Category Archives: Various

HP 6634A System Power Supply: A few almost-bad RIFA caps, and a 100 Volt, 1 Amp, source-sink supply, and a generous load of transistors

A quick look at a really nice piece of kit, a 100 V, precision regulated power supply, can be floated to +-240 V, and can provide 100 Watts of power, or sink power, about the same range.

The front panel and handling is like any other HP system power supply from this era, and there are models 6632A (20 Volts) and 6633A (50 Volts) that share virtually the same control circuit. All is GPIB controlled, of course, and this unit has front and read outputs. I am going to use it for a capacitor tester (to study the voltage bias effect and hysteresis of ceramic capacitor materials), so I need a fairly reliable unit because it will run unattended for a while.

The top view, there is a massive heatsink, for 100 Watts of dissipation…

The transformer, it is the highest standard and insulation I have ever seen.

There are 8 power transistor, in a really massive output stage (4 complementary pairs, 2 each on each heatsink-the heatsink is sub-divided in two sections), each of them capable of handling 250 Watts of dissipation.

The output stage, it is a really generous design, considering that this is a 1 Amp supply (most designers would handle it with two transistors).

The only thing I don’t like about the unit, the RIFA X and Y rated caps. These are all cracked (still not shorted, but I don’t want to take a chance). So these will need to be replaced.

Otherwise, all is good with this unit, almost no dust inside – I believe this instrument had very low hours, or has been used in a very clean environment (not even a trace of dust on the fan).

HP 3326A Two-Channel Synthesizer: replaced, and replaced again!

Recently, two assemblies of a non-working HP 3326A were fixed by replacing their 15 uF tantalum caps – a good number of them had failed, presumably, because of a bad production lot of these capacitors (see earlier post)

Unfortunately, during the test run, some sporadic failures of the power supply, with overcurrent indication flashing. Then, permanent failure of the -15 V rail – as it turns out, by a short in the assemblies we had just fixed! An again, a discolored tantalum capacitor. Replaced it, and a few hours later, the same issue, with another capacitor of the same kind.
My mistake, I had use a bag of cheap China-sourced 15 uF, 25 Volts dipped tantalums, but these seem to be no good (unlike other Chinese electronics good that have attained good quality in recent years, provided you don’t by the cheapest kind). Maybe it was my mistake to buy the cheapest tantalum capacitors, but not much choice if you need 34 pieces to fix some old equipment – I don’t want to pay EUR 1.45 each from top brand parts from Mouser or similar sources.

With some luck, I found reasonable prices KEMET T350 series Ultradip II capacitors, these are known to be reliable.

You can see the size differences – the KEMET part is much bigger than the Chinese 25 Volts part – it is more similar in size to a 15 Volts KEMET part. Probably, the design was put a bit to the limit.

With the capacitors replaced and another 48 hours of run in test – no issues at all and the 3326A can be considered fixed and working for now.

HP 8754A 4 MHz to 1300 MHz Network Analyzer: final repairs, and a function test

Finally, the spare parts arrived, and the repairs of the HP 8754A could be finalized. The LM339 comparators, fitted to the boards…

The cap of the mains filter had many small cracks – replaced. For some reasons, the original filter had a Y-rate cap across the mains supply – Y rating is usually for connection from mains to earth. So I replaced it with a X2 rated cap for service parallel to mains.

Some tests – the 8754a is a very nice unit, because of its instantaneous response to the dial settings, rather than the delay of any digital network analyzer. Even the most modern of all units still don’t such a direct feel compared to the fully-analog 8754a.

HP/Agilent 6060A System DC Electronic Load: a quick repair

This is a 300 Watts, 60 Volts, 60 Amp electronic load, a quite handy device to have, especially, a HP/Agilent brand item. There are many cheap electronic loads, but I would rather recommend to get a good instrument, if you want to put some power supplies to real tests. Otherwise, you load may fail earlier than the supply.

