My Compact, Portable, Storable Bridge Build

I recently came across the opportunity to acquire five 21" 10-point capacitive touch displays, as well as 5 Lenovo workstations. I've used this equipment at a convention from a few years back and I know that they work excellently for Artemis. Now that I've got this hardware, I've begun the process of designing and now constructing my own portable bridge setup.

I started by modeling the bridge in Sketchup. The goal was to make it collapsible so that it would be compact for storage in a garage or storage unit (or even in a closet under stairs). So in the design there's two side supports, and then a center column, the center column houses the PCs and is designed to have a mesh screen on the front and back to allow for air flow. The board across the supports is designed to be removable so that all of the supports can be stacked side-by-side for storage. The displays are designed to use a flush VESA mount on the boards so that the displays can be removed for storage.

The initial build was started yesterday, some adjustments have been made on the fly, primarily we determined that the side supports could be half as thick and still be very stable, this will be beneficial as it will reduce the overall size of the footprint for storage and provide more leg room for the helm and tactical officer. I've also since redesigned the HOTAS mounts for the helm station in the 3D model. Overall though I'm very happy with the initial progress and stability. I should be getting my flush VESA mounts on Tuesday, I'm hoping I'll be able to make more progress then.

I look forward to any feedback or ideas.


  • edited May 2020

    That looks awesome. Like to see how it breaks down.

    Wish I could get some touch screens. At more than $150 a pop, it can get expensive.

    Do you plan on supplying your own chairs, or use whatever chairs the location you're setting up at to provide them?

  • These particular touch screens are found occasionally on Ebay (used), they can go from anywhere between $90 and $250, and I believe they retail for around $600. I was lucky enough to get 5 of them for between $80-90 ea. The best part about them, beside being 21" (massive) and 10 point input, is that they have a very simple, plain bezel, no visible branding, they make amazing displays for bridge sims (I think they come from industrial or imaging equipment).

    Chairs are the one thing I haven't really factored in yet, I'm always thinking about it, but I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to do for them. At least to begin with I'll be using simple folding chairs, but I'd love to have something more thematically relevant, I've also considered the possibility of stools.

    I'll probably also need to figure out something special for the Captain's chair as well, I was thinking of possibly building a stationary base and putting a mesh-backed desk chair in the stationary base.

  • Well, I made a bit more progress today, I was able to get the display mounted with a flush VESA mount, it ended up being wobbly side to side, but we were able to fix that by adding some 1/2" plywood spacers on the console at each side, under the display. I think later I may experiment with adding thin felt pads to the spacers to snug it up a bit.

    We also added the platform for the joystick, it's a pretty comfortable height and the mounting screws were placed perfectly so that the joystick base locks into place. The cables should line up really well with the support, I'll probably use some cable organizer clips or channels to run the cables up behind the console.

  • Instead of using VESA mounts, on our setup, I just drilled 5mm holes in a 100x100mm square, took some long M4 bolts and bolted the screens directly to the wood. Very stable and cheap. But I do have the screens permanently mounted, as my setup disassembles into a bunch of flat panels for storage/transport.

  • @daid I did consider that (and may still do it after testing), it really depends on how stable these mounts are during actual gameplay, so far they seem fine, but who knows how they'll get treated in the heat of battle.

  • Progress from last night. We got the center column/console built and we drilled the holes for the bolts to attach the big plank with the displays onto the center console and the supports on the ends.

    The center column fits 2 workstations inside, there’s a 2" round hole in the 2x4 that runs through the center of the console so that cables can be fed through to the top. I’ve also got the monitor mount and spacers set up for the helm station (we replaced the 2x8 with a nicer board).

    Still to do is adding the tactical station display mount and spacers, then adding a platform to the outside of the center column for mounting the throttle controls.

    After adding the central column, this station has become incredibly sturdy, there's almost no side-to-side wobble, I'm exceedingly happy with how this is turning out.

  • That'll look cool, once painted!

  • Oh, another thing. You state it is portable, I assume with that you mean that you can unscrew those bolts and transport it?

    My setup is designed to be portable. And I can set it up in about 1-1.5 hour now. All the panels just slide together, no screws, no bolts. Which is really quick to assemble. Like 30 minutes, less if you do it with multiple people.

    Most of the other time is spend on cabling. Cabling actually takes a bulk of the time. I reduced this a lot, I have a cheap network switch and a power-"hub" installed behind every screen now. So I can just daisy-chain the console in any way we want. They all have 1 power input and 2 power outputs.

    Still, putting down all the cables, making sure non are a tripping hazard, and making sure everything works usually takes an hour. There is always this one network cable that doesn't work, or didn't plugin properly.

