Bathroom Mirror

bathroom led mirror _updated

[First, I’d like to apologize for my too long absence. I’m now a full time hardware engineer, since two years. My job and the projects I’m working on are exciting, but also quite demanding of my energy and time. My level of laziness being constant, I gave up on writing articles (even if I still do electronic projects at home). This new article is about something I built last year. That’s being said, let’s start:]

[TL;DR: scroll to the end of the article to see more photos, a video and github]

For these of you who have been following my blog, my biggest project so far is the USB temperature logger. I enjoyed making it, I like the outcome, but it has one problem: if you’re not an engineer or a bit technical, it’s not cool. I wanted to make something people would see and find cool (you can add vanity to my laziness). Something with light and not an other LED strip attached to an Arduino. And this time, I wanted an enclosure.

The inspiration came from movies and a poorly lit bathroom: a bathroom washbasin mirror, with lamps around it. To spice things up, it had to be at least dimmable.

Something like that, but round:


After some experiments with lightbulbs and triacs, I decided it was a bad idea to have 220V-powered light bulbs (made of thin and sharp glass), ten centimeters from my head, when my face and hands are soaked with water … But I still wanted something looking like lightbulbs.

The solution came form Paulmann, a german manufacturer offering these things:


It’s supposed to be a customizable system of light bulbs (they offer different sizes, shapes and colours for the “bulb” and you can screw halogen, fluo or LED sockets inside). A bit on the expensive side (10€ for a set) but I was only interested in the glass bulb anyway (the bulbs can be bought separately, for cheaper).

With these, I would be able to use LEDs solving many problems:

  • Safety
  • 60Hz whine
  • System complexity (no more 220V, triacs, isolation to handle, just PWM)

I also wanted the possibility to display time with the lights, so I decided to fit twelve of them, on a round shape. Here are my first sketches:

LED_Mirror_Sketch LED_Mirror_Sketch_2

Because the LEDs will be driven by a microcontroller, I could add some cool features:

  • A motion sensor (so the mirror lights up when one enters the bathroom)
  • A capacitive touch sensor dimmer
  • An internal clock, to adjust the the luminosity according to the time of the day or night.

Let’s make a list of early parts/requirements:

  • LEDs: x12 High power (~10W each) warm white
  • Microcontroller with 12 PWM, USB, RTCC
  • Capacitive sensor (slider)
  • Movement detector (PIR type, as small as possible)
  • Off the shelf power supply
  • The frame of the mirror should contain all the electronics
  • A mirror (duh!)

I started by finding the right dimensions and design for the enclosure/frame. With standard mirror sizes (ie. the ones available at my local hardware store), a size and spacing of the bulbs that would look harmonious, I got an inner frame diameter of 52cm (Ø50cm mirror) —20 inches. The frame is 8 cm (3,15″) wide and the bulbs have a diameter of 6 cm (2,36″).

It’s made of wood. All the electronics and LEDs are mounted on the bottom ring, the upper ring has holes for the bulbs and supports the sides of the frame. Some pictures of the construction:

LED mirror enclosure - rings

The face and base rings, with spacers glued to the face ring. (upside-down)

LED mirror enclosure - face ring - inner view  LED mirror enclosure - front ring

Front ring, with holes for the LEDs. The wooden pieces act like spacers between the front and back rings and support the 1mm thin side plywood (just bent and glued around).

LED mirror enclosure assembled

Completed, with pivoting support for the mirror.

LED mirror enclosure - completed - with bulbs

With the bulbs. They are glued with silicone joint from inside. The silicone gives some compliance, so the bulbs can move instead of immediately breaking at their base if hit.

At the same time, I worked on the LEDs and the driver:

I chose Bridgelux BXRA-40E0810-A-00 LEDs. Warm white and star shaped footprint. 980 lumens @28,1V 350mA.


For the controller, I found the TS19371 Boost white LED driver, with PWM input and OVP. From Taiwan Semiconductor. As it’s a one-off project, I didn’t care about long-term availability. The other components are quite standard.


The LED current is calculated with the following equation:

Iled = 95mV / Rf

I have a 0,22 Ohm feedback resistor, resulting in a 430mA calculated LED current, which doesn’t match the values from the datasheet’s schematics or the current I measured.

