EMC Tutorial Puts You In The Loop

A student once asked his lab instructor why his amplifier was oscillating. After looking at it and noting the wild construction, the instructor remarked, “A better question would be why shouldn’t it oscillate?” The truth of it is, our circuits generate noise and especially if they are oscillating anyway. Distortion and nonlinearities generate harmonics and other component imperfections also contribute.

[FesZ Electronics] has a great video series about noise in switching power supplies and the latest talks about the hot loop. If you want to improve the noise performance of your next design, these videos are well worth watching. You can see the hot loop video below.

We really liked the homebrew noise probes. In addition to real-world probing. The video also observes circuit operation under simulation. Even if you don’t care about noise performance, there’s a lot of good information about basic switching power supply design here.

You can see the difference in a PCB that has a small hot loop versus a very small hot loop. Something to think about next time you are laying out a power supply board.

If you want to dive deeper into noise simulation, we have a good read on that for you. Or ditch simulation, and make your own cheap probe with an SDR dongle.

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Hackaday Links: July 11, 2021

Well, at least the acronym will stay the same. It looks like black is the new blue for Windows 11, as the BSOD screen gets its first makeover in years. It’s an admittedly minor change, since the on-screen text is virtually identical to the BSOD from recent versions of Windows 10, and the new death-knell even sports the same frowny-face emoji and QR code. Really, the white-on-black color scheme is the only major difference we can see — even the acronym will stay the same. It’s not really that newsworthy, we suppose, although it does make us miss the extremely busy BSODs from back in the Windows NT days.

As the semiconductor shortage continues, manufacturers are getting desperate to procure the parts they need to make their products. And if there’s one thing as certain as death and taxes, it’s that desperation provides opportunity to criminals. A thread over on EEVBlog details an encounter one company had with an alleged scammer, who sent an unsolicited offer to them for a large number of ordinarily hard-to-find microprocessors at a good price. Wisely, the company explored the offer in some depth and found that “Brian” (the representative who contacted them) is actually named Nick Martin and, according to an article on the Electronic Resellers Association International (ERAI) website, is apparently associated with a number of fraudulent operations. Their list of allegedly fraudulent deals made by Mr. Martin stretches back to 2018 and totals over $300,000 of ill-gotten gain.

Last year, friend-of-Hackaday and laser artist Seb Lee-Delisle spent a lot of time and effort getting together an amazing interactive laser light show for the night skies of cities in the UK. Laser Light City, with powerful lasers mounted on the tops of tall buildings, was a smashing success that brought a little cheer into what was an otherwise dreadful time. But we have to admit that the videos and other materials covering Laser Light City left us wanting more — something like that, with a far-flung installation on rooftops and the ability for audience members to control it all from their phone, really needs a deeper “how it works” treatment. Thankfully, Seb has released a video that dives into the nuts and bolts of the show, including a look at ludicrously powerful lasers with beams that can still be seen in broad daylight.

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Bricking Your 3D Printer, In A Good Way

In our vernacular, bricking something is almost never good. It implies that something has gone very wrong indeed, and that your once-useful and likely expensive widget is now about as useful as a brick. Given their importance to civilization, that seems somewhat unfair to bricks, but it gets the point across.

It turns out, though, that bricks can play an important role in 3D-printing in terms of both noise control and print quality. As [Stefan] points out in the video below, living with a 3D printer whirring away on a long print can be disturbing, especially when the vibrations of the stepper motors are transmitted into and amplified by a solid surface, like a benchtop. He found that isolating the printer from the resonant surface was the key. While the stock felt pad feet on his Original Prusa i3 Mk 3S helped, the best results were achieved by building a platform of closed-cell packing foam and a concrete paver block. The combination of the springy foam and the dampening mass of the paver brought the sound level down almost 8 dBA.

[Stefan] also thoughtfully tested his setups on print quality. Machine tools generally perform better with more mass to damp unwanted vibration, so it stands to reason that perching a printer on top of a heavy concrete slab would improve performance. Even though the difference in quality wasn’t huge, it was noticeable, and coupled with the noise reduction, it makes the inclusion of a paver and some scraps of foam into your printing setup a no-brainer.

Not content to spend just a couple of bucks on a paver for vibration damping? Then cast a composite epoxy base for your machine — either with aluminum or with granite.

