Repairing A 300W CO2 Laser, One Toasted Part At A Time

A couple months back, [macona] got his hands on a 300 watt Rofin CO2 laser in an unknown condition. Unfortunately, its condition became all too known once he took a peek inside the case of the power supply and was confronted with some very toasty components. It was clear that the Magic Smoke had been released with a considerable bit of fury, the trick now was figuring out how to put it back in.

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.

If you look closely, you may see the failed component.

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.

This one is slightly less obvious.

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.

We love repairs at Hackaday, and judging by the analytics, so do you. One of this month’s most viewed posts is about a homeowner repairing their nearly new Husqvarna riding mower instead of sending it into get serviced under the warranty. Clearly there’s something about experiencing the troubleshooting and repair process vicariously, with our one’s own hardware safely tucked away at home, that resonates with the technical crowd.

Power Supply Uses Thin Form Factor

We’ve seen lots of power supply projects that start with an ATX PC power supply. Why not? They are cheap and readily available. Generally, they perform well and have a good deal of possible output. [Maco2229’s] design, though, looks a lot different. First, it is in a handsome 3D-printed enclosure. But besides that, it uses a TFX power supply — the kind of supply made for very small PCs as you’d find in a point of sale terminal or a set-top box.

Like normal PC supplies, these are inexpensive and plentiful. Unlike a regular supply, though, they are long and skinny. A typical supply will be about 85x65x175mm, although the depth (175mm) will often be a little shorter. Compare this to a standard ATX supply at  150x86x140mm, although many are shorter in depth. Volume-wise, that’s nearly 967 cubic centimeters versus over 1,800. That allows the project to be more compact than a similar one based on ATX.

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PCB Mods Silence Voltage Warnings On The Pi 4

If you’ve ever pushed the needle a bit on your Raspberry Pi, there’s a good chance you’ve been visited by the dreaded lightning bolt icon. When it pops up on the corner of the screen, it’s a warning that the input voltage is dipping into the danger zone. If you see this symbol often, the usual recommendation is to get a higher capacity power supply. But experienced Pi wranglers will know that the board can still be skittish.

Sick of seeing this icon during his MAME sessions, [Majenko] decided to attack the problem directly by taking a close look at the power supply circuitry of the Pi 4. While the official schematics for everyone’s favorite single-board computer are unfortunately incomplete, he was still able to identify a few components that struck him as a bit odd. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend you rush out and make these same modifications to your own board, the early results are certainly promising.

The first potential culprit [Majenko] found was a 10 ohm resistor on the 5 V line. He figured this part alone would have a greater impact on the system voltage than a dodgy USB cable would. The components aren’t labeled on the Pi’s PCB, but with a little poking of the multimeter he was able to track down the 0402 component and replace it with a tiny piece of wire. He powered up the Pi and ran a few games to test the fix, and while he definitely got fewer low-voltage warnings, there was still the occasional brownout.

Do we really need this part?

Going back to the schematic, he noticed there was a 10 uF capacitor on the same line as the resistor. What if he bumped that up a bit? The USB specifications say that’s the maximum capacitive load for a downstream device, but he reasoned that’s really only a problem for people trying to power the Pi from their computer’s USB port.

Tacking a 470 uF electrolytic capacitor to the existing SMD part might look a little funny, but after the installation, [Majenko] reports there hasn’t been a single low-voltage warning. He wonders if the addition of the larger capacitor might make removing the resistor unnecessary, but since he doesn’t want to mess with a good thing, that determination will be left as an exercise for the reader.

It’s no secret that the Raspberry Pi 4 has been plagued with power issues since release, but a newer board revision released last year helped smooth things out a bit. While most people wouldn’t go this far just to address the occasional edge case, it’s good to know folks are out there experimenting with potential fixes and improvements.

Stepping Down Voltage With Reliability

The availability of inexpensive electronics modules has opened up a world of opportunity for more complex projects to be completed quickly. Rather than designing everything from scratch, ready-made motor modules, regulators, computer vision modules, and control modules all ready to be put to work after arriving at one’s doorstep. Sometimes, though, these inexpensive electronics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, so [Jan] decided to produce them from scratch instead.

[Jan] is the creator of several robots, and frequently makes use of 3.3V and 5V step down modules, but was not happy with the consistency offered by the prefab modules. The solution to this was to build them from scratch in a way that makes producing a large amount nearly as easy as ordering them. The boards are based around the SY8105 chip, and are built in two batches for the robotics shop based on the two most commonly needed output voltages. With their design they get exactly what they need every time, without worrying about reliability from a random board shop overseas.

The robotics shop is called RoboticsBrno and they have made the schematics available for anyone that wants to build their own. That being said, the design does not make considerations for low noise since it isn’t required for their use case, but if you’d prefer something simple and reliable this will get the job done. It’s also important to understand the limitations of the parts in a build that are built by a third party, although power supplies are a pretty common area to make improvements on.

