Review of iFIX RT300M v2 LED tester

In other posts on LED luminairs, I identified the need for a test device for LED strings of up to 200+V at currents up to 280mA.

There are quite a number of competitive devices in the market, the article is a review of the iFIX RT300M v2 (which is also sold under other brand names, they may or may not be sourced from the same factory… the Chinese are copyists).

 

I purchased one of these devices, and it was faulty on delivery. The output voltage never rises above 0.3V, determined to be a hardware fault. With eBay’s intervention, a full refund was obtained without returning the faulty unit which turned out to be a small blessing later.

The v2 RT300M has a button on the top edge of the device. Continue reading Review of iFIX RT300M v2 LED tester

Adjustable plank refurbishment

I have an adjustable aluminium plank (2.4-3.9m) which after years in the weather, has needed replacement of the plated steel 1/4″ pop rivets used in its construction.

These are strictly for DIY use as long plank spans have not been allowed on work sites for a very long time.

On assurances from the retailer I purchased for $99 a Kincrome CL960 Heavy Duty Hand Riveter Long Arm 525mm (21″) designed for 1/4″ stainless steel poprivets. It failed with less than a dozen rivets with what seems to be a serious design fault (rivet mandrels jam in the inner tube) so it was returned at my cost for a refund. Whilst I have bought lots of Kinchrome product over time, it is when there is a problem one learns a wider lesson.

On assurances from another seller, I then purchased a similar tool on eBay for $36, a tool claimed to work up to 5/16″ stainless steel rivets… so some reserve there?

It failed on the fifth rivet, one of the collets cracked in two and the inside of the chuck sleeve (top right) was grooved suggesting it was not hardened properly. Again, refunded but his time without paying return shipping. Continue reading Adjustable plank refurbishment

STC-1000 firmware change – STC-1000B

STC-1000 firmware change documented a chip and firmware update to a popular Chinese thermostat.

There has been enhanced firmware for a STC-1000 controller based on a PIC chip, but in my experience, most seem to be made with an STM8S003F3 chip. More recently, what appears to be a port of the PIC software to STM8 has been published at https://github.com/Emile666/stc1000_stm8.

The enhanced firmware is directed at home brewing for control of long running fermentation processes etc, incorporating storage for a number of multi-step programs (profiles). It is not really suited to more general applications like a fridge controller as for example it is more difficult for the common operation to set the set point.


This article describes a similar update to a later model STC-1000. Continue reading STC-1000 firmware change – STC-1000B

Milton Moore’s power supply test

When I was a student at TAFE in 1970, a teacher, Milton Moore, explained why the lab power supplies that were used, Perini & Scott 30V 2A, were the largest power supplies given their modest capability.

He explained that they were almost student proof. He went on the classify students in three categories, the average students constituted the bulk, then there were the quite inept who damaged the best equipment by doing things that no one could have anticipated, and the very bright who sought to understand equipment and expose their weakness.

Milton explained that they tested these power supplies using the rat tail file and hacksaw blade test. One output terminal was attached to the rat tail file and the other to a hacksaw blade, the voltage and current were set to max and the rat tail file and hacksaw blade were rubbed together yielding a shower of sparks… and possibly smoke from the DUT.

At the time I was very interested in overcurrent protection of linear regulators, so this was especially interesting.

ua723 – the darling of power supply designers of the time

Lets look at the issue with the ua723, recently released at that time and appearing in lots of designs.

Above is a schematic from the ua723 datasheet. Rsc is the current sense resistor and it is chosen to develop 0.6V at the current limit, so for instance in a 20A power supply it would have a value of 0.6/20=0.03Ω. So, the current sense circuit presents a Thevenin equivalent circuit of Vth=Rsc*I and Rth=Rsc. Continue reading Milton Moore’s power supply test

Programming a certain type of Chinese 315/433MHz EV1527 compatible remote relay

This article describes the programming sequences for a common Chinese 315/433MHz remote relay which works with the common EV1527 transmitter.

The EV1527 should not be confused with high security protocols, the transmitter has burned into it four fixed supposedly relatively unique codes (in a space of 1 million code possibilities) and sends the burned in code associated with the transmitter key each time it is operated. This should not be confused with rolling code systems such as KeeLoq. This information is not usually disclosed by sellers.

These are usually supplied with little or no instructions, or bad online translations that are quite misleading. I dare say sellers have refunded money in lots of cases due to user confusion about programming them or compatible transmitters. This information might assist owners to find a working solution.

