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”

Homebuilt 30kV High Voltage Power Supply

If you have need for 30,000 volts to launch your ionocraft (lifter) or power other DIY projects then shuttle over to RimstarOrg’s YouTube channel and checkout [Steven Dufresne’s] homebuilt 30kV power supply. The construction details that [Steven] includes in his videos are always amazing, especially for visual learners. If you prefer text over video he was kind enough to share a schematic and full write up at

The power supply can be configured for 1.2kV – 4.6kV or 4kV – 30kV at the output while requiring 0-24V DC at the input. In the video [Steven] tries two power supplies. His homemade DC bench power supply at 8V and 2.5A and also a laptop power supply rated at 20V 1.8A DC. A couple of common 2N3055 power transistors, proper wattage resistors, a flyback transformer and a high voltage tripler is about all you’ll need to scrounge up. The flyback transformer can be found in old CRT type televisions, and he does go into details on rewinding the primary for this build. The high voltage tripler [Steven] references might be a bit harder to source. He lists a few alternates for the tripler but even those are scarce: NTE 521, Siemens 76-1 N094, 1895-641-045. There are lots of voltage multiplier details in the wild, but keep in mind this tripler needs to operate up to 30kV.

Join us after the break to watch the video and for a little advice from Mr. Safety.

Continue reading “Homebuilt 30kV High Voltage Power Supply”

Disabling under/over voltage protection on ATX power supplies


[C] just recently put together a RepRap. Not wanting to spend the money on a dedicated power supply, he looked around for a cheaper solution and found one in an off-the-shelf ATX computer power supply. These ATX supplies are actually a little finicky when not used in a computer, as [C] found, with voltage drops on the +12 line even when a load is connected to the supply. Undeterred, [C] eventually solved this problem by cutting some traces and grounding a few pins on the protection circuit.

The ATX supply [C] used could supply 25 amps on the 12 volt rail, more than enough for a simple RepRap. There was only one problem: the supply would randomly shut itself off, ruining the print. After a little googling, [C] found some people powering 12 volt amplifiers that were running into the same problem. Their solution was to ground a few pins on the protection circuit. Their supply wasn’t quite like [C]’s so he had to do a little experimentations.

It took a few iterations to get right, but [C] managed to figure out exactly which pins on the “power supply supervisor” IC must be grounded to disable the undervoltage protection. With these pins grounded, the protection circuit of the supply is completely disabled, giving him and uninterrupted 25 amps at 12 volts. If you’re looking for a cheap source of power, it would be hard to go wrong with [C]’s tutorial and his power supply of choice.

DIP switch adjusted voltage regulator


It couldn’t be simpler but you have to admit that a small adjustable portable power supply like this one will be really handy.

The main part of the PSU is an LM317 linear voltage regulator which we’re already familiar with. The output voltage is adjustable based on a voltage divider between two of the pins. The set of eight DIP switches allows you to tweak that voltage divider. Switch number one connects the 9-volt battery connector to the regulator, serving as a power switch. Each of the other seven switches adjusts the output voltage by 1.5 volts. The output of the regulator connects to your target device using alligator clips which are not in frame above.

[Jason] says he takes this with him when thrift store hunting for cheap electronics. It can mimic most combinations of Alkaline cells letting you power up electronic toys to ensure they work. But we would find it equally useful for getting that early prototype away from the bench supply for testing before finalizing a dedicated portable supply.

Continue reading “DIP switch adjusted voltage regulator”

Apple MagSafe cord repair

[Tommy Ward] had a big problem with the cord for his laptop power supply. This thing’s not cheap so he figured out a way to fix the frayed cord on his Apple MagSafe. He asserts that the shortened rubber collar on the plug end of the cord is to blame for this type of damage. We think rough use may have something to do with it too, but having had to repair our own feline-damaged power cords we’re not about to start pointing fingers.

To pull off an appropriate fix [Tommy] pries apart the case housing the power converter. This lets him get at the solder connections of the cord. After removing it from the circuit board he clips off the damaged portion of the cable. To reuse the strain relief grommet he drilled out the old portion of wire and insulation, making room for the undamaged cable to pass through, adding a cable tie on the inside to aide in strain relief. The last part of the fix involves gluing everything back together.

If your power supply problems have to do with the computer connector itself there’s a fix for that too.

DVD power supply repair tips


This demonstration fixes the power supply of a DVD player, but the skills transcend this one application. [Alan] walks us through the process of repairing a power supply (translated) on a simple consumer electronics unit.

Obviously this starts by cracking open the dead device and verifying that the culprit is the power supply. [Alan] then removes that board from the chassis and gets down to work with a visual inspection. He’s got several images which illustrate things to look for; blistered electrolytic capacitors, cracked solder joins, scorch marks, etc. In his case there’s obviously a burnt out fuse, but that merely protects the hardware from further damage, it’s not the cause. Next he examines the diodes of the bridge rectifier. These need to be removed from the system to do so, which he accomplishes by clipping one end of each as seen above. He found that two diodes on one side of the bridge had broken down. After replacing them he tries a new fuse which immediately burns out. But a quick swap of the capacitors and he gets the thing back up and running.

We perk up every time we see this type of repair hack. We figure if we can build our own hobby electronics we should be able to fix the cheap devices like this one.