Keithley 2000 & 2700 Data Logging in Python

ReadDMMs.py

This is a simple, braindead, python script to get measurements from a Keithley 2000 & 2700 DMMs using VXI-11 and store them in a simple timestamped SQLlite database.

It’s not a general tool, but it should be easy enough to tweak it to dump to a text file, take different measurements, use different ranges, different intervals, different communications transports.

It doesn’t have enough error checking, and bug fixing, but it mostly works well enough. It recovers from (some) malformed readings. It doesn’t recover from other errors (mostly communication related)

Requirements

  • OS X or Linux
    • It may work with Windows, but I haven’t tested it.
  • Python 2.7.x 
    • It may work with others, I haven’t tested it.
  • python-vxi11

How to use

The script takes voltage readings at ~10s intervals, on the 100v range, and stores them in a SQLlite3 DB called readings.sqlite3 in the current working directory. If you want different behavior, look through the source code and make the necessary changes.

You MUST edit the file to configure the name of your VXI-11 gateway and GPIB address(s) of the devices you want to poll.

Finally, run the script, ie:

python ReadDMMs.py

Tips

Since this script doesn’t do much error checking, it occasionally dies. In my experience, when it dies, it is because of a communcations timeout. In such situations, restarting the script is often enough for hours more logging.

I usually run it in a shell loop, so it restart automatically after a delay:

while true; do python ReadDMMs.py; sleep 150; done

If you modify this script to communicate with your Keithley 2000 DMM over RS-232 serial, be aware that a problems with hardware/firmware before ~2007 can result in frequent communication failures.

The simple workaround is to modify the RS-232 cable, or the DMM’s own RS-232 port, to ensure that the RTS pin (#7) is not connected.

Continue reading

HP 6114a Precision Power Supply First Look

I already have more working electronic lab equipment than I need, and more broken equipment than I can fix in the next month or so, but I still check eBay daily, and occasionally, I see a deal that is too good to pass up. This time, it was an Hewlett Packard 6114a power supply on sale for $75 + $19 shipping. The supply had been listed for $150, and I figured that if the seller was willing to cut the price in half, they might be willing to accept even less. I offered $55.

I’m really not sure what I was thinking. Part of me felt like getting the supply for $75 would be a great deal. Part of me thought that not getting it at all would be smart, since I didn’t need it, and had resolved not to take on other projects. Part of me wanted to see if I could get it for even less. In the end, it looks like the compromise I made was to try and serve all three, because I picked a price that was low enough that it might not be accepted, but high enough that I might end up with another piece of equipment. And so I did.

The HP 6114a was introduced in in the early 1970s and produced until at least the early 1990s. They typically go for something over $100 + shipping, so getting one for just under $75 would rate as a good but not great deal. From the photos in the listing, I thought I could make out enough of the serial number to tell that this example was made in 1981, a fact I confirmed once it arrived. It had the base single-turn potentiometer for the current control, rather than a 10-turn pot with a turn-counting dial, but I thought I could upgrade it myself for $10-20 in parts.

Physically it seemed in fair shape. There were some bent fins on the heatsink, and the front panel trim wasn’t seated properly, and might need to be bent back into shape. Most of the finish seemed to be in good shape. The condition of the front panel was harder to judge. It was hard to tell what was sticker residue and what was scratches in the finish.

The unit arrived from Nevada about three business days after I ordered it. It was packed in a stout cardboard box, and heavier than I expected. Inside I found it wrapped in a few sheets of thin foam, nestled in a reasonable amount of packing peanuts. I think there were enough peanuts to protect the instrument as shifted in the box transport, but I’m not 100% sure, because there was some damage to the front panel and its hard to tell if it was pre-existing, or it occurred during shifting.

HP 6144a Front Panel

There weren’t any big surprises after I got it unwrapped. Next step was to start taking it apart so I could figure why the top trim on the front panel wasn’t seated properly, and what I could do about it.

Along the way, I also performed an initial inspection of the electronics to look for damaged components, PCBs and interconnect wires.

