Stop-gap PCB creation (has stopped)

Preface:

This is a year-old post that I never published. I guess I was waiting to be able to snap some pictures, but that never happened. Most of these components have been e-wasted by now.

I’ve talked about various avenues of rapid prototyping circuit boards before, and not really come up with any definitive solutions.

My current favourite possibility is using a dye-sublimation printer, but they’re fairly difficult to get ahold of. I’m not willing to throw money at the solution just yet.

In the meantime, one of the more reliable methods is toner transfer, using a clothing iron. There are two easily-controlled variables that affect the transfer quality. There are a lot more than two, but those are the ones that involve a human element.

As a solution to that, I started work on my own laminator. I took the fuser from a laser printer and mounted it to a board.

Mounting and getting it working independently had a fairly involved process. First I needed to drive the motor.

It required a lot of torque and I have no access to any simple motor that can handle that. The only thing I have that comes close is one of my brushless DC motors, but man, I don’t want to use complicated driving circuitry for that. What I ended up doing is mating a simple 12v DC motor to the gearing for one of those motors. I laser cut a bracket that has mounting holes for both sides, ground down a shaft, and it seems to work. A very consistent and slow speed, and huge amounts of torque.

The next step was the heating element. I ran it off one of the 30v supplies we have kicking around, and it got to the “reasonably warm” level while drawing just over 1 amp. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), a local e-cycle company was closing down and had an impromptu fire-sale. I picked up a 60v power supply that was labelled “broken” for free. Replaced a PTC (that literally crumbled away in my hands), and it was good to go again. The new supply got it to “properly hot” in a minute or less.

The next step was measuring the temperature. The fuser had a thermister output that starting at around 33kohms. As it gets hotter, the resistance drops. I measured around 19kohms when it was “slightly hot”. That’s the totally objective temperature description I’m going with here.

I used a voltage divider with a 100k potentiometer to tune it to 0xFF at room temperature. The reasoning being that I didn’t actually need to know the “proper” lamination temperature, just the relative values that apply to this system.

So I had the whole system, the drive motor, the heater element, the temperature measurement. It turns out that while my system is 0xFF at room temperature, everything melts at 0xA0. That’s not very hot at all! I think. I have no idea what that translates to in real measurements.

There is another printer kicking around that I should be able to pull the fuser out of. The rollers didn’t really feel that hot overall when they melted, so it’s possible that it was just because I wasn’t running the motor at the same time.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of old laser printers destined for the scrapheap.

Imbles of Gimbals

I got handed a box of old gimbals from a movie set! I love gimbals!

 

Most of them are very slightly broken in very repairable ways.

 

 

I left, like, 5 for other people to fight over, and grabbed two for myself. One of them was in great shape, the other had some loose set screws and was missing an encoder. Fortunately the bin had some spare encoders!

 

Anyway. I stashed the good one, and focused on the brokenish one. Fixed it up, and started wiring up some drivers.

 

Here’s what the gimbals look like:

On the horizontal axis, there’s a DC motor with a gear meshing with the base. On the other side of the base gear, there’s another one connected to an optical encoder. There is also a photo-interupter at one point along the rotation for calibration, I guess.

So the base can rotate freely in either direction indefinitely.

 

There is a slip ring that passes some wiring up to the vertical assembly. A similar system is in place for that motor, with an encoder tracking absolute position, but this one only has about 45 degrees of travel. There is a limit switch at either end, and a bunch of spare lines to be used for a camera or whatever.

 

This system is extremely easy to reverse engineer. All of the cables are out in the open, only disappearing into a slipring, where the maintain colour code.

 

 

So I starting breadboarding a motor driver. The brain is an old PIC that was in a bin somewhere, and I tried to find some driving transistors that would work. I burned a couple, and then took stock of what components I had on hand.
There was really no transistors around that fit the bill. I measured these DC motors to run at a good speed at about 8.5v and 500mA,so the power requirements are not low, when you’re trying to use 3906 BJTs or whatever.