Plot of the input power (@12V) and the LED power (@28V) vs. the PWM duty cycle:

TS19371 power vs PWM

Which gives the following efficiency (vs. PWM duty cycle):

TS19371 efficiency vs PWM

Not bad, especially the most comfortable luminosity is between 40 and 80%.

LED Driver Schematic (pdf)


There’s a bit of “whine” at some PWM values, probably due to the two big ceramic capacitors. (piezo effect). Later, I added big value capacitors (1000uF) across the power supply, every two driver boards.

Even if the LEDs are from a good brand and have a good efficacy, they get very hot without a heatsink. The problem is, the mirror frame is closed and doesn’t have any airflow inside. Putting a fan is of course, out of question, same with vent holes.

My solution was to mount the LEDs on aluminium rods, which act like a heat storage. I got twelve of these rods, 20m diameter and 25mm high, for one Euro each, already cut, on eBay:

BXRA LED Heatsinking

(first revision of the PCB)

Here’a graph of the temperature increase of a LED at the maximal voltage and current (100% PWM):

LED temperature curve

As you can see, no heatsinking isn’t an option. With the aluminium rods, the LEDs can be at 100% for quite long (bathroom timeframe). The software takes care of dimming the light after 15 minutes. There’s also a temperature sensor on one of the heatsinks. The maximal intensity is anyway too bright and shouldn’t happen too often. The startup luminosity is about 50%.

Some photos of the LEDs and drivers construction:


Heatsinks with tapped holes (plus one mounting hole –M3– on the underside).



Driver PCBs with solder paste — ready to be populated.


After reflow.



The next step was the capacitive touch dimmer.

I used the Atmel’s AT42QT2160 Qslide – Matrix Sensor IC. Quite powerful and versatile. It can have up to 16 keys or/and one slider of 8 keys/bits (0..255). For once, Atmel provides an exhaustive data sheet, plus a lot of design material for the keys/sliders/wheels. (Now, you can even get footprints for Altium designer).

It works by sending a charge pulse to one side of an electrode (the sensing element) and sampling it on the other side, comparing the changes over time. Fingers change the capacity of the electrode, as well as the intensity of the sensed electrical field. If the resulting signal goes below a threshold, the chip counts it as a touch. The electrodes can be laid out to form a linear pattern, making a slider or a wheel and the chip configured to output an X value corresponding to the touch position on the slider or wheel.

I followed Atmel’s recommendations for the design of my slider. I managed to get a very good definition, even through the thick wood. (On the first version of the mirror, the sensor was on the side, sensing touches through the 1mm thin plywood. After the update, it’s on the front and still works great through 5mm of plywood!).

Because of my requirements of sensitivity, wood thickness, length and definition, I designed a “Mutualy Coulped – One Dimensional – Two layer – Resistively Interpolated” Slider:

Large resistively interpolated capacitive slider

(Atmel’s “Touch Sensors Design Guide”)

The sampling signal is emitted on the Xn lines (top PCB side) sequentially and sampled on Y line (bottom side).

Which looks like that in real life:


Bottom (fingers) side with the Y sampling traces.


Top side: Xn electrodes. 0.8mm PCB, so it could be bent and follow the shape of the mirror frame. Even if the bend radius isn’t too small, I used 0402 components and tried to place them parallel to the bend. The PCB has a footprint for an EEPROM, sharing the sensor’s i2c bus. (The first microcontroller I used didn’t have any EEPROM).

Slider and AT42QT2160 Schematics (pdf)

The data sheet gives two important measures to make:

AT42QT2160-Cs-X7 Sampling Cap

The sampling capacitor Cs voltage. It shouldn’t exceed -0,25V and the ramp should be linear.


The charge transfer pulse (measured with a coin on the sensing surface): Should be square.

The AT42QT2160 connects to my microcontroller via an i2c interface. It has a lot of registers to tweak configuration and parameters for the touch detection. The sensitivity can be adjusted without having to change components on the PCB.

A “change” output pin can be used as an interrupt and relieves the micro controller from sending continuous interrogations on the i2c bus.

