Model Boat Mayhem - Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length.
Pages: [1] 2   Go Down

Author Topic: Electronic kits: "To build or not to build, that is the question?"  (Read 5816 times)

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields

I wonder how many modellers out there have often been tempted to try to build their own speed controllers, sound modules, mixers and so forth but who have been put off by the lack of understanding of electronics.   On a few occasions whilst at the lakeside I have been asked why I personally prefer to build my own electronics from electronic kits.    I suppose part of the reason is self-satisfaction.  To me, it adds that extra special touch - to know that you haven't only built the model - from kit or scratch, but also, you have had some input in building the electronics to go with the model.

So, this short topic is aimed at those folk who have no electrical experience or have some but who are just too nervous of making a mistake - to encourage them into the field of building - and to make that short step forward into electronics - this other interesting part of our hobby.

Before we start, a few outliners:

This isn't aimed at trying the explain what each electrical component does ;D its not aimed at what is the best component for the job nor is it aimed at the best manufacturer of kits.  Same goes for the tools I have selected to use, these are the basics which I think you may require.  So, let us start:

The kit I am building here is the ACTion mixer unit.

A selection of tools - I believe these are the minimum you will require to build a kit -

magnifying glass, that is for the shortsighted like me - cos some of the components are very small.

There are long-nosed tweezers,

there are side cutters,

long-nosed pliers, & most importantly the soldering iron. 

The soldering iron I prefer for the kits is a thin nosed one.  Antex 250 V   15W

crocodile clips used as heat sinks - these are optional

Multi-meter again optional, you dont really need it to build a kit, but they have more uses apart from using them for kit building.

A suede brush, brush with brass bristles - this is used for cleaning the back of the printed circuit board when you have finished.


The Kit:

The kit I picked is an ACTion mixer unit the P40C.  In the photograph you will what you get with the kit and what you don't get. 

You get all the electrical components, plus the casings.     
Several sheets of written instructions for building and suggestions
Components check list
Couple of sticky badges.


What you don't get - but you can order them from the supplier
solder, leads, nor the plugs

happy building







Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2007, 07:57:40 PM »

To make life easier, we are starting on the components and as I have stated earlier, I am not going into the description of what components do.    No further ado, we will start off as to how we did the build from the instructions;

First thing I did was solder the 18 pin I.C. socket into the board as per the instructions.   Take note that in the socket there is a notch and this notch must face the correct way as per plan.    If you get it wrong and solder it round the wrong way, dont panic, but remember what you have done.   Dont try and de-solder it - leave it.

To aid the soldering of the socket and keep it flat to the Printed Circuit (PC) Board.   I used the old granny clip - the aluminium clip that your granny uses in her rollers  ;D

After this was soldered in, the next stage was to fit the resistors.   There are three of these - two of the same value R2 and R3.  They are a 10 K resistor,.  The colour bands on them is brown/black/orange The colours are also set out in the instructions.  There is a 4th band on the resistor which will either be silver or a gold band.  This again, no need to worry about this.   This only indicates the tolerance of the resistor.    These components, they are pretty hardy.  Doesnt matter which way you fit them into the PC Board, whether its one way round or the other.  Also, they will take a little more heat than other components, so no need for the use of a heat sink on them.  Just make your soldering joint quick as you can.

This is all explained within the instructions.    The third resistor which is a 470 Ohm resistor, which is colour banded yellow/purple/brown.  This is also soldered in.    I put a quick sketch on to show you the components and how its done.

Next stage is to put (what they call zero resistence links) in number 1 and 2.  They look like a resistor, but, in actual fact - they are just a piece of wire with coating on to you and me  ;D They go into the board next, again, doesnt matter which way they go round into the board.  They are pretty robust.

Followed that we solder next the two capicitors.   One like a cream square box with .22 J63 stamped on the top.   The other one is a blue polyester capacitor with the code 104 on.   That is next soldered in.

getting on....

Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2007, 08:06:27 PM »

The next stage is to fit the three-legged resonator (XTAL) this is where you have to be careful and not to apply too much heat.    I used the aid of a crocodile clip on one of the legs to act as a heat sink.  Once this was soldered in place, I moved on to the three legged connectors as per instructions these were soldered in place.   Here, you have to be careful that you dont apply too much heat or you will melt the plastic on the connectors.   Then comes the first component, the LED, which you have to make sure you have round the right way.   It has a flat on one side, and if you look on the PC board this flat correspondends with the shape in the PC board.

aye
john
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2007, 08:20:30 PM »

The next stage now is to solder the servo leads into the board to suit your particular system HiTec, Futaba etc. whatever.   

