POWER SUPPLY FOLLOW UP

Well, the HV power supply seems to be humming along nicely.  The meter on the control head displays 2500 VDC which is probably about right considering my line voltage in the shack (248 VAC).  As promised, I measured all the resistors that were removed from the supply and noted their values.  I also noted their specified range based on the five percent tolerance value.  As expected, not a one was in spec.  I’m not sure that this really makes much difference as the power supply isn’t exactly a calibrated circuit, but it would be silly not to replace them while refurbing the supply.  They’re inexpensive and easy to replace.  I substituted metal film resistors of the same value and power rating rather than the original carbon composition.

I haven’t had a single issue at all with breakers tripping on the amp or sub panel since making the repairs.  I’ll conclude that it was definitely a faulty filter cap (or maybe several).   It uses six 240 uF 450V computer grade electrolytics in series for a total of 40 uF DC filtering goodness.  I don’t have a way to test them at this time to determine their values.   Actually, I don’t even have them anymore.  The neighbor kid (Jacob KC9ZYV) wanted them (and also the caps from the Amp Supply LK-500 NT power supply I refurbed last year).  He mentioned something about a rail gun…future mad scientist at work!

I recorded the values for everyone on a pad of genuine Purdue green engineering graph paper.  I still have nearly a full pad of this stuff after nearly 20 years.  I wasn’t an engineering student!  I hope you all find the info interesting.  The next order of business for the amp is to synch the DC drive system with the Tune and Load air variable caps in the RF deck.  Then I can calibrate them all for roughly every 100 KHz of each band and let the amp auto tune itself!

Check out how far some of the resistor values have changed.

Check out how far some of the resistor values have changed.

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ARD MODEL 230A POWER SUPPLY


Another phase in the amplifier rebuild is now complete.  Thanks to the large chassis I was able to remove the transformer and HV power supply with little effort.  It’s a lot lighter with that monster Peter Dahl hypersil removed.  Only a moderate amount of contortion was required to extricate the power supply assembly through the bottom opening.  The rebuild went pretty straight forward.  Fortunately, power supplies are not incredibly complicated beasts.  The main issue I had was a couple traces came loose from the circuit board as I was de-soldering.  Thankfully, I was able to get them all back down into position when the new components were installed.  The solder is holding them in place.

Grungy bits removed from circuit board.

Grungy bits removed from circuit board.

Components removed were: six 240 uF computer grade electrolytics, twelve 150K 2W resistors, one 1M 2W resistor, and five .01 uF disk caps.  The other components looked to be in pretty good shape.  The board was pretty grungy so I took some time to wipe it all down with alcohol before soldering it back together.  I made only one component substitution.  The original carbon composition resistors were replaced with metal film resistors of the same value and power rating.

The HV power supply is designed to provide 2300 VDC at 1.0 A.  There is a total of 40 uF of capacitance for filtering the DC.  My original problem was the circuit breaker on the chassis and/or the circuit breaker in the sub panel would trip when I powered up the amp.  This would happen either right after the power switch was flipped or as the step-start circuit dropped out.  On occasional times when it didn’t trip, it would run for some time and then trip suddenly.  This was especially annoying!

I’m pleased to report I’ve successfully tested the supply several times now and it seems to be working great.  The meter on the control head shows a steady 2500 VDC.  Initial load testing with low drive (up to 35 W) has provided up to 700 W out into the dummy load.  If everything proves to be linear, as it should be, then I should easily see legal limit with under 100 W drive from the exciter (in this case a Flex-5000A).  This is also without getting Plate and Load caps fully peaked in manual tune mode.

The gear motor drives are not properly synced right now.  They should be turning from 0-180 degrees as shown on the control head indicator.  Right now one is and the other just moves from roughly half-meshed to half-meshed on the other side, never getting fully meshed.  Getting them properly adjusted will be my next project.  This portion will switch from electrical to mechanical technique.  Good thing I do this kind of stuff in the real world!

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ARD MODEL 230A BACK STORY

ICOM ARD BrochureThrough the magic of the internet, namely Google, I’ve been able to learn a little more about the Advanced Radio Devices Model 230A.  I’ve been in contact via email with the ham that owned ARD and he’s been kind enough to share with me many details about the company.  So now I’ll be able to share the info with the rest of the ham community.

