Posted on 5 Comments

Honda GX35 Clone – Are They Any Good?

In a word, no they aren’t any good. As usual, cheap doesn’t equal good, and in this case the cheapo clones are a total waste of money. Read on for the details!

I’ve been looking into using a cheap Chinese clone Honda GX35 engine to drive an automotive alternator as a portable battery charging & power unit. These engines are available very cheaply on eBay, aimed at the mini-bike/go-kart market.
For those not in the know, the Honda GX25/35 4-strokes are strimmer-type engines that traditionally were always of 2-stroke construction. Honda worked out how to have a wet-sump engine without the need to keep the engine always in the “upright” position. They do not require mixing of oil into the fuel for lubrication as 2-strokes do, so should be much cleaner running.

So far I’ve had two of these cheap engines, as the first one died after only 4 hours run time, having entirely lost compression. At the time the engine was idling, no load, having been started from cold only a few minutes before. Having checked the valve clearances to make sure a valve wasn’t being held partially open, I deduced that the cause was broken piston rings. This engine was replaced by the seller, so I didn’t get a chance to pull it to bits to find out, but I decided to do a full teardown on the replacement to see where the cloners have cut corners.

Oil Return Hose
Oil Return Hose

I’ve already stripped off the ancillary components: exhaust, carburettor, fuel tank, cowlings, as these parts are standard to any strimmer engine. The large black hose here is the oil return feed back to the rocker cover from the crankcase. The oiling system in these engines is rather clever. The main engine block is made of light alloy, probably some permutation of Aluminium. There is much flashing left behind between the cylinder fins from the die-casting process, and not a single engine manufacturer’s logo anywhere. (From what I’ve read, the genuine Honda ones have their logo on the side of the crankcase).

Rocker Box
Rocker Box

Here’s the top of the engine with valves, rockers & camshaft. All the valve gear up here, minus the valves themselves & springs, are manufactured from sintered steel, there are no proper “bearings”, the steel shafts just run in the aluminium castings. The cam gear is of plastic, with the sintered steel cam pressed into place. The cam also has the bearing surface for the pin that the whole assembly rotates on. The timing belt runs in the oil & is supposed to last the life of the engine, and while I’d believe that in the original Honda, I certainly wouldn’t in this engine. The black grommet is the opening of the oil return gallery.

Cam
Cam

Here’s the cam on the back of the plastic pulley. A single cam is used for both intake & exhaust valves for space & simplicity.

Intake Valve Stem Seal
Intake Valve Stem Seal

Just visible under the intake valve spring is a simple stem seal, to hopefully prevent oil being sucked down the valve guide into the cylinder by intake vacuum. Running these cheap engines proves this seal to be ineffective, as they blow about as much blue oil smoke as a 2-stroke when they’re started cold. 😉

Starter Side
Starter Side

The starter side is where the oil sump is located on these engines, along with the dipstick.

Flywheel Side
Flywheel Side

The flywheel end of the engine is the usual fare for small engines. Ignition is provided by a magneto, with a magnet in the flywheel. This is no different from the 2-stroke versions. As these ignitions fire on every revolution of the crankshaft, the spark plug fires both on compression, igniting the fuel for normal operation, and again into the exhaust stroke, where the spark is wasted.
One thing I have noticed about these engines is an almost total lack of cooling air coming through the cowling over the cylinder cooling fins. Plenty was flowing over the exhaust silencer side, I believe bad housing design would be what causes this problem. A lack of cooling certainly wouldn’t help engine longevity!

Engine "Sump"
Engine “Sump”

Separating the bottom of the engine was a little difficult, as there is a significant bead of sealant used instead of a gasket. Inside the sump of the engine are a pair of paddles, which stir up the oil into a mist. As the piston moves in the cylinder, it acts as a pump, creating alternating pulses of pressure & vacuum in the crankcase. Oil mist flows through a drilling in the crank from the sump, into the crankcase where it (hopefully) lubricates the bearings & the cylinder wall. Incidentally, the only main bearings are on the crankcase – the far end of the shaft that carries the oil paddles & timing belt is just flapping in the breeze, the only support being the oil seal in the outer housing. The crank itself isn’t hardened – a file easily removes metal from all parts that I could get at. The big end journal pin might be, but these cranks are pressed together so I can’t access that part.

Lubrication Gallery
Lubrication Gallery

The oil mist feeds into the crankcase through this hollow section of shaft, there’s a drilling next to the timing belt pulley to connect the two spaces together.

