Monday, May 11, 2015

Tektronix 2246 Repair Part II

In the process of debugging the strange intermittent display issue on my Tektronix 2246 after re-capping the power supply, things are not looking so good. Things have actually gone from bad to worse. First of all, the short (or open connection) somewhere in this unit which I can return the unit to normal operation by twisting the chassis has been more difficult to find that planned. I pulled and went through the entire power supply again and did not find any issues. Same for all of the connectors, all are seated correctly without issue. Every screw was in place and I checked to make sure there were no poor grounding issues throughout the scope. What happened next is the result of my own stupid mistake (again) which is just making things worse.

In the process of removing the power supply, you have to remove the high voltage anode cable to the crt which is generated in the main power supply. This cable runs out of the supply towards the front of the unit and has an insulated high voltage connector that is clipped on the the metal chassis between the power supply and front panel board. When I was pulling the power supply out for the third time, I wasn't careful and unplugged this connector only a minute or two after powering the scope down. At this point I let the cable go and it fell towards the A16 main processor board letting a nice spark jump from the high voltage cable to the main board most likely due to stored capacitance that had not been bled off yet. I didn't see exactly where it hit, but it didn't matter. The stored voltage had hit the board and I knew damage had been done. Upon reassembly and power up it was confirmed.

The display was in bad shape at this point, everything to the left say 2/5ths of the display was not showing up and squashed into a vertical line. Definitely not good. So now my priorities have changed, now I have to debug this issue to make sure I haven't burnt out something serious like the main display DACs or readout processors as these would most likely be difficult parts to locate and replace.

I started right with the schematic, which was my next stop anyway in locating the intermittent display issue. The full service manual including schematics is easily available for this scope which is another reason why I love the older Tektronix gear. I focused right away at the character generator and display readout circuitry.

After some probing around, I noticed that output from the A16 processor pcb was odd, the horizontal output drive for the display was not looking right, the bottom half of the waveform was clipped which would explain the left half of the display being smashed into a vertical line. Further up the signal path, the signal was looking correct from the DAC and the multiplexer. So the final op amp stage was looking to maybe be the culprit which makes sense as these op amps definitely wouldn't survive a direct high voltage hit.

Output of mux on left, output after op amp on right
So only the final output stage from the A16 pcb was looking bad, this is a good sign as the actual logic does not look to be damaged. Only the final outputs through an op amp look to have been hit. The op amp in question is a TI TL074. There still may be more damage but I'm going to focus on this op amp for now. I didn't have any in my parts bins, so I placed an order for a handful with Digikey which I should have in a few days. Stand by for part III.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tektronix 2246 Repair

Last year I had talked about how I accidentally destroyed my Tektronix 2246 oscilloscope by removing the cover. There was a small dent in the metal bottom panel that while removing it had snagged a heatsink on a Motorola 151-0846-00 labeled TO-39 transistor, specifically Q702 on the A10 main board. This ended up ripping the pins out of the transistor can leaving me with a unusable scope. Unfortunately this was not a common part and trying to locate one is next to impossible. I had attempted to use a 2N3866A with no success, the scope was definitely not happy with that transistor in it, an original replacement part would be necessary.

I did ultimately find a donor board. Late last year I found a complete used replacement board on eBay for around $40 which contained both of the 151-0846-00 labeled transistors. This option was definitely cheaper than a whole parts scope and I would hate to ruin another 2246 which may be repairable just for this one transistor. Once I replaced this transistor in my 2246 it was good as new.

I want to focus the attention now to a second Tek 2246 scope that I own with its own set of troubles. I purchased another 2246 a few years ago for cheap, I think it was only around $100. This scope had a lot more use than my original one, while it was in good cosmetic shape it had some issues mostly related to old capacitors. The display was not stable, the character generated osd and cursors would jump around and upon probing the supply rails you could see there was some noise present. A re-cap would be necessary and possibly some additional caps on the A-10 main pcb if necessary.

The 2246 main power supply is pretty basic, much more simple to work on than the Tektronix 2445B power supply which I have also done. One interesting observation upon accessing it is that all of the caps look to be large axial electrolytics:

Trktronix 2446 Power Supply

The bottom of the board told a different story, and once removing a capacitor and testing it was indeed a standard radial cap with an interesting third lead out the top that wasn't connected to anything. Maybe it was designed for additional stability? I know this scope was a popular portable model so my guess it was just some additional ruggedness built into the design. Interesting regardless, at least I can replace them with standard radial caps which are much easier to source.

Replacement caps were all Panasonic 105 degree C. units which are always my first choice, then using Nichicon capacitors in cases where the Panasonic's were not available. The final rebuilt version looked like this:

Tek 2446 Power Supply Rebuild
Quite a difference in size. For good measure I also replaced all of the high voltage film capacitors on the board, many looked stressed as they did in the 2445B. I left the large primary switching capacitor alone, they are rarely every a source of trouble. Everything else looked okay.