You can get these leads pre-made up from the kit supplier or, you could buy extension leads and cut the female end off or do what I have done and that is, make my own.   Once they are soldered in place, make sure you mark which servo lead goes into the throttle on your RX and which lead goes into the Rudder on your RX.

I normally just put a white dot on one of the sockets to indicate the throttle connection.

The next stage is fitting the most delicate piece of the kit in.   Its the most prone to static electricity.  There is a good right - up in the instructions about this, and you need to heed these instructions - because if you zap this IC with static, which I have done in the past, you will end up putting them in the bin.

You put your aluminium plate/tin foil or whatever you are going to use on the bench, put one hand on there and place your soldering iron away from your hand onto the aluminum plate for a few seconds.  This discharges the static through the earth of the soldering iron.

You need now to place the IC in its foam packing, along with the PC board onto the aluminium plate.

Now proceed to insert the IC into the circuit socket, taking note which way the notch in the top of the IC goes.   This should correspond with the notch in the socket.   Remember though if you have dropped the clanger and soldered the socket in the PC board the wrong way around, the notch will be at the opposite end.

Now the soldering is complete, we need to double check to ensure that all the solder joints are made well and there is no bridging between tracks. 

Now what I do is clean the back of the board, trackside with methylated spirit and a wire brush - this removes all hardened flux.

This is now the unit complete, apart from setting up and testing  ;D

worth a try.....
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2007, 08:26:59 PM »

now then does it work....time to test  ::)

The instructions for setting up and testing are really clear as long as you follow the instructions apart from one thing;

I use three servos to set these up.   In the instructions they presume you use the servo in the model in which its going to be fitted.  That is the rudder servo.  As you can see from the photograph they have marked the top of the servos with a bit of electricians tape with the line drawn on.  I can then make sure with these that they follow the set up in the instructions.

I havent shown the assembly of the case, because, this particular mixer unit is going in a different case along with another component.

I hope, after you have had a quick look at this, it may inspire you to go out and buy a kit and try it for yourself.

There are lots of kits and manufacturers out there.  This particular Company ACTion though I tend to find are the easiest of all kits to put together with the least problems, just as long as you follow the instructions.

The total build time of this kit was just over two hours - and that was with taking this blurred photographs and double checking the instructions.  ::) ::) ;D ;D

Got no ties with ACTion meself, I have spoken to Dave the owner, on numerous occasions for his kind help.   He is very helpful.

Aye
John e
Bluebird
Logged

BJH

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2007, 08:44:31 AM »

I would suggest  using an old toothbrush or a half inch paint brush  cut down to a bristle length of about 10mm  instead of a wire brush to clean pcb's. Unless  you  have a very light touch a wire brush  may damage pcb tracks.

Apart from that I agree, have a go. Remember as always to check twice and solder once, anybody that can produce a model of the quality that appears on this forum should be able to assemble pcb's with no problems at all.

Good Luck

BJH
Logged

chas

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2007, 09:23:29 AM »

That was a good write up, thanks bluebird. The last time I built anything electronic was an rcm&ee single channel outfit, and that was quite a time ago. I was facinated to see that you make your own servo leads, how do you make them? and have you a picture?

Charlie.
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2007, 10:46:28 AM »

BJH, Aye, I agree with you about the brush - but wont the family all be surprised when their toothbrushes go missing :-) - to be honest with you, Ive never given it a thought, because this is what I have always used in the past to remove pieces of solder splash from between the tracks.   I never gave it a thought about a person going hell for leather on the back of the PC board - good point there my friend.

Charlie, about the servo leads.....I will post a picture because I have another kit to build for a switcher unit later on. 

However, the leads are made up from cable which I purchased from model power.  I have 5 meters of Futaba 3 core cable and bought that for 4.50 and also a pack of 5 plugs with metal inserts for 1.95 from the same Company Model Power.   

There are other Companies I know who supply these items, I know ACTion do (Maplins maybe do - but Im not 100% sure)   I am sure if you do an Ebay search they do as well. 

