Overkill Phone Charger, Because, Well, Why Not?

ATX Phone Charger

There are times in a tinkerer’s existence where it is convenient to have the ability to plug in and power a lot of USB devices. Sure, you could use a USB hub but this may not be satisfactory if your devices require a lot of current. A computer may work but is not really a stand alone solution.

[Jeff] and the crew over at Make Lehigh Valley ran into this predicament. They were putting on an Adafruit Trinket class and needed a USB power supply to power all of the Trinkets that were going to be used. As any makerspace would do, they built their own USB Power Station, and the final product is certainly overkill for what they needed (that’s not a bad thing).

An old ATX computer power supply is a logical component to use for this type of project. These power supplies are usually available in abundance and will provide all the amperage any reasonable amount of 5v USB devices can ask for. The 5v output from the ATX power supply was wired to 8 USB jacks. Keeping up with the project’s resourcefulness, those USB jacks were scavenged from a couple of old PCI-slot USB hub panels. Not satisfied with only USB outputs, the guys also wired up some banana jacks so that 3.3, 5 and 12 volts were available for whatever project was being worked on. A 3D printed enclosure keeps everything neat and tidy.

This project used a bunch of recycled parts and solved a problem faced by the group. If you’re interested in using an ATX power supply to make a more bench-top style power supply then check out this build.

An AT-ATX: A Different Kind of Power Supply

[Jedii72] needed a power supply. A quick search online revealed many instructions for building one out of an old ATX power supply, but — he didn’t want just any kind of power supply — he wanted to build an AT-ATX.

He started with a vintage AT-AT toy from the 80’s, and then began cutting it into pieces. Hold for gasps of disbelief. Don’t worry though — it was in poor condition to start with, so it was never really considered a collectible. After cleaning over 30 years of grime and dirt off the toy, he gave it a fresh coat of jet black paint — not exactly canon, but it does look pretty awesome. You know, it would make a pretty awesome Sci-Fi contest entry, don’t you agree? Continue reading “An AT-ATX: A Different Kind of Power Supply”

Bench Power Supply Constant Current EZ-SET


Here is a nice hack you may find very useful if you have a cheaper bench power supply that supports constant current limit protection (CC mode) and the only way to set or check your max current limit is to disconnect your circuit, short the power supply outputs and then check or set your limit. Yes, what a pain! [Ian Johnson] was enduring this pain with a couple of Circuit Specialist bench power supplies and decided to do something about it. After finding a download of the circuit diagram for his CSI3003X-5 supply he was able to reverse engineer a hack that lets you press a new button and dial-in the max current setting. Your first guess is that he simply added a momentary button to short the power supply outputs, but you would be wrong. [Ian’s] solution does not require you to remove the load, plus the load can continue running while you set your current limit. He does this by switching the current display readout from using 0–3 volts off an output shunt resistor to using the 0-3 volts output from a digital potentiometer which is normally used to set the power supplies’ constant current limit anyway. So simple it’s baffling why the designers didn’t include this feature.

Granted this is a simple modification anybody can implement, however [Ian] still wasn’t happy. A comment by [Gerry Sweeney] set him on the path to eliminate the tedious multi-button pressing by implementing a 555 momentary signal to switch the circuit from current load readout to current set readout. This 2nd mod means you just start pressing your up-down CC set buttons and it momentarily switches over the display to read your chosen max current and a few moments later the display switches back to reading actual load current. Brilliant! Just like the expensive big boy toys.

[Ian] doesn’t stop with a simple one-off hack job either. He designed up a proper PCB with cabling and connectors, making an easy to install kit that’s almost a plug-in conversion kit for Circuit Specialist bench power supplies (CSI3003X-5, CSI3005X5, CSI3003X3, CSI3005XIII). It is not a 100% plug-in kit because you do have to solder 3 wires to existing circuit points for signal and ground, but the video covering that task seemed trivial.

This hack could very well work with many other power supplies on the market being Circuit Specialist is just rebadging these units. For now, only the models listed after the break are known to work with this hack. If you find others please list in the comments.

