Two bare dimmer modules sold on eBay with identical specification and similar price are compared.
Both claim to have zero hysteresis.
Zero hints a lie!
Hysteresis is caused in simple phase control dimmer circuits at low settings because in each half cycle the trigger capacitor starts at a different voltage depending on whether the diac fired on the previous half cycle.
A serious issue with this snap-on effect is that if power is turned off at low power setting and re-applied, the controller may not switch on.
Above is type 1, a very triac basic phase control circuit. The red capacitor and resistor to its left are snubber components, the yellow capacitor, 4.7kΩ resistor to its left and the 500k pot are the phase delay circuit, the diac is just visible above the red capacitor. Continue reading A comparo of two bare light dimmer modules
This article describes a setup for derusting small steel components, mainly machine tool accessories, using a Molasses solution.
A 10% Molasses solution can be an effective way to derust steel. Feed grade Molasses costs about $2/kg at the local rural store.
The process is bacterial and activity depends on temperature. Experimentation suggests that optimal temperature is 30-35°, and derusting can be achieved in a few days at that temperature (subject to the degree of rust). At lower temperatures, the process may take many weeks. The nice thing compared to electrolytic derusting is that work is unlikely to be damaged by the process.
Above, the rust treatment system comprises:
- Bain marie stainless 1/3 module 200mm deep with lid;
- 1000W electric cooker;
- 230VAC thermostat with thermistor probe immersed in the process liquid;
- 230VAC dimmer to reduce the power of the cooker element.
Above is an internal view of the thermostat made from a Chinese 230VAC thermostat, a 3m extension cord and ABS plastic box. Continue reading Molasses derusting of steel
The WBT-4000W is a triac dimmer selling for upwards of $25 on eBay.
AC 0V-220V continuously adjustable, zero hysteresis, zero latency, superior heat dissipation.
The question is, does it deliver these things? Continue reading WBT-4000W 230V AC dimmer / motor speed controller
This article expands on A flexible test panel for microcontroller based power control projects with some enhancements and accessories.
A LED power meter that I had ordered finally arrived (slow boat from China syndrome).
Above, the upper rail contains a RCD, the power meter which displays Volts, Amps, and kW, or pf, hours, and kWh, a DIN mount terminal block for mains, and a 40A SSR on a heatsink. A clip on CT can be used for oscilloscope observation of mains current. Continue reading A flexible test panel for microcontroller based power control projects – #2
I do a lot of experiments with microcontrollers switching mains powered equipment, and the test beds have always been improvised. It has always been my intention to formalise something for convenience but mainly for better safety.
The article describes a test panel to fill that need.
The panel is constructed on a piece of 3mm aluminium sheet, drilled and tapped to take two sections of 35mm DIN rail for flexible mounting of accessories.
Above is a pic of the test panel in use to test the generic heating / cooling controller (hcctl), a flexible bang-bang controller based on an ATTiny25. Continue reading A flexible test panel for microcontroller based power control projects
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
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
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
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
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