Advanced Radio Devices was owned by Bob Sullivan W0YVA.  It grew out of a previous company, Technical Services and Manufacturing.  Originally they provided product design and manufacturing services.  The lead engineer was Chuck White.  I don’t know if he was a ham or not.  They later changed the name after investigating HF amplifier design and production.  The company was in business from the 1980’s into the mid 1990’s.ARD dealer listing

Various models of amplifier were produced by ARD.  Models 230A, 230AX, 230C, 230CX were sold both stateside and export, as well as government contract sales.  The two models of chief interest to amateurs would be the 230A with two 3CX800 tubes for 1500 watts continuous output and the 230C with three 3CX800’s for 2250 watts continuous output.  There aren’t any specific sales records, but Bob believes they sold about 100 230A’s and maybe only 25 230C’s!

By 1989 they had established a world wide dealer network for the amp.  Many of these are big name companies still in business.

Dayton AdvertThey also had a booth at the Dayton Hamvention that same year.  With the exception of military equipment, this was the only truly automatic linear amp on the market.  This was an opportunity to present the revolutionary new amplifier to the ham community.  So much so, that it even attracted the attention of ICOM!  There were several months of company negotiations which were to culminate in the production of a genuine ICOM badged super amp.  In the end, ICOM backed out which probably led to the eventual demise of ARD, being it was a pretty small company.

Dayton Hamvention Booth 1989

Dayton Hamvention Booth 1989

I’m happy to report that Bob Sullivan is still an active ham.  His QRZ.com bio page is quite nice and informative.  You can view it here.  He also has a personal webpage which showcases his love of ham radio as well as other interesting hobbies.  Click here for Bob’s personal page.  A lot of good information here for the ham enthusiast.  You can view his rundown on the ARD-230 from here.  Next step for me is to order parts and get busy with the soldering iron.  All for now.

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VOICE ACROSS THE OCEAN

I got an enjoyable surprise in my email last weekend.  Gerald PA3GEG from the Netherlands sent me an mp3 file of our recent DX contact.  Conditions have been pretty favorable for 10 and 12m lately and I’ve been trying to take advantage.  I actually worked Gerald about a week before on 12m USB.  It was neat to hear my own audio from so far away.  I’ve since added a couple TX profiles for my Flex-5000 (one for DX and another for rag chew) so hopefully I’ll sound even better now.  He sent me a couple links so I went ahead and signed his guest book and checked out his page on QRZ.com.  There’s some good stuff there worth taking a look.  You can see his page here.  It was an enjoyable contact for both of us.  Thanks Gerald!

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ARD MODEL 230 VIDEO OVERVIEW

I just finished making a video that shows the ARD 230A on the bench.  I go over some of the basics about the amp and a little history.  I’m still doing research and will eventually devote a whole page here on the blog site to this rare beast of QRO proportions.  Next step is to start the tear down and order parts.  Hope you all find this informative.

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ADVANCED RADIO DEVICES ARD-230A AMPLIFIER

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Several years ago in the Dayton Hamvention fleamarket this beast of an amplifier revealed itself.  I’d only ever seen one other example of this technical marvels of the 1980’s; and oddly enough, it resides in my own county.  Neighboring ham and fellow ARD-230A owner Steve W9RO nicknamed the beast “R2D2” because of it’s unique commercial design features.  Alas, the siren song could not be overcome.  Hamfest buddy Nick N9SJA and I each pooled our funds and gambled $1000 on this mysterious amp.  Click below to see a neat, period advertisement from the February 1988 issue of 73 Magazine.