The instrument we are dealing with here, a low cost auction fid – it had a bad front connector. These instrument use HP 60 Amp binding posts, these are quite rare and expensive (about EUR 40 per piece from Keysight), and the plastic gets brittle over time, and with overtightening it can break. The instrument had front and rear connections, I only need one set – so it will be an easy repair by just moving the good binding posts to the front.

Also, we find that all the X and Y rated capacitors have hair cracks, and are of RIFA brand, so these may fail soon – let’s replace them all.

The power is dissipated in several MOSFETs, all mounted to a large heatsink. Essentially, a small 300 Watts room heater, which is great to have these days in cold Japan.

The front connectors, after repair (just moved the rear connectors to the front, rear connectors, I don’t need them).

New caps soldered in – quite a difficult task because some vias are part of large copper fills, without thermal relieve, and I don’t want to preheat the whole board.

Finally managed to solder-in the X and Y capacitors.

A test at 40 Volts, 6 Amps, running for several hours with no issues at all!

Agilent 4352B VCO/PLL Signal Analyzer: working!

After a short xmas vacation, several spare parts arrived, including, 10 amp solder-in fuses, and thermal glue (704 silicon glue).

The glue is needed to mount the defective/blown thermal fuse to the power resistor. This resistor usually stays cool but will heat up in case of a power supply failure.

The fuse protects the primary of the switchmode transformer, it is a 10 Amp fuse, and it took a while to find it – it is located in a hidden place underneath the transformer.

Now, with the fuse installed, the thermal fuse glued to the resistor, and the two drive mostfets replaced, the Artsyn 24 Volts supply is starting up just fine. All self-tests passed!

Next step, let’s update the firmware, and do some tests.

The firmware version 2.11 is the latest one available, but it needs to be loaded from a 3.5 inch floppy – I have a USB floppy drive here, and one single disc which I purchased from Sri Lanka. Took a few attempts to convince the 4352B to read the disc and load the firmware. But finally, success!

Many tests could be done, here just a simple test with a 15 MHz signal from a 3585A vs. a 8642B generator. Seems to work well, and easy to use.

Now we can close the case, and use the device for VCO characterization, phase noise measurement, etc.

HP 6038A System Power Supply: all fixed!

After some weeks, the spare parts arrived – RIFA X2/Y2 rated capacitors (now made by Kemet), a full set (see earlier post, 6038a repair).

The new X2 capacitor, let’s hope RIFA has improved the resin and durability. Albeit, the old capacitors lasted for a long time…

And a fan, from China. The fan, upon close inspection, it has a broken frame, but fair enough, I will use this one while a replacement is on the way.

A lot of dust removed from the case and boards, all completely disassembled. The X and Y capacitors all replaced – the old capacitors are still working, but cracked and it is good practice to replace them, unless, you want to risk a lot of smoke and stench (usually, at least no fire risk).

Always good to use high quality tools – I only have low quality tools here, and bits that crack!

All cleaned and put together…

…finally, some testing. It is working, the fan is providing a substantial amount of cooling, it is definitely big enough for the unit.

HP 3326 Two-Channel Synthesizer: a bad lot of tantalum capacitors

This HP 3326A was found for a ridiculously low price, non-working, so I decided to pick it up, in case I need some spares for my good 3326A, or as a source for some HP parts. But when it arrived, it was in such good shape that a repair appeared worthwhile.

The symptom, it just doesn’t start up, the +15 Volt and -15 V rails shorted. Brief check showed that the power supply is working. There must be a short somewhere in one of the modules. How to find such short?

The 3326A has a cast aluminum cage construction, which houses all the modules in separate cavities, all heavy cast metal! To find the defective module, we first have to undo 100s of screws… and usually the last module will be the one at fault.

Half an hour later – found that both (!) phase detector boards – these are identical for channel A and B – have shorts.

Some more probing later – the reason a couple of shorted tantalum caps, 15 microfarads.

These are in general high quality capacitors, but it must have been a bad batch. So, let’s desolder all the 15 uF caps, and solder in new ones.

Even with the dead caps cut-out, the 3326A is working again! No issues with any of the self tests, including the service self test (push button self test-%-6 to activate).

