a little on the loud side, but they’re fast and powerful, and they’ve got a great industrial look.

If car racing is not your thing and you’d rather build a full-motion flight simulator, here’s one that also uses DIY actuators.

Thanks to tips line regular [baldpower] for this one.

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A Full Motion Home Simulator

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Flying a small Cessna 172 on a short trip in Southern California, I experienced a radical stall after encountering unexpected wind shear conditions on approach to Riverside airport.

The little Cessna pitched hard to the left side literally throwing me up against the door.

As I struggled to back off power and neutralize controls, I realized I didn't have the altitude to recover from the impending spin.

Despite it's normally docile nature, the 172 pitched violently nose down to the ground, and with my hand clenching the yoke and my knuckles turning white, we impacted the ground head-on at nearly 120 knots.

Fortunately for me, the entire crash happened in my garage in my own home-built, full motion flight simulator I called the "Virtual Flyer."

Of all the electronic projects I’ve been lucky enough to build over the years, I don’t think anything has been as exciting as owning a machine that literally picks you up off the ground and immerses your senses fully in another world. Not to mention, a world in which you can fly!

The first version of my Flyer (discussed here) was built almost 15 years ago. Since that time, phenomenal new applications in software and hardware have emerged.

With wonderful programs like Google Earth, it is now possible to do what even the most advanced military computers could not do just a short time ago: allow you to fly in real time with real satellite photo images and weather anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice!

In writing this article, I want to talk a little bit about the adventures of the Virtual Flyer, its creation, and motion simulator theory. I also want to discuss how you can get started building incredibly strong motion simulations just like I did.

Note: This article is not meant to be a precise step by step, bolt by bolt description of one simulator (which would be impractical short of a book length effort), but will give you a highly detailed overview of all the basic systems you will need to create your own flying simulator easily. In addition, I’m making all software open source and downloadable, and will provide videos of the machine to simplify your construction, as well.

Working on a full motion simulator will require some mechanical work, electronic work, and even a little programming, but surprisingly, it’s not a great deal more difficult than many other Nut & Volts projects. I’m confident that the first time you step into your flying machine and leave reality for cyberspace, you’ll agree it is worth the effort!

Don’t forget, when your simulator is complete, you’ll find me waiting for you on the Internet in a green cyberspace field somewhere, guns loaded and ready for combat — simulator to simulator.

Of course, you know where you’ll be seeing me first ... in your rear window!

This is an example of a simulator I built that uses virtual reality goggles. No cabin is required.

Virtual Reality Waits for No One

Fifteen years is an eternity in computer years.

Both the hardware and software described in this project have been greatly surpassed by newer computers and interfaces.

I’m certain you will have many ideas for how these can be updated, and I’ll be including tips and tricks regarding simulation to help you do so.

That said, despite the older tech, the simulator itself is still flying beautifully after all this time (having given over 40,000 rides at air shows and events). Should you choose to use the same hardware/software, you’ll find yourself up and running in no time.

The Illusion of Flight/Simulator Theory

In designing your own simulator, it’s very important to understand how we perceive motion and our surroundings. Many aspects of making a good flying simulation are surprisingly counter-intuitive!

The first thing to take into account is how we as human beings sense motion. Our strongest sense of motion comes not from our inner ear, but from our visual senses.

If you were to stand in front of a movie screen staring straight ahead with no other visual cues and a flying scene was projected, most people will become so disoriented that without a handrail they will be unable to stand. However, if you were standing while watching the same scene on a TV, you would have no difficulty at all. This is because while the TV screen is projecting the same motion, your visual field isn’t filled by that motion. Plus, you see other visual cues around it that aren’t moving, so you are able to keep your balance.

For this reason, any simulator that does not fully enclose your vision will NEVER capture the feeling of flight ... not even to a small degree! While it may be fun to rock around in a moving chair, your brain will lock on to stable visual cues and all feeling of real flight will be lost.

So, the first rule of an immersive VR experience is: You must fully enclose your cabin or block all outside visual cues with virtual reality goggles (or the like).

The good news is we can also exploit this quirk of our own visual dominance to both simplify our simulator design and to radically increase the sensations in our ride. For example, most commercial simulator’s range of motion is limited to only six degrees of motion. Yet, the riders inside feel as if they are moving as much as 360 degrees!

The reason for this is that the motion base only needs to provide a few moments of acceleration in any given direction. Then, the video the rider is watching takes over to make them feel as if the motion is continuing.

The effect is very striking, and I have had riders who were absolutely certain they had done a full loop in a simulator which actually only moved a few degrees.

Next, ideally, your simulator’s cabin should be designed to move in conjunction with what is happening in your screen imagery. Motion should not be tied simply to joystick control as many simpler video games have done in the past. Locking motion to screen movements mimics how things feel in a real airplane, for example. Changes in thrust, rudder, and ailerons bring about unique attitudes in the airplane that are not dictated by stick position only.

Consider making a 360 degree turn in your car at 5 MPH mph or at 25 MPH. Though the wheel may be held in the same position, the forces you would feel would be entirely different at those two speeds. This is why simulator designers think in terms of accelerations and not movement or platform angles.

Another important reason to make certain that screen and platform motions are in sync is that most pilots will become nauseated within minutes when screen and platform are out of sync. It’s possible in a closed-loop system to throw the screen and platform out of sync intentionally, however.

This always struck me as a possibly useful way to induce spatial disorientation and/or test anti-nausea protocols.

It’s also a great way to make friends sick.