Led mirror AT42QT2160 touch sensor PCB on the frame

The touch sensor attached to the frame with double sided tape (on the front of the frame, after the update). Note the silicone joint holding the bulbs and the wooden spacers supporting the sides of the frame.

The motion sensor.

PIR sensors can be tricky to implement, so I took the easy way and used the Zmotion Detection Module II from Zilog. It costs 10€ from Digikey and only needs a 3.3V power supply and an RS232 interface.

I won’t write a lot about it, first because its implementation is straight forward and second, because I don’t use it anymore after the update, so I didn’t write the code to support it in the new microcontroller.

ZEPIR0BAS02MODG PIR sensor Zilog

It features a small microcontroller and a pre calibrated PIR element. Plug and Play.

It also has parameters to tweak the sensibility of the detection and can even tell the direction of the detected movement (going from left to right or right to left).

An other reason why I chose this sensor board, is because the PIR lens is really tiny and once mounted inside the mirror, it’s almost invisible (because of the shape of the bathroom, the sensor was on the side, even more difficult to see).

The light coming from the LEDs was messing with the sensor and it detected a continuous movement once the mirror was on. I had to isolate the sensor board with aluminium foil and tape. Not a big deal.

Putting everything together and giving it a brain.

Ok, now we have our mirror and the frame, 12 LEDs, the touch dimmer and the movement sensor. How do we make everything work?

For the first version, I used a PIC18F87J50. An Xmega256A3BU after the update. I won’t start a debate on Microchip vs. Atmel (that should be a future article), especially the mirror worked exactly the same with both of the microcontrollers.


If you’re familiar with these two microcontrollers, you’ll know they don’t have 12 PWM outputs.

So how can they control the intensity of each of the LEDs?

Simple: Software PWM. Because the LED driver has its own switching frequency (1,2MHz) and an enable input that can be used as PWM dimming, the PWM frequency coming from the micro controller doesn’t need to be too high. In my case, it’s between 120 and 300Hz. Enough to have a good persistence of vision.

(actually, the software of the first prototype was a bit slower and did a cool stroboscopic effect, you could see the water drops going up when you were taking a shower. Psychedelic, but not that funny at 7am, half asleep).

To implement my software PWM, I’m using a timer which fires an interrupt and increases a 8 bit “PWM counter” variable. Each LED has a variable with the PWM value it’s set to. In the same interrupt, I compare each of the LED variables to the PWM counter, setting the corresponding LED pin high, if the LED PWM value is higher than the PWM counter, setting it low if the LED PWM value is smaller than the counter.

There is a few more subtle things:

I’m using the Xmega virtual ports feature, it speeds up the execution of the interrupt (one ASM instruction instead of three or four).

Each LED value is compared sequentially, so they don’t switch on or off at exactly the same time. You cal call it a sort of crude spread-spectrum PWM 🙂

Schematics for my ATxmega256A3BU module

I’m using a 16MHz crystal to clock the Xmega, because the internal RC oscillator had too much jitter (which isn’t a big deal here, it just annoyed me).

Here’s the interrupt jitter with the internal RC oscillator:

Xmega Internal RC oscillator jitter

And (almost) the same measure after switching the oscillator to an external crystal:

Xmega External Crystal oscillator jitter

3,5us vs. 10ns Not bad.

I’m also using the USB interface to be able to monitor the microcontroller and set a few parameters (date/time, touch sensor sensibility, read the temperature etc.):

ATXmega256A3BU USB console

Measuring Temperature

I’m a big fan of the TCN75 i2c (or similar) temperature sensors, but here, I wanted something I could directly attach to one of the LEDs heatsink:


It’s a Thermistor ( NTCALUG03A473H ), a temperature-dependant resistor. I hooked it up to the Xmega’s A/D converter.

My voltage to temperature conversion is very crude, an array of voltages every 5°C, plus an interpolation to get 3°C resolution. I didn’t need more, because I’m just using it to dim the LEDs when the heatsink temperature is too high.


The thermistor, screwed to the side of the upper LED heatsink.