Above is an example remote relay (~$3 on eBay), they are available with a number of channels and may look physically different but use the same or similar firmware. Note that though the relay on this one is rated at 10A AC, that rating is for resistive load and it is rated at 5A AC for an inductive load (PF=0.4). Continue reading Programming a certain type of Chinese 315/433MHz EV1527 compatible remote relay

Reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors – performance discussion

At Strength of reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors I showed a method I used to reinforce the SMA connectors to reduce the flexing of the PCB when the SMA connectors were torqued to specification for reliable measurement.

This has been commented on by online experts stating that Hugen, the designer of this board, posted notes about his efforts to keep the grounds for tx and rx port circuits isolated to some extent.

Opinion by some is that the modification I performed above which electrically bonds the two connectors through a brass bar of about 60mm length is likely to significantly degrade performance. Continue reading Reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors – performance discussion

Chinese wattmeter / power analyser fix

I bought a little wattmeter / power analyser with SB50 style plugs on it on eBay for about $20.

These devices have been common in the RC market for many years, and I have found them useful for a number of things but note that the input -ve lead is NOT directly connected to the output -ve lead, you cannot use them where the input -ve and output -ve are common.

 

The problems

Above is the promo pic. Of course they are not Anderson plugs, but clones. Continue reading Chinese wattmeter / power analyser fix

Strength of reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors

The nanoVNA-H connectors are end launch PCB connectors and they have a decidedly spongy feel as 1Nm torque is approached. This was due to flexing of the PCB and was likely to lead to track cracks in the longer term.

Specs for SMA connectors range from minimum of 0.2Nm torque to maximum of 1.7Nm, but 0.6Nm and 1.0Nm are common commercial practice.

Some nanoVNA sellers state:

As the SMA ports are made of cast copper, please not connect hard 50-7 / RG213 and other cables directly to the SMA ports through M-to-SMA connector to avoid damaging the SMA ports. You can use the included SMA cable to connect to the SMA port as shown in the picture below, and then use M to SMA connector.

Clearly Chinese Cheats, they will say anything to make a sale and anything to avoid commitment to quality. These connectors are very unlikely to be copper, but are likely to be a copper alloy: brass. What they also avoid in the above statement is claim for PCB damage due to flexure of the SMA connectors torqued to accepted industry torque for reliable connections and measurement.

Above is a pic of a modification to reinforce the connectors. This article sets out the analysis of just the solder joint within the cross section of the brass pieces.

A side effect is that this modification bonds the ground planes for the input and output parts of the nanoVNA via the brass bar where they have been kept isolated to some extent.

I should note that there has been much discussion online as to whether the noise floor of the nanoVNA is degraded by the shields fitted to the board, and various modifications to the shields. Some of this discussion proposes that the issue is mostly around the mixers and noise loops, and I note that in -H designs prior to v3.3, the mixer power supply was not adequately decoupled. It is possible that electrical connection of the SMA connectors in this way degrades noise performance at some frequencies. No significant change was observed in the noise floor of s11 or s21 channels from 1 to 300MHz (I don’t regard instrument performance to be good above 300MHz). I have not seen credible evidence of degradation of the nanoVNA-H v3.3 build.

If indeed bonding the two SMA connectors close to the instrument increases the noise floor or has other performance impacts as suggested, it questions whether the currents on the exterior of the coax influence measurement (which it should not) and it questions whether two port measurement fixtures or adapters should  be attached close to the nanovna.

(See also Reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors – performance discussion.)

At first, the strength of the butt soldered joint might seem a simple case of beam analysis where the beam is of cast solder of the same cross section l x w as the soldered joint. Continue reading Strength of reinforcement of nanoVNA-H connectors

A mount for the coax relay driver development prototype

I was recently revising the code for the Coax Relay Driver to use a PIC16F1827 chip, and thought a good improvement would be a board that held the prototype electronics and the pulse latching relay together as an assembly.

Above is the design from Fusion360 to be cut from 3mm clear PVC sheet on the CNC router.

Above is the cut piece with four M3 heat melt threaded inserts for the electronics.

Above is the completed prototype assembly. The white cable to the left is an ICSP connection for programming / in circuit debugging of the code.

Whilst I used a CNC router do cut the board out, it could easily be done with a jigsaw and drill.