Breadboard H-Bridge

 

 

That day ended there. I thought about the problem for a few days, then I came back and grabbed a 200w amplifier from the recycling bin and pulled it apart.

 

300W Amp Outside300W Amp Inside

 

 

Inside it were 4 sets of 2SA1908 and 2SC5100 complementary BJTs. Perfect. Wired them up like so, and I have a gimbal driver.

Gimbal breadboard schematic

Now I need to incorporate all of the sensors.

Start small.

Other than wanting to spend very little money on this project, the scope of it is huge enough that I’ve been trying to use as many prebuilt components as possible.

If I have the majority of the project build with discrete, modular components, then I can start drilling down and replace the weakest links, one at a time.

Because the CNC portion is horribly complicated, and itself comprised of several parts (drive electronics, mechanical movements, control software, firmware), several weeks ago I made the decision to use a low-cost CNC platform. I mean “platform” in the sense that it’s designed as a starting point to hack, redesign, and improve.

It’s called the Piccolo:

piccolo stock

It uses three (TINY!) servo motors, a bunch of laser cut gears and mounting plates, and some Processing-based software. Everything is open-source, and I don’t think they even sell any of the components themselves. They provide all of the files and expect people to make it on their own, which is kinda cool.

One thing I couldn’t find on their site anywhere was the work area. I needed dimensions of all of the parts to mount and design around this anyway, so a couple hours with their laser cutter files produced this:

piccolo model

Turns out all axis have a range of about 2.5 inches. That’s really tiny for a CNC platform, but definitely usable for making PCBs. At first, anyway. That double-ensures that this portion will eventually be replaced, probably with a CNC system of my own design. That will be fun, I am looking forward to it.

One note for future-self:

There is a decent chance that the sparking from my electrodes will cause enough interference to mess with my servos. If they get really jittery during a burn, I know exactly what is happening, and a redesign will happen sooner rather than later.

Working with the above files, I gathered together some more materials:

EDM Tank Supplies

A 12V oil pump($12) for the EDM fluid (more on this in a future post), a standard heavy duty door hinge($3), and a small plastic tank($0.89). The tank is a lot smaller in person than it looks.

Putting it all together:

edm tank model 1

That’s a reasonably accurate mode of the tank on the left.

There’s also models of the Piccolo and the fuel pump that you can see there.

The rest of the frame is designed out of 1/2 inch MDF. The tank fits in the box, which can flip up like so:

edm tank model 2

And BAM. Hinges. The idea is that the whole mess can flip up for servicing, changing out the PCB, etc.

The PCB holders at the bottom might be changed a little before I build this, but the idea will stay the same. They’ll be submerged in the EDM fluid in the tank during operation. Afterwards, the top flips up, and those PCB holders are angled so that the oil drips back into the tank.

That should mitigate oil going everywhere somewhat. I still expect this to get messy.

FFChkMate

I’ve posted here before about my troubles with flexible flat connectors. Well, not directly, but that always seems to be a tangential obstacle in the already perilous minefield of hardware hacking.
Basically, I hate them and I want them to go away.

The answer is, obviously, a breakout board, but I was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted. The system that I was having trouble with is 0.14mm pitch, and an odd number of pins. That means that the connector’s pins are staggered instead of directly across from one another. Slightly unusual, and I couldn’t find an inexpensive breakout board for it.

Over an evening, I started designing a board that should help. The idea is to keep a few of these boards on hand, and if you’re working with an FFC cable with a pitch of 0.14mm, toss an extra cable and a couple connectors onto your next Digikey order. Should run you a couple bucks.

In choosing what kind of connectors I wanted the board to support, I had some decisions to make. Odd or even pins? How many?

I solved those by parsing Digikey’s catalogue:

FFC Chart

 

A general theory is that the more connectors of a certain pin count in the catalogue, the more common it is in the wild. As shown, it’s definitely important to support more than 30 pins. There’s another big spike at each common count, ending at about 51. That settled that.