This is where things started to get interesting. After putting everything together and powering the scope back up, I had strange display issues. The entire display was shifted left. I started looking around to see if I had missed a cable or possibly had a connector loose during the reassembly but didn't see anything obvious. This scope was working just fine before the power supply rebuild so this issue was definitely something that I caused. At this time I went to turn the scope over on its side while powered up that the display snapped back into alignment. After some more poking around I realized that if I put pressure on the chassis, twisting it just lightly I could get the display back in alignment. So it must be a bad ground, loose connector, bad solder joint, or some other mechanical failure where putting pressure on the chassis would complete whatever broken connection was occurring. It will just be a matter of tracing down where the issue is at. More to come in part II.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Large Display for GPS Disciplined Time Server

Since building my own GPS disciplined local time server I have wanted a large display of some sort to display my super accurate clock. The primary purpose of doing this was really just because it would be rally really cool looking. I also have a personal issue with any clock that does not set itself from the WWVB or support NTP, in 2015 we shouldn't have to manually set clocks anymore. A secondary use for doing this would be for ham radio purposes. A nice large clock that is always accurate so I can easily and quickly log contacts in UTC would be very useful. Ultimately I ended up with a very nice solution and here is the result:

ESE ES-166 timecode display used for GPS clock

Searching for someone who makes such a clock was frustrating. It seems either you can have a large format clock for cheap that does not support NTP, or you can have one that does support NTP but costs hundreds of dollars. Designing and building my own was the next option that I had considered for awhile. A simple PIC based device that drives some large 7 segment led displays would be trivial to build, but I couldn't get into the project. It just didn't excite me, It's one of those things that would be so simple and mundane that I just couldn't drive myself to do it. It would be like a software engineer being assigned the task of writing a word processor. It's already been done so many times and is such an unfulfilling project you can just never get excited about it.

So on to Plan C. Let's see what's already available and either modify or make it work for my intended use. Basically I would be looking for a large LED, backlit LCD, or big VFD display of some sort that would be able to easily display time. Input can be via various means, ethernet or serial would be first choices, some other parallel type interfaces would be not ideal although I could still make it work if needed. Luckily having some experience is professional video editing when I was in college, I looked towards something I felt might me the perfect solution: Timecode displays.

Upon scrounging around I found a perfect device on eBay, an ESE-166 remote timecode display. These can be found for less than $50 at times are are beautiful pieces of gear. It is a big 2U rack mount enclosure with a nice large format LED display on the front panel. This display is designed for displaying accurate time code for video editing systems. The particular display I purchased had hour, minute, and second digits which would be perfect. Many time code displays also include a 4th digit section for frames which this one did not as I did not need it for my purpose. The inputs on these devices are typically a single 75ohm timecode serial input for SMPTE timecode. I was fine with this as designing some hardware to convert an rs232 serial stream to SMPTE timecode actually sounded pretty fun, but I ended up not needing to. This specific display also included an rs232 serial input that supports a few ASCII time formats. This would be a perfect solution, just have a script that takes my local time directly off of the time server itself and dump it out the serial port to this display. There would be some very minimal latency with this obviously, but regardless this solution would be perfect! The ASCII format I chose to use is as follows:

Format #0: (CR)(LF)I(^)(^)DDD(^)HH:MM:SS(^)DTZ=XX(CR)(LF)

As for getting the time data into the ESE, it has two runtime options set by some dip switches inside. The first is a free running clock that when the serial port receives a time string, it updates the internal clock to the time received. The second option does not free run, you simply continuously provide the time signals to update at the interval you specify. In this option, you would need to provide the time signal at least once a second to keep the display real time. For now, I went with the first option. I have the ESE free running with a cron dumping data from my NTP server sending an rs232 time string via cron every five minutes. The noticeable time drift of this clock over a five minute period is not noticeable at all and this solution keeps the clock up to date on five minute intervals without having to constantly send it serial data.

For those that are curious what is inside the ESE ES-166, it is pretty basic:

There is a whole lot of room in that chassis with not very much there. Just a mains transformer and simple analog rectified power supply with a handful of logic to decode the SMPTE / serial port data and drive the display. I'm planning on moving my Trimble GPS receiver inside of this case as there would be plenty of room for it. This would consolidate some of the hardware laying in the back of my server rack.

Additionally the manual for the ES-166 includes a schematic which is also nice to see. There was one part of the design that I really loved, the rs232 to TTL translation:

There is no serial driver there, MAX232 or equivalent. Just a simple level converter based on a 2n2222 with a diode and resistor. I love it! You see MAX232s in everything these days when they are often just not needed for serial RX conversion.

Further plans include racking this unit in my server rack and possibly getting a second unit so I can display both local time and UTC.