Running the numbers on a cheap PSU

[Mike] picked up a cheap USB hub for four pounds (about $6) including delivery. He wanted to know how it’s possible to get quality electronics for that price, and as you may have guessed it’s not possible. He cracked open the power supply that shipped with the hub and hooked it up for some testing.

The wall wart has a sticker on it that claims a rating of 1 Amp at 5 volts. It’s pretty easy to see that this hardware cannot meet that spec just by looking at the circuit board. It’s a low-end single sided board that has some really disappointing isolation between the mains and regulated side of the circuit. As far as we can tell there’s really no reliable regulation circuit on the low side of the transformer, and the tests that [Mike] runs in the clip after the break show this. From left to right in the picture above you can see voltage at the hub-side of the power cord, current on the load, and voltage leaving the circuit board. At just 560 mA the voltage the USB hub is receiving has fallen below 3 volts!

The link to this project was sent in by [Paul] after reading about that fake Canon camera PSU. We love this kind of stuff so keep the tips coming as you find them!

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Designing and building a bench supply

[Scott’s] been digging around the back issues of the Internet to find this project. He blew the dust off and sent us a link to an article that traverses the design and build process of a bench power supply.

[Guido Socher] does an excellent job of presenting his bench supply project. So many others show of the final product, but he has gone out of his way to make sure we understand the design principles that went into it. He starts off by talking about the simplest possible supply design: a transistor and Zener diode which generates a reference voltage. He goes on to discuss the problems with this simplified circuit and how to address them, covering the gotchas that pop up at each step in the process.

Once he designed the circuit and laid out some boards he began building an enclosure. We love his tip about using a stick pin and an unpopulated through-hole PCB to mark button locations on the front bezel of the case. The final design is shown above, and includes a laptop brick to translate mains power into a 24V 3A DC feed for his custom circuitry.

Multi-Function Bench Power Supply

Concerned with your project’s power consumption but don’t want to constantly leave an ammeter wired in series with your power supply? [Rajendra] feels your pain and has recently documented his solution to the problem: a variable-output bench top power supply that clearly displays load current consumption among other things!

Everything is wired up in a nice roomy enclosure that has front-panel access to ±5V and variable outputs, an adjustment potentiometer, and even an input for an integrated frequency counter. A PIC16F689 MCU runs the show and displays the variable output voltage and current on a 16×2 character LCD. Although clearly useful as is, the PIC has plenty of I/Os and muscle left for future expansion and a capacitance meter has already been hinted at as and addition for version 2!

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PC casemod-inspired benchtop PSU

benchtop_psu

[Will] had a cheap power supply sitting around, and decided to turn it into a full-featured benchtop PSU. Inspired by some of the other benchtop supplies we have featured in the past, he decided that he wanted his PSU to be more than just a simple-looking box sitting on his work bench. Taking some cues from PC case modding, he put together a unit that is not only very useful, but also quite sharp looking.

The frame of the case was crafted from aluminum angle, while all of the other flat surfaces were made using black polycarbonate. He installed the standard 12v, 3.3v, and 5v terminals you would expect from any benchtop PSU, complete with an LCD display showing the voltages provided by each rail as measured by an Arduino stationed inside the case. Additionally, he installed a variable terminal capable of providing 1.3v-30v, along with its own LCD display. The most unique feature is the multimeter embedded in the front of the case, which makes it virtually impossible to lose.

The case is finished off as you might expect, if you have seen any of his previous work. It features LED lighting on the inside, large fans on either side of the case for optimal air flow, and a pair of machined aluminum handles.

Be sure to check out the quick video below of the PSU being powered on.

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ATX psu turned into an adjustable voltage bench supply

Here’s a fancy way to convert an ATX powers supply into a bench supply. [TG] didn’t just cut off the motherboard connector and add banana plugs, but improved the functionality. Right off the bat you’ll notice that he’s added a control panel. There is an Ammeter and Ohmmeter to let you know what the unit is putting out. He added an MIC29152WT adjustable voltage regulator so that he’s not limited to the fixed voltages of the psu. As a final touch he added an external voltage probe which can be used with the flick of a switch. It’s no replacement for a proper bench supply, especially since it doesn’t have adjustable current limiting, but it’s a nice improvement upon previous psu hacks.

Bench supply with current limiting

This is a bench power supply with adjustable voltage and current limiting. [Sylvain’s] creation can regulate 0-25 volts while sourcing 0-5 amps. Current limiting is a nice feature as it will allow you to test your prototypes to ensure the power regulator you choose will not be over or underpowered.

This supply is really a two-in-one. The case has two separate circuits so that you can have different power rails going at the same time. There is a microcontroller involved, but the ATmega32 doesn’t do anything more than measure the voltage and amperage and drive the graphic LCD screen. Two potentiometers are responsible for setting the voltage and limiting the current.

[Thanks Sargonout]

EL Wire: make it, connect it, power it

[Jeri’s] back with a series of videos that outlines the step-by-step electroluminescent wire manufacturing, making EL panels from PCBs, and assembling power supplies for EL hardware. These concepts are actually quite approachable, something we don’t expect from someone who makes their own integrated circuits at home.

The concept here is that an alternating current traveling through phosphors will excite them and produce light. You need two conductors separated by a dielectric to get the job done. For wire, [Jeri] uses one strand of enameled magnet wire and one strand of bare wire. The enamel insulates them, protecting against a short circuit.

But that’s not all, she also tests using a circuit board as an EL panel. By repurposing the ground plane as one of the conductors, and using the solder mask as the dielectric she is able to paint on a phosphor product resulting in the glowing panel.

Finally, you’ve got to get juice to the circuit and that’s where her power supply video comes into the picture. We’ve embedded all three after the break. It’s possible that this is cooler than blinking LEDs and it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. The circuitry is forgiving, as long as you don’t zap yourself with that alternating current.

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