An other feature I found cool to implement, is an anti-fog system. To avoid condensation on the mirror when you’re taking a shower, the mirror is heated up with a resistive wire attached with kapton tape on the back side of the mirror.

Resistive Wire


The one I chose has a 6,93 Ohms resistance per meter. It gives a current of 1,73A per meter with a 12V power supply.

It’s annoying to work with, because it’s very springy. And it’s even more annoying to solder, even if the data sheet states the opposite.

Unfortunately, the way I attached the mirror to the frame when I built it one year ago prevented me from taping the wire till the center, so only the outer part of the mirror is heated. It works nevertheless not too bad to keep the center free of condensation.

I have two loops of this wire in parallel, taking 2A in total and heating up to 50-60°C. The kapton tape presses the wire against the mirror, ensuring a good enough thermal transfer.

The heating is switched on and off by the microcontroller via a MOSFET transistor (2KS4017).


Resistive wire kaptoned to the mirror’s back.

The power supply.

I said I didn’t want to play with AC and the whole mirror was running on 12Vdc. So what powers it?

PWS 150 150W power supply

A 150W 12V AC-DC converter. 150W is more than enough to power the 12 LEDs and the 2A resistive wire.

In the first version of the mirror (and the first bathroom), it was sitting on the side and the mirror was switched on and off by the motion sensor.

After I moved to my new place, it’s actually connected to the bathroom’s socket for the washbasin light and the mirror is activated with the switch on the wall (it’s a double switch, one for the ceiling lamp, the other for the mirror).

I put some white fabric sleeve on the wires, so they don’t look too bad.

Putting things together.

LED Mirror bottom

The twelve LEDs are attached round the enclosure’s baseplate with a screw, from the back of the baseplate to a taped hole in the bottom of each heatsink. The driver boards are held with a wood screw, directly on the baseplate.

LED Mirror Bottom wired

The driver boards’ power supply is just wired in parallel (the thick blue and brown wires). Each driver’s PWM input is connected to the microcontroller board.

LED bathroom mirror First test

First power up. I taped the bulbs to the heatsinks, because the LEDs are really powerful and hurt eyes if looked directly at them.

The development “simulator”

Every time I wanted to develop new functions for the firmware, I had to take the mirror from the bathroom, put it on my bench, open the enclosure, connect the AVR JTAG debugger, program the firmware, test it and put the mirror back in the bathroom. Not very convenient.

Because I made several ATxmega256A3BU boards and I order my PCBs from iTead Studio, so I always get ten of them, I could replicate the mirror on my bench, with 3mm LEDs instead of the Bridgelux ones. It has all the functionalities of the mirror, so I can take as much time as I want to write the firmware and to test it:



When I’m sure the new firmware is ok, I just update the real mirror via the USB bootloader. (I made a cutout on the top of the enclosure for the USB plug, next to the 12V DC jack socket).

Photos of the first version/bathroom:

Bathroom LED mirror

Bathroom lightbulb mirror

(The PIR motion sensor lens is clearly visible on the side of the frame)

When I moved to a new flat, after the update:

bathroom led mirror _updated

And a quick video showing the main features:

The firmware sources can be downloaded from my github:


The first version of the mirror has been running for one year without any problem. The updated version, for six months now. I wish I had written a series of articles along the design and build of this project, because even if now I still remember all of my process and decisions, the resulting article is a bit long and not detailed enough.

Concerning the mirror, having this big wooden piece the mirror is glued to, prevented me from putting the heating on all of its surface. It works ok, but sometimes it fails to keep the center of the mirror fog free.

If I have time, I’ll try to find a way to put resistive wire on the middle too.

Because the 150W AC/DC power supply has a lot of capacitance and the 12V rail has big capacitors, there’s a one or two seconds lag between the moment you switch the mirror off and the LEDs going actually off. It would be a nice to implement a 220V detection circuit, so the microcontroller knows when the AC current disappears and can switch the LEDs off quicker (and also with an “animation”).

Vintage headphones mod – The ultimate hipstery conclusion

I started this blog by modding some “vintage” headphones, replacing the original bad speakers by a pair of Sennheisers. It was almost two years ago.

