sdgprofileSteve Gardner is an Electronics and Firmware Engineer in the UK. He works at an engineering design consultancy where he primarily designs electronics subsystems for medical applications. His focus is on analog and power electronics although most design work involves the use of microcontrollers, processors or FPGAs which he is proficient with.

In early 2015, Steve decided to start publishing regular content on his YouTube Channel to share some of his knowledge and personal projects, which he hopes to grow both to engage others in the hobby and also to help complete stalled projects…

Steve started electronics as a hobby as early as he can remember and has always had a fascination with learning how electronic devices work. He has had a full time electronics job for the past 9 years designing a multitude of electronics devices from pregnancy testers to precision surgical cutting tools.

Discount Code for the Feeltech FY3224S

You can buy the FY3224S 24MHz Dual-channel Arbitrary Waveform DDS Function Signal Generator for the reduced price of $65.55 during May 2016 by using the following discount code at the link below. The signal generator is featured in a few of my videos and is a good value unit for the functionality it offers.

Discount Code: FY3224S
Link: http://bit.ly/1LLPFD6

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10A Variac Soft Starter

I recently purchased a used 10A Carroll & Meynell Variac from eBay for use in the lab, however the variac often caused the 32A B-curve MCB in the consumer unit to trip due to the high inrush current of the variac core. To prevent this from happening and to add a few additional features I created the soft start circuit outlined on this page.

The idea of the soft start circuit is to limit the inrush current whilst the variac core is first magnetising. There are many ways to achieve this and most involve adding some form of resistive element in series with the transformer to prevent the transformer appearing as a very low impedance to the mains AC supply.

The method used in this project was to use a high power resistor in series with the transformer to limit the current. Once the current has settled, the resistor is shorted out by a relay to then allow the full load current of the variac to be drawn from the mains.

The schematic is attached below:

variacSoft.pdf

The electronics adds a few additional features such as an emergency stop button and remote control of the variac, however, it’s worth noting that this is not really a suitable ‘Emergency’ stop button which should really be a fully hardware implemented solution – NOT involving software running on a microcontroller!

The contactors used in this project are a little bit on the physically large side, partly due to the plug-in form factor:

3PCO 10A Plug-In Contactors

3PCO 10A Plug-In Contactors

Squeezing everything into the box was a little bit of a challenge, so the PCB is tucked in near the variac core:

Variac Control PCB

Variac Control PCB

The electronics also needed their own power supply. If the overall current draw of the electronics and contactor coils was less than about 50mA, I would have been tempted to just use a simple non-isolated capacitive dropper circuit from the mains, however I chose to use a small linear power supply with a toroidal transformer:

Toroidal transformer for logic supply

Toroidal transformer for logic supply

When assembling the device together, it was important to make sure there was enough clearance around the variac core and the wiper assembly – the whole wiper becomes energised when the variac is powered up!

Here is the completed photo of the internals of the variac:

Completed variac project

Completed variac project

And finally with the covers on:

Modified 10A Carroll & Meynell Variac

Modified 10A Carroll & Meynell Variac

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Cambridge Audio A4 Stereo Amplifier Mods

In this video, Steve disassembles a Cambridge Audio A4 Integrated Amplifier which he rescued before it was thrown away. The amplifier is refurbished with new electrolytic capacitors and a clean inside before performing a modification to make the dials on the front panel glow.

 

Laser Cut Acrylic Rings  - To dissipate the light

Laser Cut Acrylic Rings – To dissipate the light

Testing the acrylic rings with an LED

Testing the acrylic rings with an LED

 

The video of the process is here on YouTube:

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Acoustic Solutions Hi-Fi Amplifier Repair and Teardown – Error U52, U53

In this video, Steve performs a Hi-Fi Amplifier repair and teardown on an Acoustic Solutions SP101 Hi-Fi Amplifier that displays Error U52 or U53 on the display. The amplifier is unable to store tone and balance settings and doesn’t always respond to changing the volume with the rotary encoder.

The video walks through the design of the amplifier, the repair and also the replacement of the rotary encoder.

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LCD Monitor Repair and Teardown – BenQ 19″ LCD Monitor

In the following videos, Steve performs an LCD monitor repair on a faulty BenQ 19″ Monitor that would not power up correctly and regularly displayed the ‘Auto Adjust’ message.

The Peak Atlas ESR70 meter is used to test suspicious electrolytic capacitors in the power supply.

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Designing a Constant Current LED Driver – Part 2

In this video Steve interfaces the DC-DC converter circuit with a Microchip dsPIC33FJ16GS502 microcontroller to create a microcontroller-based constant current LED driver.

The dsPIC33FJ16GS502 microcontroller has four analogue comparators which allow expandability to 4 independent constant current channels.

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Designing a Constant Current LED Driver – Part 1

In the first episode of a complete video series, Steve begins the design of a constant current LED driver. This aim of this project is to create a four channel high power LED driver that can interface with an RS-485 or IEEE 802.15.4 MiWi network. This will allow control of multiple light fixtures or multicolour mood lights from one or more lighting controllers.

This first episode focuses on the design of the DC-DC converter which is optimised for use on a 24V power bus which a high switching frequency for small size. The components can be changed for other applications (different supply voltages or switching frequencies) using the concepts introduced in this video.

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