Lower Crankcase
Lower Crankcase

The lower crankcase is just a simple die casting, there’s a check valve at the bottom under the crankshaft to transfer oil to the rocker cover, through the rubber tube on the outside of the engine. After the oil reaches the rocker box, it condenses & returns to the sump via the timing belt cavity.

Piston Crown
Piston Crown

Removing the crankshaft from the engine block gives me a look at the piston. The factory couldn’t even be arsed to machine the crown, it’s still got the rough finish from the hot-forging press. This bad finish will pick up much carbon from combustion, and would probably cause detonation once enough had accumulated to become incandescent in the heat of combustion. Only the centre is machined, just enough for them to stamp a number on.

Cylinder Bore
Cylinder Bore

A look up the cylinder bore shows the valves in the cylinder head. These engines, like their 2-stroke cousins have a single casting instead of a separate block & head, so getting at the valves is a little more of a pain. The cylinder bore itself is a cast-in iron liner and it’s totally smooth – like a mirror finish. There’s not a single sign of a crosshatch pattern from honing. If the first engine that died on me was the same – I’d be surprised if it wasn’t, this could easily cause ring breakage. The usual crosshatch pattern the cylinder hone produces holds oil, to better help lubricate the piston & rings. Without sufficient lubrication, the rings will overheat & expand far enough to close the end gap. Once this happens they will break.

Engine Valves
Engine Valves

Finally, here’s the valves with their springs removed from the cylinder. These are the smallest poppet valves I’ve ever seen, a British penny is provided for scale.

In all, these engines share many components with the older 2-stroke versions. The basic crankshaft & connecting rod setup is the same as I’ve seen in many old 2-strokes previous, the addition of the rather ingenious oiling system by Honda is what makes these tiny 4-strokes possible. I definitely won’t be trusting these very cheap copies in any of my projects, reliability is questionable at the least. The apparent lack of cooling air flow over the cylinder from the flywheel fan is concerning, along with the corner-cutting on the cylinder finishing process & piston crown, presumably to reduce factory costs.

Posted on Leave a comment

Zebra P330i Card Printer

Front
Front

This is the teardown of a Zebra P330i plastic card printer, used for creating ID cards, membership cards, employee cards, etc. I got this as a faulty unit, which I will detail later on.
This printer supports printing on plastic cards from 1-30mils thick, using dye sublimation & thermal transfer type printing methods. Interfaces supplied are USB & Ethernet. The unit also has the capability to be fitted with a mag stripe encoder & a smart card encoder, for extra cost.

Print Engine
Print Engine

 

 

 

 

On the left here is the print engine open, the blue cartridge on the right is a cleaning unit, using an adhesive roller to remove any dirt from the incoming card stock.
This is extremely important on a dye sublimation based printing engine as any dirt on the cards will cause printing problems.

Cards In Feeder
Cards In Feeder

 

Here on the right is the card feeder unit, stocked with cards. This can take up to 100 cards from the factory.
The blue lever on the left is used to set the card thickness being used, to prevent misfeeds. There is a rubber gate in the intake port of the printer which is moved by this lever to stop any more than a single card from being fed into the print engine at any one time.

Card Feeder Belt
Card Feeder Belt

 

 

 

Here is the empty card feeder, showing the rubber conveyor belt. This unit was in fact the problem with the printer, the drive belt from the DC motor under this unit was stripped, preventing the cards from feeding into the printer.

Print Head
Print Head

 

 

 

Here is a closeup of the print head assembly. The brown/black stripe along the edge is the row of thin-film heating elements. This is a 300DPI head.

 

Print Station
Print Station

 

 

 

This is under the print head, the black roller on the left is the platen roller, which supports the card during printing. The spool in the center of the picture is the supply spool for the dye ribbon.
In the front of the black bar in the bottom center, is a two-colour sensor, used to locate the ribbon at the start of the Yellow panel to begin printing.

LCD PCB
LCD PCB

 

 

Inside the top cover is the indicator LCD, the back of which is pictured right.
This is a 16×1 character LCD from Hantronix. This unit has a parallel interface.

LCD
LCD

 

 

 

 

Front of the LCD, this is white characters on a blue background.

Roller Drive Belts
Roller Drive Belts

 

 

 

Here is the cover removed from the printer, showing the drive belts powering the drive rollers. There is an identical arrangement on the other side of the print engine running the other rollers at the input side of the engine.

Mains Filter
Mains Filter

 

 

 

Here the back panel has been removed from the entire print engine, complete with the mains input wiring & RFI filtering.
This unit has excellent build quality, just what is to be expected from a £1,200+ piece of industrial equipment.