There was another clever idea involved: the centre of the board is a flat cable connector footprint, with a little bit of a tweak. The middle row of pads correspond to pin 1, and every second pin after that. Depending on whether your connector has an even or odd pin count, you use the outer row of pads that are in-line or staggered, respectively. Those all break out to the pin headers as shown on the silkscreen.
There’s your breakout. If you need your cables connected to the device under test, use two boards, solder female header pins on one, male on the other, and sandwich them together, both connectors on either the inside or the outside as shown.

Obviously this may cause issues with length-matched traces, but you know. Cross your fingers. Worth a shot.

Future goals: Actually draw the traces myself, because the autorouter is terrible. I just wanted to spend as little time on this as possible.

 

FFChkMate

 

It seems to work fine, though. I’m not trying to get GHz signal through it or anything.

 

You can get one through dirtypcbs here, or I’ll release the files when I eventually dig them out and make the traces pretty.

Travel-PIC

With the huge popularity of Arduino in the past few years, everything that can be advertised “Arduino-compatible” is being commoditized to such a huge degree that it can be hard to find price-competitive components that do not have that distinctive Arduino pin layout.

 

 

An example is this TFT touchscreen LCD. It’s like, 6 bucks, which is insane. This is definitely going to show up in some future projects of mine.

 

Having everything work as an Arduino shield is all well and great, but I’m generally against using them. My problem with that whole ecosystem has always been that:

A) It shields(get it?) you from what is really happening on the microcontroller

B) It follows that if the user is unfamiliar with the inner workings of their system, then they will be motivated to leave the entire Arduino in place in their project

Historically, that second point has meant that people will build a project and run it permanently using what amounts to a single $30 microcontroller.

With the above commoditization argument, this point is fast losing ground when you can now buy a Chinese Arduino clone for $3.

 

Those arguments don’t even make sense anymore! I guess what it boils down to now is that Arduino offends my inner perfectionist.

Microchip PICs are fantastic because they are easy to use, powerful, and extremely inexpensive.

I can find a 60 cent chip that has exactly the peripherals I need, with almost no bloat.

The problem is that I have to build it into a circuit every time, thus negating the cost benefits with a time penalty.

 

Anyway. I have a whole bunch of PIC18F4520 DIP packages kicking around, and some other similar ones (4431 I think?). I suspect that I will be forced to start using Arduino eventually, but at least with this method I can now do some of my simpler PIC development on-the-go with USB power.

For some reason the TSA doesn’t like it when I try and take a breadboard, wire, and wire strippers onto a plane.

So the result:

A PIC dev board in an Arduino form factor.

PIC-On-The-Go SchematicPIC-On-The-Go Bare BoardPIC-On-The-Go with fill

 

Powered by USB (no communication, though), switch-selectable 5V/3.3V power rail (don’t hit this while plugged in!), reset button, 3 LEDs, and I’ve tried to match most of the Arduino pins with the associated PIC functions (eg. SPI and analog pins are in the same location).

You still need an external programmer, but that’s okay. Programmers are pretty cheap and come in a sleek form factor. The programming header pins match the Pickit 3’s pinout, so it’s just plug-and-play with MPLAB.

 

When I get the board and give it a test ride, I’ll release the source files. Altium, though, so many people won’t be able to edit them.

EDM Prime

One of my theories for rapid PCB prototyping is EDM, or electro-discharge machining. The idea behind EDM is that you have an electrode hooked up to negative voltage, dunk the system in a high impedance fluid, and then put a potential on the metal workpiece. When that electrode is close to the metal and the potential is high enough to ionise a path through the dielectric fluid, an electric arc gets created between them, taking out a chunk of your workpiece.
Basically a spark welder to remove material.
This is often used for removing broken taps from holes or machining very deep, narrows holes with high precision.

I think I can use this to directly erode paths between traces on a sheet of copper-clad.

