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

nanovna-H – continuing USB-C woes

I have reported issue with the USB-C plug / socket arrangement on the nanovna-H.

It is very sensitive to any jiggling of the cable or connector, causing a reset of the nanovna which almost always means lost work.

Having tried a number of different cables that have worked reliably on other devices, I initially thought there was little difference.

I did have a good response to jetting plug and jack with IPA, but the effects are shortlived.

This brings me to consider whether the connector is degrading making debris that makes for unreliable contact, or whether this is too little spring pressure in the plug.

Above is a view into the supplied USB-C plug. The pic has been taken with care to line up the die parting marks at back and front of the connector, so the view is in line with the connector axes. Continue reading nanovna-H – continuing USB-C woes

Measuring coaxial cable loss by reflection with a directional wattmeter

At Measuring coaxial cable loss by reflection with a VNA I discussed measuring terminated coax cable loss by reflection with an VNA, and you might ask the question can it be done with a scalar network analyser, return loss bridge, or directional wattmeter, all of which provide a measure of the amplitude of reflection wrt some reference impedance.

This article explores using a Bird 43 directional wattmeter to measure line loss in a similar scenario. We will use 6m of Belden 8359 (RG58A/U) @ 3.6MHz.

Expectation

A short digression, what is the specification Matched Line Loss (MLL) at 3.6MHz? Using TLLC we get 0.171dB, that is our expectation.

Return Loss of SC section

(Bird 2004) gives the following advice.

Line loss using open circuit calibration: The high directivity of elements can be exploited in line loss measurements, because of the equality of forward and reflected power with the load connector open or short circuited. In this state the forward and reflected waves have equal power, so that φ = 100% and ρ = ∞.
Open circuit testing is preferred to short circuit, because a high quality open circuit is easier to create than a high quality short. To measure insertion loss, use a high quality open circuit to check forward and reverse power equality, then connect an open-circuited, unknown line to the wattmeter. The measured φ is the attenuation for two passes along the line (down and back). The attenuation can then be compared with published data for line type and length (remember to halve Ndb or double the line length to account for the measurement technique).

This also contains the hoary old chestnut that a good OC termination is hard to achieve, but this author’s experience of measurement with modern VNAs is not consistent with Bird’s assertion.

So lets do a theoretical simulation of the Bird 43 applied to this problem.

Lets say we connect a source to the line section with a short circuit (SC) termination, and that the Bird 43 reads Pfwd=90W, and we read Pref=78W, we can calculate return loss \(RL=10 \cdot log_{10}\frac{P_{fwd}}{P_{ref}}=0.65dB\), so RL/2=0.65/2=0.325dB.

Continue reading Measuring coaxial cable loss by reflection with a directional wattmeter

Measuring coaxial cable loss by reflection with a VNA

At Measuring coaxial cable loss with a voltmeter I discussed measuring terminated coax cable loss with an RF voltmeter, and it had some real practical limitations.

This article explores using a nanovna to measure line loss in a similar scenario. We will use 6m of Belden 8359 (RG58A/U) @ 3.6MHz.

The same technique could be used with a quality antenna analyser.

Expectation

A short digression, what is the specification Matched Line Loss (MLL) at 3.6MHz? Using TLLC we get 0.171dB, that is our expectation.

Return Loss of SC section

A common method proposed is to measure Return Loss (RL) of a section with load end RL=0dB and halve it. Many experts advise that the section should be terminated in a short circuit (S) because short circuits are more reliable than open circuits. So let’s get cracking.

Above is measured |s11| using a nanovna with recent OSL calibration from 1-30MHz. |s11| @ 3.6MHz is by eye -0.651dB, RL=-|S11|, so RL/2=0.651/2=0.325dB. Continue reading Measuring coaxial cable loss by reflection with a VNA

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

nanovna-H – recovery

I often see reports that a nanovna has been ‘bricked’.

The STM32F072 chip  used on the original nanovna has some features that make the firmware update process simple and robust, and difficult to mess up.

The normal way of doing a firmware update is using the DFU protocol from a PC over the USB interface. To use this, the device has to be “put into DFU mode”, this means that the chip is reset and started executing the bootloader in permanent system memory.

The concept of DFU is that normal client programs used with the device can easily be extended to include the DFU function as just another menu function of the client software. I am not aware of any nanovna client that does this.

So, you need to use a programming client, and for Windows a good choice is ST’s DfuSeDemo. You may need to convert the distributed file format using Dfu file manager from the same distribution, not all developers distribute a .dfu file.

There is a pin on the board, BOOT0, that must be held high during reset to enter the on-chip bootloader. Later firmware versions also provide a menu option to enter the bootloader, but if an attempted upgrade messes up the menu, you may need to use the BOOT0 pin bridged to the adjacent VDD pin while you power cycle the nanovna.

Above is the rear view of the board, and a jumper using pogo pins to bridge BOOT0 to VDD. Continue reading nanovna-H – recovery

nanovna-H – rework of v3.3 PCB to v3.4?

nanovna-H v3.4 is out, and I don’t yet see significant problem reports.

When I compare the circuit with v3.3 (which I have), apart from new battery charger IC etc, the changes are in three areas:

  1. decoupling power to the mixers;
  2. increasing the drive to the mixers; and
  3. higher attenuation of input on the rx port. Continue reading nanovna-H – rework of v3.3 PCB to v3.4?

nanovna-H – v3.3 USB problems

At nanovna – measurement of two 920MHz LoRa antennas I mentioned my growing frustration with the USB interface on the nanovna, particularly the tendency to reset the nanovna with the slightest wiggle and the frustration in trying to use the resulting mess.

I have previously cleaned both plug and socket a couple of times, the last time was after some board modifications and flux residue was washed from the board keeping the USB socket dry, then the USB socket was flushed with clean solvent and blow dry.

The USB problems have become apparent only recently and rapidly got worse. Continue reading nanovna-H – v3.3 USB problems

nanovna – that demo board and its U.FL connectors

One of the many nanovna cloners makes an interesting little inexpensive demo board with a selection of components, filters etc to develop familiarity with the nanovna.

Above is a pic of the demo board and the supplied jumper cables. The demo board may not include information relevant to using the cables and connectors supplied. Continue reading nanovna – that demo board and its U.FL connectors