ARD 230 amp-Feb1988-page102-73magazine

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So here’s a quick rundown on the basic specs of the ARD-230.  It’s a remotely operated linear amplifier capable of operation on any band from 160m through 10m.  The RF deck is integral to the power supply and contains a pair of Eimec 3CX800 metal ceramic tubes.  The power supply provides 2300V DC at around 1.5A max.  This combination will make 1500W at full duty cycle continuous operation with around 60W drive from the exciter.  It’s operated by the remote control head that can be located up to twenty feet away.  You can choose from fullyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA automatic operation, semi automatic operation or manual operation modes.  It’s capable of sensing the frequency of operation and changing bands automatically, while adjusting the Tune and Load capacitors for ideal settings.  During operation it can also sense various abnormalities such as excessive plate or grid currents, or low air flow, and alert the operator or entirely lock out the amplifier for protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuch to our dismay the amp proved to be in ill health.  Initial testing rewarded us with many tripped breakers.  Further inspection found some damage to the undercarriage.  Possibly the result of a drop?  After some weeks of gentle coaxing I was able to fire it up without tripping breakers.  Perhaps the HV power supply caps were re-forming?  Now I could apply some low drive and see if it would truly amplify.  Fully and semi auto modes proved unsuccessful.  Manual mode was slightly better but more discoveries were to come.  Further inspection revealed the proverbial golden screwdriver had been used quite liberally on this device.  The motor driven air variable caps where totally out of synch, and didn’t even come close to indexing with the 0-180 degree indicators on the display.  The shaft couplers from motor to drive, and drive OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto cap were a mess.  The only redeeming values so far have been the beefy power supply with a massive Peter Dahl transformer at its heart and a very clean RF deck.  The 3CX800 triodes were still in good shape, too.  This is an instance in which the sum of the parts is actually more valuable than the whole.  It’s worth more money in pieces!  But what a shame to hack the beast…a very unique and capable amp that seems to be fairly rare and something of an enigma for hams.  And so it’s lived for several years now–cast away in a dark corner of the ham shack and awaiting its turn on the workbench.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While I haven’t been working on the amp too much, I have had a pretty good opportunity to research it.  It’s not without flaws, but they’re few in number.  The components are of high quality and it’s even capable of QSK CW operation due the the vacuum relays, for the so inclined.  As I understand it, ARD was supposed to produce this amp and badge it for Icom, as a part of their product lineup.  In the end, Icom backed out of the deal.  What a difference that might have made!

Google searches have turned up tiny bits of information but a lot of it is dated material from old listserv sites and such.  I’d be curious to the know the total number produced by ARD.  I’d be even more curious to know how many are still in operation.  My goal is to refurbish this amp and enjoy a little unashamed QRO operation.  This amp is just plain hamsexy!  It’s capable of mondo power output if desired.  I don’t think it’ll win a key down contest with a Henry 4K Ultra, but we only get 1500W PEP, right?  An ARRL search turned up a couple documents from 1988, ’89.  I’ve included them below if you’re interested.  The first is a product announcement for the amp and the second is their product review.  They found it quite capable and were very impressed.  Keep in mind that this was a time when a powerful computer of the day had less performance than my smart phone!  A little Z80 processor was the brains of the machine.  Only a serious ham would’ve had the cash to own one of these.  Suggested list price was anywhere from $3500-5500!  I think this blog will become a series as I go through the necessary repairs to return R2D2 back to its former glory.  Perhaps I’ll even post some videos on my Youtube channel.  Hope you enjoy.

QST_Apr_1988_p25 ARD230

QST_May_1989_p43-46 ARD230

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SUMMER IS OVER

It’s been a long and busy summer and my blog has suffered.  I’ve neglected amateur radio quite a bit due to a heavy work schedule.  With the onset of Indiana winter and the first snow on the ground I may be able to carve out a little more shack time now.  I’ll try to do a quick recap of the last five month and hit any ham radio highlights.

We were sorely in need of some better antennas and feedline at the WD9BSA shack.  We were able to trade off some excess equipment for a 500 foot spool of LMR-400 feedline.  This allowed us to make brand new runs out to the antennas.  We now have two multi-band antennas in the air and ready to go whenever the Scout radio station is activated and on the air.

Unfortunately, I missed Field Day this year because of work.  I was able to operated portable Field Day style at Ransburg Scout Reservation.  After a more than twenty year absence from Boy Scout camp, I returned with my oldest son, Jared, for a week in July.  I had a portable station setup in the STEM area and managed several contacts.  The station included a Buddipole antenna and an older Kenwood TS-450SAT with matching power supply.  Some contacts of interest were:  W100AW ARRL Centennial station, W9ZL special event station at EAA Airventure, and DX station CO6LC in Cuba.  Our troop’s Senior Patrol Leader earned his ham license so we were able to communicate throughout camp with HT’s.

IMAG0109[1]IMAG0111[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have numerous old boatanchor radios in the shop.  They’re in various stages of disrepair, unfortunately.  I was, however, able to get two of them fired up using a variac.  The two I’ve been working on are a Hallicrafters S-53A and Hammarlund HQ 100A.  They both exhibit some audio hum and could use some refurbishing, but so far they receive pretty well on a wire antenna.  The S-53A now rests on the mantle in my family room and is occasionally fired up for a little AM listening enjoyment.IMAG0146[1]

My most recent project is getting the shack cleaned up for winter operation.  I’ve moved around a bunch of gear to improve the overall layout.  Some items have been packed away for a later date and new projects are on the bench.  I built a new shack computer to operate the Flex-5000 and all the software that goes along with modern radio operation.  In the last couple days it’s been getting a workout on 10m due to some decent propagation to Europe.  I have more ham blog goodness on the way…but that’s a teaser to keep you coming back.  73 for now.