EDM is one of those strange niche tools that only machinists are really into. The hardcore kind of machinists that don’t really internet well. There seem to be about three resources on the internet for details on the inner workings of these machines: one CNC forum, one thread of a 3D printing forum, and one Yahoo group. None of these are particularly fantastic.
Fortunately, machinists are a lot more into books. Robert Langlois put out a couple how-to manuals in the early 2000s, and Ben Fleming has some much more recently.
Someone got in contact with Langlois recently, and relayed that he lost interest in the project, would definitely like to see Raspberry Pi control of an EDM, and is open sourcing his books. So, naturally, I’ve read those books. I’ve also found some academic papers and expired patents that go over some design constraints.

There really are three major building blocks in building one of these: a CNC platform, the dielectric fluid immersion tank, and the electronics. The mechanical guys have got the first two figured and polished to a degree that I’m not capable of. The circuitry, though, is all extremely simplistic. I think I can add some microcontroller controls and improve hugely on the designs.
Most of the EDM schematics out there are just rectifiers and 555 timer-based pulse circuits.
One of the more sophisticated designs out there, The Garden of EDM by C. Scott Ananian provides an excellent rundown of design decisions, and has some similar ideas to what I’ve come up with independently. His version seems a unnecessarily complicated, though. Especially considering he never actually built his circuit. I’ll start with a much simpler design, offload more to a microcontroller, and end up with more control out of the deal.

Here are some parameters I’m trying to hit:
20-100kHz pulses
20ns rise times or better
Adjustable voltage up to 80VDC
4 amp current max

That’s enough substanceless discussion for now. Starting with sink-EDM, the circuitry and mechanical Z-axis go hand-in-hand. I sat down for a few hours and built something in Solidworks:

After another few hours, I’ve got it laser cut to get this:

Man, clear acrylic is really hard to photograph properly. Everything was cut on a single try and slotted perfectly into itself on the first try. I’m really quite pleased. The rails are scavenged from an old scanner.

And then alongside that, this is the very first draft of “maybe what I’ll build, unless I have some better ideas”:

EDM Schematic V1

This is a test

Quite a while ago, I did some experimenting with laser etching on glass. The intention was to backlight it and make a large lamp with some LEDs behind a large sheet of laser patterned and frosted glass.
Material costs pushed me towards scaling it way down and designing around a small glass tile that I picked up for a few cents. Just for an initial test, anyway.

The tile I chose is about 96mm², and just a hair under 7.3mm thick at the edges.

For the material acquisition side of things, I hunted for high power LEDs from Dealextreme, one of my favourite sites. They carried some 3W LEDs for a couple bucks, not bad. Then I checked Aliexpress. 1W LEDs were substantially cheaper, but I could only get them in quantities of 100. For $12. So I have some extras.

They measured out at around forward 3.2V. Current is about 120mA when the LEDs appear to be at max brightness. Theoretically they should go up to around 300mA, but this is good enough! I can’t see out of the centre of my vision!

I’m not really a huge fan of 3D printers, but I really wanted to crank this thing out quickly and using one freed up any design limitations for this janky part I needed.

After six quick iterations, I came up with this:

Printed Object

The angles turned out to be tricky to get right, but it worked out. Printed with support material on a Rostock MAX delta printer. The tile is held very securely with no fasteners, perfectly parallel to the base.

Balanced

It even stands up!

 

Bonus SolidWorks model view:

SW Lamp

For the actual circuit design, I went with all surface mount for easier custom boards, and some free sample chips from TI. See! That program totally works for them, I’m locked into this design now. Actually, it was the best part for the job that I could find. The LM3410, which is a constant current, analog dimming, PWM output boost converter. Yeah, pretty cool.

 

I found an Eagle library part that had the same footprint as the LM3410, and then I used my standard “print footprints at 1:1″ method to find suitable library parts for my Chinese LEDs and salvage-bin inductor with no datasheets.