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Understanding A Bit About Noise Can Help You Go A Long Way

There are many ways in which one’s youth can be misspent, most of which people wish they’d done when they get older and look back on their own relatively boring formative years. I misspent my youth pulling TV sets out of dumpsters and fixing them or using their parts in my projects. I recognise with hindsight that there might have been a few things I could have done with more street cred, but for me, it was broken TVs. Continue reading “Understanding A Bit About Noise Can Help You Go A Long Way”

Homebrew Loop Antenna Brings The Shortwave World To You

Radio may be dead in terms of delivering entertainment, but it’s times like these when the original social network comes into its own. Being able to tune in stations from across the planet to get fresh perspectives on a global event can even be a life saver. You’ll need a good antenna to do that, which is where this homebrew loop antenna for the shortwave radio bands shines.

To be honest, pretty much any chunk of wire will do as an antenna for most shortwave receivers. But not everyone lives somewhere where it’s possible to string up a hundred meters of wire and get a good ground connection, which could make a passive loop antenna like this a good choice. Plus, loops tend to cancel the electrical noise that’s so part of life today, which can make it easier to pull in weak, distant stations.

[Thomas]’s design is based on a length of coaxial cable, which should be stiff enough to give the loop some stability, like a low-loss RG-8 or RG-213. The coax braid and dielectric are exposed at the midpoint of the cable to create a feed point, while the shield and center conductor at the other ends are cross-connected. A 1:1 transformer is wound on a toroid core to connect to the feedpoint; [Thomas] calls it a balun but we tend to think it’s more of an unun, since both the antenna and feedline are unbalanced. He reports good results from the loop across the shortwave band.

The shortwave and ham bands are a treasure trove of information and entertainment just waiting to be explored. Check them out — you might learn something, and you might even stumble across spies doing their thing.

[via RTL-SDR.com]

Wearable Cone Of Silence Protects You From Prying Ears

Careful,  the walls have ears. Or more specifically, the smart speaker on the table has ears, as does the phone in your pocket, the fitness band on your wrist, possibly the TV, the fridge, the toaster, and maybe even the toilet. Oh, and your car is listening to you too. Probably.

How does one fight this profusion of listening devices? Perhaps this wearable smart device audio jammer will do the trick. The idea is that the MEMS microphones that surround us are all vulnerable to jamming by ultrasonic waves, due to the fact that they have a non-linear response to ultrasonic signals. The upshot of that is when a MEMS hears ultrasound, it creates a broadband signal in the audible part of the spectrum. That creates a staticky noise that effectively drowns out any other sounds the microphone might be picking up.

By why a wearable? Granted, [Yuxin Chin] and colleagues from the University of Chicago have perhaps stretched the definition of that term a tad with their prototype, but it turns out that moving the jammer around does a better job of blocking sounds than a static jammer does. The bracelet jammer is studded with ultrasonic transducers that emit overlapping fields and result in zones of constructive and destructive interference; the wearer’s movements vary the location of the dead spots that result, improving jamming efficacy. Their paper (PDF link) goes into deeper detail, and a GitHub repository has everything you need to roll your own.

We saw something a bit like this before, but that build used white noise for masking, and was affixed to the smart speaker. We’re intrigued by a wearable, especially since they’ve shown it to be effective under clothing. And the effect of ultrasound on MEMS microphones is really interesting.

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Solving The Mysteries Of Grounding While Improving A Power Supply

Grounding problems and unwanted noise in electrical systems can often lead to insanity. It can seem like there’s no method to the madness when an electrical “gremlin” caused by one of these things pops its head out. When looking more closely, however, these issues have a way of becoming more obvious. In a recent video, [Fesz Electronics] shows us how to investigate some of these problems by looking at a small desktop power supply, modelling it in LTSpice, and reducing the noise on the power supply’s output.

While everything in this setup is properly grounded, including the power supply and oscilloscope, the way the grounding systems interact can contribute to the high amount of noise. This was discovered by isolating the power supply from earth ground using electrical tape (not recommended as a long-term solution) and seeing that the noise was reduced. However, the ripple increased substantially, so a more permanent fix was needed. For that, the power supply was modelled in LTSpice. This is where a key discovery was made: since all the parts of the power supply aren’t ideal, noise can be introduced from the actual real-life electrical behavior of some of the parts. In this case, it was non-ideal capacitance in the transformer.

According to the model, this power supply could be improved by adding a larger capacitor across the output leads, and also by increasing their inductance. A large capacitor was soldered in the power supply and an iron ferrule was added, which decreased the noise level from 100 mV to around 20. Still not perfect, but a much needed improvement to the simple power supply. If, on the other hand, you want to make sure you eliminate that transformer’s capacitance completely, you can always go with a transformerless power supply. That carries other risks, though.

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