  • We managed to get the mounting hardware for the other display on last night as well as the mount platform for the throttle.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for finishing/painting? I'd like it to look as little like wood as possible.

  • Most of the other time is spend on cabling. Cabling actually takes a bulk of the time. I reduced this a lot, I have a cheap network switch and a power-"hub" installed behind every screen now. So I can just daisy-chain the console in any way we want. They all have 1 power input and 2 power outputs.

    Still, putting down all the cables, making sure non are a tripping hazard, and making sure everything works usually takes an hour. There is always this one network cable that doesn't work, or didn't plugin properly.

    In regards to cables, I plan on getting wireless dongles for the workstations, while less reliable, I think the benefit of avoiding a ton of network cables will be worth the tradeoff, but I may revisit this later. The helm/tactical console (the big one) will have a single power strip cable coming out the front of it, which can be gaff taped down to the floor, the power cables for both displays and computers will plug into the one power strip.

    For the individual stations: Engineering, Comms, Science, they'll each have a small power strip to plug both power cables into so that they also have only one strip coming out of them, I suspect I'll have them daisy-chain together so that one station plugs into the next and then the last one plugs in to the wall, but we'll have to see how that works.

    A lot of it will be experimentation. Since I don't have any kind of deadline for this setup I'll have plenty of time to experiment and play around with various set ups.

  • Makes sense. Share some more pictures when you have more to show.

  • I'll be putting the final touches on the structure this Sunday and then we'll be testing it next Saturday, I'll make sure we take some pics of the stations working, at this point we'll probably play around with Artemis and Empty Epsilon. I plan to add Starship Horizons after it releases on June 1st.

    I've been going through the stations and updating their setups, also adding wallpapers for each station based on role:

  • Some updated pics of the build. We added some pieces to the display mounting that reduces tilt of the displays by quite a bit, there's still some minor wobble when you press hard on the top of the screen, but I have plans for that. I suspect that if we add some adhesive felt strips to the inner blocks on the display mounts, it will even out the wobble.

    We'll be getting together to test the station out next Saturday, I'm hoping to have some more pics then.

  • I managed to get this set up in my living room yesterday and did a brief test run with my kids after working through some network issues. Overall it performed admirably and both of the kids (3 and 6) loved the game. I managed to recover my Joy2Key binding for the Saitek X45 stick and throttle, I'm hoping that I'll be able to update it today to also support the jump drive.

    I'm planning to have a few crew members over this Saturday to more extensively test these two stations and possibly an ad-hoc third station.

    @daid I tried to run Empty Epsilon on it a few times but I had constant crashing. I suppose I should probably file a but report on github with any details and a step-by-step?

  • Looks cool, needs that fresh coat of paint.

    Why is EE crashing on you?! EE is typically quite stable (unless you have a buggy mission script).

    You are running Windows right? and just using the exe downloaded from the website (as apposed to building it yourself)?

  • Yep, fresh download from the site, installed on Windows 10 Pro. Nothing out of the ordinary, that's why it was so surprising to me. It even crashes when I run it as admin.

  • It should be generating crash logs next to the exe.

  • I'll check those out.

  • Did you update your intel GPU drivers already?

  • I haven't. I've been doing a lot of updates, but that hasn't been one of them. I'll do that now as I've got people coming over to help me test and I'd love to get their thoughts on Empty Epsilon.

  • Apparently the integrated graphics are using the latest drivers from Intel.

  • Oh, nice, that is not a very helpful crash report.

    Are you able to build from the source? (I know, not as simple as it is on Linux...)

    @daid Is the build of EE downloaded from the website build without debug?

  • Releases are build with CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=RelWithDebInfo

  • So I've begun construction on the three additional stations, I'm producing them in an assembly line fashion, so I'm cutting out all of the parts first and then assembling them.

    I've also redesigned the freestanding stations to allow for more foot space and require fewer 2x4s

    Finally, I've also begun applying wood filler to the cracks and dips in the tactical/weapons station parts and then sanding them down. I'm hoping to be able to get this support painted and lacquered soon.

  • The reduced for of the freestanding station does not look as cool. But definitely will be lighter, and more practical. It does look good, in a simpler way.

  • Yeah, we'll see how it turns out. Another benefit is that it'll lead to simpler cuts on the 2x4s inside of the station.

  • Do you have a miter saw (aka chop saw)? You mentioned the complex cut, which made me see how you did the 135° angle. Normally I would expect a 22.5° angle cut on both boards (like this). If you have a hand saw, I can see why what you did might be easier. Not that it really maters, either works, just curious.

  • Yeah, I'm using a miter saw, pretty much all of the angles are 45°, that was an intentional part of the design.

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