I quickly spotted some damage to some of the pvc tubing used for cable management (above left). It looked like it had been scorched by an errant soldering iron, suggesting a previous repair. It took my a while to figure out that the site of the repair was (probably) right there in front of me. That a big resistor (above right) is not like all the other big resistors. It’s epoxy packaged. The rest are ceramic.

 

My deeper inspection showed that displaced top trim wasn’t bent, as I feared. The aluminum extrusion was in good shape, other some chips and gouges in the finish, some of which had cut into the underlying aluminum. With the top trim removed, I could take a closer look at the other components of the front panel.

IMG_8562

The meter was in pretty good shape, but its grey plastic bezel, which also served to help retain the clear plastic lens piece, was broken in the lower left hand corner. I removed the bezel and glued the crack with some superglue. Once it was dry, and sanded it down and polished it with some nail files/polishers I got surplus from my wife. The crack is still visible if you look closely due to glue filling in fit is repaired and the profile and finish of the plastic is pretty close to what it originally was.

IMG_8565

During initial inspection, I noticed a rattle as I turned the instrument over. As opened the chassis up, I was attentive to the source of the noise, but couldn’t pinpoint it. In the process of removing the meter bezel, I realized the loose part was in the meter. I desoldered the meter leads so I could inspect the meter more easily. As I did, the source of the rattle quickly revealed itself to be small screw and copper lock washer. Once I had the meter free of its leads, I removed a clear plastic clip holding the meter lens to the back of its housing and worked the lens loose. With it free, I could see the source of the loose parts, they were one of the pair fastening the printed meter dial to the frame of the brass meter mechanism. They’d somehow worked themselves loose.

The copper washer dropped out as soon as I opened the meter housing, but I lost track of the screw. It wasn’t on my workbench, and gentle tapping of the meter housing didn’t shake it loose. I went in search of a suitable tool for removing the recessed nuts at the back of the housing that hold the mechanism to the meter. The socket wrenches I had were too thick-walled, but a fine set of needle nose pliers ended up doing the job. I still couldn’t find the screw though. I pulled the internal leads free of the pins that passed through the housing so I could take a closer look. Perhaps the screw had found a spot inside the works of the mechanism? After 15-20 minutes, I concluded that it must have dropped out as I carried it in search of a wrench. After searching around on the floor around my chair for 10 minutes, I broadened my search area and almost immediately spotted it camouflaged in a dust bunny on the other side of the table, along the path I took to the basement to look for tools.

HP 6144 Voltage Control Sub-panel

After reassembling the meter, I decided to remove the one screw holding the voltage control subpanel to the chassis and take a closer look at it. That doesn’t look right, does it? That bow isn’t lens distortion, that’s bent aluminum. I can’t tell from the photos in the listing if the damage was already done, or if it happened in transit. One way or another, it looks like the result of sliding or being pushed face-first against something.

In preparation for repair, I desoldered the two leads connecting the voltage control to the main PCB. One connected into a PCB on the sub assembly and was easy to remove. The other connected directly to a lead on the potentiometer shown in the photo. It was a bit fussy. The leads from the pot are basically ~22 gauge wire with a hairpin bend at the end. To get the wire free, I ended up removing most of the solder with some desoldering wick, and then alternated between teasing the hairpin open and working the wire free. All in all, it was fussier than I would have liked, and I ended up scorching some of the plastic potentiometer housing when I accidentally touched it wit the side of the soldering iron. In retrospect, i should have removed the knob and unscrewed the pot from the front panel before trying to desolder the lead.

With the assembly free, I removed the knob and retaining nut on the potentiometer, then I heated the aluminum carefully with a hair dryer so it was easier to pull the thinner front sheet with the labeling free of the the thicker extrusion so that I could get to the screws holding the decade switches.

HP 6114a Voltage Control Subpanel Repair

With the bent extrusion isolated, I used a hammer and a few hardwood blocks to carefully beat it back into some semblance of flat. I think I did a pretty good job.

IMG_8569

I also spent some time cleaning the stickers and adhesive off the remainder of the front panel. I started by peeling off what I could, which revealed some writing with permanent marker. Isopropyl Alcohol on some cotton balls and a little elbow-grease took care of all the adhesive and faded the permanent marker.