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TRIPLE BALLOON CHASE

The zero pressure balloon preparing for launch.

The zero pressure balloon preparing for launch.

April 19 I was able to attend my second high altitude balloon chase event.  As part of a nationwide competition the Purdue AMET club launched two balloons.  The Purdue Physics Society also launched a balloon.  This required a concerted effort to chase three balloons launched at different times from two different locations.  I was able to get in on the balloon projects since I’m a member of the Purdue Amateur Radio Club.   We’ve partnered with the other clubs to assist in tracking and comms support.  In the process, we’ve been able to encourage many of the club member to get licensed.  We even started our own PARC VE team.

In addition to the various club members out tracking I also had my son, Jared, riding shotgun; and friends Nick N9SJA and Tabb W9TTW in their mobiles.  We were able to track and recover two of three balloons.  AMET balloon #2 is MIA and hopefully will be recovered by someone and returned to the club.  AMET balloon #1 was a special zero pressure balloon that was actually totally constructed by the club members.  It’s designed for an experimental payload.  What it lacked in speed and altitude it made up for in endurance.  We followed it all the way to the end of a dirt road outside a small town in rural southern Ohio.  We were actually able to see the balloon and follow it as it floated along at 40,000 feet altitude.  I wouldn’t have believed that possible.  The Physics balloon ended up in a tree in a golf course community in Fishers, Indiana.

Liftoff for the zero pressure balloon.

Liftoff for the zero pressure balloon.

It was nice to really make use of the APRS features of the Kenwood TM-D710 in my mobile.  We were able to copy the balloon’s beacons direct from our mobiles.  It was also helpful to be able to tether my tablet to my cell phone and view the balloon in real time on maps.  This also helped us plot our route as we followed along.  At one point the balloon went right over my house and used my digipeater.  That was really neat for me.  It definitely took us into some unfamiliar territory.  We knew it was a good sign as it went past Dayton, OH.  Being that near to Hamvention land was some good mojo.  Can’t wait to get back there in a few weeks.

I’ve included a pic that shows the flight path of AMET #1.  You can see the red line is the path it traveled.  The blue line is from the pickup point back home to West Lafayette.  They must have turned off the beacon and then turned it back on again later.  It was neat to follow it along and see it hanging in the sky, especially after it got below 10,000 feet.  As it got cool in the evening the altitude really started to drop.  I wish I could’ve gotten a picture of it lit up by the sun and floating along about 5000 feet thorugh some rolling fields out in the country.

We’re looking forward to some more balloon projects this summer as many of the members will be sticking around campus.  We also have plans for using the kite antenna again.  Maybe this time we can send up a small, low power repeater.

AMET balloon path from aprs.fi.

AMET balloon path from aprs.fi.

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APRS FOR THE MASSES

My home digi in operation.

My home digi in operation.

For a long time I thought that APRS was pretty much a solution to a nonexistent problem.  It provides position tracking, but how many times can you follow your buddies around on a map before that gets boring?  It uses a 1200 baud packet radio protocol, but most packet has been dead for years.  The only exceptions are a few DX cluster nodes and some emcomm stuff.  And even at that, 1200 baud is slow when most any gear can run 9600 now.  So, what’s the attraction?

My thoughts changed after tracking a high altitude balloon.  APRS really proved itself invaluable in this endeavor.  We were able to not only copy direct packets from the balloon, but also see the beacon packets on aprs.fi using a smart phone when we were out of range.  This made recovering the payload much easier–of critical importance when there’s the potential for a high altitude to travel outside of state lines and beyond.

At some point the location beacons stop getting reported to the APRS-IS network if it gets out of range of a digipeater.  The last two times it was when the balloon was still 2-3000 feet up.  This prompted me to examine how many digipeaters were in my local area.  I live directly between two fairly large cities.  Indianapolis and Lafayette both have wide area digipeaters but there aren’t any local digi’s in my area.  Just one I-gate in Lebanon.  I thought it might be nice to set one up.  This should help provide coverage for local passing motorists and may be of help to the local ARES team in the future.  Just last fall we had a destructive tornado come through my county only 10 miles away!