Last month finally happened what usually happens to audio jack cables: “qsdfg#efdfg#jnd#qdfg#skdglcvnqse” instead of my usual music (which is almost the same, but without the “#”s ).

I decided to totally pimp the new cable by using one of those “fabric 220V cables”. I had the idea for a while, but I didn’t realise the fabric covering isn’t actually glued to the cable and you can use it on an other cable.

I got one on eBay, 1.99€/metre, plus a 5-metre long jack/jack cable of reasonable quality:

01-Fabric-audio-cableI cut the audio cable in half so I can still use the other half for something else (or as a spare).

The fabric covering is very easy to strip (it slides off) but more difficult to put back. It was a good idea to put tape on the cut end of the audio cable, so it could slide easier.

Then, I just glued the fabric to the jack plug and secured it with a cable tie when it was drying:


Soldering the cable back in the headphones:

04-Fabric-audio-cable(you can see how easily the fabric strips off and also the tape at the end of the audio cable to help with the sliding-in)

After, I added some turns of thin electrical tape, to avoid the fabric fibres to strip out:


Et voilà:

Headphones1(After testing the new cable, I realised it was the audio socket of my iPhone that had a problem, not the headphones’ jack.. )

Simple and cheap temperature logger: v2.1 [UPDATE: EEPROM in BOM corrected (SST25WF080) ]

Hi everyone!

It’s been too long since the last update. But it’s there! The last version of the temperature logger, the hardware and the source code.



The changes since the last version:


  • New footprint for the PIC18F26J50, easier to solder.
  • Only 0603 or bigger resistors/capacitors.
  • The serial EEPROM is now a SST25WF080, still 8Mb, but easier to source.
  • Some components price-optimized (USB connector, switch, 3.3V reg).


  • Each logger can get a number, shown in the mass storage device drive name: simply add an asterisk (*) followed by the number you want to assign to the logger (between 0 and 65535) in the config.txt file (after the logging period), save the file and format the logger.
  • Bug fixes in the FAT12 functions, but the logging space is still limited to the half of the EEPROM.
  • Other bug fixes (month and year change, added robustness). The memory and the EEPROM are now scanned when you plug the logger back, to get the last data and reconstruct the filesystem in the case of a battery failure.

Temperature Logger 2.1: Schematics and basic BOM

The Altium files

The source code (based on Microchip Applications libraries -Device – Mass Storage – SD Card data logger- MPLABX)

I also made a program/debug adapter (especially useful for debugging):


USB-Temperature-Logger-Programming-tool1This is the “office” version of my previous peg-adapter 😉

A lot of people were asking me if I was selling these loggers. Unfortunately, no. The design and functionalities are sexy, but I don’t have the capacity to launch a production on my own. And if I had do make only a small batch, the price would be totally uncompetitive.

A big thanks for all the people who donated a little something to motivate me!! (or to help me be more ashamed of the lack of updates)

All the contents (except the parts of Microchip’s code in the source) are under the Creative commons license, Attribution – Share Alike – Non Commercial.

Creative Commons License
Simple temperature logger: v2.1 by Jean Wlodarski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Cheap, quick and dirty reflow oven

I got this cheap toaster in a “crap shop” for 11 Euros. It’s perfect for reflowing PCBs and small enough to fit in my lab:

Reflow-ToasterI tried to use only components I had at hand, including:

  • a DIP PIC 18F2450 (total overkill to control a heater, I know)
  • a relay from a timer AC socket
  • a small USB iPhone charger for the +5V supply
  • a K-thermocouple and a MAX6675 for the conversion (quite expensive chip, but very simple to use and I had it in a drawer)
  • a small LCD screen, two buttons and two LEDs

The PIC is running from the internal RC oscillator. Very slow, but enough for what it’s used for.

The relay comes from this timer I bought some time ago at Conrad:

It’s rated for 2000W, the PCB is easy to re-use and fuse protected. I added an opto-coupler, so the PIC and user interface are fully isolated from the 220V mains (also convenient for debugging). I thought about re-using the timer’s LCD and microcontroller, but it’s directly bonded on the upper PCB and difficult to hack.