I used an old “drafting” eraser to rub out the last remnants of the magic marker and a few persistent spots. I think its looking pretty good. There are a few tiny scrapes in the white panel, and a few more in the grey strip at the bottom that I think I’ll leave be. Some of the lettering on the white panel is a little worn. I might try touching that up.

IMG_8576

The most glaring problem is the missing HP logo badge that is supposed to fit over those two holes in the upper left of the panel. Given the vintage of this supply, I think the original logo badge had charcoal and gray with a chrome border. Anyone happen to have any spares?

Next step, I think is to put it back together and check to see how it works.

 

HP 6177C DC Current Source Troubleshooting/Repair

I picked up a Hewlett Packard 6177C DC Current Source on ebay for less than $75 shipped. This is a precision constant-current source that can deliver 0-500mA at up to 50V.

IMG_7318The seller described the unit as used with responsive controls and indicators. When I received it, I could see that while in generally good physical shape the upper right portion of the front panel was more bent/buckled than I could make out in the eBay photos.

So, first thing I did was partially disassemble the unit to fix the front panel.

Once I got it back together, I did some quick functional tests and found that the current output was consistently 1/10th the expected value. In the 500mA range with the current pot set to maximum, it produces a max of 53mA of current, on the 50mA range, it produces 5.3mA, and on the 5mA range, 0.53mA. This behavior doesn’t vary noticeably between shorting the outputs and having a 30 Ohm load. With a suitably high resistance, the voltage will hit >50v, provided the current doesn’t exceed ~50mA.

So, next step was to look at the service manual and work through the troubleshooting steps.

First thing is to check some voltage rails.  These all checked out, though a few were out of spec on ripple.

Next is to go through the problem isolation procedure, which starts with checking the guard voltage to see if it varies between 0 and -1V. Nope! In each range it maxes out at… ~100mV, or 1/10th of the expected value. Notice a pattern forming?

I started to work through the guard supply troubleshooting instructions, but I got hung up. After disabling the main supply, as instructed and checking a few voltages, it wasn’t clear to me whether I should go immediately through the subsequent steps, or reverse the change and proceed from there. Subsequent instructions just raised more questions.

I asked for guidance in the EEVBlog forum, and while waiting for a response, worked to better acquaint myself with the schematic and theory of operation of the device.

I’m still not sure what to do, and rather than pushing forward, I realize that I already have other incomplete projects that need my attention, I’ve gathered everything up into a bin and put this one on the shelf, for now.

 

Upgrading ICS 8065 Firmware from 64-bit Windows 7

I got a pretty good deal on eBay for an ICS 8065 Ethernet GPIB Controller. When it arrived, I reset the network configuration by holding down the reset button on the back panel while turning on the unit and waiting 10 seconds. This set the unit to its factory default IP address of 192.168.0.254, so I could connect to it from a web browser on my laptop.

IMG_8272

Once in, I found that the installed firmware was years out of date, and set out to update it. Unfortunately, the firmware can’t be updated from a web interface. It is necessary to use a Windows utility. I’m not really a Windows user, though I have a Windows machine in the house. Using it would require more fussing around with network connections than on my laptop, which I plugged directly into the 8065 while using WiFi to communicate with the rest of my network, and browse the web.

I didn’t even consider running the software in WINE, opting instead to use a 64-bit Windows 7 virtual machine on my laptop. Unfortunately, when I tried to run the updater program in the firmware update ZIP file I downloaded from the ICS Website I was met with an error that comdlg32.ocx wasn’t registered.

After a bit of googling, I found a solution, which I’m sharing here for anyone else who runs into this. Comdlg32.ocx is somewhat dated software. I don’t know if it was part of earlier versions of Windows, or whether it was the responsibility of applications to distribute it as part of their installer package. What I do know is that the ICS Firmware updater doesn’t have a Windows Installer, that comdlg32.ocx wasn’t included the zip file with the firmware, that it wasn’t anywhere on my system, and that I haven’t installed many other applications.