Some maintenance is also needed on the power supply. Checked all the transistors which are known to develop issues with the sockets. And added some thermal compound to the 5 Volt rail transistor which was running a bit hot.

Also, the connector to the transformer has the typical bad soldering and cracked solder joints, all now re-soldered with a generous amount of good old lead containing solder.

This unit even has option 001, the precision ovenized reference.

There is no manufacturer datasheet available for this Japanese OCXO, but the HP manual has all the data. It is not an ultra-stable timing standard, but by far good enough for a two tone synthesizer.

HP 8754A 4 MHz to 1300 MHz Network Analyzer: an analog computer, and a few rusted transistors

There is no specific need for a 1.3 GHz Network Analyzer in my workshop, because there are already several more modern instruments, but this HP 8754A is a real marvel, it was original designed as a “moderately priced, compact” type network analyzer, whatever was considered moderate by HP at the time (maybe the value of two or three small cars?). Finding the offer for a rediculouly low price, for a non-working unit, on Yahoo Japan, I could not resist to place a very moderate bid. Turns out, I was to only bidder, in whole Japan. My original thought was to use it for some experiments, and then, use it a as a source of HP spare parts (there are many FETs, Opamps, transitors, etc. in this machine).

Once the unit arrived, I powered it up, only to find out two things – the -10 Volt and +5 Volt power supplies are not working. And the CRT is very good and sharp. Maybe not many hours of use. Also, the unit is generally clean and in original condition – no other repair attemped. Even the HP instrument feet were included.

The -10 Volt, it required some troubleshooting of the low voltage assembly (corroded transistor legs), see below. The +5 supply, the issue could be traced to a defective TO-3 HP 1820-0430 integrated regulator, alias LM309K.

This regulator is mounted on an aluminum plate in the chassis, with some rather thick ceramic insulator, and what appeared to be only traced of thermal grease. Usually, these are protected against short and overheating, maybe, it was just running a bit hot for year, eventually, accelerating aging and finally triggering natural/random failure with no external even. We will never know, we only know, we have to fix it.

The LM309K tends to become rare and expensive, I still have some back at the Ludwigshafen, Germany workshop, but not here in my temporary Japanese workshop. Checking the offers, I found some very inexpensive LM323K.

The LM323K, it is a very similar device – just higher current capability. It is not critical for the 8754A, the 5 V rail is only loaded by about 0.25-0.3 Amp (as checked with a power supply).

Now, to the corroded transistors. This only seems to affect the boards thats are close to the air inlet, maybe some contamination from ambient air (salt?) is accelerating the effect, related to gold plated steel wire leg transistor. Other transistors have copper, or special alloy wire, but especially the “4-404” and 2N2222A transistors used by HP in the late 1970s seems to be affected by this phenomenon. Not so much in dry countries, but in instruments subject to humind and salty (sea?) conditions here in Japan – just a few km from the cost in most cases.

The 4-404 transistor, alias SS9333, 1854-0404 HP part number, it is a kind of mystery, no data available, and I have seen this part in may Hp instruments, always replacing them with some 4-404 scavenged from part units, etc. But for the 8754A, should we really buy some expensive old HP parts or wait for a long time to go back to Germany to the parts storage? Time for some characterization – found one good, only slightly rusted 4-404, and did some gain, DC performance and frequency response tests at typical currents.

Some basic data could be found – nothing special, the voltage rating rather moderate, and power rating, as well.

Some tests and calculations, it is medium to high gain NPN transistor. BC337-25 or BC337-40 can be valid replacments, I used BC337-25, selected for a gain of 250-300.

High frequency performance is nothing special, it can be easily met by a BC337.

Several 2N2222A are a bit easier to replace – just replaced the TO-18 metal can units with some generic TO-92 2N2222A (or whatever silicon fragments the mass producers put into the 2N2222A case nowadays).