Its a fairly straighforward operation of stripping and bearing the end of the cable and crimping on the metal inserts and then clipping over the plug on the top of the inserts.  The only thing you have to make sure about is that you have got your signal and your life and neutral in the correct positions in the plug.

Hope this is of some help.

aye
john e
bluebird.

Logged

FullLeatherJacket

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2007, 11:38:54 AM »

Just thought I'd get in on the ACTion (Oops! Sorry!)
Us "professionals" use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the PCB - this comes in a spray-can from Maplins or CTC. Meths will do the job, too - but it tastes lousy with tonic  ;) As to the modus operandi, I went mad and bought a pack of three cheapo toothbrushes from the local Wilko store - cost the business nearly a whole pound, so it did  :o
A 15W iron is fine; a 25W would be just about borderline. I use a temperature-controlled soldering station (Maplins again - this one was only thirty quid and does the bizz very well) and I set the temp at 270 degrees C. If you have a decent commercially-produced PCB then a properly-soldered joint should take less than a second to make, in which case you won't really need a heatsink.
I've tried making up servo leads from cable and shells like Bluebird does, but for production work it's a nightmare. I gather the correct stripping and crimping tool is over 200 - Liz would kill me. I find it a lot easier to ring my usual supplier and wait for the postie!
Just to say that John Elsy is not a "special" customer - he pays for his kits just the same as anyone else, and this little article of his was completely unsolicited. Thanks, Bluebird.
FLJ
Logged

DickyD

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9,498
  • www.srcmbc.org.uk
  • Location: Southampton UK
    • SRCMBC
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2007, 11:55:49 AM »

No discount then ?  ;D ???
Logged
Richard Solent Radio Controlled Model Boat Club http://www.srcmbc.org.uk

FullLeatherJacket

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2007, 12:48:13 PM »

No, Richard. Allow me to explain:

What I mean is that John actually pays us money (as opposed, for example, to getting goods free of charge). He doesn't obtain any more favourable treatment than anyone else. As a Mayhem member he naturally qualifies for a 5% discount, as quoted in the Traders Directory. If you were to order goods from us then you would qualify for this discount as well. Please note that it does NOT apply to the carriage costs i.e. the 5% is deducted from the goods value ONLY. If you have any problems working out prices then send me a PM and I'll happily provide a quote.

I hope this has cleared up any misunderstanding on your part, and I'm sorry if I inadvertently misled you in any way.

FLJ
Logged

DickyD

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9,498
  • www.srcmbc.org.uk
  • Location: Southampton UK
    • SRCMBC
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2007, 01:07:17 PM »

So we are all "special" customers then Dave.
Sorry hadn't been on the traders directory lately  :-[
Logged
Richard Solent Radio Controlled Model Boat Club http://www.srcmbc.org.uk

FullLeatherJacket

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2007, 01:26:30 PM »

So we are all "special" customers then Dave.

All of my customers are special; some are quite unique  ;)
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2007, 02:05:16 PM »

FLJ I bet you got some weird ones as well and I come into that category.

On the serious side though, I want to add, that there are no 'under the table' freebies, or anything of the sort, I pay for everything I get.  (well most things!!!  ;D

The only thing I ever get free are insults :o

The reason I posted this topic was - I think its a part of our hobby that is sadly overlooked.  A great deal of people spend a lot of time building a model boat etc., and when it comes to fitting the electrics they just go for 'off the shelf' ready to go stuff - not that there is anything wrong with this - I have no gripe against that, unless they are purchasing cheap imports from abroad.

If we turn back the clocks 40 years and had a look at what was available then, there was very little electric wise - and what there was, you had to make yourself.   In doing so, it increased your knowledge and capabilities and that is what I feel we are starting to lose.  So, hopefully, by posting the above posting - some  people like you DickyD will know you are very capable of building a kit and you will see how satisfying it is.

aye
john e
bluebird
Logged

chingdevil

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2007, 02:55:37 PM »

Excellent write up John E, look forward to some more. Like you I like making as much as possible, I know if I buy it ready built I would not have so much hassle, but hey that is half the fun.
I use a fibreglass brush to clean my PCB's if it leaves any bristles on the board they are not conductive.

The other Brian
Logged

DickyD

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9,498
  • www.srcmbc.org.uk
  • Location: Southampton UK
    • SRCMBC
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2007, 03:13:03 PM »

- some  people like you DickyD will know you are very capable of building a kit and you will see how satisfying it is.

aye
john e
bluebird
You avin a go at me young bluebird, ay ??  :-\
Logged
Richard Solent Radio Controlled Model Boat Club http://www.srcmbc.org.uk

wombat

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 642
  • The view from the shallow end of the gene pool
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2007, 03:54:56 PM »

Thanks for the write-up.....