From there:

  1. I found a place to download a zipfile with comdlg32.ocx it that didn’t seem too dicey.
  2. I scanned the downloaded zip file with Windows Security Essentials to check for known malware.
  3. Unzipped the file, and saved it to C:\Windows\SysWOW64. The SysWOW64 directory is only present on 64-bit versions of windows, on 32-bit windows, you’d save it to System32. Oh, also, your Windows system folder might be something other than c:\Windows, which either means you knew what you were doing and where to find it, or that something horrible happened during your windows installation that you may have to relive a bit of now, on your own, without my help.
  4. Ran “cmd” as administrator to open a command line. You can click the windows/start menu, search for “cmd” then right click on it in the results and choose “Run as Administrator”
  5. In the command window, I issued the following command: “regsvr32.exe C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Comdlg32.ocx”

Once I did this, I could double click and run the “M805_update.exe” program without error and update the firmware.

Dismal Ebay AVR DDS Signal Generator

Months ago, I bought a $15 AVR-based DDS signal generator kit from eBay. I didn’t have high expectations, but I thought it would give me a capability I didn’t currently have, and give me the chance to practice soldering.

It was immediately clear upon opening the package that it was at least half a failure, because it was fully assembled. For this, I got a partial refund, making it a ~$10 fully-assembled DDS signal generator.

It sat a few months while I acquired, refurbished, diagnosed, and ultimately repaired a used Power Designs TP340A three output bench power supply that I could use to provide the +15, -15 and +5V needed to power it.

Once I had it powered up and hooked to the scope, it took me 5-10 minutes to figure out how the thing worked. The digital controls are a little odd, but easy to figure out. The outputs and analog controls are a little fussier. Ultimately though, I figured out that the leftmost BNC is for a high-speed square-wave output. The right BNC is for the synthesized DSS output, the leftmost potentiometer is for amplitude, the right for DC offset.

IMG_8201

It didn’t take too much longer to see how badly this thing sucks. At first glance the 2 KHz  sine wave doesn’t look too bad

DS1Z_QuickPrint34If you look closely though, you see some consistent glitches. This thing generates an analog value by switching resistors using the AVRs GPIO pins. My guess is that this glitch is caused by one or more out of tolerance resistors.

DS1Z_QuickPrint33

Looking even more closely, you can start to see high-frequency noise. In his Youtube review (embedded below), Electron Update notes that this noise has a frequency of 1MHz and believes that this is probably noise from the digital section.
DS1Z_QuickPrint46

The 2KHz square wave isn’t too great. The rise and fall times are rather significant relative to the on/off times.

DS1Z_QuickPrint45

At 20KHz, the square wave is a sloppy triangle. Note too that the peak-to-peak amplitude is only 6.56v vs the 18.2 it delivers at 2Khz.

DS1Z_QuickPrint41

The “high speed” 20KHz sine isn’t very good either. The waveform is nearly identical to that of the 20KHz square wave, and like the square wave, the peak-to-peak voltage of ~6.6v is a fraction of the 17.8v excursion at 2KHz.

Of course, 20KHz isn’t really high-speed at all. Its at the top end of the human auditory range. The device actually supports up to ~65KHz. It doesn’t get better.  The truth is, the waveforms go to hell before 10KHz.

IMG_8201

My device seems to be based on the AVR DDS signal generator V2.0 software and hardware from 2008, with minor revisions to the hardware for manufacturability.

Electron Update did a review/analysis of a similar device based on the same design on his youtube channel.

The design has some fundamental limitations, thought it isn’t clear if some of my problems are specific to my unit.

 

 

Power Designs TP340A Continued and Concluded

An update on the Power Designs TP340A bench power supply I’ve been restoring and repairing. I started by replacing a bad Sprague electrolytic capacitor. While I was at it, I decided to replace all the big electrolytic caps. That didn’t go so well, because I put two of them in backwards and caused them to vent. After replacing the vented caps, I noticed that the supply wasn’t behaving quite right, and found that some key voltages were out of spec. After some trial and error, I figured out which components to replace to get everything in spec.

I was pretty pleased with myself, but the next morning I realized that I’d been too hasty to write off some drift I encountered while calibrating Source B. I started load testing Source A & B, both separately, and in tracking mode while watching the output on a multimeter, and my oscilloscope in roll-mode:

It didn’t take long before the voltage of the output on Soure B started a random drunken walk over the range of a 0.5v or more.  After a while, it stabilized again and I left it to run a few hours without incident.

