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.