Drop-In Switch Mode Regulators

Perhaps the simplest way to regulate a DC voltage is using a voltage divider and/or an active device like a Zener diode. Besides simplicity, they have the additional advantage of not being particularly noisy, but with a major caveat: they are terribly inefficient. To solve this problem a switching regulator can be used instead, but that generally increases complexity and noise. With careful design, though, a switching regulator can be constructed to almost completely replicate a linear regulator like this drop-in TO3 replacement. (Google Translate from German)

While the replacement regulator was built by [Mr. Floppy], the units are being put to the test in the linked video below by [root42]. The major problem these solve compared to other switching regulators is the suppression of ripple, which is a high-frequency artifact that appears on the DC voltage. Reducing ripple in this situation involved designing low-inductance circuit traces on the PCB as well as implementing a number of EMI filters on both input and output. The final result is an efficient voltage supply for retrocomputers which has a ripple lower than their oscilloscopes can measure without special tools.

[root42] is not only testing these, but the linked video also has him using the modules to repair a Commodore 1541 which originally had the linear TO3 voltage regulators. It’s definitely a non-trivial task to build a switching power supply that meets the requirements of sensitive electronics like these. Switch mode power supplies aren’t new ideas, either, and surprisingly pre-date the first commercially-available transistor although modern ones like these are much less expensive to build.

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