Louis Rossmann tored a fake Hakko soldering station down and was stunned to see the IC leads not trimmed, a clear sign of lousy manufacturing.
I noticed the long pins of through-hole a crystal oscillator on a 54810-66501 acquisition board, coming from a well-made Agilent/HP 54810A/54815A/54820A/54825A oscilloscope (I know people complained about these oscilloscopes, but most of the failures is in the computer section, not on the acquisition board side. I know the computer section very well, so no problem for me.)
I have a few worn attenuators and one that I received that was fried by high voltage and I tried to swap the relays. Turns out it’s not really about swapping the coil, but a near impossible precision task if you want to swap the entire block without opening up the contacts and magnet gliders. If you desolder the coil pins, you can release them and expose the inner workings:
Usually the relay coil is not the problem. It’s either the magnetic shuttle (the black stuff between the two coils) that’s not moving smoothly or the contact metal spring does not naturally bend to make good contact anymore. I fixed the first one with WD-40 (the magnet glides on a custom plastic rail), so some vertical divisions that used to be capacitively coupled (i.e. there’s an air gap instead of good electrical contact) were fixed, but it still won’t pass calibration because of the worn metal spring. Here is what the spring(s) looks like:
To put the motor coils back, I slightly push it down to the board while guiding the shuttle (that has a tiny piece of magnet in it) with a strong magnet outside the coil housing. It will fall in place easily.
Given how reasonable watronics (Bill Watry) is charging for the attenuators, it’s not worth the time, effort, and uncertainty trying to perform the surgery. He basically serves any HP/Agilent instruments that uses this attenuator hybrid that looks like this.
Bill Watry is a veteran of the 54500 series, which is the main consumer of this kind of hybrids. He’s the first person to talk to if you have any problem with HP 54500 series oscilloscopes. Please contact him directly rather than through eBay if you can, as eBay charges hefty fees (it eats up 13% of the transaction amount, not what he earned after costs).
54610B/54615B/54616B/54616C as well as first generation Infiniium uses this kind of attenuator too. I have everything needed to service 54615B/54616B/54616C except attenuators. If it boils down to attenuators, I don’t stock them and you’ll have to order it from Bill (I can do that on your behalf if I’m the one doing the repairs).
If you have an HP Infinium or Agilent Infiniium and your situation likely involves the computer section, I should be the first person to talk to, since I got nearly all the nasty quirks down over the last decade so you don’t have to spend months navigating through this minefield. The learning curve is really steep if anybody tries to figure it out on their own for the first time.
EDIT: Due to bloody competition amongst a few business un-savvy players that under-priced 500Mhz range scopes for the last few years, Bill Watry was squeezed out so bad that he closed his HP (Pre-Agilent) digital oscilloscopes sale/service business. I’m really sorry to see him go because I already moved out of it long ago and just passively selling the leftovers.
Despite I have the expertise, I’m reluctant to service these models given how little people are willing to pay. I actually passed a bunch of folk-knowledge about these scopes that I figured out to him hoping he’ll continue the legend and save the scopes from landfills. Too bad.
If you are desperate and are willing to pay at least $500, I can consider helping given that Bill Watry is no longer available. If it happens to be a tiny part that I have in the storage bin that doesn’t require work, you can have it for less. It might still be worthwhile to fix if you have 1Ghz or above (54835A/54845A/54846A), but not the 500Mhz models.
I recently bought a 1lb grab-bag of logic analyzer grabbers, predominantly Agilent grabbers. There are HP, Tektronix, EZ-Hook, ZeroPlus, Rigol and Hantek as well, plus a few random pieces like ground leads and micro-test (hook) clips.
The EZ-Hook grabbers looks very suspiciously identical to Agilent/HP grabbers, so I looked it up to see if there are rumors about EZ-Hook OEM-ing for them. In the process, I found this very useful website that tells you almost everything you can find about logic grabbers produced:
When old equipment’s fail, they do fail in waves, depending on the failure modes induced by the original design. Last week when I turned on a TDS 784A in my inventory check, something smelled bad and the display was garbled (it has displays, but straight lines turned into wiggles).
I already replaced the caps for the processor board, keyboard and RS-232/Parallel Port module preventatively and the unit used to work fine. So it boils down to either the power module or the CRT driver.