FM Radio From Scratch Using An Arduino

Building radio receivers from scratch is still a popular project since it can be done largely with off-the-shelf discrete components and a wire long enough for the bands that the radio will receive. That’s good enough for AM radio, anyway, but you’ll need to try this DIY FM receiver if you want to listen to something more culturally relevant.

Receiving frequency-modulated radio waves is typically more difficult than their amplitude-modulated cousins because the circuitry necessary to demodulate an FM signal needs a frequency-to-voltage conversion that isn’t necessary with AM. For this build, [hesam.moshiri] uses a TEA5767 FM chip because of its ability to communicate over I2C. He also integrated a 3W amplifier into this build, and everything is controlled by an Arduino including a small LCD screen which displays the current tuned frequency. With the addition of a small 5V power supply, it’s a tidy and compact build as well.

While the FM receiver in this project wasn’t built from scratch like some AM receivers we’ve seen, it’s still an interesting build because of the small size, I2C capability, and also because all of the circuit schematics are available for all of the components in the build. For those reasons, it could be a great gateway project into more complex FM builds.

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Hackaday Links: October 25, 2020

Siglent has been making pretty big inroads into the mid-range test equipment market, with the manufacturers instruments popping up on benches all over the place. Saulius Lukse, of Kurokesu fame, found himself in possession of a Siglent SPD3303X programmable power supply, which looks like a really nice unit, at least from the hardware side. The software it came with didn’t exactly light his fire, though, so Saulius came up with a Python library to control the power supply. The library lets him control pretty much every aspect of the power supply over its Ethernet port. There are still a few functions that don’t quite work, and he’s only tested it with his specific power supply so far, but chances are pretty good that there’s at least some crossover in the command sets for other Siglent instruments. We’re keen to see others pick this up and run with it.

From the “everyone needs a hobby” department, we found this ultra-detailed miniature of an IBM 1401 mainframe system to be completely enthralling. We may have written this up at an earlier point in its development, but it now appears that the model maker, 6502b, is done with the whole set, so it bears another look. The level of detail is eye-popping — the smallest features of every piece of equipment, from the operator’s console to the line printer, is reproduced . Even the three-ring binders with system documentation are there. And don’t get us started about those tape drives, or the wee chair in period-correct Harvest Gold.

Speaking of diversions, have you ever wondered how many people are in space right now? Or how many humans have had the privilege to hitch a ride upstairs? There’s a database for that: the Astronauts Database over on Supercluster. It lists pretty much everything — human and non-human — that has been intentionally launched into space, starting with Yuri Gagarin in 1961 and up to the newest member of the club, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who took off got the ISS just last week from his hometown of Baikonur. Everyone and everything is there, including “some tardigrades” that crashed into the Moon. They even included this guy, which makes us wonder why they didn’t include the infamous manhole cover.

And finally, for the machinists out there, if you’ve ever wondered what chatter looks like, wonder no more. Breaking Taps has done an interesting slow-motion analysis of endmill chatter, and the results are a bit unexpected. The footage is really cool — watching the four-flute endmill peel mild steel off and fling the tiny curlicues aside is very satisfying. The value of the high-speed shots is evident when he induces chatter; the spindle, workpiece, vise, and just about everything starts oscillating, resulting in a poor-quality cut and eventually, when pushed beyond its limits, the dramatic end of the endmill’s life. Interesting stuff — reminds us a bit of Ben Krasnow’s up close and personal look at chip formation in his electron microscope.

Bench Supplies Get Smaller Thanks To USB-C

Bench power supplies are an indispensable tool when prototyping electronics. Being able to set custom voltages and having some sort of current limiting feature are key to making sure that the smoke stays inside all of the parts. Buying a modern bench supply might be a little too expensive though, and converting an ATX power supply can be janky and unreliable. Thanks to the miracle of USB-C, though, you can build your own fully-featured benchtop power supply like [Brian] did without taking up hardly any space, and for only around $12.

USB-C can be used to deliver up to 100W but is limited to a few set voltage levels. For voltages that USB-C doesn’t support, [Brian] turns to an inexpensive ZK-4KX buck-boost DC-DC converter that allows for millivolt-level precision for his supply’s output. Another key aspect of using USB-C is making sure that your power supply can correctly negotiate for the amount of power that it needs. There’s an electronic handshake that goes on over the USB connection, and without it there’s not a useful amount of power that can be delivered. This build includes a small chip for performing this negotiation as well.

With all the electronics taken care of, [Brian] houses all of this in a 3D-printed enclosure complete with a set of banana plugs. While it may not be able to provide the wattage of a modern production unit, for most smaller use cases this would work perfectly. If you already have an ATX supply around, though, you can modify [Brian]’s build using that as the supply and case too.

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