A benchtop power supply is a key thing to have for any aspiring electronics hacker. While you can always buy one, plenty of us have old computer PSUs lying around that could do a fine job themselves. [Frugha] decided to whip up a neat 3D-printed design for converting any ATX PSU into a usable bench unit.
The design features banana plugs outputting +12V, -12V, +5V, and +3.3V, with all outputs appropriately fused for safety. There’s also a fused stepdown converter used to supply variable voltages as needed. Its original trimpot was replaced with a multi-turn pot for ease of control. To make everything work, a load resistor on the 5V circuit makes the power supply think it’s hooked up to a motherboard. It’s all wrapped up in a neat slant-sided 3D-printed case that fits onto the ATX power supply itself.
The result is a neat and tidy power supply built out of readily-available components. We particularly like the addition of the stepdown converter – most ATX-based projects don’t offer variable output, which can nonetheless come in handy.
There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling as a computer or other device fails just after its warranty has expired. [Robotanv] had it with his Xbox Series S whose power supply failed, and was faced with either an online sourced PSU of uncertain provenance, or a hefty bill from Microsoft for a repair. He chose to do neither, opening up his console and replacing the broken PSU with a generic external model. See the video below the break.
The Xbox appears surprisingly well designed as a modular unit, so accessing and unplugging its PSU was quite easy. To his surprise he found that the connections were simply two wires, positive and negative lines for 12 V. The solution was to find a suitably beefy 12 V supply and wire it up, before continuing gaming.
Beyond that simple description lies a bit more. The original was a 160 W unit so he’s taken a gamble with a 120 W external brick. He’s monitoring its temperature carefully to make sure, but with his gaming it has not been a problem. Then there’s the board wiring, which he appears to have soldered to pads on the PCB. We might have tried to find something that fit the original spade connectors instead, but yet again it hasn’t caused him any problems. We’d be curious to see what has failed in the original PSU. Meanwhile we’re glad to see this Xbox ride again, it’s more than can be said for one belonging to a Hackaday colleague.
I have an Acer monitor that I’ve owned for around 15 years, and thanks to my having paid extra at the time for the model sporting a DVI socket for HDMI compatibility it still finds a place as one of my desktop monitors. It has a power brick that supplies it with 1 2V at 4.5 A, and over the years this has developed an annoying whine. Something’s loose in the magnetics, and I really should replace it. So off to AliExpress I went, and dropped in an order for a 12 V, 5 A power brick.
It’s No Heavyweight
These units are pretty standard, a box about 130 mm by 60 mm with an IEC socket at one end and a trailing cable at the other for the low voltage. I’ve had enough of them pass through my hands over the years to know what to expect, so I was dismayed to find when I received my PSU that it was suspiciously light. 86 g compared to the around 250 g I’d expect, so I began to smell a rat. Time for a teardown, and a descent into the world of small switch-mode mains power supplies.
Normally it should be easier to break into Fort Knox than to crack open a mains power supply, because for safety they are ultrasonic welded together. The few times I’ve done it have required some Dremel time and a bit of swearing, so when this case turned out to open fairly easily by levering with a screwdriver it was evident this wasn’t a high-quality item. Sure enough my suspicions were confirmed, for there inside was a much smaller board. It’s clear this isn’t a 5 A power supply, so just what have I received? Continue reading “Junk I Bought: My PSU Just Won’t Do”→
When reaching for a power supply design it’s normal here in 2022 to reach for a switching design. They’re lightweight, very efficient, and often available off-the-shelf at reasonable prices. Their benefits are such that it’s become surprisingly rare to see a traditional linear power supply with a mains-frequency transformer and rectifier circuit, so [ElectroBoy]’s dual voltage PSU board for audio amplifiers is worth a second look.
This type of linear power supply has an extremely simple circuit consisting of a transformer, bridge rectifier, and capacitors. The transformer isolates and steps down the AC voltage, the rectifier turns it into a rough DC, and the capacitors filter the DC to remove as much AC ripple as possible. In an audio power supply the capacitors have the dual role of filtering and providing an impulse reservoir for the supply in the event of a peak in demand imposed by the music being played. Careful selection is vital, with in this case a toroidal mains transformer and good quality capacitors being chosen.
