A Review – EMDRC Power Pole Distribution board Kit

A Review – EMDRC Power Pole Distribution board Kit

I had a need for a practical, convenient and safe way to power my portable microwave station for upcoming field days. I had previously used the old 2 pin, white nylon “T” style molex plugs and sockets to equip the components for the station, and consequently a huge jumble of cords and piggyback arrangements ended up a mess.

Enter the EMDRC Powerpole DC Distibution Board Kit.

The EMDRC, or Eastern and Mountain Districts Radio Club, is an active Amateur Radio Club in Melbounes east. The club is located in Burwood and I encourage you to visit their most excellent website. The club also has an online shop, this is where I purchased the kit. Payment and postage was hassle free and the kit arrived in around 5 working days, pretty much the norm for interstate parcels to my rural SA address.

 

This device allows 6 devices to be powered from the one DC source, be it a battery, or shack power supply. It uses Anderson power poles as the connectors, a now very well established standard of connecting DC power to Amateur Radio and related equipment, both here in Australia and overseas. (I’m behind the times!) Each outlet is individually fused with a common as mud automotive blade fuse. These are generally available everywhere, from the swankiest auto parts chain store, to the dirtiest outback bush garage and all points in between. Each outlet  is equiped with a blown fuse indicator LED that will illuminate if the fuse fails and there is an earth return path from the protected device. The unit is also protected with a master 30Amp fuse. A green “POLARITY OK” led rounds out the front panel, to indicate if the source DC power is of the correct polarity, and availability. The unit is capable of supplying 30 amps total across the 6 outlets.

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The Kit comes complete with everything you need to complete it, right down to the last nut and bolt. It includes a very nice, heavy duty gold plated PCB that is a joy to solder, a pro looking pre- cut enclosure and quality components. There is no drilling or cutting required.

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Construction is very straight forward. I did however, find the instructions lacking a few minor details. For instance, there is no explanation of the Anderson Power Poles standard in use and I found the first pair I soldered in, whilst I had the polarity correct, I had orientated the connectors upside down from convention. This is probably only an issue for some one very new to Power Poles, like myself. A five minute Google had me on the correct path. You’ll need a quality soldering iron with a bit of grunt, at least around 60 watts, with a clean bit in good condition. That 25 watt job you got with your first Dick Smith Funway kit 30 years ago probably won’t cut it. A pair of sharp side cutters, wire strippers or a scalpel/knife will be required to strip the short lengths of wire supplied for fitting the powerpoles to the board. Indeed, you might even have the correct crimping tool for the power pole contacts, no drama if you don’t, just solder them. The unit is supplied with 30 amp power pole contacts for all of the housings.

I completed the kit in around 4 hours, from opening up the parcel, to screwing the back cover on. I’m currently using the kit to power my 2 Meter band WSPR station, via a 30 amp switching power supply, and it’s doing a sterling job! The great thing is I know that when I grab this thing to go portable with other equipment, it will be quick, easy and safe to connect it to my DC source, and other gear, whatever that may be.

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The EMDRC Power Pole distribution Board kit is a worthy addition to any shack. My only real gripe is there is no front panel or sticker, this would have set the unit off nicely. It is a quality item that brings a convenient and safe DC power distribution system to your shack or portable location. It is easy to assemble and requires no addition drilling or cutting to complete. In fact, I found myself asking, “do I need two?”

 

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Minikits EME166 Sequencer kit – A Review.

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Since I’m putting together a 10Ghz Transverter, the question of TX/RX Switching and sequencing comes to mind when gathering all the components for the  build. For sequencing, I had a good look around at what was available from various sources on the web, but always came back to the Minikits product.

It seems to tick all the boxes as to what I needed it to do, so I ordered the kit from Mark. It turned up a quick 2 days after the funds cleared, and I wasted no time in constructing and testing it with the little Yaesu FT817 rig I use for microwave IF.

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The Minikits EME166 kit is supplied with a beautifully made double sided, solder masked  and silk screened PCB measuring 94 x 55 mm. It features 4 sequenced outputs, works on a supply voltage of between 8 to 15Vdc. It will handle up to 4 watts of RF from the IF radio between 28 and 500Mhz. It can be switched by RF sensing, or from a 12 volt or 0 volt signal via the IF radio’s coax centre conductor. It can also be manually switched if that is required. This kit comes with all the parts you need, besides the IF RF connectors, so you can make up your own mind as to how you’ll roll.

There is some surface mount soldering involved, but if you’re  “messing about with Microwaves” your probably quite used to hunching over a magnifier lamp and soldering tiny components by now!

I have it down to a fine art these days, fluxing the area to be soldered with a flux pen, nice new, fine, clean tip and doing everything in a small plastic tray (Fererro Rocher plastic chocolate container lids work well!) that fits the board I’m soldering to. I empty the tiny components into the tray and pick them up with tweezers and solder them onto the board in the tray – this very much reduces the risk of losing the tiny flea sized components. There is nothing worse than trying to find an 805 sized component on the floor or in the shag pile carpet! ( …even worse when you have no spares)

20161219_182419Besides the few smd parts that are fitted to the underside of the board, there are 4 smd diodes fitted to the top of the board. The rest of the conventional leaded components go on easily. I built the kit in around 4 hours. I’d class this kit as “intermediate” level, you’ll need some SMD soldering gear and some experience to successfully build the kit. Don’t forget to check the values of the resistors with your multimeter, it’s easy to make a mistake!

