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As a hobby, I’m working on a quite complex system: a home cockpit.

From my field of work, I know a bit about system engineering and some of the tools used in that context, but I try to keep things simple for two main reasons:

  • I’m working alone on this project, so I don’t have any need to manage teams, keep everyone informed, etc. Also, I don’t have any deadline (I intend this project to keep me busy until long after I’m retired, and I’m barely out of school 😉)
  • Even though I want to do things right, I still want it to stay fun, and so I’d prefer not spending hundreds of hours filling out documents I won’t need in the end.

My project is at its genesis, and I’m still trying to figure out what tools to use.

For instance, in my cockpit, there will be an overhead panel. On the overhead panel, there will be an « engines » panel. In this panel, there will be some « Korry » type switches. To make « Korry » type switches, I will use: a LED, a pushbutton, a few resistors, diodes and such etc.

I would like to find a software that helps me manage this, that is to say (by order of preference):

  • Be able to produce a bill of materials for my whole system (how many 1k resistors do I need? How much will my whole cockpit will cost me?)
  • Be able to produce a bill of materials for each subsystem, sub-subsystems etc. (how many 1k resistors do I need for the overhead panel? How much costs the overhead panel alone?)
  • Be able to navigate through my systems and subsystems
  • Know in which systems I use a specific component
  • Even better: be able to attach documentation to the components, and even the systems and subsystems

If this software could be open-source, or at least free, that would be the cherry on the cake.

I also wonder how to keep track of the variants of my subsystems. For instance, some Korry switches have only one indicator (the whole button lights up in one color) but others have two (the upper part lights up in blue, the lower part in amber). The have the same base, but two different configurations. How to manage that?

I wonder about ICDs too: how to handle the interfaces between my subsystems? Between the sub-subsystems of my sub-systems?

On the one hand, there is the option to do this the old-fashion way (make huge Excel sheets for my Bill of Materials, and struggle every time I need to change something, make Visio drawings and maybe excel sheets for all my ICDs, store the documentation in folders and subfolders…) but I fear that it might quickly turn to a nightmare.

On the other hand, I could turn to very complex solutions such as Capella, but I’m afraid to waste an awful amount of time trying to master it, and end up in realizing that it is way too elaborate for what I need, and that it does not cover some important aspects that I needed.

What would you do in my place?

I would be glad to hear:

  • Comments (constructive if possible) on my approach
  • Suggestions on tools to use (methodology, software…)
  • Suggestions on literature (books, blogs, similar projects, tutorials…)

I do quite a bit of software development (Python, C++, C++/Qt, JS…), I use Linux everyday and I have my own server. So, I’m not afraid of self-hosted solutions and am able to tweak things.

I even considered developing my own solution, but I’m afraid it will take me ages and divert me from my original project. Also, I’m pretty sure some software already exists, and it would be a shame to reinvent the wheel (probably to make something not as good).

I must add that I intend to go all open source on this project by sharing my code, my drawings etc. and by writing a blog on this adventure.

I hope that my questions complies to the forum's rule, but it is quite hard to format it well as I think you'd need context, and I still don't know if I'm surching for a single tool or a set of tools...

Thank you for your help!

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