Parts list:

  • Inductor L1 – CDRH6D28-3R0NC – 3.0uH, 3.0A
    • The datasheet reference designs used anywhere from 4-20uH inductors. Less inductance just means a little more ripple current, which should be okay.
  • Schottkey Diode D1 – B260A-13, rated for 60V reverse voltage, 2A forward current.
  • Zener Diode D2 – I don’t have this yet! Reverse voltage drop between 21-24V. Might have to stack a bunch in series.
  • 1Ω R1, R3 – Two resistors, 1% tolerance, 1206, in parallel to make 0.5Ω
  • 100Ω R2 – 5%, 0805 for voltage overload.

Here are the results of my circuit building:

Lamp Schematic

The schematic is mostly a reference from the datasheet. Max current and voltage limits are a dependent on switching speed, the inductor I used, and the heatsinking of parts, so no hard-and-fast rules. I stretched it to the most high-power LEDs I thought I could get away with. That’s 6. Six LEDs. Worst case scenario, I have to jump one or two of them if everything starts to burn. Best case scenario, I’ve got ten of these boards coming, a dozen inductors, a hundred LEDs, but only three LM3410s.

For this build, I’m trying out the new Dirt Cheap Dirty Board service run by Dangerous Prototypes. I’ve used OSH Park and iTead Studios before, so this will be a fun experiment.

 

Originally, I was going to etch my own board using a laser cutter and the spraypaint etch resist method. Unfortunately, I have (temporarily, I hope) lost access to the laser cutter. For $14, this seems like a reasonable alternative.

 

I will update in a month or so, when the PCBs get here.

Knowledge is Power

After pulling apart a NDSL, I know a lot more!

 

Tracing out the connections, a lot of the LCD pins have a designator silkscreened on, which is totally awesome. I spent a bit of time tracing as many as I could, and then I internetted what I had. That led me to this amazing page, which has the rest of the pin names, but not a lot else relating to this. Totally rad information on other parts of the NDS and GBA systems, though.

Here’s the full(ish) pinout, according to Nintendo:

___NDS-Lite lower screen/lower backlight (P4)________________________________
  1-VDD-5 6-MOD    11-LD1xx 16-LD1xx 21-LD1xx 26-LD1xx 31-LS   36-GND
  2-VDD10 7-GSP    12-LD1xx 17-LD1xx 22-LD1xx 27-LD1xx 32-VSHD 37-COM1
  3-VDD5  8-GCK    13-LD1xx 18-GND   23-LD1xx 28-GND   33-GND  38-LEDA1
  4-GND   9-LD1xx  14-LD1xx 19-LD1xx 24-LD1xx 29-DCLK  34-xx1? 39-LEDC1
  5-VSHD  10-LD1xx 15-LD1xx 20-LD1xx 25-LD1xx 30-SPL   35-REV

That is actually pretty close to the datasheet I’ve been working from. My analysis of where the screens differed was pretty accurate, too, which is cool.

Based on that, here is the NDSL LCD pinout in order, probably, compared to the other one:

 

Pin Nintendo DS Lite LCD Sharp LQ030B7DD01
1 VDD-5 VDD
2 VDD-10 NC
3 VDD-5 MOD
4 GND SPS
5 VSHD CLS
6 MOD NC
7 SPS VEE
8 CLS VCOM
9 R0 SPL
10 R1 R0
11 R2 R1
12 R3 R2
13 R4 R3
14 R5 R4
15 G0 R5
16 G1 G0
17 G2 G1
18 GND G2
19 G3 G3
20 G4 G4
21 G5 G5
22 B0 B0
23 B1 B1
24 B2 B2
25 B3 B3
26 B4 B4
27 B5 B5
28 GND VSHD
29 DCLK DGND
30 SPL PS
31 LP
32  VSHD DCLK
33 GND VSHA
34 V0
35 V1
36 GND V2
37 V3
38 V4
39 AGND

The signals that don’t directly match the known datasheet are a guess, but usually a pretty good guess (eg. CLS on the datasheet is gate clock, and is in approximately the same pin area as GCK). I’ve gotta go back and check:

  • LS
  • xx1
  • REV
  • LEDA1
  • LEDC1
  • COM1

Figuring out the PCB footprint is also tricky from the component alone, and I made a couple mistakes in my earlier assumptions. Fortunately the PCB gave me a little more information, so this is the Nintendo DS Lite LCD connector. Which both gives me a datasheet, and a 50 cent source for more connectors instead of the Chinese manufacturers that market it specifically for the NDSL and charge $2. EagleCAD has a compatible library model from Omron with the model number “XF2C-3955-41A”.