Main Frame With Motors
Main Frame With Motors

 

 

The bottom of the print engine, with all the main wiring & PCB removed, showing the main drive motors. The left hand geared motor operates the head lift, the centre motor is a stepper, which operates the main transmission for the cards. The right motor drives the ribbon take up spindle through an O-Ring belt.

Feeder Drive Motor
Feeder Drive Motor

 

 

 

Card feeder drive motor, this connects to the belt assembly through a timing belt identical to the roller drive system.
All these DC geared motors are 18v DC, of varying torque ratings.

Power Supply
Power Supply

 

 

 

Here is the main power supply, a universal input switch-mode unit, outputting 24v DC at 3.3A.

PSU Label
PSU Label

 

 
PSU info. This is obviously an off the shelf unit, manufactured by Hitek. Model number FUEA240.

Print Engine Rear
Print Engine Rear

 

 

 

The PSU has been removed from the back of the print engine, here is shown the remaining mechanical systems of the printer.

Print Engine Components
Print Engine Components

 

 
A further closeup of the print engine mechanical bay, the main stepper motor is bottom centre, driving the brass flywheel through another timing belt drive. The O-Ring drive on the right is for the ribbon take up reel, with the final motor driving the plastic cam on the left to raise/lower the print head assembly.
The brass disc at the top is connected through a friction clutch to the ribbon supply reel, which provides tension to keep it taut. The slots in the disc are to sense the speed of the ribbon during printing, which allows the printer to tell if there is no ribbon present or if it has broken.

RFID PCB
RFID PCB

Here is a further closeup, showing the RFID PCB behind the main transmission. This allows the printer to identify the ribbon fitted as a colour or monochrome.
The antenna is under the brass interrupter disc on the left.

I/O Daughterboard
I/O Daughterboard

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O daughterboard connects to the main CPU board & interfaces all the motors & sensors in the printer.

Main PCB
Main PCB

Here is the main CPU board, which contains all the logic & processing power in the printer.

CPU
CPU

 

 

 
Main CPU. This is a Freescale Semiconductor part, model number MCF5206FT33A, a ColdFire based 32-bit CPU. Also the system ROM & RAM can be seen on the right hand side of this picture.

Ethernet Interface
Ethernet Interface

 

Bottom of the Ethernet interface card, this clearly has it’s own RAM, ROM & FPGA. This is due to this component being a full Parallel interface print server.

Ethernet Interface Top
Ethernet Interface Top

 

 

 

 
Top of the PCB, showing the main processor of the print server. This has a ferrite sheet glued to the top, for interference protection.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

HP Photosmart 375

Top
Top

This is a HP PhotoSmart 375 portable photo printer. With built in card reader, screen & PictBridge.
Top of the printer showing the UI Buttons & Screen.

Front
Front

Front of the unit, card reader slots at the top, Pictbridge USB connector at top left. Paper out slot at bottom. Cartridge door is on the right.

Cartridge Door
Cartridge Door

Here the cartridge door is open. Takes HP 95 Tri-Colour Inkjet Cartridge.

Battery Compartment
Battery Compartment

Battery compartment on the bottom of the unit. A Li-Ion battery pack can be installed here for mobile photo printing.

Bottom Label
Bottom Label

Specifications label.

USB + Power
USB + Power

Power adaptor & USB connection for PC use.

Paper Tray
Paper Tray

Rear door opened. Showing the paper feed tray.

Paper Feeder
Paper Feeder

Rear door has been removed in this shot. Paper feed roller & platen roller can be seen here.

Rear Cover Paper Feeder
Rear Cover Paper Feeder

Paper holder attached to rear door.

Top Cover
Top Cover

Bottom of the top cover, with connections for the buttons & LCD panel.

Main PCB
Main PCB

This is the main PCB of the unit. Controls all aspects of the printer. CPU in center, card reader sockets are along bottom edge. various support circuitry surrounds the CPU.

Rear
Rear

Rear shell has been removed here. Showing the main frame & the carriage drive motor on the left.

Carriage Drive
Carriage Drive

Closeup of the carriage drive motor & timing belt system. All the motors in this printer are DC servo motors, not steppers.

Main Drive Motor
Main Drive Motor

Main drive motor, feeds paper, drives rollers, operates cleaning mechanism for the inkjets.

Shaft Encoder
Shaft Encoder

Mainshaft encoder. Main drive motor is bottom right hand side with timing belt drive.

CPU
CPU

Closeup of the CPU. This is a Phillips ARM chip, unknown spec.

Card Reader Sockets
Card Reader Sockets

Detail of the card reader sockets, this unit takes all current types of Flash memory card.

HP 95 Tri-color Inkjet Print Cartridge