Couple of things occur to me:

The PCB does not have a solder resist layer - if soldering a board like this watch how much solder you put on. Also when the board is built, working and thoroughly working, get a can of conformal coating (e.g. Farnell 289-293) and spray both sides giving good attention to the IC and any other places water can get trapped. It will make operation far more reliable. Also stops the tin-worm from rotting your tracks.

The crimp terminals for the servo connection must have the right cable and the right crimp tool to get a reliable joint. If I am making discrete cables, I solder. The connector has two crimp areas - the main one closest to the connection point and one at the back. The stripped cable goes into the first. Crimp over as tight as you can with pliers and then apply a small amount of solder. Only when everything has cooled down crimp the other section onto the insulation of the cable. This is vital as this forms the stress releif that prevent the connectoin breaking under flexing. If you crimp this up before soldering the insulation just flows away from it and it is useless.

Wom
Logged
The prat in the hat - www.floatingwombat.me.uk - Have look & say Hi

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2007, 05:59:31 PM »

Hi Everybody

All points of the above postings are valid and correct, but, originally my idea was to show how easily it is to construct some Electronic Kits with no elaborate tools or accessories, just the standard run-of-the-mill tools that most modellers have in their toolbox.

With regards to crimping the wires, yes it can be tedious, but, if you read through Ive given the option of buying extension leads which suit your radio set up and cutting the female end off as an option rather than to try and crimp.

The plan in mind was, if you get a person interested enough to start to construct electronic kits, his natural instinct to learn more then kicks in.  He then starts to learn about the hi-tech gear you can purchase.  Fancy digi multi-meters, variable controlled soldering irons and soforth.  Also, learn about colour-coding of resistors and coding of capacitors and soforth - its a natural learning curve. 

If you try and present all of this to a newcomer all in one go, it overloads the enthusiasm and they walk away from it.

I didnt want to do that - that is why I never mentioned cleaning sprays or variable temperature soldering irons, or having the first aid kit ready for when you burn the owld fingers.

I just hope that the short topic has encouraged a few people to have a look into this field and think I wouldnt mind having a go at that.  ;D

aye
john e
bluebird

Dicky when you build your next kit, I hope you will build the electronic speed controller to go with it - aye ....
Logged

DickyD

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9,498
  • www.srcmbc.org.uk
  • Location: Southampton UK
    • SRCMBC
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2007, 06:21:36 PM »

Sorry John I've already got it. :-[
Mind you I was impressed wuth your build, more in your head than fleas then. :o
Logged
Richard Solent Radio Controlled Model Boat Club http://www.srcmbc.org.uk

chas

  • Guest
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #19 on: June 29, 2007, 06:44:49 PM »

Hi John, thanks for the help with the servo leads. Your reasons for the article are bang on, there is a real boost to the ego if you make things for yourself, lord knows my ego could do with it, my skills arn't the best.  Making up electronic kits is no more difficult than most of what we do with the rest of our builds, but seems to be shrouded in some mystery.
 I used to have to build my own stuff back in the dark ages, it was the only way I could afford the gear, now I want to do it for the satisfaction. What are you building next.
    As an aside, what's the mixer going in?, I hope you let us know how the model and the unit perform.
  Charlie
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: To build or not to build, that is the question
« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2007, 08:16:53 PM »

Hi there Charlie,

The mixer along with two ACTion speed controllers are going into HMS Diamond which I am now presently trying to build.  What I intend doing is, using the two speed controllers along with the mixer in one case.   I then intend hardwiring the two speed controllers into the mixer and therefore doing away with two of the leads.

So then I will only have the two output leads to the RX and one output lead to the rudder.  These three assemblies will be housedin a unit of approximately 2" x 3" approx x about 1" high.

I have used these mixers before in different models and I have found them to be pretty reliable.