After the break we will link to all three progressive mod videos incase you want to learn how to mod your own power supply or you could just order a prebuilt kit from [Ian].

Continue reading “Bench Power Supply Constant Current EZ-SET”

Troubleshooting a Broken Power Supply


How many power bricks have died on you? Have you ever tried to fix them? Sometimes it’s easier to grab another one (they grow on trees right?), but wouldn’t it be nice to save the broken ones from filling up landfills? Depending on the cause of death, it could be a super simple fix!

[Chaim-Leib] recently purchased a powered USB hub that came with a beefy 5v, 4A power supply — it worked great — until 6 months later, when it didn’t. The company sent him a new one, and let him keep the faulty one. Looking for a challenge, [Chaim-Leib] decided to crack it open and see if he could fix it himself.

No burnt caps, no fried diodes, no burn marks anywhere in fact! Luckily he spotted the culprit: One lonely resistor had lifted up from its pad. Having never jostled or dropped the power brick, this failure likely came from some kind of stress formed during original assembly — throw in a bunch of hot and cold thermal changes, and pop goes the solder pad!

It was a simple fix with some solder, and he emailed the company photos of his operation — they’ve promised to send them on to the engineering team to further evaluate the problem.

That was easy.

Digitally Controlled Dual Power Supply

Dual Power Supply

[Kerry] set out to build a digitally controlled dual supply for his bench. He’s already built a supply based on the LM338 linear regulator, but the goal this time was to build it without a linear regulator IC, and add digital control over both the current and voltage.

In part one of the build, [Kerry] explains the analog design of the device. He had an extra heatsink kicking around, which can dissipate enough heat from this linear supply to let it run at 10 A. A NE5532 opamp is used to track a reference voltage, which can be provided by a DAC. The current is measured by a LT6105 shunt sense amplifier, then compared to a reference provided by another DAC.

Part two focuses on the digital components. To interface with the analog circuitry, two MCP4821 DACs are used. These are controlled over SPI by an ATmega328P.

Fortunately, [Kerry] also has his own DC load project to test the supply with.

Fail of the Week: How a Cheap USB AC Adapter Might Indirectly Burn Your House Down

This Fail of the Week will remind our readers that every project they make, no matter how small they might be, may have big consequences if something goes wrong. Shown in the picture above is an oven that [Kevin] tweaked to perform reflow soldering. The story is he had just moved into a new place a few weeks ago and needed to make a new batch of boards. As he had cycled this oven many times, he was confident enough to leave the room to answer a few emails. A few minutes later, he had the unfortunate experience of smelling something burning as well as discovering white smoke invading his place.

Continue reading “Fail of the Week: How a Cheap USB AC Adapter Might Indirectly Burn Your House Down”

Peltier Joule Thief Power Supply

[Steven] manages to power an LED for 15 minutes using hot and cold water as a battery. He does this using the thermoelectric effect also known as the Seebeck effect, Peltier effect or Thomson effect. This isn’t particularly new; in fact there are commercial products that you can use to charge a cell phone using a small campfire or internal burner that works on the same principle.

What is interesting about [Steven’s] device is that he uses a salvaged Peltier device not meant for generating electricity, coupled with a home built joule thief circuit. In the video he describes how the joule thief functions and powers the LED using the small voltage generated by the Peltier device. The energy for the thermoelectric effect is conducted from a hot water bath through aluminum plates, through the positive and negative sides of the Peltier device, through more aluminum plates and finally into a cold water bath. As the heat energy transfers through the Peltier device a small electric current is generated and flows in two small wires coming out the side of the device.  The energy generated by the Peltier device is stored in the joule thief and periodically dumped at a voltage high enough to forward bias the LED “on” for a brief moment. Technically the LED is flashing but at a frequency too high for our eyes to see. As the hot water bath cools, the LED goes from very bright, to dim, to off in about 15 minutes.

Not a very practical power supply but still quite the parlor trick. He wraps up the tutorial specifying that a TEG thermoelectric generator would be a much better choice for generating power and can handle much higher temperatures. You can watch the video after the break.

Continue reading “Peltier Joule Thief Power Supply”