A Quick Warning

Before we go into the nuts and bolts of this build, I wanted to offer a quick and gentle warning.

Even though a simulator is a ground-based machine, the forces at work are still quite significant. Pistons, electric actuators, and even hydraulics often exert thousands of pounds in force on single points.

In early tests of the larger simulator, a broken weld nearly caused an eight foot plunge into metal scaffolding on a test “flight” I made.

After scrambling free, I had to laugh since I assumed I could tell the story of being the only guy who nearly was killed in a simulator crash! However, whenever I’ve told this story to simulator enthusiasts, they’ve been quick to offer their stories along the same lines. It almost seems the rule rather than the exception.

So, be careful in your design and testing, and treat this like a real vehicle, which it is — even if most of the motion is in our minds!

Deciding on an Actuator

There are three basic ways that most simulators are moved. These are with cylinders (hydraulic or pneumatic), servo/electronic, or manual weight shift operation. All of these have pros and cons.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick with a pneumatic system as this is robust, relatively inexpensive, and something I’ve loved designing with for years. Since the electronics to be described represent a full closed-loop system, they should lend themselves to any actuator you choose to employ. So, feel free to use your favorite.

One advantage of pneumatics in flight simulation is that you are essentially riding on air shock absorbers. This means your flights will be glass smooth with no mechanical sounds or vibrations.

Each axis on which your simulator can move is referred to as a DOF (degree of freedom). The simulator in this article requires two air cylinders, and is therefore a  two DOF simulator (pitch axis and roll axis).

Once again, you are not limited to two DOF. Feel free to add rotational or even vertical acceleration actuators in your designs.

Figure 1 shows the simple hookup that will be used for each cylinder. Air from your compressor tank travels through a regulator to a 24V solenoid two-way valve. When this valve is opened, your cylinder will extend.


A second valve is connected to the system using a T fitting, and functions as an exhaust valve. When this valve is opened, the cylinder will retract. (The output from this valve can be connected to a muffler or long hose if you would like silent operation.)

Connected to the cylinder port is a needle valve for air flow control. This valve is important since it will determine the top speed with which your simulator will move, and prevent the air cylinder from extending too rapidly. (A wild ride is a good thing, but being thrown out of your seat is usually not ideal.)

Though I definitely recommend using all quality parts, I can’t resist mentioning that one builder used ordinary sprinkler valves for air valves and home-made PVC cylinders to move his project, and it worked! So, it’s even possible to build scrap box versions of this project.

Note: The simulator shown here used two cylinders for each axis. This was strictly because I happened to have smaller cylinders on hand when I built it. It is actually only necessary to use one cylinder for each axis by using a larger bore version.

In selecting your cylinder bore and stroke, determine the size you need based on your weight and your compressor’s PSI rating. Cylinder force and PSI info will be available from the particular manufacturer.

Building the Cabin

Figures 2 and 3 show the first successful and easily built prototype which flew for many years.



The design was intended to look like an “alien craft” for some air shows we did, but this cabin design looks just as great for a home simulator if simply painted black. The door is a simple curtain that was left off for the photograph to give a sense of size and rider position. Figure 4 shows the inside layout with video screen, joystick, seat, and rudder pedals.


When I built this version, a 15” flat screen LCD was still expensive, but these days a much larger video screen and even multiple monitors for side views is possible. Cabin construction is incredibly light weight, inexpensive, and simple. The floor is made from 1/2” plywood, and the walls and ceiling are made from 1/8” 4’ x 8’ tempered hardboard.

Hardboard is available from all major lumber stores for about $9 a sheet, and bends easily into many shapes.

By gluing small wood blocks at all corners and along seams as needed, the your cabin’s hardboard panels can literally screw together. All seams are then reinforced, and gaps are filled using a simple construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails™. This design withstood many years on the road, and worked perfectly for riders up to 220 pounds.

If you’re not into carpentry, no problem! Figure 5 shows an even simpler cabin made using standard PVC pipe and fittings. By simply covering such a PVC frame with fabric or any other thin material, a very simple “hood” can be made for quick experimenting.


Ultimately, your cabin should be designed to fit your needs.

Mounting to a Pedestal

For this particular simulator, I chose a pedestal mounting system (Figure 6). This is nothing more than a scrap automotive universal joint (as you might find on a drive shaft) from a junkyard. Usually, these cost little or nothing.


I hired a local welder for a few dollars to cut and weld this shaft to a large metal plate. Looking again at Figure 2, note that the pedestal is not centered under the cabin. It should be mounted so that it is far enough back on the cabin that some weight will always be on the front pitch cylinder. By keeping the cylinder under constant load, you will always have control of your platform’s position.

The same is true for your side roll axis. As seen in Figure 7, the pedestal mounts slightly behind and aft of the rider and simulator’s center of gravity to keep both the pitch and roll cylinders under constant load. You will also notice in the photo that I had two chains and springs attached to keep an additional load on each cylinder at all angles.


You may or may not find this necessary, but since I wanted a wild ride, I added the springs so that the tilt of the cabin would be as rapid and wide as possible on the return stroke of each cylinder.

The Electronics

Thanks to Weeder Technologies — whose ads I found in Nuts & Volts years ago — electronic connection of the original simulator to the computer was extremely simple. Let’s briefly talk about what the electronics do.

The Virtual Flyer is a complete closed-loop system, which is to say that the computer running the simulation monitors the exact position of the simulator platform and adjusts that position to match events on the screen approximately 20 times each second.