Before turning things off, I started fiddling around, connecting and disconnecting things, varying the current and voltage, trying to provoke another excursion and before long, it did it again. I really wasn’t sure what was going on, and figured I’d need to consult the schematics and start a long process of trying to figure things out.

Lucky for me, over on the Eevblog forum, user nanofrog, who’d helped me pick out replacement capacitors, checked in on my progress and I shared what I just described above. He replied suggesting I look for thermal-related issues, like a bad solder joint. That made sense! I didn’t have any obvious problems when the unit was running, just when it was heating up and cooling down.

I spent a good chunk of my 4th of July indoors, in a warm, dimly lit room, abusing the PCB of my power supply with alternating blasts of hot air from a hair dryer and cold spray from an inverted can of electronics duster while measuring things with my scope and DMM. I also loosened mounting screws so I could flex the PCB. I wasn’t getting the dramatic results I was hoping for, but eventually, with enough persistence, I was able to get bad behavior by focusing my attention on the lower part of the board near C211. From the schematics, I could see that C111 had a role in damping feedback going to the main voltage regulating op-amp. I inspected the PCB closely looking for a bad solder join on this capacitor, or any of the components in circuit with it.

After a good hour spent squinting and angling to get a better look I hadn’t found an obvious problem, but I saw a few solder joints that I was suspicious of.  So, I heated up my soldering iron, daubed on some RMA flux and made sure I had some leaded solder handy and got to work touching-up the questionable joints.

Then I started testing it again. I repeated the cycle of heating and cooling multiple times without obvious problems. This morning I got up and did it some more, then left it running for a couple hours before calibrating it again.

This time, I didn’t run into any drift during calibration, but having declared victory prematurely once before, I wasn’t ready to call the project done. I needed more convincing.

Earlier in the troubleshooting process, I had noticed some subtler behavior when the PSU thermal equilibrium. All though Souce B’s voltage was stable from second to second and minute to minute under a steady current, it had poor load regulation, with changes of ~30mv or more when between 0 & 1A of current. Moverover, if I used the statistics function on my Keithley 2700 multimeter to take 1000 readings of the voltage while the unit was under a constant load, I found that the Standard Deviation in reads was 10x higher for Source B compared to Source A.

First, I checked load regulation of both Source A & B between 0 and 1A at ~10V. Both had a total swing of ~3-4mv. According to specs, it should be ~2mV. My measured values are worse, but not dramatically so, and also pretty similar between channels, suggesting to me that I’d managed to fix the major instability issue.

Next thing I did was take 1024 readings for each source with a constant load of ~1A, again at 10V. Both channels had a standard deviation of ~25-30uV, whereas previously, channel B would have been 10x. More evidence that I’ve indeed solved the major instability problem.

I haven’t checked transient response or ripple, or thermal stability or long-term stability, but  for the things I have checked, this PSU is very close to its original specs. Its also good enough for my purposes right now, so I’m going to call this project done and move on.

Power Designs TP340A PSU Troubleshooting & Repair

Previously I wrote about my clumsy efforts to refurbish a TP340A triple-output bench power supply I bought on eBay. The seller listed it as used, implying it was fully functional, but I was skeptical and opened it up to check it over. I found a bad electrolytic capacitor, and decided to replace all of them. In retrospect, I should have asked the seller for a partial refund, but I didn’t.

After I finished replacing all the electrolytic caps, things didn’t seem quite right. Source A seemed fine, but when Source B was set to track Source A, its voltage didn’t rise until Source A reached ~8V, at which point Source B jumped from ~0v to ~8v. It then tracked with Source A until reaching ~16V, and then started dropping off again.

So I started working through the troubleshooting steps in the manual and checked the regulated B+ voltages measured on capacitors C104 (Source A) C204 (Source B), and C304 (Source C) are stable and fall within 12.4v DC and 13.2v DC.

B+ Voltage
Source A: 12.61v
Source B: 12.26v
Source C: 12.04v

Clearly something wasn’t right, the values for Source B & C were out of spec. I continued by checked the voltages across the zener diodes VR103, VR203, and VR302 (nope, VR302 is not a typo).