For the touchscreen connectors, they’re 0.5mm pitch, four contacts. That’s a pretty common sizing, and it’s not even a good idea to use the same connectors. That thing totally disintegrated the first time I looked at it funny. A quick search turns up a decent replacement in both top and bottom contact versions, depending on where I want to mount the connector. Eagle part number “52745-0490″ from Molex.

NDSL LCD FFC Design (OR: Working with an unknown TFT screen)

I like acronyms. They make me look smrt.

Designing a board to mate with the Raspberry Pi is pretty straightforward.

It’s mostly just a pass-through board. We need a footprint, though. As far as I know, there are no available PCBs out there that people have used the (nonstandard) Nintendo DS connectors on, so no footprints.

First we try the easy way: Asking the manufacturers directly.
alibaba

That doesn’t work very often. Fun story: I once emailed an industrial control company looking for the models for some of their $5000 3-phase power supplies. Having the files would save me probably half an hour while laying out an equipment rack. Twenty minutes later, the customer support team emailed me the internal engineering model file. Complete with PCB model, populated with all components.

I really really don’t think they were supposed to do that. I thought it was pretty funny.

NDS LCD FFC Connector

Here’s the LCD connector for the NDS screen. As you can (sort of) see, it’s 20 pins, and measured a little over 11mm from the first to last pins. With a connector that small, though, exact pitches are still hard to be sure about.
And it’s two rows of pins.

So we go through the Eagle parts libraries looking for something that might work. I kept my eye out for small-pitch 40-pin, double row connector footprints specifically, but I dumped a whole bunch of connectors onto the schematic that might work, after some changes.

Quick layout on the board, and…
SOIC Test Board

…Print it out 1:1 and see what lines up. I used to think that footprint-measuring PCBs were dumb, but I think I’m coming around. Would save me a few minutes and a little printer ink.

The pins lined up with (one side of) the connector labelled XF3B-5145-31A. It’s a 0.3mm pitch Omron connector.

FFC Printout

Good. Using that information, we draw up the new part, and Bob’s your uncle. I don’t know what that phrase means.

LCD Footprint

Side note: The LCD flex cable is pretty standard, and I may try and find an alternate connector in the future. For this, right now, I just wanted a known-good connector and design a PCB around that instead of ordering a big bag of assorted FFC connectors off Digikey.

After drawing the new library parts (touchscreen connector footprint, too, remember), I need to know how to connect everything. In this case, I have an LCD of uncertain properties, a Raspberry Pi GPIO connector of known properties, and a known resistive touchscreen.

For the touchscreen, it gives an analog value (more on that in a future post), so we’ll need an analog-digital converter to get the values to the GPIO. I’m thinking the SX8652 or AR1011, we’ll see. Digikey has them both inexpensively.

The TFT LCD is a little trickier. I wrote in a previous post that someone found a datasheet for the Sharp LQ030B7DD01 that looked similar, but now that I have the DS screen in my hands, I don’t think it is.

NDSL FFC

From what we can see right here, there are 39 pins. Good.

That huge plane that covers most of the top is probably ground, and is connected to pins 4, 18, 28. and 33. Not good. Assuming pin 1 is on the left, the pins don’t line up properly with any single node.

Even if I have any of the above assumptions wrong, the datasheet lists pins 10 through 27 as RGB data lines. Pin 18 must be independent.

If the right side of that image is pin 1 instead, the above problem still exits. There are only 39 pins on the datasheet, so it seems possible that pin 18, near the centre, could be designated as an extra ground pin, but there are 39 physical pins that correspond to that datasheet, so there isn’t really any wiggle room here.