The choice between a linear power supply such as this one and a switching design for high quality audio is by no means clear-cut, and may be something we’ll consider in our Know Audio series. The desirable properties are low noise and that impulse reservoir we mentioned, and it’s probably fair to say that while both types of power supply can satisfy them. With the extra expense of a toroidal transformer a linear supply is unlikely to be the cheaper of the two, but we suspect the balance tips in its favour due to a good linear supply being the easier to design.
Recently [Big Clive], everyone’s favorite purveyor of anything electronic that’s dodgy, cheap, cheerful, decidedly crispy or any combination thereof, got sent a very dead external power supply unit. Being clearly a third-party PSU with poorly written and many (likely not truthful) safety approval markings on its label, this PSU had the dubious honor of having destroyed a Microsoft Surface computer as well as the monitor that was connected at the time.
In [Clive]’s video (also embedded after the break) the black and very crispy board is examined, showing a wealth of vaporized traces and plenty of soot. What’s however most fascinating is the failure mode: instead of something obvious like e.g. the main transformer between the primary and secondary side failing, here it would seem that an inductor (see heading image) on the secondary side had its insulation rubbed off and shorted on a nearby heatsink. A heatsink that just happened to be also electrically connected on the primary (mains-level) side.
Judging by the former owner’s report and aftermath, this led to a very sudden and violent demise of the PSU, with mains power very likely making its way into the unsuspecting Surface system and connected monitor. The number of ‘very nope’ design decisions made in this PSU are astounding, and a lesson for both aspiring EEs and anyone considering getting a ‘cheap’ third-party replacement PSU.
The build is a simple mashup, starting with a ZY12PDN USB Power Delivery board. This board talks to a USB-C supply that is compatible with the Power Delivery standard, and tells it to deliver a certain voltage and current output. This is then used to supply power to a pre-built power supply module that handles current limiting, variable voltage output, and all that fancy stuff. It even comes with a screen built-in! Simply slap the two together in a 3D printed case with a couple of banana plugs, and you’re almost done.
All you need then is a USB-C power supply – [Ricardo] uses a portable power bank which allows him to use the power supply on the go. It’s a great alternative to a traditional heavy bench supply, and more than enough for a lot of hobby uses.
Old electrolytic capacitors are notorious for not working like they used to, but what exactly does a bad capacitor look like, and what kinds of problems can it cause? Usually bad caps leak or bulge, but not always. In [Zak Kemble]’s case, a bad cap caused his Samsung HT-C460 Home Cinema System to simply display “PROT” then turn itself off. Luckily, replacing the troublesome cap fixed everything, but finding the problem in the first place wasn’t quite so straightforward. A visual inspection of the device, shown open in the photo above, didn’t reveal any obvious problems. None of the capacitors looked anything out of the ordinary, but one of them turned out to be the problem anyway.
The first identifiable issue was discovering that the -5 V supply was only outputting about -0.5 V, and there was a 6 V drop across two small 0805-sized resistors, evidence that something was sinking far more current than it should.
Testing revealed that the -5 V regulator wasn’t malfunctioning, and by process of elimination [Zak] finally removed the 470 uF output capacitor on the -5 V output, and the problem disappeared! Inspecting the capacitor revealed no outward sign of malfunction, but it had developed an internal short. [Zak] replaced the faulty cap (and replaced the others just to be safe) and is now looking forward to getting years more of use out of his home cinema system.
When a PSU gives up the ghost, bad capacitors are almost always to blame, but we’ve seen before that it’s not always easy to figure out which ones are bad. One thing that helped [Zak] plenty in his troubleshooting is finding a full schematic of the power supply, just by doing a search for the part number he found on it. A good reminder that it’s always worth throwing a part number into a search engine; you might get lucky!