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Chinese “1200W” DC-DC Boost Converter DOA Fix

1200W DC-DC Converter
1200W DC-DC Converter

Ah the curse of the Chinese Electronics strikes again. These large DC-DC boost converters have become very common on the likes of AliExpress & eBay, and this time my order has arrived DOA… On applying power, the output LED lights up dimly, and no matter how I twiddle the adjustment pots, the output never rises above the input voltage.

Boost Converter Topology
Boost Converter Topology

From the usual topology above, we can assume that the switching converter isn’t working, so the input voltage is just being directly fed through to the output. The switching IC on these converters is a TL494,

Control Circuitry
Control Circuitry

The switching IC on these converters is a TL494,with it’s surrounding support components, including a LM358 dual Op-Amp. Power for this lot is supplied from the input via a small DC-DC converter controlled by an XL Semi XL7001 Buck Converter IC. Some testing revealed that power was getting to the XL7001, but the output to the switching controller was at zero volts.

Inductor
Inductor

The 100µH inductor for this buck converter is hidden behind the output electrolytic, and a quick prod with a multimeter revealed this inductor to be open circuit. That would certainly explain the no-output situation. Luckily I had an old converter that was burned out. (Don’t try to pull anything near their manufacturer “rating” from these units – it’s utter lies, more about this below).

Donor Converter
Donor Converter

The good inductor from this donor unit has been desoldered here, it’s supposed to be L2. This one had a heatsink siliconed to the top of the TL494 PWM IC, presumably for cooling, so this was peeled off to give some access.
After this inductor was grafted into place on the dead converter, everything sprang to life as normal. I fail to see how this issue wouldn’t have been caught during manufacture, but they’re probably not even testing them before shipping to the distributor.
The sensational ratings are also utter crap – they quote 1.2kW max power, which at 12v input would be 100A. Their max input rating is given as 20A, so 240W max input power. Pulling this level of power from such a cheaply designed converter isn’t going to be reliably possible, the input terminals aren’t even rated to anywhere near 20A, so these would be the first to melt, swiftly followed by everything else. Some of these units come with a fan fitted from the factory, but these are as cheaply made as possible, with bearings made of cheese. As a result they seize solid within a couple of days of use.
Proper converters from companies like TDK-Lambda or muRata rated for these power levels are huge, with BOLTS for terminals, but they’re considerably more expensive. These Chinese units are handy though, as long as they are run at a power level that’s realistic.

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PowerAdd Pilot X7 20,000mAh Powerbank & Fast Charging Mod

PowerAdd Pilot X7
PowerAdd Pilot X7

Here’s the biggest portable USB powerbank I’ve seen yet – the PowerAdd Pilot X7, this comes with a 20Ah (20,000mAh) capacity. This pack is pretty heavy, but this isn’t surprising considering the capacity.

USB Ports & LED
USB Ports & LED

The front of the pack houses the usual USB ports, in this case rated at 3.4A total between the ports. There’s a white LED in the centre as a small torch, activated by double-clicking the button. A single click of the button lights up the 4 blue LEDs under the housing that indicate remaining battery capacity. Factory charging is via a standard µUSB connector in the side, at a maximum of 2A.

PCB Front
PCB Front

The front of the PCB holds the USB ports, along with most of the main control circuitry. At top left is a string of FS8025A dual-MOSFETs all in parallel for a current carrying capacity of 15A total, to the right of these is the ubiquitous DW01 Lithium-Ion protection IC. These 4 components make up the battery protection – stopping both an overcharge & overdischarge. The larger IC below is an EG1501 multi-purpose power controller.

This chip is doing all of the heavy lifting in this power pack, dealing with all the DC-DC conversion for the USB ports, charge control of the battery pack, controlling the battery level indicator LEDs & controlling the torch LED in the centre.

EG1501 Example
EG1501 Example

The datasheet is in Chinese, but it does have an example application circuit, which is very similar to the circuitry used in this powerbank. A toroidal inductor is nestled next to the right-hand USB port for the DC-DC converter, and the remaining IC next to it is a CW3004 Dual-Channel USB Charging Controller, which automatically sets the data pins on the USB ports to the correct levels to ensure high-current charging of the devices plugged in. This IC replaces the resistors R3-R6 in the schematic above.
The DC-DC converter section of the power chain is designed with high efficiency in mind, not using any diodes, but synchronous rectification instead.

PCB Back
PCB Back

The back of the PCB just has a few discrete transistors, the user interface button, and a small SO8 IC with no markings at all. I’m going to assume this is a generic microcontroller, (U2 in the schematic) & is just there to interface the user button to the power controller via I²C.

Cells
Cells

Not many markings on the cells indicating their capacity, but a full discharge test at 4A gave me a resulting capacity of 21Ah – slightly above the nameplate rating. There are two cells in here in parallel, ~10Ah capacity each.

XT60 Battery Connector
XT60 Battery Connector

The only issue with powerbanks this large is the amount of time they require to recharge themselves – at this unit’s maximum of 2A through the µUSB port, it’s about 22 hours! Here I’ve fitted an XT60 connector, to interface to my Turnigy Accucell 6 charger, increasing the charging current capacity to 6A, and reducing the full-charge time to 7 hours. This splits to 3A charge per cell, and after some testing the cells don’t seem to mind this higher charging current.

Battery Connector Wiring
Battery Connector Wiring

The new charging connector is directly connected to the battery at the control PCB, there’s just enough room to get a pair of wires down the casing over the cells.

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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.