After these initial fixes, the power is up, and the transistors all good. Initial assessment –
(1) front panel “analog computer” is working, some contact cleaner will do the trick, there is no mechanical damage
(2) the CRT will need a filter, it is missing.
(3) the RF output seems to work, at least there is power – need to check with a counter and properly align the linearity, etc.
(4) The VCO and PLL of the receivers seems to have some trouble, but the samplers are working! That’s a relieve.

See below this is a 35 MHz input signal, sampled with the VCO at about 33 MHz, giving a 1 MHz frequency.

So, what is wrong with the PLL? The PLL, it’s purpose is to have a line of a comb generator/multiplier (which is generating the sampler pulses by a step recovery diode) always 1 MHz away from the RF, to give a 1 MHz IF for the R, A and B channels.

This is achieved by first pretuning the VCO, by setting a frequency close to the needed multiple of the VCO, then the PLL is activated and phase lock achieved.

The phase detector, first, I thought is not working, because there is no proper output. But once desoldered, all the transistors tested OK.

The pretune, also this seems to be working, but hold – it is working too well! It is overruling the phase detector.

Further study shows that there are FET switched controlled by a logic signal, via a LM339 comparator. And, as it turns out, the LM339 is dead (both switches on)…

Temporarily fixed the issue by disabling the pre-tune, and enabling the PLL – and, it does lock (albeit, not a fast sweeps – which needs the pretune). But it works of you slowly increase the frequency starting from 0 MHz (this way, you can even measure as 1000 MHz, phase locked!).

After the PLL had been fixed, still some more issues – the R channel detector is not giving a proper output (switching the A8 and A11 boards showed, that the A8 board, which is the same board but used for the A-B channel is working!). Also some issues with the IF switching of the A/B channel, let’s fix this first. The IF switch is part of the A6 assembly mentioned before (which has the VCO and comb generator-diode pulser). To check it, without any fancy extender boards, you can just solder a few wires to the board. I generally prefer solid core telephone wire, this has a very strong and thin insulation, and doesn’t cause shorts easily, because of the single, solid core.

Also here, a dead LM339! Hardwired it for now to conduct the A channel IF.Ordered some LM339N, 10 pcs for USD 1.37.

Now, a few general views, top view:

You can see the card cages, power supply, and the RF sections with oscillators, mixers, samplers.

The bottom side, there are several dangerous DC voltages exposed, don’t touch!

The remaining issue, fixing the R detector and log amplifier, assembly A11. After some probing and thanks to having a working assembly (the A8 A/B detector assembly), the fault could be traced to the log amplifier, and furtunately, not to the transistor pair, which would be very difficult to source or replace, but to the reference amplifier, U2. This is a simple LM301, alias HP 1820-0223.

The LM301, a really early Signetics model! Unfortunately, it is dead, the inputs are somehow leaking negative current.

I already have some LM301 on order, but for the time being, used an old LM301, slightly rusted that I had desoldered recently from a 4191A power supply.

After all these fixed, the unit’s basic functions have all been restored. Sure, there will be through alignement and check, but I will do this once the LM339 and LM301 have made it to Japan. Checked for other issues, by running the units for several hours – very stable. To track the frequency stability, I used a 830 MHz bandpass filter.


Also, the instrument originally came with a plastic printed Smith chart that can be attached to the CRT. Wanted to print one, or have one made by photo printing on lightsetting film. But this is more for decorative purposes, and can be done later.

HP 6038A System Power Supply: A 150 Watt Option (Option 100)

The 6038A is a very capable switchmode power supply, which features great reliability, 10 Amps of current, up to 60 Volts, and 200 Watts – for the regular unit. The unit discussed here is an Option “100” unit, this means, it can work here in Japan, with 100 Volts AC mains voltage (50 or 60 Hz, depends on where you are in Japan…) – at 75% of the rated power, say 150 Watts max.

Well, 150 Watts is fair enough for my purposes, and I got this unit for next to nothing, “doesn’t power on, blows fuse”.

Indeed, the fuse was blown. An it has low resistance when measuring across the mains. Difficult to find the issue.