I’ve done a lot of reading on different ways to setup digi’s and I decided to purchase an older Kenwood TM-D700.  This dual band data radio will operate APRS on one VFO and also VHF or UHF FM phone on the other VFO simultaneously.  This is different than many dual banders that will operate phone on both bands, but not data and phone at the same time.  The added benefit is that I now have a handy radio in the house for repeater/simplex operation.  It was easy to setup the APRS features and get the packets beaconing.  Then I enabled it to digipeat local WIDE1-1 packets and saved this config to one of the Programmable Memories.  Phase two involved taking the digi to the next level.  I downloaded

The guts of the system are housed in this box under the table.

The guts of the system are housed in this box under the table.

aprsisce/32 on my spare laptop.  I had to make a couple changes to the xml file and then it would operate as a digi.  Then I changed the 700 to run as a KISS TNC and connected it to the laptop.  This proved simple once I found correct straight through F/F serial cable.  The 700 still has an old school DB9 male serial port so I didn’t have to construct a special serial cable with a mini DIN connector like the newer TM-D710 requires.  After making all these changes I saved the config to another Programmable Memory channel.  Now my digi can operate stand alone or with the laptop.  Using the laptop is nice since it shows all the activity in the area and also handles APRS messaging.

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TS-450SAT

I have a feeling this is going  to be a long blog post.  But hey, sometimes I have a lot to say.  Occasionally, it’s even interesting.  If you like older Kenwoods or just playing around with different rigs, then this will be for you.  It’s not really a product review, just some general observations.

TS-450Over the weekend I hooked up a nice, old Kenwood TS-450SAT.  This is one of the radios I got from Mark Quebe N9EKG over the summer.  Some readers of this blog will remember my previous post on this adventure.  Sure was glad to have Dad and my sidekick Nick N9SJA there for the long day of work.  Initially, I’d hooked the radio up just to try it out and didn’t have spectacular results.  I could hardly make it work at all.  With disappointment I’d packed it away for another day.  Having  nothing better to do, I hooked it all back up again.  I think the cabin fever is setting in.  What I found out is that it seems to receive quite well, but has very little AF output.  This is likely something easily fixed.  Even better, it was now showing full power output into the dummy load.  I don’t remember it working at all last time so maybe it’s had some group therapy sessions in the shack with the other gear I’ve banished to the shelves.  Either that or reading the operator’s manual has paid off.  I don’t know which?

I attached an MC-60 mic and hooked it up to the hexbeam for some real testing.  This proved to be successful as I made several contacts on 17m, including DX.  For a smaller radio it has a good, solid feel to it.  Kenwood built some quality into these back in the day.  In spite or converting to a Flex-5000A as my main shack radio, I still love to spin the dial and push buttons.  But what to do about rig control?  I’ve gotten used to having all my gear interfaced to the computer with the Flex.  I had to keep reminding myself to manually input band, freq, mode, etc into the HRD logbook.  Then I remembered USB interfacethis USB rig interface kit I built years ago for an original Icom IC-756.  It was designed by N0XAS HamGadgets.  Sadly, it’s no longer produced, but it worked quite well on the 756 and also a Yaesu Ft-736R.  After I dug it out I found that it even had the correct 6-pin DIN plug on it for the TS-450, and it was wired correctly!  When you’re hot, you’re hot.  After a little bit if research I found that Kenwood used inverted TTL for their serial rig control.  I can’t even guess why they would do that other than to be different.  This normally requires buying their interface box or a homebrew lashup with opto-isolators and such to deal with the inverted logic.  Fortunately, the rig interface had a utility program on the software disk called MProg.  It allows you to change the settings and configuration for the FTDI chip and then flash them to it.  It worked quite well and I’m pleased to report that the radio is now communicating happily with the HRD suite.

Other than having to run the AF gain all the way up I’m pretty pleased with this radio’s performance.  The antenna tuner seems to be jammed up so I don’t use it.  Maybe when I dig into the low audio issue I can check out the tuner, too.  As I’ve researched it on the web there are very few known issues requiring mods.  That says a lot about the radio’s design.  It’s not fair to compare it with the Flex but it does perform solid.  I could improve it a little by adding better filters and maybe a Heil mic.  International Radio has an excellent assortment of them available.  Unfortunately, I could spend more than the radio’s worth on filters!  It’s still going to be an early ’90s compact HF transceiver, though.  I don’t want to try and make it more than what it is.  I think I’ll just enjoy it for now…and then on the the next project!

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