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WCP32- Vacuum Tube

Tester
Final Presentation

Keith Lauria- EE, Team Lead


Aaron Wida- EE
Struan Shrimpton- COE
Faculty Advisor/ Sponsor- Prof. Mark Fowler
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..)
High-power radio transmitters
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:
Industry grade
Expensive
Complex circuitry (integrated multimeters)
Consumer models exist:
Expensive
Limited data
Tells you if the tube works or does not

Our Goal: Create a cost effective vacuum tube tester that

is user friendly and returns detailed parameters.

Theoretical Concept

Fig 1: Grid 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

Fig 2: Transconductance Curves

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

Fig 2: Transconductance Curves

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

Fig 2: Transconductance Curves

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

User is unexposed to high voltages

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
Easy to read
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

ATMega32 - 32 I/O pins Programmed in C

Serial interface

Relays for switching between tests


LCD Display

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Program Flowchart

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Fig 10: Program Flowchart

Hardware/ Software Integration

Fig 11: MCU I/O

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Finance need to replace

Fig 11: Finance

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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
Had chassis cut
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,
Set deadline
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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