Despite it’s unlikely to be the power module (didn’t feel any fan speed changes, display brightness changes, or hiccups in power), I used my nose to make sure there’s no burnt electrolyte smell from the power module. Indeed there wasn’t.
Sniffing can be a very valuable tool to repairs. The smell came from only one narrow area of the board so I limited it to 3 capacitors next to each other:
I took them out and cleaned the PCB and noticed that the wipes has a bit of green and black stuff on it. That’s how I can tell a capacitor just peed all over itself. The culprit is C321 and C323.
Note that the component layout for this color CRT driver, 678-1402-07 (the board has silkscreen saying 671-2373-389-1344-01) does not match the component locator I have with my TDS 544A schematics. Nonetheless, it’s nearby if you look around.
Just to confirm the capacitors I took out are the culprit, I used an LCZ meter as an overkill ESR tester to test them:
ESR for these two caps should be at the order or milli-Ohms if they were any good. I took the one next to the two offending capacitors out to test it, and the ESR looked OK so I put it back. The true reason is that I don’t have that capacitor value on hand at the time of writing, but that also helps to narrow down the true cause.
I replaced these two capacitor and the display worked correctly (not garbled). The brightness is a little bit high which can be adjusted down.
The next problem is that the shutter color changes out of sync back and forth a slow then fast rate till it gets stable after warming up for a while. I did a lot of troubleshooting, changed a bunch of capacitors and transistors and shutter board, but no avail. In the process, I smelled electrolyte evaporating with the flux and I decided to give the board a full wash with dishwasher detergent and waterpik (then dry the big part with a leaf blower, spray with 99% rubbing alcohol to the water out and left it dry). Bingo!
Lessons learned: do not leave the electrolyte leaks on the board even if it’s an old fashioned single-sided through-hole with relatively simple thick traces. I thought it’s not going to matter until I see visible corrosion, but I was wrong. Could it be the electrolytes left on the board forming weakly conductive paths that disappears when the unit warms up (the electrolyte dries up)?
In the process of replacing all the electrolytic capacitors on the board, I smelled fumes mixed with electrolytes in some areas (other than the two above). However, I didn’t record it because I measured the ESR for each capacitor that I pulled and compared to the ones I’m about to put in.
In addition to the two capacitors mentioned early in this post, here are few capacitors that the ESR of a new part is significantly lower, which might be first places to consider replacing before recapping the entire board. They are all measured at 1V, 1kHz:
Nonetheless, the only useful technique that contributed to this board being repaired is finding out where the smell comes from. The rest (reading at schematics, measuring voltages, checking waveforms on an oscilloscope, swapping out parts) are all red herrings.
In the process of troubleshooting with schematics, I also noticed that the schematic for the old TDS 544A color CRT driver is actually pretty much the same (including component numbering) as this newer board 678-1402-07 while I was troubleshooting with it.
Looks like the component layout was slightly shifted to make room a different batch of flyback transformers (there’s a riser board for the flyback transformer in 678-1402-07 used in 754A/784A). Although the component locator sheet isn’t exact, the components are within 1 inch of what’s found in TDS 544A CRT driver’s component locator. No biggie if you don’t have the schematic for the newer color CRT drivers. Just look around and pay attention to the silkscreen. Common sense will lead you to the right part.
I was skimming over the manual that came with my 54831M, which is exactly 54831B except they included a technical manual TM 43-6625-915-12, which Agilent basically rearranged their user manual and service manual into one book. The scope is called OS-303/G.
With this arrangement, I noticed a few bits of interesting information was buried in the theory of operation (also shown in the civilian’s service manual):
The front panel keyboard uses UART (RS-232) to talk to the interface board
The power supply is 440W
Not very useful in terms of repair, but useful if you are into modding stuff.
I was repairing a HP 3560A that does not start up at all. The system is very modular that there are only 3 main units: LCD/keyboard/DSP board (A1), Main Processor board (A2) which manages power sources and contains the backlight inverter as well, and the analog section (A3).