VR103: 5.682v
VR203: 1.728v
VR302: 5.688v

Better here, in that two of the values are in spec (5-5.8v), but the value for Source B is WAY out of spec. Next steps, according to the manual, are to check for defective components, in order, capacitors C201-204, rectifier diode CR201, transistor Q201, VR201, VR202, VR203, and U101.

I’d already replaced C201 and C204, so I skipped that. I didn’t have great tools for checking components in place, so rather than starting to remove and test them, I first measured other components.

Main Source Reference Voltage

VR102: 6.31
VR202: 6.126
VR303: 6.010

These should fall between 6.26 and 6.52v. Only Source A is within spec.

VR101 5.629
VR201 5.639
VR301 5.619

These all check-out, falling in the range of 5-5.8v as they should.

I lifted a leg on C202 and C102 so I could compare the values. I measured them with my AVRTransistortester with some test clips on leads.

C102: 1093nF, 6.9Ω ESR
C202: 1085nF, 1.0Ω ESR

Different, but different enough to be responsible for the other symptoms?  I didn’t have any idea, soo, I ordered some 1µF, 50v Kemet Tantalum capacitors and replaced C202 and C203 with them. The result?  No obvious change.
VR202

Next I wandered even further off the troubleshooting guide. I pulled VR202 to test it. As it turns out, I tested it to failure. No problem, right? Zener diodes are cheap and plentiful. I thought I probably had a suitable replacement in a semiconductor assortment I bought a few months back. Nope, nothing for that voltage. Time for another cycle of selecting a replacement, ordering it, and waiting for it to arrive.

Well, it turns out, selecting and ordering a replacement was a little harder than I expected. According the the manual, VR102, VR202 and VR203 are 1N825 zener diodes in grades G through K. Type 1N825 zener diodes aren’t run of the mill parts, they are part of a family of temperature compensated 6.2v zener diodes.

The family is made by creating a zener and a regular diode on the same piece of silicon in opposite orientations. In operation the negative temperature coefficient of the forward biased diode helps balance the positive temperature coefficient of the reverse-biased zener. The diodes are then burned in, characterized, and selected for appropriate temperature compensation. The 1N825 has a maximum temperature coefficient over its operating range of 0.002%/C. The family has the following temperature coefficients:

1N821: 0.01%/C
1N823: 0.005%/C
1N825: 0.002%/C
1N827: 0.001%/C
1N829: 0.0005%/C

There are also parts with the A suffix apply, which means they have maximum dynamic impedance of 10 Ohms, rather than 15 for the other grade. These were state of the art when they were introduced in the 60s, and have had a long run (my power supply was manufactured in the mid 1990s), but they’ve been superseded by other voltage reference designs.

In my initial searching, I only found references to 1N825A parts, not 1N825G, 1N825H, 1N825I, 1N825J or 1N825K, as described in the Power Designs part list in the manual. I figured they were probably proprietary Power Designs designations, but I decided to dig around more just in case. To help in that effort, I looked closely at the actual markings on the diodes. It didn’t help much.

AP
1N
825

The only new information was the “AP,” probably a manufacturer code, and the absence of the A suffix. My best guess is that the manufacturer code might be for American Power Devices, which manufactured 1N825 diodes.

In my wanderings, II found someone who claimed, based on experience, that newer 1N825 zeners had more problems with noise. At least, I thought I found someone who claimed that. I can’t find the source now. In any case, based on that, perhaps imagined, information, I decided to go looking for new-old-stock parts, rather than new parts from Mouser or DigiKey. I found someone on ebay selling Motorola-made military-spec 1N827 parts on ebay in lots of 4 for about $10 with shipping. Given my poor track record of ruining parts, I decided to buy 8.

VR102

With the new diode in place, I was back to where I started. Time to do the obvious thing and check VR203, the zener diode that was running at 1.7v, rather than the ~5.6 specified. The part number for this in the manual is 3EZ5.6D5. Without much effort, I found this number in an old Motorola diode catalog. Motorola’s spec is Glass, 5.6v, 134mA test, 500mW, 480mA max, and they cross reference it with the industry standard 1N5014.

