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Blitzortung RED Amp debugging

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--- Quote from: Cutty Sark Sailor on October 04, 2013, 07:01:24 AM ---
--- Quote from: W3DRM on October 03, 2013, 09:53:47 PM ---
--- Quote from: Cutty Sark Sailor on October 01, 2013, 05:24:56 PM ---Don, here's some voltage measurements of the Red Amp devices under normal operation... .
Maybe you can use them.

--- End quote ---


Finally got the time go compare my readings against what you sent me. I have found some significant differences. I am wondering if we have different versions of our Amplifier boards. Mine is labeled PCB Ver. 3 * 7/2013. The schematic on the current (8/23) Blitzortung manual, matches what I have as far pinout for the various components. I see there has been some discussion relative to a different IC being used for IC's 1, 3, 5, & 7. I received the MCP6S91 chips with my RED system. Others have gotten the MCP6S21 chips. They are both identical except for temperature ratings.

I have attached both an XLSX file showing our differences and a PDF of the same. NOTE: Can't upload a XLS file so have renamed it with a .TXT extension. Just rename it to .XLSX (actually, just remove the .TXT) and it should be fine.

--- End quote ---
Good catch...! I reversed 11 and 12 on the controller when I created the document  :oops: and missed it during proof. 17,18,19 will gradually increase on the DC scale because of signal... I just put in a dash... depending on meter... You are also correct about pins 6 and 7 on IC 1 and IC 3 ... they should measure the same as controller pins 17 and 19... sheesh, no wonder I don't do electronics for a living anymore... musta been a really bad day for me.

--- End quote ---

No problem, it made me dig out the schematic and trace the wiring to see if I could find a difference in the board traces. It's been a long time since I have gone through a schematic myself... Thanks for the voltages though. At least I do compare pretty closely (DC-wise, that is) to what you see so I'm not sure what my problem may be. Still don't have a scope yet. All solder connections look good. Channel-B is still dead. I even moved the cable input on the Controller board so it is using the secondary channel and no change at all in the output. Am thinking it probably is something bad on the amp board. Just haven't found it yet.

I've discovered that my chan-B is dead too... Just starting the trace for why that is happening.

Best regards,


--- Quote from: saratogaWX on October 04, 2013, 12:29:06 PM ---Don
I've discovered that my chan-B is dead too... Just starting the trace for why that is happening.

Best regards,

--- End quote ---

Sorry to hear that Ken. I was wondering how you were doing with your troubleshooting.

So far, I haven't been able to find anything wrong. The solder joints all look good and the DC voltage levels compare to another users readings. All socketed IC's have been removed and reseated (and swapped between channels) with no changes observed. I may have to break-down and buy an o'scope to find the problem. My old Bell & Howell Scope (ala Heathkit origin, I think) is dead. The CRT filaments appear to be open.

One question about your circuit boards and the rev level of them. My boards have a rev stamp on them, as follows:

* Amplifier PCB: "PCB 12 Ver. 3 * 7/2013"
* Controller PCB: "PCB 10 Ver. 3b * 8/2013"
Are yours marked similarly?

Best of luck - hope you can find the source of your problems quickly...

I finally succeeded in getting the B channel on my amplifier to come to life a couple of days ago.  This was after over a week of frustration, going over the board multiple times with a soldering iron, and even trying to obtain a new amplifier from Egon.  He won't be available until next week, so I persisted.  Even after going over the board multiple times I still found a couple of pins on the first DIP channel B socket that didn't look quite right.  I touched up those two along with a couple of other possibly cold solder joints and Voila!  My channel B came alive.  It doesn't see the same number of strokes as channel A when configured the same, but at least it's giving me some data now.

We had a huge thunderstorm train overhead yesterday evening with tornadoes a few miles SE of here, and my Blitzortung kept going into interference mode just because of the number of strikes it was seeing.  My Boltek got up to over 500/min. but with the Blitzortung's interference mode kicking in at 30/sec I spent the evening 'tuning' my Blitzortung to keep it from going offline due to 'interference'.  At the peak of the storm I had all amps set to gain of 4 with a threshold of 220 mV each.  Overnight while I slept my detection became much less as the storms moved a little further away.  I'm currently set at gain on A 4 & 5 with a 240 mV threshold and gain on B 5 & 5 with a 190 mV threshold.

My overall impression is that babysitting a lightning detector during a thunderstorm isn't much fun.  I certainly hope that Egon, Tobi, et al get the 'Automatic' mode working real soon now.  Interference mode could also use a little fine tuning for those of us who see severe thunderstorms on occasion.

I installed MyBlitzortung and it works fine standalone, but I can't make it play nice at all in a template.  Better coding skills than mine are needed for that job, but right now I'm out of ideas!

In summary, don't give up.  Even after you have all of the components installed correctly there may still be cold joints hidden here and there.  Once you reheat and/or resolder them your board should come alive.  I thought I had a broken trace for the longest time due to backwards electrolytic capacitor removals, but not so.  I didn't ruin my board like I feared through going over and over it with a soldering iron.  BTW, I went back to my small-wedge-tipped iron from 25 yrs. ago after I gave up trying to get good joints with my new off-brand digital temperature-controlled iron.  Just like 25 yrs. ago, the old iron didn't destroy anything.  It's higher temperature allowed me to solder much much more quickly and effectively.  Two to fours hours a day of bending over a circuit board seems about all my old back and eyes can tolerate any more.

Jumpin Joe:
Congratulations Jerry!  =D>

I had said in some of my earlier posts that this is what I had experienced as well. Good to know that there are others that have older eyes too.



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