From The Banker...For those of you who, like me, are missing Binky...
Bad Obsession Motorsport - May 2022 Update
This whole situation can be traced back more than a year. Our friends at Competition Supplies acted on our behalf to get Smiths to produce a matching set of five gauges from their Classic range to include in the mini. As Smiths produced the original clocks, they'd look as good as new. This meant a special boost gauge as they didn't have one with the sweep to 30psi we needed. So far so good.
When they arrived, on close inspection it was clear that the gauges didn't match at all. The fonts were different, the sizes, the kerning, the boldness, the positions – if you looked carefully, none of it was uniform. But they worked, which was nice. So they got lobbed into the mini for the Historic Rally Festival knowing that we'd have to fettle the faces at least later on.
And then we switched the side lights on...
The main gauges and two of the three 52mm auxiliary gauges are backlit like you'd expect – with an ageing, asthmatic glow-worm. The new boost gauge is backlit using the latest in LED technology. You might be able to imagine the tik that developed across Nik's face when it became apparent that not only do the faces not match, nor does the backlighting.
Couple that with the fact that the main cluster is too deep to fit into the aperture without removing the heater ducting and you've got a bit of an existential crisis brewing. So the decision was made to completely redesign the entire instrument cluster while retaining the look of the original. But in addition, if we're going to the trouble of a re-design behind the faces, we might as well bring the whole thing up to modern standards with regards to lighting and warning indicators.
This meant hundreds of hours painstakingly recreating the dial faces, talking to printers to get the right inks and acetates, experimenting with shading and black outs to get the right effects, learning how OEM's use polycarbonate to refract and reflect light, creating dozens of prototype parts and most of all, colossal frustration at the thought that this was supposed to be the easy final part of the mini. After all, we didn't need to make anything, we had the experts do it!
With the 'hardware' part of it sorted, attention turned to how in the sam hell were we going to fit it. The wiring needed to run everything in the new design precluded using actual wires because of the complexity of Nik's design and the space constraints so, we needed to make a PCB. Or three in fact. And they're all double sided. And we don't know if it'll work, so fast prototyping and ease of amendment was key. After all, if you can't make it right, make it adjustable...
So we came up with the idea of trying to 3D print our own PCB's. Solder melts at a similar temperature to PLA so we quickly bought a cheap printer to give it a whirl. Fail fast, fail cheap. Well, initial tests were encouraging if not stellar, so we talked to a man who knows everything about solder and bought a load of different compositions to try. In the meantime, to make it work we needed to turn the mill into a 3D printer because to accurately drill the holes in the PCB for all the components, we decided to mount a 3D nozzle on the spindle support to give a 30mm tool offset allowing us to print the trace and drill the holes essentially in one operation.
And then the mill blew up...
So, a full rebuild of the mill control including board and power supply was necessary. As well as all that, we needed a way of controlling the nozzle temperature accurately, and the bed temperature. A bed heater was constructed alongside a heater control box. While all this was going on, we had to learn Arduino language from scratch to successfully make the heater control. The fruits of those labours are in the photo. Lots of late nights at the PC designing and redesigning the PCB to fit everything in, adjusting for new knowledge and generally tidying up have left us here. Ready to see if it all works.
At this stage it might not, but we have a plan B. Although it's possible a plan C and D will be necessary. So many apologies for the lack of Binky action recently, we promise it's not for the lack of trying.
As always, we're so grateful for your support. We literally can't do this without you.
Nik and Richard