Obviously the first thing to look for is where the power is managed, which is the main processor board (A2). I bought another unit (with a different defect, i.e. it boots) hoping to use it as a reference but to my surprise, the A2 board is slightly different! In fact, the LT1120 voltage regulator that I’m seeing unusual pulses in V_out pin (should be flat) is not even there!
I’ll save the repair story for another post, but for information preservation purposes, I took pictures of the two different revisions of the A2 assembly from 3 units, shown below:
New: 03569-66502 Rev B
Old: 03560-66502 Rev B, Rev C
The top part of the board is essentially the same. The new board uses Toshiba TC551001CP-85L while the old board uses Sony CXK581001P-70L for Static RAM. They are likely pin compatible and it’s just availability differences. (Ignore the randomly placed caps at the bottom of the new A2 board. I desoldered them to test if they are good).
If you pay close attention, at the top of the new revision board, it has an unpopulated DIP-8 socket and an extra 74HC174N chip, and an extra digital I/O port at the mid-bottom left edge below the SRAM. They are reserved for 3569A (a better version with a noise tracking generator) as it uses the same board. The old revision A2 board works for 3560A only. It’s a topic for another post.
The bottom part is quite different. The classical 4-diode full-bridge rectifier on the new board is not shown at the main side of the circuit board for the old A2 assembly. The new board looked much denser.
Most importantly, the old board uses MAX666 as the 5V voltage regulator while the new board uses LT1120. The pinouts are different and chip features varies a little bit, so the power management section is not topologically identical.
There are no components on the back side of the new revision A2 board (they are both supposed to be single sided PCBs), but two diodes are squeezed in at the back of the old revision A2 board, and there’s an extra resistor flyover:
My suspicion is that the diodes are intentional as there are specific through-holes for them (most like they other half of the bridge rectifier), but the resistor is an after-spin rework.
Finally, for information preservation, I also took pictures of the old A2 board (03560-66502 Rev B) from another unit I have:
If you consider the relative ease of use for less computer savvy people, 3560A/3569A is versatile yet designed specifically for the most commonly used measurements in acoustic and mechanical vibrations. It’s still excellent value for what it offers despite it’s a made decades ago since it doesn’t overwhelm you with convoluted choices so you can gets the job done once you’ve setup your recipe.
HP has designed the unit very well, with the exception of the LCD screen which cannot be found on earth, all through-hole components on single layer board and well organized structure and silkscreen makes servicing a pleasure.
I can repair and rebuild 3560A / 3569A with new battery pack and clock battery. The hardest problem to track down is no-boot, and the hardest surgery to make is the backlight. I also know how to talk to the unit from modern computers as well, so data capture is not a problem. Call me at 949-682-8145 for consultation.
If you have an original HP 3560A sitting for years and haven’t changed the battery pack yet, it’s guaranted to be dead. Here’s the shell of the battery pack 1420-0584:
Just to give you no hope attempting to reused the battery pack, I dissected one of them and show you how much of a disaster inside it:
This pack has been sitting for so long that the cathode (+) wire is severely corroded (not all of them are like this). Even the connector turned green. I cut open the wires and gave it a tap, and a bunch of copper oxide bits falls off.
Now that I acquired the tools, parts and practice to make one from scratch (I used to need the old battery pack). It’s not cheap (given the tools, research effort, and most importantly, small quantity), but I can custom build them for you if you don’t want to deal with the hassle and steep learning curve.
The first pack is the most expensive, additional ones are much cheaper because of the reduced overhead. Lead time is around 1~2 weeks unless you pay extra for me to express order the ingredients.
You can call me at 949-682-8145 or just go to humgar.com.
One of the most memorable things about xkcd’s (in)famous circuit diagram is the 666 timer (at the top right corner of the comic), a parody of the famous 555 timer:
Today I was analyzing the logic board for HP 3560A and noticed some batches uses a MAX666 chip and it immediately reminded me of this xkcd joke. Turns out Maxim Integrated makes a voltage regulator with a cool part number! I bet the engineers back in the days must have started with 666, giggling uncontrollably, and added 665 and 664 to see if it can get past the regulators or the censors (puns intended for both).
I received an Agilent N9340B 3Ghz Handheld Spectrum Analyzer with a note that it passes all self-tests but does not respond to input signals. I took the gamble that it’s the RF input connector got disconnected somehow.