In order to accomplish this, your computer simply needs an input/output module capable of opening and closing the four air valves that move the simulator. It also needs to read the position of the platform via two feedback potentiometers.

Figure 6 shows the two feedback potentiometers on the base of the simulator. Attached to each potentiometer is a heavy armature and a length of chain that attaches to the base of the cabin.

One chain is attached to register pitch movement and one is to detect roll position. As the cabin moves, the chains raise and lower the potentiometer arms and the values are captured by the computer. These days, many modules exist that are capable of performing both functions and connecting via USB or other simple means to your computer.

In addition, many terrific microcontrollers could probably do the whole job without burdening the computer at all. So, you are not necessarily tied to the Weeder control boards I used (though the software I wrote would have to be modified for your board of choice). This is a key place where you may enjoy modernizing the design.

For the original Flyer, I used Weeder Tech’s Digital I/O Module (WTDIO-M) to operate the solenoid valves, and Weeder Tech’s analog input module to read the values from the two potentiometers.

Figure 8 shows the entire circuit board connected. As you can see, electronic control for the simulator is simply two Weeder boards and a set of IFR 540 MOSFETS which handle the load when opening and closing the four air valves.


Figure 9 shows how the IFR 540s and potentiometers are connected between the Weeder board and the air valves. (Each of the pitch and roll connections are connected to the same IFR 540 circuit shown for pitch 1.)



Three pieces of software are needed for your simulator to fly:

  • The software that controls the platform.
  • Software that reads (and sends) screen position data from the game to the control software.
  • A flight simulator program such as Microsoft Flight Simulator or Combat Simulator to fly with.

In operation, you will start the platform control and screen reading software in the background, then load the video game and off you go. As mentioned before, the design of this simulator is more than 15 years old and that fact shows up in the software most of all. Currently, the simulator software that I wrote is only proven to work with software from that time.

Both Microsoft Flight Simulator (through 2002) and Combat Flight Simulator from the same years work great, and are easily obtainable on eBay and elsewhere. They are still excellent programs even by today’s standards. In addition, the preferred platform for running this software is Windows 98.

So, an inexpensive older computer could be used as a dedicated flight simulator computer, or a modern computer can be set up to “dual boot” to Windows 98.

Of course, it might also be possible to use a compatibility mode in Windows to run older software. I have not tested this, and my experience with compatibility modes has been pretty poor.

Time to Take Off

I hope this article has whet your urge to take on a project like this. It really is a thrill to have your own F-16, ehem, I mean simulated F-16 waiting right in the next room for you at any time.

There is a burgeoning home simulator community to be found on the Internet with many extraordinary tips, ideas, and methods for maximizing the experience.

I’ll put together extensive downloads and videos showing all the inner workings close up, and provide links to many other sources of home simulator materials at

Let’s get building!  NV

Parts List (of sorts)

(4) 1K 1/2 watt resistor
(4) 10K 1/2 watt resistor
(2) 2.5K potentiometers (highest quality possible)
(4) IRF540 MOSFETs
7805 voltage regulator (to provide 5V current to feedback potentiometers)
24V DC power supply (select amp rating to suit your chosen solenoid valves)
Weeder Technologies digital I/O module WTDIO-M
Weeder Technologies analog input module WTADC-M

Note:  My Virtual Flyer's Weeder boards connected to the computer's serial port.

If your computer lacks a serial port, a USB to serial adapter cable has been tested with the Virtual Flyer and will work.

I do not have experience with newer USB based boards or if they can be accessed from Quick Basic.

(4) 24V solenoid valves (ideally 1/4" 150 PSI or higher)
Note: Larger air cylinders can run at lower pressures, so lower PSI air valves than previously mentioned can also work in that instance.

Parts Sources:

An extraordinary, inexpensive source for surplus solenoid valves and cylinders is

For hoses and fittings including cylinder flow controls (needle valves), go to

Clippard's components are the highest quality.

I strongly recommend Clippard's needle valves such as  the MNV-3P to serve as your cylinder flow controls.

Both the platform control software and the screen position software are available for download at

The original software was written by me in Basic and is therefore extremely easy to read and modify. I’m also putting up on the web page for your perusal all my original heavily commented source code and an explanation of how the code works. This should make it easy to rewrite or use the older source code as a jumping off point for connecting to your current favorite software.

Super Cheap DIY Motion Simulator - Test #1

DIY Motion Simulator


What’s this about? 😉

As you may have seen from some of my other posts on this blog, motorsports and cars in general are one of my passions. I try to attend at least couple track days in a season, and enjoy circuit racing greatly. However, costs can add up quickly, and living in Seattle leaves us with a lot of rainy days through fall/winter/spring, somewhat limiting the time window for optimal conditions on the track. Although racing in rain as an art in itself… 😉

With the quality of current simulations – mostly on PC, but I’m by no means bashing on console offerings, as I’ve put my share of hours into both Gran Turismo and Forza, and had a great time while at it – building a rig dedicated to sim racing is a very tempting option. If available space, free time, and financial situation permits.

Getting a rig is one thing, adding motion on top of that is generally a really expensive option. Luckily, there have been great developments in open source designs for actuators great for such application. I researched the most popular one (SFX-100), and decided to build it.

Keep on reading below and join me on this journey!

I’m hoping this series of articles could serve as a comprehensive build log, answer many common questions, call out interesting alternatives and decisions to be made in the process, and make it all seem less daunting. It’s a great project to take on, and while at times may seem a bit challenging, there isn’t anything that complicated to hamper the progress for more than few minutes. And the end result is certainly worth it.


