Single-turn Trimming Potentiometers

January 31, 2009 Views
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Trimming potentiometers perform a variety of circuit adjustments in all types of electronic equipment. The variety of physical configurations available and the ability to withstand today's manufacturing environment offers the designer flexibility in selecting the best trimmer for the application. Around the world, trimmers are used in virtually every electronic market.

  • Multi-turn Trimming Potentiometers
  • Single-turn Trimming Potentiometers
  • Military Qualified Trimming Potentiometers

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Multi-turn Trimming Potentiometers

January 31, 2009 Views
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Trimming potentiometers perform a variety of circuit adjustments in all types of electronic equipment. The variety of physical configurations available and the ability to withstand today's manufacturing environment offers the designer flexibility in selecting the best trimmer for the application. Around the world, trimmers are used in virtually every electronic market.

Typical applications include measuring linear distance, angles or rotations in production equipment, industrial test and measurement equipment, and medical equipment.

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A bad-capacitor story ends happily

January 31, 2009 Views
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I worked as a design engineer for an optical-telecom company that had deployed 1000 pieces of equipment worldwide. Having so many modules in the field means a trickle of returns, and it was my job to investigate the failures. One investigation taught me a wonderful lesson.

I received a module whose source of failure was easily identifiable: a charred tantalum capacitor. It failed short, making the whole multithousand-dollar module nonoperational. This surface-mount capacitor—with a 7343 footprint and 20V rating—was sitting on a 12V-dc plane. This failure rate of one capacitor in about 10,000 pieces in this time span was well below the statistical prediction. I took a picture of the fallen capacitor and considered the case closed.

In a few weeks, a customer returned a similar module with a charred and shorted capacitor in the same location. Even including this case, the failure rate was still below statistical prediction. I knew there were five more identical capacitors on the board, sitting in parallel on the same 12V-dc plane. In addition to the module's failure rate, I now had a one-in-six chance with the capacitors. So, I took another picture. I wrote a report to calm upper management, but I had a feeling that I'd better study reliability calculation in general and reliability for tantalum capacitors in particular, and the faster, the better.

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What is a Varistor?

January 30, 2009 Views
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A varistor is a type of resistor with a significantly non-ohmic current-voltage characteristic. The name is a portmanteau of variable resistor*, which is misleading since it is not continuously user-variable like a potentiometer or rheostat, and is not a resistor but in fact a capacitor. Varistors are often used to protect circuits against excessive voltage by acting as a spark gap.

The most common type of varistor is the metal oxide varistor, or MOV. This contains a mass of zinc oxide grains, in a matrix of other metal oxides, sandwiched between two metal plates (the electrodes). The boundary between each grain and its neighbour forms a diode junction, which allows current to flow in only one direction. The mass of randomly oriented grains is electrically equivalent to a network of back-to-back diode pairs, each pair in parallel with many other pairs. When a small or moderate voltage is applied across the electrodes, only a tiny current flows, causes by reverse leakage through the diode junctions. When a large voltage is applied, the diode junctions break down because of the avalanche effect, and a large current flows. The result of this behaviour is a highly nonlinear current-voltage characteristic, in which the MOV has a high resistance at low voltages and a low resistance at high voltages.

If the size of the transient pulse (often measured in joules) is too high, the device may melt, or otherwise be damaged. For example, a nearby lightning strike may permanently damage a varistor.

Important parameters for varistors are response time (how long it takes the varistor to break down), maximum current and a well-defined breakdown voltage. When used in communications lines (such as phone lines used for modems), high capacitance is undesirable since it absorbs high frequency signals, thereby reducing the available bandwidth of the line being protected.

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Electrolytic Capacitor

January 13, 2009 Views
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Aluminum is used for the electrodes by using a thin oxidization membrane.

Electrolytic Capacitor

Large values of capacitance can be obtained in comparison with the size of the capacitor, because the dielectric used is very thin.

The most important characteristic of electrolytic capacitors is that they have polarity. They have a positive and a negative electrode.

[Polarised] This means that it is very important which way round they are connected. If the capacitor is subjected to voltage exceeding its working voltage, or if it is connected with incorrect polarity, it may burst. It is extremely dangerous, because it can quite literally explode. Make absolutely no mistakes.

Generally, in the circuit diagram, the positive side is indicated by a "+" (plus) symbol.

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Capacitor History

January 13, 2009 Views
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---All Kinds of Capacitors

In October 1745, Ewald Georg von Kleist of Pomerania in Germany found that charge could be stored by connecting a generator by a wire to a volume of water in a hand-held glass jar. Von Kleist's hand and the water acted as conductors and the jar as a dielectric. Von Kleist found that after removing the generator, touching the wire resulted in a spark. In a letter describing the experiment, he said "I would not take a second shock for the kingdom of France." The following year, the Dutch physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek invented a similar capacitor, which was named the Leyden jar, after the University of Leyden where he worked. Daniel Gralath was the first to combine several jars in parallel into a "battery" to increase the charge storage capacity.

Benjamin Franklin investigated the Leyden jar, and proved that the charge was stored on the glass, not in the water as others had assumed Leyden jars began to be made by coating the inside and outside of jars with metal foil, leaving a space at the mouth to prevent arcing between the foils. The earliest unit of capacitance was the 'jar', equivalent to about 1 nanofarad.

Leyden jar or flat glass plate construction was used exclusively up until about 1900, when the invention of wireless (radio) created a demand for standard capacitors, and the steady move to higher frequencies required capacitors with lower inductance. A more compact construction began to be used of a flexible dielectric sheet such as oiled paper sandwiched between sheets of metal foil, rolled or folded into a small package.

Early capacitors were also known as condensers, a term that is still occasionally used today. It was coined by Alessandro Volta in 1782 (derived from the Italian condensatore), with reference to the device's ability to store a higher density of electric charge than a normal isolated conductor. Most non-English European languages still use a word derived from "condensatore".

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