As far as what I am building next, I have a switcher unit which I have to build up, but, I think I would need the go ahead from Martin before I post another topical build as the kit comes from the same manufacturer as the previous one as people may read into it things that arent there.
aye
john e
Logged

John W E

  • I see no ships !!
  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8,379
  • Location: South shields
Re: Electronic kits: "To build or not to build, that is the question?"
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2007, 10:11:19 AM »

Hi all, Ive had two or three emails with regard to setting up and operating the ACTion mixer.  Some people are saying it isnt working correctly, is there a fault on it?  This is how the ACTion mixer should work;

As the throttle and rudder stick are in neutral on the transmitter, moving only the rudder stick from port to starboard should only activate the rudders from port to starboard, there should be no movement of the motors.  This facility was built in by our late friend, Craig, for those who do the scale sail and competitions.  This aids them in close quarter manouvres, where they require no propulsion from the motors, just a gentle drift of the model and still have the facility to operate the rudders.

If we advance the throttle ever so slightly forward, or astern - now brings in the mixing.  As you now progressively move the rudder stick over to port, the starboard motor increases in speed and the port motor goes in the opposite direction.  This is the function of the new ACTion mixer (or the mixer of 2-3 year old).   The original ACTion mixer (older than 2 years) was exactly the same as the original HUNTER system mixer whereas if your throttle and rudder stick are set at neutral, and you moved your rudder stick over to port or starboard you would get instant mix of motors, i.e. one going forward and one going astern.

What I have found using ACTion and HUNTER mixers and what they work with, ACTION mixers work well with MTronics Speed controllers, Maplins speed controllers (dont think you can get Maplins' ones now but there may be some knocking about) Electronize and ACTion.    Hunter speed controllers they work with as well.

What ACTion mixers dont like is - when you have scenario of ACTion speed controllers coupled with an ACTion mixer being fed from one supply battery.   There is a natural negative feedback loop built in which prevents this.  So, therefore, you must have your two speed controllers supplied from two independent batteries.

Next scenario, Electronize speed controllers and the ACTion mixer work well.  The Electronize speed controllers do not have the natural negative feedback built in - so, therefore, you can run this setup from one batter two speed controllers and one mixer fed from the same battery.

I have run this set up from several models with no problems.

What has brought this to my attention is Ive seen a chip advertised supposedly fixing all the problems in the said mixers.  All I can say is, there is not a problem and never has been a problem in my eyes with any of the mixers.   For those who do encounter problems, or think they may have problems, I would suggest you go back the manufacturers' instructions for setting up, adhere to them and make sure everything corresponds to them.   Also, check the above point about setting up between one battery and two feeding your speed controllers.

aye
johne
bluebird


Logged

bigH

  • Guest
Re: Electronic kits: "To build or not to build, that is the question?"
« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2007, 06:25:07 PM »

   Thank you John for such a clear and concise explanation with regards the ACTion kit.   Not only have you given of your time freely but also given to those of us that are not so 'UP', with the modern age of electronics a view that we are able to understand.
   I also congratulate you on giving credit to others that are able to help, I had to ask for help with a problem some time ago and was given it by FLJ (Dave) who very kindly sent me a PM to clarify a point, at 78yrs of age I enjoy my hobby and this forum goes on and on getting better and better and even though we sometimes get a little heated it still comes up trumps.   I can only end this message by saying one big THANK YOU to all those members that go out of their way to help the best that they can and a special thanks to Martin and Bradders for giving the chance to do so.     ( Harry ) A>K>A> bigH
Logged

chingdevil

  • Guest
Re: Electronic kits: "To build or not to build, that is the question?"
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2007, 06:39:01 PM »

John
Your build was excellent, your last message has also taught me something because I had wondered how to control the two motors on my new build it would appear I need a mixer, now who should I buy from ;) ;) ;) Only joking FLJ. Your explanation how the mixer works was brilliant now I know how one of these little black boxes works.

Keep up the good work.

The other Brian
Logged

roycv

  • Full Mayhemer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1,984
  • Location: S.W. Herts
Re: Electronic kits: "To build or not to build, that is the question?"
« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2007, 07:04:47 PM »

Hi all, I have been reading the thread with interest.  I think one thing may have been perhaps overlooked and that is that the late Craig wrote the best build instructions ever.  I have built many electronic kits and his stand out as very easy to read and follow.
Craig was of a rare breed that could design circuits and write concisely in easy to read and understandable  English.  When he told me where he lived I said "I bet you worked for ICL Computers".  Then we both had a trip down memory lane.
Going to miss him at the exhibitions.
Regards to all Roy
Logged
Pages: [1] 2   Go Up