Showcase of the completed project

Before I ask you to invest some time into reviewing the contents of this article, what better way to convince you than show the final result?



Here’s a video of the completed project!


For more, visit my YouTube channel – you’ll find various videos I took while working on this project, as well as videos from my other projects.

And here are couple quick captures I took as early tests:

  • Test in rally cars – highlights the motion range and rapid response

  • Test in a GT car, shows the details that can be felt even if the range of motion is not as large

Both those videos were taken before the build was complete, which is why there’s a single monitor on a desk in the middle of the room. I just couldn’t wait to give it a go! 😉



Here’s a selection of few photos, showing various milestones from the build, and serving as a sneak peek of what’s to come from the following articles!


The “SFX-100” project

This cool name describes the open source design of the 4 linear actuators. It makes use of 4 strong yet reasonably priced servo motors, various fairly easily available components, some less-commonly produced ones (custom extrusions available from 2 companies worldwide) and custom designed 3D printed parts.

When put together and attached to your rig… it made me fall in love with sim racing even more 🙂 Now I really understand the importance of “laser scanned” tracks. Racing without motion now feels incomplete.

Here’s the official site of the project:

You’ll find lots of great resources there. Big thank you to Saxxon, RowanHick, HoiHman and many others who contributed to this project. Without their work, motion would still be out of reach for a lot of us sim racers!
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Official parts list for the build of SFX-100 actuators is available here:

A great reference for sourcing parts in the US has been posted on the RaceDepartment forums:

For all that and everything else I used, please see below – I’m hoping to collect a comprehensive list of everything needed to create same rig from scratch. I’ll be leaving out only things like PC configuration and the sim racing hardware (steering wheel base, wheels, pedals, shifters, handbrakes, button boxes, etc.).