Looking at the datasheet, it is definitely worth the repair. New, it was around USD 3000 list price (maybe more like USD 5k in nowadays dollars)!

Somehow, I could not find anything wrong with the power board. Maybe a short on the main board?

That’s the main power board – checked all components, no issues, no specific signs of heat or excessive aging. Anyway, we have to take this thing apart for thorough cleaning.

Finally, after a lot of probing – the short disappeared. How can it be? After even more probing – it turned out that the fan (!!) had a hard short. This fan is a SU2A5 fan, quite common in HP equipment of that time, but pretty rare and expensive nowadays, and I really don’t want to fit an old fan, but rather a new part with new bearings.

After quite some study, I found a good offer for a NMB B30 fan, which is quite similar.

Best to compare not only the numbers, but the full pressure vs. flow curve, because the instruments has many cavities and corners, so the flow resistance can be quite substantial. But as it turns out, the B30 design is a high pressure fan, it will meet or exceed the performance of the original part.

Now, we have to wait for the delivery of the fan – at least, I tested the supply without the fan, and it does work and start up. So it is confirmed, the repair will be worth the effort.

Additionally, all the X and Y rated capacitors are RIFA type, of the cracking epoxy-coated series. They will all need to go, and will be replaced with new RIFA caps – hope they have improved the design – at least, these will last another 20 years.

Micro-Tel SG-811 Signal Generator: a second unit

By luck and coincidence, I found another Micro-tel SG-811 generator on eBay, at a very reasonable price – sold as not working. Even non-working, these units are great because of the many microwave components contained: YIGs, filters, GHz-capable relais, SMA cables… and a lot of old-fashioned analog circuits.

First check – the fuse! Someone recklessly put a 10 Amp fuse in, because the smaller fuses would blow. That’s never a good idea. Most probably we will have to deal with a power supply repair.

After detail assessment – the 24 V tantalum cap is shorted, maybe this triggered a sequence of faults: the main primary transistors (MJ12002), the rectifier, and two thermistors that limit the inrush current.

Micro-tel didnt safe on screws when they designed the power supply!!

These power thermistors are hard to get – I just desoldered two similar ones from old switchmode power supplies.

A dead rectifier – easily fixed.

All the parts labeled – also replaced the 2N2222 driver transistors, and two tantalum caps that were leaking current.

The most precious parts – the RF section.

A most complicated arrangement of oscillators, switches, couplers, and so on

Some of the oscillators originally used in these units required a variable supply voltage to get stable power output, but strangely enough, the YIG oscillators fitted have built-in voltage regulators, and the supply voltage has no effect at all on their output. Still, the power supply board caused issues – end even overheated, because the voltage is set by very sensitive trimmers, and drifted above 18 Volt…

The YTO has a voltage protection diode – it was completely fried when I received the unit. Checked some good Advantek YTOs, these have 18 V 1.3 W Zeners for voltage protection.

With power back on, and the voltage at the YTOs OK, still no good output – how can it be? Some issues with the oscillator driver board that sets the current of the main coil, and without a proper magnetic field, there won’t be any oscillation.

The precision resistors, seems they were hand soldered with some bad solder (traces of corrosion, and high melting point).

First, some trouble to find the dead part – thought it is one of the opamps, LM308, replaced it with a OP02. But no luck.

So I changed it back to the old LM308, just to keep all in original state.

The bad guy… a 4051 multiplexer CMOS, these are notorious!

Another interesting assembly, the reference assy – the 1N 827 reference diodes where still very accurately set, only a few ppm of the 11.000 V, and -11.000 V!

After these repairs, and some adjustment, all is back to working condition!

Checking out the signal on a 8566B analyzer. All good!

The pulse generator, also a great feature of this unit… 1 ms pulse.

down to 1 microsecond, no problem.

… 10 microsecond pulse…

The attenuator, a really high quality HP device.

The manual has some remarkable comments – use a 2 kbyte memory, just in case a “really big program” would be needed in the future.

Still, I will do some alignment of the oscillators and filters… but that’s no big deal.