On the right side of the picture, you can see pins 38 and 39 going to some large pads. Those loop around behind the visible flex cable, and then connect to that one you can see on the right. Looks like a backlight control, probably.

Anyway. Those are the reasons I don’t believe this is the right datasheet, but fortunately, there is a “Sharp” logo on the back of the screen. So I do have a starting point for finding a better match.

Going down the internet rabbithole, I found a German-language forum discussing the LCD, which linked to a now-defunct NDSL hacking site, which was conveniently backed up on the Wayback Machine at archive.org.

During that bout of internetting, I came across an antitrust lawsuit that Sharp was involved with, price fixing these screens alongside Hitachi. That means that both manufacturers were producing LCDs with the same pinouts, so that gives me another lead to a possible datasheet. But anyway, it’s probably that the Sharp LCD is LS030B7DD12F, which has no datasheets available online. The Hitachi counterpart is probably 49N07020132, same story.

 

I guess I need to actually track down a Nintendo DS Lite and really hack it. Damn.

I like candy. Do you like candy?

At a place that I hang out on very rare occasions, there’s a big red button.

 

button1

When somebody holds it, it starts up an air raid siren that can get really loud. Unfortunately, it spins up very slowly, so people let off as soon as they figure out what the button does. That results in one tiny little blip of the siren, barely enough to bother anyone. That’s no good at all!

 

So for this build, I didn’t want to spend very long at it, and attempted to do everything very roughly and as quickly as possible. I found all of the appropriate components kicking around, and designed around those.

Here’s what I came up with:

button2

 

I found a transformer with outputs that measure at about 12VAC. 10:1 winding ratio, I guess. After rectification and smoothing, it’s a little over 18VDC. On the right side, I used an ALA2F12, a 12V relay. The transistor is a 2N3604, just a very generic NPN BJT because this application doesn’t require anything special.

The original button was just the AC line voltage to the fuse, then through the switch to the load, very very basic.

 

Okay. Starting from the left:

  • Transformer outputs at 12 volts or so,
  • through the half-wave rectifier diode (1N4007 I think) – results in 12 * root 2, about 18V,
  • big filtering capacitor (200v, 820uF),
  • 1MΩ bleeder resistor so the system doesn’t hold charge indefinitely,
  • original switch (connected to the big red button),
  • 100Ω resistor(to prevent sparks)
  • into timing cap (160v, 220uF) – charges to full very quickly,
  • another bleeder resistor,
  • Rb controlling current going into the transistor’s base (more on this later),
  • BJT  base.
  • At the top: resistor controlling going into the relay coil,
  • relay coil,
  • BJT collector going to ground.

 

Because I’m abusing a 12V relay by driving it with 18V, I had to compensate for that a little. According to the data sheet, the coil is nominally 272Ω, taking 43mA of current. Ignoring the transistor’s collector-emitter voltage (probably ~0.2V): 18v / 43mA – 272Ω = 146Ω. So I tossed a 150Ω resistor in series with the coil, and it seems to work.

 

For the base of the transistor, this resistor (along with the capacitor) is what controls the active time of the system. It also controls the maximum current that can conduct through the collector-emitter junction of the 3604 Typically the gain of those are in the 70-100 range, so current going into the base should be Ib = 43mA/100 = 0.43mA. Base-emitter junction is around 0.7v, so the base resistor can be figured out by 18v – 0.7v / Ib when the base cap is fully charged. Overdrive Ib to 1mA to ensure max-on, so I used 18kΩ.

I tested everything to check timing issues, overheating, etc., and it works well. The relay gets latched for about 7 seconds, which is perfect. If I cared about being more precise with that, or wanted to change the timing values, it’s pretty simple to treat that portion as an RC circuit and tweak the resistor or capacitor values.

So I built it

Perfect! Start to finish, took about seven hours. Not including the abortive first attempt last week.

So before, when newcomers pressed the button, there was only a very short blip of the air raid siren. Now, the thing latched for a good seven seconds. And it gets very loud in that time.