ProductPricePurchase linkDescription
SFX-100 – parts from KinetikTotal cost: $265 (with shipping)
Note: the prices itemized below do not include shipping.
 Profile K50 (N10) $100
(4x $25)
Buy from KinetikProduct number: H950N1010z, 250mm length.
 Reducing sleeves $27
(32x $0.85)
Buy from KinetikProduct number: H92RH10M8
I recommend picking up couple spare ones just in case.
 T-nuts K50 (N10) $10
(16x $0.60)
Buy from KinetikProduct number: H93NF45M8.
Be sure to pick T-nuts appropriate to the profile size directly from Kinetik, to save some headache trying to find matching ones later on.
SFX-100 – parts from Bolt DepotTotal cost: $100 (with shipping)
the quantities indicate required counts. I recommend picking few extra of each (except for the bagged items which already include more than needed).
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 4mm x 0.7mm x 25mm $2
(16x $0.12)
#6399Required count: 16
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 5mm x 0.8mm x 20mm $4
(24x $0.15)
#6410Required count: 24
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 6mm x 1.0mm x 25mm 4$
(16x $0.23)
#6420Required count: 16
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 6mm x 1.0mm x 90mm $12
(16x $0.79)
#6459Required count: 16
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 8mm x 1.25mm x 16mm $15#6433Bag of 50
Metric socket cap, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 8mm x 1.25mm x 40mm $26#6438Bag of 50
Metric flat washers, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 6mm $3#4516Bag of 100
Metric flat washers, Stainless steel 18-8 (A-2), 8mm $4#4518Bag of 100
SFX-100 – parts from AliExpressTotal cost: $1,475 (with shipping)
the prices itemized below do not include shipping from AliExpress, as those costs can vary greatly.
Ball screw, 1605, 250mm $80
(4x $20)
Buy on AliExpress
Motors with controllers
(4x $200)
Buy on AliExpressChoose option B if you’re planning to replace the cables with shielded ones. I went with option A as it provides a bit cleaner look.
Fixed bearing FK12 $32
(4x $8)
Buy on AliExpress
Linear bearing LMEK30UU $36
(2x $18)
Buy on AliExpressSold in pack of 2. But 2 packs, as we need 4 total.
Shaft coupling, 10×16 $28
(4x $7)
Buy on AliExpress
Hollow shaft $85Buy on AliExpressAlready sold in a pack of 4.
Rig and monitor stand – parts from Sim-LabTotal cost: $1,150 + ~$350 shipping
 P1-X chassis $650Buy – Sim-LabI purchased wheeldeck version. Black anodized.
 Keyboard tray $65Buy – Sim-Lab
 Mousepad $18Buy – Sim-Lab
 Seat slider $36Buy – Sim-Lab
 Extra mounting point, large $54Buy – Sim-LabNote that P1-X already comes with mounting point. I ordered the additional one for extra profiles (and used it to make a trolley to move the assembled rig when needed 😉 ).
 Caster wheels $16Buy – Sim-Lab
 Triple monitor mount (heavy) $280Buy – Sim-Lab100mm/200mm version, to support 32: monitors. Black anodized.
 Cup holder $11Buy – Sim-Lab
 Headphones holder $8.50Buy – Sim-Lab
 Joint, 40mm slot 8 $11Buy – Sim-Lab
Fabricating PCB $57
(for 3 boards)
OSHPark.comDownload Gerber or Eagle files from Pyronious’ repository, then submit them for fabrication. Depending where you get them made, if you have to order e.g. in a batch of 3, you can always sell the remaining 2 and recoup some costs.
6U Server cabinet $105Buy on AmazonI chose the one with glass window. The controllers don’t generate much heat, and I wanted to avoid dust inside.
5U server mounting plate $25Buy on AmazonPerfect height for the motor controllers to be installed side-by-side in vertical orientation. Fits into 6U cabinet leaving sufficient room for easy wire routing.
Power cord $8Buy on AmazonUsed for daisy-chaining the motor controllers. I purchased 10ft, which left me with sufficient length after cutting the pieces for daisy chaining to attach to the first controller.
Casters for server cabinet $20Buy on AmazonIf you choose different cabinet, it may come with casters. Optional, but makes moving the cabinet easier, and allows for tucking in some extra cables underneath so they’re out of sight.
Arduino Leonardo $20Buy on AmazonMake sure to purchase Leonardo specifically. SFX-100 doesn’t work with Arduino Uno. Don’t worry about power supply – it will be powered from PCs USB port.
Edge protection strip $28Buy on AmazonUsed to wrap around the edges of the server cabinet, to ensure that the wires won’t be damaged on the sharp edges of the wire openings. I had some left-over from previous project, but those can be handy.
3D printer vary (various sources)Optional – purchase if you’re planning on printing the parts yourself, and don’t have a printer already, clearly 😉
Filament (PLA) $92
(4x $23)
Buy on AmazonAgain, only if printing the parts by yourself. I’m a big fan of Hatchbox filament and have used it extensively. You’ll need 3 or 4 rolls to print the complete set of parts.
Extra corner brackets (8020) $48
($12 x 4)
Buy on AmazonUsed to attach the actuators to the rig. Each pack has 8, I recommend grabbing at least 4 packs to have some extras. We use those to attach actuators to the rig.
Ratchet lever M8 $16
(2x $8)
Buy on AmazonFor easy adjustability of the wheel column, if you’re going to be sharing the rig with others. Make sure to purchase M8 x 20mm, or M8 x 32mm. We need 4 of them total, thus buy 2x 2-pack.
Grease gun $12Buy on AmazonComes with a cartridge with grease. Used to lubricate ball screws.
Grease fittings $5Buy on AmazonFitting are to be left attached to the ball screws when assembling. Pack of 10.
 8-32 hex nuts $9Buy on AmazonUsed to attach motor controllers to the 5U plate. Pack of 100.
 8-32 x 3/4″ screws $9Buy on AmazonUsed to attach motor controllers to the 5U plate. Pack of 100. 1/2″ length works as well.
Monitor x3 $900
(3x $300)
Buy on AmazonMonitors for triple setup. AOC 32″, 1440p, 144Hz. Good quality and value.
Display Port cables (longer) $39
($17 + $21 + $21)
 Buy on Amazon:
– 1x 10ft
– 2x 13ft
I purchased 1x 10ft long and 2x 13 ft long. Use shortest for center monitor. This way their lengths meet at the PC and allow for easy cable management.
Cable management sleeves $36
($13 + $14 + $9)
 Buy on Amazon:
– small
– large
– 10mm spiral
I purchased those 3 sizes and they worked great for organizing all cables (motor power + data from the rig using combination of small and large size, then spiral for USB cables for wheel, shifter, etc., as well as spiral for all DisplayPort. I also used spiral to reinforce motor cables when routing them across the rig. And with any left-overs, you can clean up remaining cables in the house 😉
8020 cable tie mounting blocks $35Buy on AmazonPack of 25. Makes wire routing a breeze, but can be a bit tricky to attach to the rig (tight fit, I used a spanner).
Zip ties $13Buy on AmazonI suggest getting black ones if your rig is anodized black. Comes in a pack with various length ties, good for multiple things.
 Velcro cable ties, 50-pack $13Buy on Amazon For cable management. Re-usable and easy to make changes, since they’re velcro.
Power strips $25Buy on AmazonI recommend installing one on the back of monitor stand for clean wire management. Plus one on the ground for PC, wheel, speakers, etc. Pack of 2.
Ferrite rings, assortment $20Buy on AmazonTo be added to motor data cables, as well as all USB cables in vicinity. Helps deal with EMI produced by the motor controllers. If you’re randomly losing connection to your USB devices – you need it.
Speakers ~$100 (various options)I had an extra set of 2-channel speakers which I used for the rig.
Electrical crimp connectors $18Buy on AmazonUsed to crimp onto the power wires when daisy-chaining power to the motor controllers.
Wire stripping tool $22Buy on AmazonHelpful in stripping wires before crimping.
Mouse $50Buy on AmazonI’ve been using this mouse before, so decided to pick another one of those for the rig. Long battery life.
Keyboard $60Buy on AmazonThis is the keyboard I’m using. Wireless, backlit (handy when I’m in the rig with lights off), long battery life.
Mouse pads $7Buy on AmazonClassic Steelseries mousepad.
Elgato Stream Deck $130Buy on AmazonI picked the 15-button version. It allows for creating folders, thus this number of keys seemed optimal. Makes for a very modern-looking and easy to configure button box (you set icons to be displayed on buttons, instead of having to print stickers, very easily customizable per game).
Racing harness $43Buy on AmazonHaving harness when racing with motion adds to the overall experience 🙂
2-conductor wire for emergency stop switch $9Buy on AmazonThis is an example wire that I used. Any 2-conductor wire will work. I recommend around 15 feet for flexibility in mounting and routing the wire on the rig.
Racing seat $250Buy on AmazonI like Sparco, so I went with the Sparco R100 seat. It reclines, for extra comfort 😉
Seat slider $80Buy on AmazonOptional, but a great addition – allows for easily changing the position to accommodate different heights. A must-have if you’re planning to demo the rig to others or share it with someone of a different height.
DB25 connectors for soldering $3
(4x $0.75)
Buy from Phoenix EnterprisesProduct number: HWS5190
Notice that the version for soldering onto PCB is different than the one to solder wires to. If you get the wrong one, it won’t fit onto PCB (slightly different pitch).
DB25 wires for controllers $14
(4x $3.25)
Buy on Monoprice3 ft length is optimal, we just need enough to connect controllers to the Arduino shield.
Emergency stop switch $9Buy on AmazonJust in case, for peace of mind 🙂
Rubber floor feet $5Buy on AmazonTo protect the floors and quiet down some of the thumps during more aggressive motion.
O-rings $13Buy on AmazonUsed as a bump stop in the actuator.
Dry PTFE lube $5Buy on AmazonUsed to lubricate the sliders.
USB hub $17Buy on AmazonHandy especially if you want to use the same beefy gaming PC for rig and another location (I do that sometimes). This way you minimize the number of things to plug in, by routing them through powered USB hub. It’s important that it’s has external power source.
Thanos controller $280Buy on TindieOptional – not part of the official SFX-100 project. Provides additional configuration options as well as support by Simtools (SFX-100 works with SimFeedback).
 USB-mini cable $8Buy on AmazonLong enough to connect the Arduino to your PC. 10ft, pack of 2.
 15A circuit breaker $9Buy on AmazonOptional – can be added to the daisy chained power circuit for motor controllers.
 Set of hex keys $31Buy on AmazonVarious sizes needed, used for assembling the actuators, rig and more. We need metric sizes.
 Nitrile gloves $18Buy on AmazonGood to have a box handy. I recommend using them especially when greasing the ball screws, makes cleanup much easier.

