Ammo box PSU


Sometimes you need a power supply that can be thrown into the back of a car and taken into the field. [BadWolf] didn’t want to take his bench supply, so he whipped up this very portable power supply made from a computer PSU. To ruggedize his build a little, he put it in a 50 caliber ammo can making it more than able to handle the roughest field work.

While not a proper adjustable power supply, this ammo can is more than capable of delivering a whole lot of current in a number of different voltages. There are a few bells and whistles – a ‘plugged in’ and ‘on’ light, as well as a few very cool looking toggle switches that are sure to arouse the suspicions of unsuspecting bystanders.

[BadWolf] kept all the safety features built-in to the computer PSU, so this ammo box power supply is still protected from short circuits, and over-current, making it much safer than its appearance belies. It’s also a great example of what can be done if you don’t have a proper bench supply, so we’ve got to tip our hat to [BadWolf] for that.

Raspberry Pi power controller adds shutdown and startup functionality


This breadboarded circuit uses a PIC chip to control the Raspberry Pi’s power supply. We first noticed this gap in the RPi features when we built an XBMC setup around the RPi board. It’s not the end of the world, but since installing the Raspberry Pi we have been unplugging it after each use. [Kevin Sangeelee's] circuit could be the path to automating this process.

This is not really aimed at media applications. The PIC circuit does switch power to the RPi, but the goal was to add a push-button to do so. Other goals of the project include scheduled shutdown and data logging of brownout events on the power rail. As you can see, there’s a coin cell in the mix which keeps time when the system is in power down. The RPi communicates with the PIC via i2c. This facilitates full power-down using the Linux command ‘shudown -h’, as well as the ability to schedule a restart time.

Adding an IR receiver and tweaking the PIC code are all it would take to trigger the power controller from the couch.

[Thanks Donn]

Repairing a junked signal generator

We must be walking past the wrong dumpsters because we certainly haven’t encountered equipment like this just waiting to be salvaged. [Shahriar] found an HP 8648C Synthesized Signal Generator while he was ‘dumpster diving’ and set out to fix the malfunctioning lab equipment. He posted a 1-hour video on the project, which you can find embedded after the break. The actual fix happens in the first half, the rest of the video is spent testing the resurrected device.

The back corner of the case has been dented, which may be the reason this has been thrown out. When it is first powered it emits an unpleasant screeching noise and the user interface doesn’t do anything. [Shahriar] says he recognizes the sound as a malfunctioning switch-mode power supply. Sure enough, when disconnected from the main board it still makes the noise. It turns out there’s a huge electrolytic capacitor the size of a stack of poker chips which has come loose from the PSU board. When it’s resoldered the device fires up as expected.

Now how are we going to find a digital capture oscilloscope that just needs to have its PSU reassembled?

[Read more...]

Problems powering Raspberry Pi from GPIO header

[Zaion] grabbed an ATX power supply to source the 5V the Raspberry Pi needs to run. The common problem when it comes to RPi supplies is a shortfall in how much current a USB wall adapter can source. The ATX shouldn’t have this problem, but none-the-less he found that the USB ports were only reading about 5V. Strange. He grabbed the soldering iron and fixed the issue with a piece of jumper wire (English translation found in the second half of his post).

The problem was discovered when trying to get a WiFi dongle to work on one of the RPi’s USB ports. It simply wouldn’t show up, and after going down the blind alley of assuming it was a driver problem he started to investigate the hardware. After discovering the below-nominal voltage [Zaion] measured the resistance between the 5V pin on the GPIO header and the one on the USB port. It reads 3-4 Ohms and he concluded that the trace is too thin. We took a quick look at the schematic for the board and see no reason for the voltage drop. His jumper wire fixed the issue but it leaves us wondering, is this an isolated case, or a design flaw? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Switch mode breadboard supply from a PTH08080

[Ben] wanted a switch mode power supply for his breadboard. He ordered a PTH08080 module which is made by Texas Instruments. The spec sheet would make it a great choice for him, but he was not happy to learn that the pinout doesn’t conform to the 0.1″ spacing used by solderless breadboards. His solution was to make a breakout adapter from some protoboard.

The PTH08080 can source up to 2.25A. It accepts 4.5-18V input and can output 0.9-5.5V. The best part is the efficiency that a switch mode supply achieves compared to linear regulators. This design adds in two capacitors which are suggested in the application circuit from the datasheet (PDF). Notice that there are two headers on the breakout board. One supplies power and ground to the breadboard. The other gives him a place to connect the adjustment resistor used to select the output voltage. This connects between one pin on the PTH08080 and GND. [Ben] plans to upgrade the design by included a precision trimpot for easy output voltage adjustments.

Buying cheaper electronics and not saving money

As an engineer at Spectrum Design in Minneapolis, [Carl] works with clients to get their product out to the masses. When designing a new USB-powered device, one client thought it would be a great idea to include a USB car charger with the device. The client promptly ordered a few thousand car chargers from China and everything was going swimmingly.

Everything was fine, of course, until [Carl] decided to test the Chinese car chargers with the client’s device. The USB PHY burnt out in short order, and the likely culprit was a shorted 12 volt regulator. This demanded a closer inspection, so after cracking open the charger [Carl] was amazed at what he found.

Yes, what you see on that circuit board is accurate. The manufacturer of these car chargers never even populated the switched mode regulator for this car USB charger.  Amazing, considering a single 10 cent 7805 DC regulator would have almost worked for this application.

If there was ever an example of being careful when purchasing the cheapest possible product to increase profit margins, this would be it.

Ever the engineer, [Carl] sent this into the tip line as a Word document. That’s available here, along with a slide show of the pictures [Carl] snapped.

[Read more...]

ATX benchtop conversion retains safety features, delivers plenty of current.


[Bogin] was looking to add a benchtop power supply to his array of tools, but he didn’t really find any of the online tutorials helpful. Most of what he discovered were simple re-wiring jobs utilizing LM317 regulators and shorted PS-ON pins used to keep the PSUs happily chugging along as if nothing had been changed. No, what [Bogin] wanted was a serious power supply with short circuit protection and loads of current.

He started the conversion by disassembling a 300 watt ATX power supply that uses a halfbridge design. After identifying the controller chip, a TL494 in this case, he proceeded to tweak the PWM feedback circuit which controls the supply’s output. A few snips here, a few passes with a soldering iron there, and [Bogin] was ready to test out his creation.

He says that it works very well, even under heavy load. His tutorial is specific to these sorts of PSUs, so we would be more than happy to feature similar work done with those that implement other design topologies. In the meantime, be sure to check out a video of the hacked power supply in action below.

[Read more...]


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