I managed to squeeze everything into the toaster’s plastic flange. (Unfortunately the temperature can increase a lot inside, so I think I’ll move the electronics into a box, outside the toaster)

For now, I just have two functions:

Drying – keeps the oven at 100°C

Reflow – follows the standard leaded solder paste curve (2 minutes@150°C – 2minutes@200°C – 1minute@250°C)

The LEDs also act as switches to select between the two functions. I’m still looking for a good method to cut plastic in a clean way. It’s not so easy with my Dremel.

It took me more or less one day to build everything (I wasted some time for the LCD display control).

I’m only using the heating elements from the upper “toast hole”. The bottom stays cool enough for the toaster to sit on a table without the need of extra feet or thermal protection.

And of course, the oven works just fine for the small PCBs I have to solder!

Simple and cheap temperature logger: New update coming

I’m working on a new revision of the temperature logger: new PCB and new firmware. It’s easier to solder, as the resistors/caps are now 0603 instead of 0402 and the PIC package is now a SSOP28 (instead of QFN).
The sleep current is smaller than 10uA and below 1mA when measuring the temperature (plus a few mA every 20-or-so logs, when writing to EEPROM).

The EEPROM is a SST25WF080 (still 1,8V 8Mb), as the previous Atmel memory is not available any more.

Some 3D renderings of the PCB:

Simple and cheap temperature logger 2.1

The USB connector is a Multicomp MC32604, cheaper than the previous MCKUSBX-SMT2AP1S-W30. (I couldn’t find a suitable 3D model for the PCB rendering)

The ISCP connector for programming the firmware  is SMT but fits the Microchip’s ICD header:

The new firmware has functions for the new EEPROM, a low battery indication, more robust logging and USB update capabilities. Plus a lot of bugfixes and optimizations.

Now, to complete the firmware, I have to build at least one logger, which means ordering the PCB and the components. That’s why I added a “donate” button to this blog (on the top right side of the page, just under the title), especially I don’t earn any money with this blog and content is free (and will stay free, of course).

If my work helped you, if you find it interesting, if you want more articles and more projects, dropping a few coins will motivate me and help me to materialize all the projects waiting in my head. 🙂

Stay tuned for more!



I did an interview for You can read it here (and see the face behind this blog).

Right now, I don’t have much time to write new posts, as I found a job (I’m adapting my USB temperature logger for current and voltage logging). Very interesting project, with great people and for greater good :-).

I’ll write about it as soon as I have some time!!!

QJ1502C – 15V 2A Power supply review (Labornetzgerät Test) – Mastech HY1502D

Looking for a variable power supply for my bench, I stumbled upon this eBay offer: QJE branded 0..15V 0..2A lab power supply for 35 Euros, including shipping and taxes on German eBay (It looks very similar to the Mastech HY1502D on, for $55).

I bought it form eBay shop. Ordered Sunday evening, it was sitting on my bench already on Tuesday.

There are some other models that do 0..30V 0..5A but they are more expensive (75-90 Euros) and bigger. As I’m usually not working with voltages over 12V, I thought 15V max would be enough. And for 35Euros more, I can buy a second one and have -15..+15V by putting the supplies in series.

The supply arrived in a well protected package, being itself in a cardboard, with the instructions and a pair of crocodile-banana wires.

The front panel has the essentials of a lab power supply: voltage and current knobs, two LEDs indicating the mode (Constant Current – Constant Voltage), two banana sockets (you can unscrew them to connect bare wires) an on/off switch (directly connected to the mains) and two LCD displays, for the voltage and current. A button to switch the supply between the CC and CV mode would be cool, but I guess you can’t ask that much for the price.

The labels are in German (Spannung: Voltage, Strom: Current). As I live in Berlin now, I better get used to it. 🙂

The LCDs have a nice greenish backlight but unfortunately the angles of vision aren’t so great, the digits start to fade if the unit is 40cm on your right or your left side. But they’re ok if you put the unit on a shelf above your head.

(the backlight is actually easy to see even in daylight)

Another thing I noticed is how hard the knobs were to turn, the low efficiency of the green CV LED, the digital dot being hard to see and the poor LCD refresh rate. More on this later.

Let’s crack it open!