All links and prices are up-to-date as of January/February 2020.

If you’d like to double-check your orders for parts required specifically for the actuators, below please find screenshots of the orders I’ve placed.


Bolt Depot:

AliExpress– please pay attention to the gray text “product options” as it specifies the exact dimensions/specifications for some of the products:


Note: you may have noticed that number of things called out in the official SFX-100 resources are not present on my shopping list above (few examples: WAGO connectors, breadboard, breadboard cables, etc.). This is because I’m using the PCB by Pyronious and didn’t need those. I highly recommend choosing this approach – easier, less error-prone, neater and more compact solution.

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Few words on shipping and delivery times

This project requires sourcing parts from many different companies, across few countries. Furthermore, some of those companies are Business-to-Business oriented and handle large volume orders. In those cases (e.g. Kinetic), it can feel like we’re being ignored (blame high standards set by Amazon Prime, but be patient and the package will arrive at your doorstep eventually. If you’re planning to build this project though, I highly recommend ordering all parts as early as possible to avoid further delays.

Product or CompanyOrdered dateDelivered dateComments
Kinetic (Germany)11/19/201912/15/2019No communication throughout, except for e-mail with invoice to which I responded with printout from PayPal as a proof of payment. They’re notoriously unresponsive for any questions regarding orders, but orders do eventually arrive…
AliExpress11/23/201912/3/2019, 12/30/2019Ordered from multiple vendors, thus various delivery dates. Please note that a shipping option of “EMS Package” is by far the slowest. There’s no tracking provided (outside of shipped/delivered dates) and in my case it took 5 weeks to deliver.
BoltDepot11/21/201911/27/2019Reasonable shipping time, shipped the day after I placed order.
Monoprice11/19/201911/21/2019Very fast, I like Monoprice, especially their 3D printers (I’ve been using Monoprice Select Mini for couple of years).
OSHPark (PCB fabrication)11/19/201911/27/2019I placed order on 11/19, it’s been assigned to panel and sent to fabrication 2 days later, then shipped on 11/25 and arrived 2 days after that. I always had good results with this company, which helps with prototyping/iterating on PCBs.

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3D printed parts

In addition to the somewhat lengthy list, there’s also need to print (or purchase, more about that option in a second) custom parts. If you’re printing them by yourself, make sure to:

  • follow the recommended print settings, found on the SFX-100 site,
  • calibrate your printer to ensure high dimensional accuracy,
  • when printing the sliders, make a test print (cancel it after reaching height of maybe an inch) and check the fitting inside of the aluminum profile. They should slide freely, but not have too much “wiggle” – it’s important to get the size of those parts just right.

Just to re-iterate the importance of print settings – those parts are critical for the durability of the build. Make sure to follow the official recommendations, and ensure that if you’r outsourcing the printing – they’re being followed. Check out here how much difference the settings make, and see here for some extra tips to optimize the printing.

Now, considering the total time to print a full set of parts on a single printer (around 220h, depending on the printer and settings), I decided to find someone who has has already went through the process of perfecting the printing for this project 😉 I found a fellow passionate sim racer who offered his help – diablo2112. To keep it fair in spirit of open source project, he was accepting donations to cover the material cost, very respectable approach. And he turned out to be a great person to work with throughout (the UPS truck that was delivering the parts got into an accident, I was informed that all merchandise was destroyed, but that didn’t set us back much – another set was printed and en route in 2 days!).

If you’d like to contact him, you can find his posting offering the 3D printed parts here:
Feel free to mention that Bogdan sent you 😉


Here’s few photos of my 3D printed parts:


And a quick video showing 3D printing in progress:

Having few printers, calibrated and proven in printing the set of parts we need, speeds up the turnaround time tremendously.