IMG_7084

Time to check the actual part. I desoldered it to check it and test it. This time I avoided ruining the thing, helped, perhaps in part, by the fact that it was clearly already ruined. Time to figure out a suitable replacement.

IMG_7186

I checked the diode for markings. My eyes have gone downhill quickly in the last couple of years, so I deployed some optical assistance to determine that the diode was marked with the following.

1N
47
34
A

There was also a logo, which looked a lot like an older National Semiconductor logo. That made it a 1N4734A zener diode, not a 3EZ5.6D5 or a 1N5014. The 1N4734A is also 5.6v zener like the 3EZ5.6D5, but the test current is only 45mA. I ordered some NXP (successor to NatSemi) 1N4734A zener diodes from Mouser and, again, waited.

A few days later, the package arrived. I soldered the replacement zener into place, and plugged the PSU in, powered it up, and checked the voltages again. Success!  Source B’s voltages were now in spec!  On to Source C!

With source C, rather than checking caps and whatnot, I went right to the component that was out of spec, VR303, which had a voltage drop of 6v, rather than the specified 6.2-6.5v. First thing I had to do was double check the schematic to make sure I was looking at the right component. Most of the components in this section of all three sources have similar labels to the analogous parts in the other sources (ie C101, C102, C103) but for some reason, they broke this convention with the main voltage reference for Source C, VR303, rather than VR302.

Apparently I’m not the only one who got confused. I had to check I was looking at the right  component, again, because while this was supposed to be a 1N825 like the others, it didn’t have the same thin black package and slender leads. In fact, it looked a lot like the 1N4734As I’d just dealt with. Once I pulled it out and got it under a magnifying glass, I saw that it was, indeed, a 1N4734A. I wonder who made the mistake? Most likely it was a botched repair.

Installed one of the extra 1N827s to fix the mistake, and decided to replace V102 as well, so all three channels would have similar parts of similar vintage and tempco for their main voltage reference.

This time, when I powered it up, all the voltages were in spec. I did a little load testing and things seemed to check out. No more strange behavior with Source B lagging Source A in tracking mode, and it was able to deliver full voltage and full current on all channels. I moved on to calibrating the meters, adjusting the maximum voltage, and correcting the tracking offset.

I felt giddy, I’d fixed it! I was done, or so I thought. The next morning though, the sun woke me up early. As I was trying to fall back asleep I thought of something that had happened while I was adjusting the PSU the night before. I wasn’t done.

Power Designs TP340A Repair/Refurb

I picked up an old Power Designs TP340A bench power supply on eBay. The TP340A is a three channel (or “source) power supply. Source A & B have identical specs, providing up to 1A from 0-32v DC. They can be operated independently, or in tracking mode to provide positive and negative voltages. The third source only covers from 0-15v, but can deliver 5A at up to 6V and 2A at up to 15V. I bought it to power projects as I teach myself more about electronics. Little did I know what I was in for.

It showed up well-packed in great physical shape. There were a few scuff marks on the case where it had probably been pushed up against another piece of equipment, and some stickers and a few scuffs on the face plate, but otherwise, it looked nearly new.

When I took it apart, I found the insides were in similar condition.

On closer inspection though, I noticed something that wasn’t quite right

Bad C104 is Bad

The 100 uF 25V Sprague electrolytic capacitor in postion C104 looked like it had a bad inner seal. I decided not to power up the PSU until I’d replaced this cap.

The other two channels have the same type of capacitor in the same position in the circuit. They looked Ok, but I decided they should be replaced too, and while I was at it, I figured I’d also order replacements for the other big electrolytic caps. This decision proved to be a mixed bag.

The visually intact sibling 100 uF Sprague caps proved dead when I tested them after replacing them. On the other hand, the other electrolytics were still in spec. Which is more than can be said about some of their replacements.

After replacing all the caps, I powered things up and was greeted by a wretched buzzing metallic groan . I quickly switched the power off and gathered my wits, such as they were. Then I turned it on again for long enough to twiddle some of the knobs, things still weren’t right, but I had slightly more information. I switched it off again, thought for a minute, and switched it on again. This time the horible groan was joined by a ffffffssstPOPffffff. I switched it off, but there was another ffffffssstPOPffffff. I’d put two of the capacitors in backwards and they’d vented.