One of the good things about this upgraded version,  ( it’s an update of the very popular EME66 sequencer kit that has found its way into many a Transverter project worldwide over the years) is the single in line connector for all the sequenced outputs. This makes it much easier and neater to wire the board into your project. It’s also over voltage an reverse polarity protected.

I elected to fit SMA connectors to the board. The only thing I’d like to see different in the next version is the facility to mount the connectors vertically on the board, so it will be much easier to work with a vertically mounted sequencer.

My RX/TX  change over Relay is 26 Volts, and the kit allows you to easily integrate  different voltages to be switched by omitting the required link and soldering the supply to be switched at this point. Here you can see where I have the 26v supply (yellow wire) coming in to TX2 where the link for the 12v supply would normally be. It’s versatile, flexible and simple. It’s probably a good idea to change the corresponding led resistor to a more suitable value than the 1K0 supplied for 12 v.

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The RX and TX IF levels are adjustable via the trim pots. Installing Link 5 will switch in a delay back to RX when using SSB to stop the relay chattering. I found the delay a bit long when using RF switching for my tastes. This could possibly be shortened by changing the associated cap value, if required.

Finally, here is a short video of the sequencer in operation. I’m using my FT817 that has been modified to put 12 Volts on the centre conductor of the front panel BNC connector when the PTT is enabled. The switching delay trim pot adjustment on the EME166 is about set mid-way.

Conclusion: The Minikits EME166 Transverter kit comes highly recommended. The design is very versatile, flexible and uses super quality parts through out. Delivery was prompt and Mark was very easy and pleasant to deal with.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Note: I have no affiliation with Minikits. Just a satisfied customer.

Messing about with Microwaves – A 3.4 Ghz Transverter from a surplus Subscriber Transciever…

 

 

Around 18 months ago I had the foresight to obtain 3 surplus 3.5 Ghz subscriber panels made available from the Geelong Amateur Radio Club. The information is still up on their website here.

These panels sat unused in my shed until a few weekends ago when I FINALLY got around to doing something with them, so out they came for a session with the screw driver…I wasted no time in undoing the 4 million screws that hold the back cover for a look inside…

They are nicely made, and contain a full duplex TX RX set up with an intergral 18dBi panel antenna that did wireless internet on 3.5 Ghz.

Some clever chaps at the GARC have devised a way to make these a goer on our 3.4Ghz ham band. The main activity in Australia has shifted down to 3398 MHz SSB from the old 3400MHz. This is due to a recent shift in the frequency allocation in Australia for this band. The panels work fine on either frequency. As modified, the panels run an IF of 442Mhz for 3398 MHz

So far, I have started to modify one of the panels according to the instructions, including fitting a Minikits 2.6Ghz Relay kit for TX/RX change over. I was lucky enough to have the 12 V version of this kit (which has since been discontinued due to the relay becoming obsolete) spare in my junk box. This was duly constructed and fitted to the original board. I unsoldered the existing MCX socket for the antenna connection from the oringinal board and soldered it to the output of the relay board. The original Panel antenna now plugs in here. The 5V version is still available however. (Just use a 180ohm dropping resistor for 12 V)

I used a blowtorch to gently heat the covers that needed to be removed, once they were hot enough they came off quite easily. The far left cover was removed by mistake!

I’m currently waiting on the switcher board PCB to arrive, so I can continue with the conversion. The hope is to have this ready for the next VHF-UHF Summer Field Day contest on the 14th and 15th of January 2017…this will be my 1st Field day for several years, after losing interest in Amateur Radio for a while…I’m back!!!

Update 31/12/2016: The Switcher board finally arrived!

I wasted little time in assembling and testing it, and mounting to the main pcb, and finishing off the Transverter conversion…

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The only real snag I had was the modification of the TX mute section of the panel, the instructions called for moving a resistor to another location, but after thinking I’d done it, initial tests showed no additional current was being drawn on TX. It was soon apparent the tiny 1M ohm smd resistor wasn’t soldered properly and repeated attempts to reposition it and try again failed dismally – it’s just too small!  This prevented the unit from going into transmit. I ended up putting in a conventional 1M resistor to make it functional. It worked fine after this.

 

The unit is now drawing approx. 800ma on transmit, in agreement with the documentation. Some of the soldering required to mod the panel is certainly a challenge, as you’re dealing with smd smaller than 0805. These components are TINY!!! You need to be careful…

Here are another few snaps of the progress. The unit is now complete, and is switching to TX as it should when connected to my FT817. The next step is to adjust the receiver…

As I have limited test equipment, I’ll set up a 3.4Ghz source and tickle up both RX filters using the onboard signal beeper as a guide…

Update 6/1/17…It’s alive!

Yesterday I travelled down to Adelaide to see Tim, VK5ZT, as he kindly offered to help align the receiver and check the panel TX.

Tim has quite a collection of RF test equipment and he soon had the panel hearing very well. I had attempted to try this myself but the instructions for adjusting the filters in the documentation are a bit “out there”. Far better to leave the filters screws as they are an adjust them from there as a starting point. Tim also recommended the two stubs on the filters be removed also, so they were duly unsoldered. The panel was able to easily hear the 3.4Ghz Elizabeth Radio Club beacon reflected from the side of Tims house through the shed/shack door at around S8! We then netted the panels’onboard  10Mhz oscillator to frequency as well. We checked TX and established the panel has a clean and healthy output on the spec-an. Job done!

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Here you can see the panel listening to the 68th harmonic of my 50mhz oscillator connected to a  2-11Ghz log periodic PCB antenna…( at the bottom of the image, pointing at the panel antenna)

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Back cover on and ready for a run in the Summer Field Day contest next weekend!