In addition to the parts critical in building the actuators, we can also 3D print the enclosure for electronics (Arduino Leonardo with the DB25 connectors shield by Pyronious):

Those files are available on Pyronious’ site:
Read more about the electronics below to find out why is the board by Pyronious such a great improvement.

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Competitive landscape and pricing

I mentioned that purchasing a commercial offered motion solutions is very expensive. How expensive? Let’s take a look at a quick comparison. This doesn’t represent the market exhaustively, but includes some of the popular options.

ProductPrice rangeDescription
DOFRealityFrom $899 for 2DOF seat mover, to $5,299 for 6DOF. Option comparable to SFX-100 (H3 or P3) retails for $1,949 – $2,699.Most affordable ready-ro-run solution. Reviews indicate somewhat common issues with motors in the consumer line of products (Hx) and flex in the construction.
(example re-seller)
 $7,500 for 2 actuator system with 1.5″, $15,000 for 4 actuators with 1.5″. More for systems with 3″ of travel.Most well known offering in the world of motion. Offered by many different companies combined with their rigs (including Sim-Lab). Various options for number of actuators and motion range. Expensive.
PT Actuators$5,199 for 4 actuator setSolution similar to SFX-100, but provided as a commercial project. It’s using Thanos’ controller, which can also be used with SFX-100 actuators.
VesaroStarting at around $20,000, up to $60,000+This is an offering you can often find at various events. Uses DBox actuators. Note that this is a complete system, including PC and Monitors, not just the actuators.
CXC SimulationsStarting at $57,000, quickly gets into 6 digitsSimilarly to Vesaro, this is a complete offering (with all the necessary hardware). In my opinion, absolutely overpriced – just browsing the option list (casters for $1,200, VR headset [not called out which one] option for $3,700) gives some ideas. Note that this is still their product range for “home use”. And from the looks of it, only the seat moves (wheel column and pedals do not).

As we can see, building your own motion rig can yield great savings, without sacrificing the performance. It also caries number of other benefits, like: extensibility (you can always add more dimensions later, maybe traction loss, or belt tensioner?), easy servicing (if you build it once, you’re able to diagnose and repair it later on), scalability (you can start smaller, and then expand, e.g. by updating the rig to a sturdier option a bit later to spread the costs over time), and more. Oh and there’s always satisfaction from saying: “I built it” 😉

Now consider that SFX-100 actuators can be built for around $2,500, depending on the equipment you already have (3D printer) and few choices made along the way. And it offers very comparable performance (sometimes even outperforming the above solutions, e.g. considering the travel of 4″ [100mm]).

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Manuals for motors and controllers

If you’re looking for technical specification, in-detail description of available functions, or even technical drawings for the servo controllers as well as motors, manuals are a great source of knowledge. This is where I found information about clearing the alarms and much more.

Here are the manuals I’ve been using:


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Let’s build this thing! Next is:

Part 2 – Electronics, wiring and testing motors, installing in enclosure


Your simulator build own motion

DIY VR motion simulator is powered by Arduino

The project was made using recycled parts from an electric mobility scooter, says the creator, who flagged his build on reddit.

Apparently, the Arduino gets serial data from an associated PC, and then translates that to movement to the motors….

Two 24v DC motors are used, with a potentiometer attached to them for tracking.

Spotted on @Reddit: a self-made VR motion simulator powered by Arduino!

— Arduino (@arduino) January 29, 2019

You can see a video of the system in action below (“driving some random tracks in Project Cars 2”):

You can see more videos of the system, including test runs on the YouTube user Zylauv‘s channel and his Facebook page.

DIY F1 style 2 DOF motion simulator

#1 – Most Sold Motion Simulator in The World

We sold more simulator platforms than all other vendors combined.

motion simulator

DOF Reality H3 Consumer Motion simulator platform

Features: Three dimensional movements (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear traction). The H3 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. When you move, everything moves!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom3 DOF (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear Traction)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range20 °
Speed50 cm/s (86 °/s)
Torque25 n/m
Acceleration0.7G T / 0.5G L
Power Consumption1300 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print3×5, 2 ft H (100×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
Upgradableto H6

Seat Mover – the simplest model for motion simulator experience.

Features: This seat mover is the great motion simulator perfect for customers that want to enhance their gaming experience on their PlaySeat or GT Omega ART frame. This model moves the seat on two axis, Pitch and Roll (2 DOF).
For full-motion platforms, check out our H2,H3 or P2,P3 models.
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation**
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The seat mover motion adapter. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom2 DOF (Pitch + Roll)
Full platform motionNo
Motions Range16 °
Speed40 cm/s (66 °/s)
Torque22 n/m
Power Consumption700 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print8×16.5×16.5" (21x42x42 cm)
Supported pilot weight154 lbs / 70 kg

This is same as MS2 motion simulator model, but based on more stronger and faster motors.

Degrees of Freedom2 DOF (Pitch + Roll)
Full platform motionNo
Motions Range16 °
Speed50 cm/s (82 °/s)
Torque24 n/m
Power Consumption700 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print8×16.5×16.5" (21x42x42 cm)
Supported pilot weight220 lbs / 100 kg
UpgradableYes, to any H models

This is our Commercial P series Seat Mover motion simulator that have a bit more force and speed than the consumer M2. The P series platforms use industrial grade motors that can be used for continuous hours each day.

