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# WCP32- Vacuum Tube

Tester
Final Presentation

## Keith Lauria- EE, Team Lead

Aaron Wida- EE
Struan Shrimpton- COE
Program Manager- Prof. Jack Maynard

## What are vacuum tubes and why are

they important?
Use a signal to control electric current through vacuum,

## creating an amplifying effect

Triodes, Pentodes
Replaced by solid-state devices and semiconductors in
modern electronics
Vacuum tubes useful for:
Amplifying signals
Guitar amplifiers (vintage, warm sound)
High end audio equipment (PA systems, home theatres, etc..)
Areas where solid-state devices are impractical or undeveloped

Overview

## Project Definition and Goal

Project Requirements
Theoretical Concept
Architectural Design
Context Diagram
Design Decisions
Detail Design
Project Specifications
System Block Diagram
Hardware
Software/ Hardware Integration
User Interface
Finance and Schedule
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Project Definition
Vacuum Tube Testers:
Expensive
Complex circuitry (integrated multimeters)
Consumer models exist:
Expensive
Limited data
Tells you if the tube works or does not

## is user friendly and returns detailed parameters.

Theoretical Concept

## Heaters warm cathode before

operation
Cathode emits electrons
Electrons attracted to plate
Negatively charged grid
prevents electron flow
Higher grid voltage allows
more electron flow

## Standard Tube Test

The common way of testing parameters
A single test point is selected for all three tests
Example:
Ip = 15mA
Vp = 150V
Vg = 0V

## Standard Tube Test

To test Amplification Factor, change plate voltage and grid
voltage to keep plate current constant
Vp = |150V - 265V|
= 115V
VG = |0V - (-2V)|
= 2V
= 115V/2V
= 57.5

## Standard Tube Test

To measure Transconductance, hold plate voltage
constant, change grid voltage, and observe plate current
IP = |15mA - 2.5mA|
= 12.5mA
VG = |0V - (-2V)|
= 2V
Gm = 12.5mA/2V
= 6.25

## Standard Tube Test

To measure Plate Resistance, keep Vg constant, and
change both plate current and plate voltage.
VP = |150V - 250V|
= 100V
IP = |15mA - 30mA|
= 15mA
RP = (100V)/(15mA)
=6.67

## Fig 2: Transconductance Curves

Theoretical Concept

## The Valve Wizard-Merlin Blencowe

Hobbyist
Guitar effects pedals, amplifiers, and
power supplies
provided initial concept

Fig 4: Gm Test
Fig 3: Mu Test

## *Rp calculated from these two parameters

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Prototype

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Fig 5: Prototype

Project Requirements
Shall test 9-pin Triodes and 8-pin/ 9-pin Pentodes
Parameters to test for

## Voltage Amplification () - The change in anode-to-cathode

voltage while varying the grid voltage
Transconductance (Gm) - The change in anode current while
varying the grid voltage
Plate resistance (Rp) - The effective output resistance of the
tube

Safety

Portability

Under 40 lbs.

Power Supply

## 60Hz 120VAC (standard U.S. wall socket)

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Architectural Design

Power Supply
Tube Testing Circuit

Circuit Control

LTSpice Simulation
Audio Analysis
Digital Controller
Digitally controlled potentiometer

User Interface

Display
User interaction

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Context Diagram
User
Interface

Vacuum
Tubes

Vacuum
Tube
Tester

AC
Power

results

Displays

## Fig 6: Context Diagram

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Design Decisions
Power Supply
Hammond 270HX
Handles max ratings of
circuit
Secondary winding to
power heaters (coils)
Alternatives
Power transformers with
lower ratings
Multiple transformers

Fig 7: Transformer

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Design Decisions
Tube Testing

Resistance Driven
Merlins uncommon
approach with opposing
currents
Alternative
Voltage/current varying
circuit with integrated
multimeters
(Brute-force method)

Audio Analysis

Amplitude Analysis

Alternative:
FFT with a
microcontroller
Human Ear

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Figure 8: Simulation

Design Decisions
Circuit Control

Digital Controller

## Relays and Digital

Potentiometer
Enables automation

## ATMega32 Automates the

test
Cost effective
32 I/O pins

Alternatives:
Manual operation
(potentiometer and
ohmeter) and physical
switch

Alternatives:
Arduino
Manual Switching
ATTiny
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Design Decisions
Display

LCD Display
Provides more
characters
Allows for precision
Alternative
Seven segment display
LEDs

User Interaction

## Test Selection Automation

Minimal interaction
Tests interdependent
Short test duration
Alternative
User Test Selection

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Design Decisions
Voltage Selection

Grid/Cathode Diode
Switch Setup
Cheap
Binary related technique
allows for more voltages
Can account for all tube
voltages on our list
Alternative:
Rotary Switches

User Interaction

## Manual tube selection

Voltages can correctly
be set for tests
Tests interdependent
Alternative
Test Selection
Automation
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Detail Design
System Block Diagram

## Fig 9: Detail Block Diagram

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Software/Hardware Integration

AVR Microcontroller

## Amplitude analysis to process audio signal

Micro-controlled Potentiometer

Serial interface

## Relays for switching between tests

LCD Display

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Program Flowchart

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Fig 10: Program Flowchart

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Schedule

## Fig 12: Schedule

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New Experiences
Worked with very high voltages
Were introduced to new applications of familiar parts
Used a CAD drawing with dimensions
Interacted with Lab technicians

## Used a unique theory to counter a standard practice

First project simulating a job environment
Set budget,
Less guidance

Conclusion

## Project Definition and Goal

Design Accomplishments

Power Supply
Triode Tester Circuit
Software/ Hardware Integration
Programming Model
User Interface

## Finance and Schedule

Over Budget

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References
Fig 3-5. Blencowe, M. (2005). Test Tube: The World's Smallest Valve
Tester?. Valvewizard.com. Retrieved December 9, 2013. from
http://www.valvewizard.co.uk/valvetester.html
Fig 1, 2.
Fig 7.

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Questions?

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