MegaSquirt 3 Digital Dash

I am pleased to introduce a little side project that I have been working on the past few months. The projects initial main focus is to create a HD digital dashboard for the MegaSquirt ECU, to be built using as much off the shelf hardware as possible. This means that hopefully with some conscious design planning it should be possible to produce copies fairly easily just by following some documentation and ordering a few bits of the Internet here and there (This is the plan at least, who knows how things will pan out). Theres no reason other ECUs can’t also be supported in the future, however thats the only aftermarket ECU I have at hand and since thats what I run in my cars.

Project Brief

Create a digital dashboard that respects the character and history of the original cluster gauge, whilst also providing access to additional sensor readings that are important for any turbocharged engine.

And so after a bit of hard work this is what I have come up with for now..

Mk1 Escort Digital Dash
The original dash is on the left (front cover removed)

The dash features an 8 inch 1080P LCD display powered by a Raspberry Pi 2 (soon to be RPi 3) running a stripped down build of Linux to allow for fast booting. The dash communicates with the cars MS3 ECU via CAN bus and will include some additional power features that allow it to turn on/off safety via a switched ignition input.

The main motivation for having a digital dash is to take advantage of displaying all the extra sensor data the MS3 ECU utilises and accumulates. There are sensor outputs and ECU calculations that I would be interested in knowing whilst driving, but at the same time I don’t with to clutter the dash with additional gauges and dials as that would spoil the general aesthetics of the interior. Creating a digital dash in the same style as the original dials is a good compromise on having access to the data and not ignoring the originality of the car.

The development and install of the first dashboard will be a prototype version retrofitted into my Mk1 Escort. This type of instrumentation is something that I have wanted for many years, however it wasn’t until recently that I felt I had gained the right knowledge sets and courage to attempt such a project and not forgetting the funds to back. Believe me when I say this has been a long time in the works.

I will post more details on the project in the upcoming weeks but for now just wanted to give a glimpse into some of the more complicated long term projects I’m working on.

3D printing automotive connectors – Part 1

Spread out over the past few months I have been gradually reverse engineering the entire wiring diagram for my Mk1 Escort. This is for when I recreate some of loom to update and surpass Ford’s original specification in order to be more accommodating for my MS3 ECU and larger loads placed upon the cars electrics. In addition to having a more reliable and updated car, I personally benefit from the knowledge gained by having a good understanding of the attitude Ford engineers of the 70’s/80’s had with designed cars. My research has also led me to writing more of my own more in documentation which provides much greater detail than some of the existing diagrams and service manuals currently available.

Recently I have found myself modelling a few connectors I will need for upcoming project work on my Mk1. I believe most of the connectors are proprietary and were produced specifically by Ford, resulting in the connectors being decades out of production and cannot be sourced online easily (or cheaply).

This 12 pin round male connector connects the main 2/6 pod cluster gauges to the main loom inside the dash. Using a set of digital vernier callipers I measured and poked all over the original connectors to document the measurements as best I could. I then fired up Autodesk Fusion 360 for the first time and began modelling after watching a few YouTube videos showing basic parametric modelling techniques.
Being my first ever 3D CAD model and also my first time using Fusion 360, I was very pleased with the final model outcome.
Mk1 Escort connector render

It was 3D printed using white PLA plastic with 100% fill rate on a Ultimaker 2 3D printer. I understand PLA is not ideal material for automotive applications, so I will most likely reprint in ABS plastic when it comes to using the final part.

This was also one of my early 3D prints, and was my first time printing something I had directly modelled myself. The white part to the left is my 3D printed copy and the clear part on the right is the original.
Mk1 Escort dash connectors

The pins fit nice and snug on the copy as they do on the original piece.
Mk1 Escort dash connectors

My latest model is the 8 pin connector which pokes through the firewall for the main engine loom. I will probably have a go at printing this in flexible PLA filament, however I really do not think the material will be up to scratch coping with the harsh environment exposed in the engine bay (high temp, oil, moisture, extreme vibrations etc). So this model will most likely serve as a mould of some kind in order to allow use of a more suitable material (yet TBD).
Mk1 Escort engine loom connector render

I’ll keep posting updates as I continue to model and print new parts and pieces for my Mk1 Escort.