Degrees of Freedom2 DOF (Pitch + Roll)
Full platform motionNo
Motions Range16 °
Speed75 cm/s (105 °/s)
Torque25 n/m
Power Consumption720 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print8×16.5×16.5" (21x42x42 cm)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
UpgradableYes, to any P models

motion simulator

DOF Reality H2 Consumer Motion simulator platform

Features: Two dimensional movements (Pitch + Roll). The H2 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. When you move, everything moves!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom2 DOF (Pitch + Roll)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range20 °
Speed50 cm/s (86 °/s)
Torque25 n/m
Acceleration0.7G T / 0.5G L
Power Consumption1000 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print2×5, 2 ft H (59×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
Upgradableto H3, H6

motion simulator

DOF Reality H3 Consumer Motion simulator platform

Features: Three dimensional movements (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear traction). The H3 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. When you move, everything moves!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom3 DOF (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear Traction)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range20 °
Speed50 cm/s (86 °/s)
Torque25 n/m
Acceleration0.7G T / 0.5G L
Power Consumption1300 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print3×5, 2 ft H (100×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
Upgradableto H6

DOF Reality H6 Consumer Motion simulator platform

Features: All possible six Degrees Of Freedom movements (forward, backward, surge, side to side, sway, up, down, heave, yaw, pitch, and roll). This unique platform is capable to reproduce any possible motion! There is no other product on the market under $15,000 that can do what our platform does. The H6 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. You will feel like you are really driving a car or in the cockpit of a plane. When you move, everything moves with you!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom6 DOF (Pitch, Roll, Yaw, Surge, Sway, Heave)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range17 °
Speed50 cm/s (86 °/s)
Torque25 n/m
Acceleration1 G all directions
Power Consumption2200 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print4×5, 2 ft H (120×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg

DOF Reality P2 Professional motion simulator platform for Public Entertainment, VR and Arcade Centers

Features: Two dimensional movements (Pitch + Roll). The P2 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. When you move, everything moves!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom2 DOF (Pitch + Roll)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range24 °
Speed75 cm/s (105 °/s)
Torque28 n/m
Acceleration0.75G T / 0.5G L
Power Consumption1100 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print2×5, 2 ft H (59×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
Upgradableto P3 and P6

DOF Reality P3 Professional motion simulator platform for Public Entertainment, VR and Arcade Centers

Features: Three dimensional movements (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear traction). The P3 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. When you move, everything moves!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom3 DOF (Pitch + Roll + Yaw/Rear Traction)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range24 °
Speed75 cm/s (105 °/s)
Torque28 n/m
Acceleration0.75G T / 0.5G L
Power Consumption1400 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print3×5, 2 ft H (100×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg
Upgradableto P6

DOF Reality P6 Professional motion simulator platform for Public Entertainment, VR and Arcade Centers

Features: All possible six Degrees Of Freedom movements (forward, backward, surge, side to side, sway, up, down, heave, yaw, pitch, and roll). This unique platform is capable to reproduce any possible motion! There is no other product on the market under $15,000 that can do what our platform does. The P6 model is designed to move not only the seat, but, all simulator controls (steering wheel, joystick, pedals, throttles, etc.) mounted to the motion platform. You will feel like you are really driving a car or in the cockpit of a plane. When you move, everything moves with you!
Compatibility: PC, Xbox* and PlayStation*
Any Peripherals:  wheel , pedals, joystick , yoke, monitor , VR
Included: The motion platform. (The seat and game controllers are not included)

Degrees of Freedom6 DOF (Pitch, Roll, Yaw, Surge, Sway, Heave)
Full platform motionYes
Motions Range21 °
Speed75 cm/s (105 °/s)
Torque28 n/m
Acceleration1 G all directions
Power Consumption2400 Watt (peak)
Floor Foot print4×5, 2 ft H (120×150, 60 cm H)
Supported pilot weight330 lbs / 150 kg


Experience the g-force acceleration, braking and high turns that add incredible Motion Simulator immersion to your racing and flight experience.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

For total immersion, our Motion Simulator platforms are VR compatible with Oculus Rift/Gear, HTC Vive and all future products.



The lightning fast reaction time of PID of 5-10 ms makes our Motion Simulators perfect for professional training.



Innovative and well thought-out design that ensures exceptional performance and quality in each Motion Simulator.

6 Axis - Degrees of Freedom

6 Axis - Degrees of Freedom

We offer 2 DOF (Pitch + Roll), 3 DOF (Pitch + Roll + Yaw), and Full 6 DOF Motion Simulator versions to reproduce automobiles, aircrafts, or any other vehicle motion.



Adjustable Motion Simulator mounts allow you to customize the platform to your needs.



We provide a modular structure that is engineered to be upgradeable to more Dimensions of Freedom (Axis).

Flying and Racing

Flying and Racing

The groundbreaking Motion Simulators are taking racing and flight simulation to a new level with flight Joysticks and HOTAS mounts.

Plug & Play

Plug & Play

Our Motion Simulators are tested and tuned with minimal assembly required and are ready to plug and play out of the box.

We incorporated industry leading electronics, encoders and motors in our products. The durability of the DOF Reality is extremely high for its price point, and the maintenance requirements are minimal.

Each unit we ship is built to our high standards, and goes through extensive quality assurance testing and tuning before being disassembled and packed for shipping. The assembly required is as easy as IKEA furniture and takes 30 min to 2 hours with all hardware and tools provided by us.

All our units come with a 1 year faulty part return to base warranty (excludes normal wear and tear).

We provide the most advanced and best value consumer platform in the world.

We are not afraid of competition. We don’t have any!

Our mission is to make universal plug and play motion simulator platform affordable for many gaming enthusiasts and professionals.


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