The case is made of metal except the front panel, which is plastic (OK-quality). Everything is held together by eight screws on the sides, plus four on the bottom, two for the front panel and two for the back one.

The design is quite standard: Control/display PCB on the front, power regulation PCB on the back and multi-tap transformer in the middle. There’s a lot of room left. My unit is the bottom-of-the-line one, so the manufacturer probably uses the same case for the more powerful models. Anyway, more room, less heat!

The cabling is clean, with double-insulated-heat-proofing for the mains (from the mains cable to the fuse and to the transformer, from the mains cable to the front power switch). Unfortunately, no double insulation from the power switch to the transformer.

Also, the transformer secondary cables insulation could have been cleaner.

The screws attaching the transformer, the heat sink and the ground lead have split washers. Good.

The front PCB is attached to the front panel by four screws and by the potentiometers. It looks like if it was bathed several times in flux. I think it’s the reason why the pots were so hard to turn. I cleaned them with a flux remover and they went back to normal once dry.

Apart from the flux-terrorism and that yellow wire for output transistor bias being directly soldered on a 1206 capacitor (come on, guys, what’s the point putting connectors for the other cables and doing that for that one wire?!), the PCB design is OK. I like the via-stitches and big planes to help the two voltage regulators dissipate heat.

[Edit: I just noticed there’s a footprint for a connector for the yellow cable, but they decided to solder a capacitor parallel to it and the wire directly on the cap.]

As you can guess, the LCD displays are actually directly driven by the output voltage/current, not by the pots setting. Which means that the unit goes to 16,3V and 2,1A. It also means that what you read on the LCDs is what you’re getting on the output.

This task is done by two identical ICs, the CS7106GN, an obscure piece of silicon, [As Bernhard D. commented: The CS7106GN isn’t really “a obscure piece of silicon, designed and made in china”. It is a chinese copy of the Intersil ICL7106, available since roundabout 1978.] designed and made in china (datasheet here, Chinese-only). It’s basically a voltmeter/LCD driver:

An interesting thing is the oscillator circuit. I said the LCDs’ refresh rate was poor. In the datasheet, the default capacitor value on OSC3 is 100pF. I replaced it with a 33pF and… Success! the refresh rate is now more than acceptable, without any precision/resolution loss.

I also replaced the green CV led by a more efficient one.

The voltage/current command is entirely analog (the two dual op-amps on the front PCB). It would be interesting to replace the front panel potentiometers by digital encoders commanding two digital potentiometers driven by a microcontroller. Add some USB/Serial capability, two ADC and voilà, you have a remote-controlled lab power supply. Quite tempting!

The output banana connectors are mounted on a PCB with a common mode filter and a protection diode, plus the current shunt. Unfortunately, they’re not bolted but only soldered, as are the output cables:

The voltage/current regulation is made by a TIP3055 power NPN transistor on the other PCB. It’s rated for 90W/70V/15A, so it won’t be screaming with the 15V/2A it’s asked for. The heatsink is also generous (passive cooling only):

The transistor is actually mounted on the other side of the PCB ad directly bolted to the heatsink, with a thermal pad. Simple-but-ok construction.

(The other hole is to hold the PCB. There’s a plastic spacer between the heatsink and the PCB. The transistor mounting hole is isolated too)

Even if this second PCB looks way cheaper than the front one, the manufacturer make the effort of glueing the filtering cap. The rectifier diodes could be further from the relay due to heat, but I’m not sure they dissipate so much power.

Now, what about the performances?

I compared the LCD readings with the ones on my Fluke 79III (calibrated) multimeter. They’re within 50mV range. The output voltage ripple is below 5mV for all current/voltage combinations.

The unit is within specs, before or after warming up. The relay clicks-in between 4.2V and 4.3V (to switch in the transformer second tap) without any peaks on the output voltage.

The start-up voltage ramp is nice, without any overshooting (and I tried several times, with several voltage settings):


I must say I’m very surprised by the quality and performance vs. price ratio of this lab power supply. For 35 Euros, I’m not sure you can get even the case from Farnell. Here, you get a very nice 0..15V 0..2A power supply, with digital display, good accuracy and enough for most of the everyday needs. Plus, it begs to be modded!