Posted on 9 Comments

Sony PS3 APS-231 Power Supply Voltage Mod

PSU Ratings
PSU Ratings
PSU Ratings

I was recently given a Sony PS3 with a dead disc drive, and since I’m not a console gamer I figured I’d see if there were any handy parts inside. Turns out these units contain a rather nice SMPS, the Sony APS-231 with a high power 12v rail, rated at 23.5A. A bit of searching around discovered a thread on the BadCaps Forums about voltage modding these supplies for a 13.8v output, suitable for my Ham radio gear.
These supplies are controlled by a Sony CXA8038A, for which there is very little information. Active PFC is included, along with synchronous rectification which increases the efficiency of the supply, and in turn, reduces the waste heat output from the rectifiers.

Regulation Section
Regulation Section

Like many of the SMPS units I’ve seen, the output voltage is controlled by referencing it to an adjustable shunt reference, and adjusting the set point of this reference will in turn adjust the output voltage of the supply, this is done in circuit by a single resistor.

Here’s the regulator section of the PSU, with the resistors labelled. The one we’re after changing is the 800Ω one between pins 2 & 3 of the TS2431 shunt reference. It’s a very small 0402 size resistor, located right next to the filter electrolytic for the 5v standby supply circuit. A fine tip on the soldering iron is required to get this resistor removed.

Attachment Points
Attachment Points

Once this resistor is removed from the circuit, a 1KΩ 18-turn potentiometer is fitted in it’s place, from the Anode (Pin 3) to the Ref. (Pin 2) pins of the TS2431 shunt reference. I initally set the potentiometer to be the same 800Ω as the factory set resistor, to make sure the supply would start up at a sensible voltage before I did the adjustment.

Potentiometer
Potentiometer

The pot is secured to the top of the standby supply transformer with a drop of CA glue to stop everything moving around. The supply can now be adjusted to a higher setpoint voltage – 13.8v is about the maxumum, as the OVP cuts the supply out at between 13.9v-14v.

Modded Voltage
Modded Voltage

After doing some testing at roughly 50% of the supply’s rated load, everything seems to be stable, and nothing is heating up more than I’d expect.

Posted on Leave a comment

Chinese CO Meter – The Sensor Cell

As the CO meter I bought on eBay didn’t register anything whatsoever, I decided I’d hack the sensor itself apart to make sure it wasn’t just an empty steel can. It turns out that it’s not just an empty can, but there are some reasons why the thing doesn’t work 😉

Cell Disassembled
Cell Disassembled

The cell was crimped together under the yellow shrinkwrap, but that’s nothing my aviation snips couldn’t take care of. The photo above shows the components from inside.

End Cap
End Cap

The endcap is just a steel pressing, nothing special here.

Filter
Filter

Also pretty standard is the inlet filter over the tiny hole in the next plate, even though it’s a lot more porous that I’ve seen before in other sensors.

Working Electrode Components
Working Electrode Components

Next up is the working electrode assembly, this also forms the seal on the can when it’s crimped, along with insulating it from the counter electrode & external can. The small disc third from left is supposed to be the electrode, which in these cells should be loaded with Platinum. Considering where else they’ve skimped in this unit, I’ll be very surprised if it’s anything except graphite.

Counter Electrode
Counter Electrode

Next up is the counter electrode, which is identical to the first, working electrode. Again I doubt there’s any precious metals in here.

Backplate
Backplate

Another steel backplate finishes off the cell itself, and keeps most of the liquid out, just making sure everything stays moist.

Rear Can & Reservoir
Rear Can & Reservoir

Finally, the rear of the cell holds the reservoir of liquid electrolyte. This is supposed to be Sulphuric Acid, but yet again they’ve skimped on the cost, and it’s just WATER.

It’s now not surprising that it wouldn’t give me any readings, this cell never would have worked correctly, if at all, without the correct electrolyte. These cheap alarms are dangerous, as people will trust it to alert them to high CO levels, when in fact it’s nothing more than a fancy flashing LED with an LCD display.

Ironically enough, when I connected a real electrochemical CO detector cell to the circuit from the alarm, it started working, detecting CO given off from a burning Butane lighter. It wouldn’t be calibrated, but it proves everything electronic is there & operational. It’s not surprising that the corner cut in this instance is on the sensor cell, as they contain precious metals & require careful manufacturing it’s where the cost lies with these alarms.

Posted on Leave a comment

Quickie Teardown – ShopGuard Anti-Theft Tag

ShopGuard Anti-Theft Tag
ShopGuard Anti-Theft Tag

Everyone at some stage must have seen these EAS security tags in shops, usually attached to clothing with a steel pin. As some of this year’s presents had been left with the tags attached, I had to forcibly remove them before wrapping could commence.

Reverse Side
Reverse Side

These are just a plastic disc about 50mm in diameter, with an internal locking mechanism & RF tag inside.

RF Coil
RF Coil

After some careful attack with a saw around the glue seam, the tag comes apart into it’s halves. The RF coil & it’s ceramic capacitor can be seen wrapped around the outside of the tag. The capacitor in this case isn’t even epoxy dipped to save that extra 0.0001p on the manufacturing price. In the top centre is the pin locking mechanism, enclosed in a small plastic pill.

Lock Pill
Lock Pill

Popping off the back cap of the lock shows it’s internals.

Ball Bearing Lock Assembly
Ball Bearing Lock Assembly

The lock itself is very simple. The centre section, held in place by a spring, carries 3 small ball bearings. The outer metal frame of the lock is conical in shape.

When the pin is pushed into the tag, the conical shape of the lock chamber causes the ball bearings to grab onto it, helped by the action of the spring that pushes the ball bearing carrier further into the cone.
This also means that any attempt to force the mechanism causes it to lock tighter onto the pin.
In normal operation, removal is achieved by a strong magnet that pulls the ball bearing carrier back slightly against it’s spring, allowing the pin to disengage & be pulled out.

This design is incredibly simple & cheap to make, and gains it’s locking strength from friction alone.

I would consider the RF coil being around the outer edge of the device a bit of a security risk – a quick chop with a sharp pair of wire cutters would disable the tag’s alarm functionality instantly. Making the coil slightly smaller & keeping it out of reach of the edge of the tag would help in this regard.