I opened up the case and noticed that the 40Mhz cable was unplugged, so I was half-correct. I connected it and got a signal at the precise frequency, but the amplitude doesn’t look quite right. It’s around -20dB off. When I scanned it across the full 3GHz band, I noticed the amplitude roll-off when I scan below 800Mhz, and I got very little signal left when I get to somewhere near 10Mhz.
I tried running a user calibration with a 50Mhz CW source but it failed amplitude calibration. Apparently the unit is not fully working. No self-test errors though.
So I opened up the unit and the RF section. The front side of the board doesn’t have any visible signs or unusual smells, so I suspected the improper gains is caused by the input attenuator HMC307:
I was about to order the chip, but because of the lead time, I decided to just take a picture of everything and analyze it off-line:
After removing the screws holding the N-type terminal so I can get to the back side of the board for taking pictures, I noticed the RF out connector just fell off the board with the pad:
That means the RF out is not touching the board. I never would have suspected that it’s the problem, since this unit does not have the tracking generator option enabled and hence the RF out port is pointless. But for the sake of completeness, I resoldered the connection after I put the board and the connectors back to the RF module slab. It’s ready to be stowed away for another day when the attenuator chip arrive.
Guess what? Once I put unit back together, I turned it on again and everything works perfectly! The power level is flat and within 1dB of what my 8648C pumps out. I did the user amplitude calibration again, it passed, and everything was spot on!
My suspicion is that the path gap created a capacitor between the board and the type-N terminal, which messes up the termination and created reflections. The bottom section of this picture is where RF out meets RF in:
I didn’t study RF as my EE speciality, so if you are a RF design expert, please let me know what you think the reason might be in the comments section.
For TDS 500~800 series, a batch of CRT driver boards, color and mono, regardless of how heavily they are used, have bad flyback transformers. After turning the unit on continuously for half a day, the screen might stretch and disappear.
If you have a matching CRT driver board with a CRT tube, I recommend instead of swapping the CRT driver (seemed more straightforward), extract the flyback transformer from the donor board instead. The reason is that the adjustments needed from replacing the flyback transformer is far less than re-tuning a different CRT driver board to match the tube.
It’s impossible to tune the CRT driver board while it is in the case, since the processor board covers it during operation (unless you have special cables for the Acq/Proc interface to replace the interconnect PCB card), it’s done ex-vivo like this:
I bought a ribbon cable extender and built a 2-pin jumper extender by salvaging them from CRT driver boards with toasted flyback transformers:
The first thing to check for is the +21V which is used to generate many voltages across the board (pun intended here): it affects brightness, scale, offset and linearity everywhere. If there’s any adjustments to be made, this need to be done first.
This voltage can be tapped by hooking the positive (red) lead to the center (output) pin of LM317 (3-pin linear regulator) at U90. If you have an alligator clip instead of a grabber, you can also hook it up to ‘pin 4’, which is the body of the regulator.
You can pick many spots for the ground pin. Since I’m using a grabber, I’d pick another big 3-pin IC sitting on a heatsink for the ground lead. In this case, it’s Q10, the transistor that drives the flyback transformer. It’s the pin nearest to the short edge of the board (behind the red lead, sorry):
Here’s a picture of blank board showing how many trimpots are there:
Only the brightness and contrast dials are documented in the service manual. The rest, I had to locate them in the schematic one by one. Before that, I kind of figured out most of them by trial-and-error but had a few of them wrong, especially the voltages (there are three: +21V, screen and HV adj.): they all have the same effect. There are also some more obscure trims like center focus and horizontal focus (variable inductor). Now I know exactly what each dial does.
It’s hell of a lot of work to figure this out. I have some new old stock CRT straight from Tektronix at Beaverton, and it’s the reserve to support customers who bought color TDS 500~800 units from me. Almost all used units out there have problems (or going to have problems soon), and so far I’m the only one selling units with 1 year warranty (extendable to 3 years for extra).
If your unit is not under warranty included when you bought from me, and want one of these new color CRT tubes with shutter, I’ll almost require you to send your unit to me for installation unless you can guarantee that you can figure it out without my help. It’s $500 full-service with the tube included. Call me at 949-682-8145.