I replaced the vented caps with the originals getting the polarity right this time, so I could see if I’d done the thing permanent harm. Happily, the horrid groaning sound didn’t return the next time I switched the power on. It didn’t work though.

It didn’t take long to find them problem, I’d turned the voltage and current limit knobs the wrong way. After correcting that problem, I found that all the channels of the supply were fully functional, though things didn’t seem quite right. In tracking mode, source B didn’t respond at all until the voltage was up to about 8V and then started dropping off as it was turned up past 16v.

I started going through the troubleshooting steps in a PDF copy I’d found of the operating manual, but that’s going to be the subject of another post.

Tektronix Mainframes

I’ve been looking into old Tektronix osciloscopes and related gear lately, and I thought I should write-up some of what I learned.

Last year, I posted a few installments in my saga of figuring out what to buy for my first osciloscope. I ended up with a Rigol DS1074Z, and while I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of it, yet, when I have used it, its saved me a lot of troubleshooting time.

Recently though, I’ve been looking for ways to address some of the limitations of my scope. In particular, I’d like to be able to do low-noise differential measurements on one or more channels. In part, this allows more flexibility in using all my scope channels to look at power supply circuits. It can also be useful for looking at power supply output noise and ripple.

One approach is to use the math function of the oscilloscope to calculate a differential between two of the input channels. This has its uses, but suffers from slow-update speeds and the fact that some of the signals I’m looking for are already at the limit of the DS1074z’s resolution.

Another approach is external differential probes. Unfortunately, these are expensive. New they start at $300 or so. Used are a little better, starting at $100, but most seem targeted at high-voltage rather than high-sensitivity use.

This brings me to the Tektronix gear. I’m less interested in the 7000 and 5000 series scopes themselves, than in all the various modular “plug-ins” (particularly high-sensitivity differential amplifiers) Tektronix developed for them. Tektronix also sold a line of stand-alone chassis called the TM500 and TM5000 series, and an accompanying line of plug-in modules.

Now, the first thing you need to know is something I was lucky to figure out before buying anything on ebay, which is that, while the plug-ins for the 7000 series, the 5000 series, and the TM500 and TM5000 series all appear to have superficially similar form-factors, they are incompatible. You can’t use a module intended for a scope in the stand-alone TM500 or TM5000, or vice-versa. Nor can you use a module for a 5000 series scope in a 7000 scope, or vice-versa. There are other important distinctions too.

Within the 5000-series of scopes and modules, there is a distinction between “slow” (~2MHz bandwidth) and “fast” (50MHz bandwidth). You can use slow modules in fast scopes, but you can’t use fast modules in slow scopes.

Within the 7000-series, which cover an even wider range of bandwidths from 25MHz all the way up to 1GHz, most scopes are compatible with most plug-ins, according to Tektronix.

For the stand-alone mainframes, modules for the TM500 will work in the TM5000, but the reverse isn’t always (usually?) true.

My inclination is to get a 4-slot stand-alone chassis like the TM504 to save space and minimize shipping costs. Unfortunately, it seems that the AM502 differential amplifier module is rather rare and relatively expensive. There is just one on eBay at the moment and only a few in the available history of past sales, and the prices seem to start at $100.

Meanwhile, there are multiple examples of the equivalent 7A22 or 5A22N modules for the 7000 and 5000 series scopes, with prices starting below $50. The necessary scope and chassis can be had for as little as $100 or so more, about 2x what a TM500 chassis might go for, with the downside of added shipping costs and the (possible) upside of a second scope. Moreover, there are apparently pass-thru outputs so would still have the option of using any modules I acquire with my existing digital scope. I’m also interested in other modules, like function generators.

The smartest thing, at this point, would be to put this project on hold and finish up the half-dozen Keithley 197A multimeters I’m in the process of restoring and repairing, or the Power Designs TP340A I’m in the middle of fixing (destroying?). If wisdom prevails, I’ll have this post to remind me of what I’ve learned, should I ever come back to the idea of buying some old Tek modules.

To that end, here are some of the resources I found useful in researching this: