Retrotechtacular: Step Up and Get Your Transformer Training

Whether you’re just getting into electronics or could use a refresher on some component or phenomenon, it’s hard to beat the training films made by the U.S. military. This 1965 overview of transformers and their operations is another great example of clear and concise instruction, this time by the Air Force.

It opens to a sweeping orchestral piece reminiscent of the I Love Lucy theme. A lone instructor introduces the idea of transformers, their principles, and their applications in what seems to be a single take. We learn that transformers can increase or reduce voltage, stepping it up or down through electromagnetic induction. He moves on to describe transformer action, whereby voltages are increased or decreased depending on the ratio of turns in the primary winding to that of the secondary winding.

He explains that transformer action does not change the energy involved. Whether the turns ratio is 1:2 or 1:10, power remains the same from the primary to the secondary winding. After touching briefly on the coefficient of coupling, he discusses four types of transformers: power, audio, RF, and autotransformers.

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Building a glue stick flashlight

Building an LED flashlight is simple, right? Take a battery, connect it to an LED by way of a resistor. Alright wise guy, now make one that steps up the voltage for multiple LEDs and don’t use a boost-converter IC to do so.

[fede.tft] shares a flashlight built inside of a  used glue stick case. It’s the perfect size for one AA battery (we’re always on the lookout for good battery cases), and a shape that we’re familiar with as a flashlight. The problem is that he wants two white LEDs but with just one AA cell he’s never going to have more that 1.5V available. He licked that problem, getting to 7.2V by designing his own step-up converter using one transistor, an inductor, and three passive components. To get the inductor he needs, a stock part is disassembled and rewound to suit. Maybe you just end up with a flashlight when all is said and done, but then again, the Sistine Chapel is just some paintings on a ceiling.