Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

Review: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2 documented problems that prevented the device being very useful.

Attempts to tune the supplied PID controller above were frustrated by a lack of meaningful documentation supplied or found in searches on the ‘net, and the fact that the display is sometimes faked to appear that the temperature has stabilised. With any non-zero I term, it behaved badly and some observations suggest that it suffers from integral windup. It is truly a piece of Chinese junk and unusable.

Above is an independent logger capture of the temperature from switch on. There is a large overshoot, and then, no matter what the settings, it oscillates and the lowest amplitude obtained was 1°pp (above). The overshoot is almost as much as observed in manual warm up when power is cut at 40°. Continue reading Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

A little programming adapter for 4 x 2mm pitch pads

I recently had need to attach four wires to a set of pads on a device for programming its microcontroller. The pads for these sort of things are often on difficult to solve pitch, this one is 2mm which is not too bad.

Above is the target and solution.

The target is the four vias right next to the LEDs on the daughter module. Continue reading A little programming adapter for 4 x 2mm pitch pads

A low cost 50Ω termination for measurement purposes

This article shows just how easy it is to make an inexpensive low VSWR load for antenna analyser validation / measurements.

Above is an AA-600 sweep of the prototype from 10kHz to 100MHz. VSWR reads 1.02 in ‘All’ mode at 100MHz… better than the inherent accuracy of the instrument.

How expensive?

It is made from two 100Ω 1% 1206 SM resistors purchased on eBay for about $2/100, so about $0.04 for the resistors, and 40mm of bare copper wire (0.5mm phone / data wire in this case).

In use, it is held in contact with the coax socket (in this case an N type) with a pair of disposable plastic first aid tweezers (yep, you can buy them on ebay for about $0.20/pair).

While you are at it, make a good short circuit termination by scrunching up a bit of (clean) kitchen aluminium foil and press that against the coax socket conductors.

Try both of these on your antenna analyser and see how it stacks up.

DL4YHF 50MHz counter on a Chinese TB-244746 PCB

DL4YHF published a frequency counter design based on the PIC16F628.

The design has been modified by many, copied by even more, and usually without attribution.

This article documents one of these copies (TB-244756 printed under the chip footprint), a $6 kit off eBay which comes with no documentation, though the screen mask is enough to correctly place components.

It turns out to be DL4YHF’s “DISPLAY_VARIANT 2”, the variation is that it uses a common cathode display.

Above the built kit with the 7550 voltage regulator replaced with a 78L05. Continue reading DL4YHF 50MHz counter on a Chinese TB-244746 PCB

Review: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

I purchased a laboratory style stirrer / hotplate with PID temperature controller for some experiments.

Above, the 85-2 product from Chinese maker XB.

It certainly looks the part and for under $100 looked impressive value… but was it?

Is it safe?

First thing with ANY Chinese appliance is to test the electrical safety. Prior to a full PAT test, I plugged it in on an insulated work space and waved a non-contact voltage detector over the case. Beeeep! The case is hot. Earth continuity (earth pint to case) is zero, there is no connection. This came with an AU plug… so lets look inside at how they wired it up.

The green yellow earth wire is floating look, the end has been tinned so it was or was intended to be soldered to something. The end of one of the screws holding four rubber feet on is more silver coloured than the others, so it appears to have been tacked on to that. Three issues: the screw tension is cushioned by the rubber foot and pressure to case is low so it would not be a reliable low resistance connection; soldered ground connections can melt off in a fault and are unacceptable practice; and the even this had become disconnected and would not have passed a basic electrical test. Chinese Quality!

So with the cover off, it is apparent just a few months after this May 2017 dated build has been put together with rusty steel. Continue reading Review: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

4-20mA Pt100 input for the generic heating / cooling controller

The generic heating / cooling controller (hcctl) is a flexible bang-bang controller based on an ATTiny25.

The controller will accept 4-20mA input if the input is shunted by a 50Ω 1% resistor (2 x 50Ω 1% resistors is a practical implementation) and the 4-20mA sensor is wired between nominal +24 and the input pin. Note that 4-20mA sensors may operate properly on less than 24V (the one used here is a DIN rail mount that works for 10-24V).

 

To demonstrate the capability, a Pt100 RTD is connected to a 4-20mA converter and then to a hcctl test module (see above). The test module is driving a small incandescent lamp which is clipped to the RTD to provide a cycling test.

Continue reading 4-20mA Pt100 input for the generic heating / cooling controller

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3 – 5V display

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3 documented an evolved design for a real power display using emontx3 / emonhub / mqtt. This article documents an adaptation to use a 5V display module (for higher brightness). The ESP8266 is not 5V tolerant, so a logic level converter is needed.

Hardware

The remote power display uses a Wemos D1Pro module, a common 5V 4 digit 14.2mm seven segment LED module with 74HC595 shift register per digit, and a common 3V/5V logic level converter between them.

Above, the Wemos D1Pro with wires attached to the HSPI and power pins. A 1k pull=down resistor is soldered between the D8 and GND pins under the D1Pro board. Continue reading ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3 – 5V display

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor and ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV2 documented a design and some variations for a real power display using emontx3 / emonhub / mqtt. This article documents an evolution to use the ESP8266 HSPI port for much higher speed writing of the LED display, high enough to be later adapted for multiplexed displays.

Hardware

The remote power display uses a ESP8266-12E devkit 1.0 module, a common 3.3V 4 digit 14.2mm seven segment LED module with 74HC595 shift register per digit. The particular LED module has sufficient space to mount the ESP8266 inside the module.

Above, the interior of the module that suits the implementation. Continue reading ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3

BG7TBL noise source

This is a review of the BG7TBL noise source available on eBay for about $20 incl post. I have seen this recommended in various online forums and thought it worthy of review.

A quick mention of Excess Noise Ratio (ENR), it is a commonly used measure of the characteristic of noise sources. A noise source for testing low noise RF amplifiers needs to be less than 10dB, 5dB is common; for other receiver testing around 15dB is common, and for massive output for filter alignment etc the noise needs to be well above a spectrum analyser noise floor so an ENR of 50dB might be appropriate (but such high noise output makes it useless for LNA noise figure measurement),

Above is the device. The layout is pretty simple, it is a Zener noise source at the left followed by three MMIC amplifier stages. The circuitry at mid left is a DC-DC converter to supply 25V to the Zener.

There are a host of aspects so far that are concerning:

  • there is no need to operate the Zener at such high voltage;
  • lack of regulation of MMIC power supply;
  • the noise output of the Zener source should be quite high; and
  • three stages of MMIC will give rise to huge output, notwithstanding the on-board attenuators at Zener output and final MMIC output.

Continue reading BG7TBL noise source

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV2

See ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV3 for an update…

ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor documented a design and some variations for a real power display display using emontx3 / emonhub / mqtt. This article documents a simple compact implementation.

Hardware

The remote power display uses a ESP8266-12E devkit 1.0 module, a common 3.3V 4 digit 14.2mm seven segment LED module with 74HC595 shift register per digit. The particular LED module has sufficient space to mount the ESP8266 inside the module.

Above, the interior of the module that suits the implementation. Continue reading ESP8266 remote power display for energy monitor – EV2