Radio amateurs often have a love-hate relationship with home-made inductors, sharing all kinds of tips and tricks as to how the most stable nanohenry inductor can be wound. But there’s another group in the world of electronics with an interest in high-quality inductors, namely the audio enthusiasts. They need good quality inductors with a values in the millihenries, to use in loudspeaker crossover networks. [Homemade Audio] takes us through their manufacturing process for these coils, and the result is a watchable video resulting in some very well-made components.
The adjustable former is a machined aluminium affair of which we’re treated to the full manufacture. It’s likely the same results could be achieved with a 3D printed reel. The free-as-in-beer Coil64 on Windows is used to calculate the dimensions and number of turns, and it’s set up on a jig with a cordless screwdriver doing the winding. The best technique for flat layers of turns is explained, and a coat of varnish is put on each completed layer. We’re guessing this is to stop the coil “singing” at audio frequencies.
With a set of cable ties holding it together the result is a very tidy component. It’s adjusted a few turns to get the right value with an LCR meter, however experience tells us that a tiny percentage either way won’t harm the resulting network too much. If you make your own speakers, the video below the break could be extremely useful.
PCB inductors are a subject that has appeared here at Hackaday many times, perhaps most notably in the electromagnetic exploits of [Carl Bugeja]. But there is still much to be learned in the creation of the inductors themselves, and [atomic14] has recently been investigating their automatic creation through scripting.
A simple spiral trace is easy enough to create, but when for example creating a circular array of coils for an electric motor there’s a need for more complex shapes. Drawing a trapezoidal spiral is a surprisingly difficult task for a script, and we’re treated to a variety of algorithms in the path to achieving a usable design.
Having perfected the algorithm, how to bring it into KiCAD? The PCB CAD package has its own Python environment built-in, but it’s not the most flexible in which to develop. The solution is to write a simple JSON interpreter in KiCAD, and leave the spiral generation to an external script that passes a JSON. This also leaves the possibility of using the same code in other PCB packages.
As ferrite technology has progressed into a mastery of magnetic permeability, the size of inductors has gone down to the point at which they are now fairly nondescript components. There was a time though when inductors could be beautiful creations of interleaving layers of copper wire in large air-cored inductors, achieved through clever winding techniques. It’s something that’s attracted the attention of [Brett], who’s produced a machine capable of producing something close to the originals.
Part of the write-up is an investigation of the history, these coils were once present even at the consumer level but are now the preserve of only a few highly secretive companies. They are still worth pursuing though because they can deliver the high “Q” factor that is demanded in a high quality tuned circuit. The rest of the write-up dives in detail into the design of the wire feeder, and the Arduino motor control of the project. There should be enough there for any other experimenters to try their hands at layered inductors, so perhaps we’ll see this lost art make a comeback.
Custom coils are a regular requirement for anything from radios, to musical instruments, to switching power supplies, so it’s not surprising that quite a few projects featuring them have made it here. One of the more unusual of late has been one that winds toroids.
Depending on what you build, you may or may not run into a lot of inductors. If you need small value coils, it is easy to make good-looking coils, and [JohnAudioTech] shows you how. Of course, doing the winding itself isn’t that hard, but you do need to know how to estimate the number of turns you need and how to validate the coil by measurement.
[John] uses a variety of techniques to estimate and measure his coils ranging from math to using an oscilloscope. He even uses an old-fashioned nomogram from a Radio Shack databook circa 1972.
The most obvious casualty was an incinerated output inductor. His theory is that cracks in the ferrite toroid changed its magnetic properties, ultimately causing it to heat up during high frequency switching. With no active cooling, the insulation cooked off the wires and things started to really go south. Maybe. In any event, replacing it was a logical first step.
Unfortunately, Rofin is out of business and replacement parts weren’t available, so [macona] had to wind it himself with a self-sourced ferrite and magnet wire. Luckily, the power supply still had one good inductor that he could compare against. After replacing the coil and a few damaged ancillary wires and connectors, it seemed like the power supply was working again. But with the laser and necessary cooling lines connected, nothing happened.
A close look at the PCB in the laser head revealed that a LM2576HVT switching regulator had exploded rather violently. Replacing it wasn’t a problem, but why did it fail to begin with? A close examination showed the output trace was shorted to ground, and further investigation uncovered a blown SMBJ13A TVS diode. Installing the new components got the startup process to proceed a bit farther, but the laser still refused to fire. Resigned to hunting for bad parts with the aid of a microscope, he was able to determine a LM2574HVN voltage regulator in the RF supply had given up the ghost. [macona] replaced it, only for it to quickly heat up and fail.
Now this was getting ridiculous. He replaced the regulator again, and this time pointed his thermal camera at the board to try and see what else was getting hot. The culprit ended up being an obsolete DS8922AM dual differential line transceiver that he had to source from an overseas seller on eBay.
After the replacement IC arrived from the other side of the planet, [macona] installed it and was finally able to punch some flaming holes with his monster laser. Surely the only thing more satisfying than burning something with a laser is burning something with a laser you spent months laboriously repairing.
Inductors are not the most common component these days and variable ones seem even less common. However, with a ferrite rod and some 3D printing, [drjaynes] shows how to make your own variable inductor. You can see him show the device off in the video below.
The coil itself is just some wire, but the trick is moving the ferrite core in and out of the core. The first version used some very thick wire and produced an inductor that varied from 6 to 22 microhenrys. Switching to 22 gauge wire allowed more wire on the form. That pushed the value range to 2 to 12 millihenrys.
Whatever kind of clock you’re interested in building, you’re going to need to build an oscillator of some sort. Whether it be a pendulum, a balance wheel, or the atomic transitions of cesium or rubidium, something needs to go back and forth in a predictable way to form the timebase of the clock. And while it might not make the best timepiece in the world, a tuning fork certainly fits the bill and makes for a pretty interesting clock build.
One of the nice things about this build is that [Kris Slyka] got their inspiration from a tuning fork clock that we covered a while back — we love it when someone takes a cool concept and makes it their own. While both clocks use a 440 Hz tuning fork — that’s an A above middle C for the musically inclined — [Kris] changed up the excitation method for their build. She used a pair of off-the-shelf inductors, placed near the ends of each arm and bridged by a strong neodymium magnet to both sense the 440-Hz vibrations and to provide the kick needed to keep the fork vibrating.
As for the aesthetic of the build, we think [Kris] really nailed it. Using through-hole components, old-school seven-segment displays, and a home-etched PCB, she was able to capture a retro look that really works. The RS-232 port and the bell jar enclosure complete the feel, although we’re not sure about the custom character set [Kris] designed — it’s cool and all, but makes it hard for anyone else to read without a little practice. Regardless, this is a fun build, and we’d imagine the continuous tone coming from the clock is pretty pleasing.