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Old 09-17-2023, 08:33 PM   #1
CapLeaker
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Default Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Either I am getting old or dumb, probably both.
This “simple” linear power supply is driving me insane. Should be easy, right?

Here is the story. Got that Astron RS-7A or 10A as stone dead. I mean turned on and got 0.00V not even an mV on the output. Why dat? Darn electrolytic output capacitor shorted at the binding posts. No, problem… new one in stock and mounted.
Turned the PSU on again and now I got 0.1V on the binding posts. Everything clear like sunny day and replaced the LM723 regulator IC in the socket. Had it made, I thought.
Well, not so fast! Now I get something like 1 to 1.5VDC on the output, which is climbing up from zero really slow. Tried a second LM723, same thing!!!
O.k. Must be something wrong with the transformer voltages. Astron made a little separate supply on the board for the LM723. Guess what? The voltages coming from the supply are bang on. No trouble there. So I checked the current draw on the AC side with no load on the PSU and got about 0.3A. Means the SCR isnt firing either. I even disabled the Firing mechanism of the SCR and same thing.
Well, the diodes… another dead end. I tested every forking diode in that thing and that piece of shit isn’t regulating worth a damn.
The socket is good, the LM723 is good (known good and tested), ceramic disk and electrolytic caps are good, the diodes are good, TIP 29 is good, 2N3771 pass transistor is good, SCR a is good and everything is making a connection.
The only difference I can see is that the case of this one isn’t grounded.
Checking the pins on the LM723 I get pins: 5,6,7,11 and 12 having correct voltages. Pins: 2,3,4,10 and 13 do not (something like 2VDC, pin 13 about 3.3VDC).
The 1k pot is good, I checked some resistors which also are good, so WTF am I not seeing in this picture?
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Last edited by CapLeaker; 09-17-2023 at 08:35 PM..
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Old 09-17-2023, 10:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

It looks pretty straightforward.
The only trap I can see is the current-limiting is done by looking at the pass transistor base drive circuit plus emitter resistor voltage drop.
So pin 3,2 on the 723 get enough voltage to turn on the CL transistor if the voltage drop across all that gets too high. It might be falsely on.
What do you measure between pins 2-3? If pin 2 is above pin 3 by 0.7V then that is a problem.
For the main 723 op-amp, pin 4 needs to be less than pin 5 for the output at pin 10 to come up. Only the current-limiter can override this.

TIP29 is pretty old, I would expect it to croak lol.

Careful the main filter caps and output cap can hold a charge if it's not working, so discharge them both before going in. Otherwise the 723 can get zapped.

Astron info Repeater Builder.com

edi: oh there is a trap if the 2N3771 does not work on start up, the 723 CL transistor will turn on and it could sit there.
So TIP-29 E went up in voltage but no main output at 2N3771 E so the 723 CL transistor gets turned on. I'm not sure if it latches...
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Last edited by redwire; 09-17-2023 at 10:34 PM..
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Old 09-18-2023, 04:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

A quick reply before I go to work…
Pin 10 base drive for TIP29 and it the base drive for the single 2N3771 transistor never go above like 2.5V. You are right, the difference between pin 2 and 3 is 0.7V.
Pin 2= 1.725V
Pin 3= 1.25V
Pin 4= 0.56V
Pin 5= 7.23V
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Old 09-18-2023, 01:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

It might still have a legit short at the output.
Was it the big 2,200uF 16V output cap that shorted?
There is also the C4 100uF 25V and 0.05uF parts. I wonder if it saw more than 16V. For sure the SCR is disconnected?
You could check across the output with power off, on Diode-test or Ohms. Or try force say 5V into the output but that could make smoke.

If there ever is the case the pass transistor can't keep up - the 2N3771's output is less than the TIP29 driver's voltage - the 723's current-limit transistor gets biased on. So the 2N3771 circuit might have an issue.
I can't see a way for CL to latch on as it does in some PSU's.
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Old 09-18-2023, 01:31 PM   #5
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Yes, that 16V 2200uF cap was shorted. I replaced it and tested that little 0.1 uF cap across it. The short is gone on that end. I changed C4, because it was out of spec…
First I disabled the gate drive of the SCR by lifting an end from couple of resistors and rejoined them not using the trace that goes to the gate. I also took the SCR out and that didn’t change anything either. I fired about 13.8V into the output of the PSU with my bench PSU and it only drew like 0.2A. I am dam sure that SCR isn’t doing anything at all.
I did check the pass transistor and the TIP29 and they show good on the peak tester and also measure correctly if I check them with my Fluke.

That’s what I am saying… this stupid little linear Astron, which I repaired tons off making me look really dumb. I am having a fresh shipment of UA723’s and a few other things coming. The only thing I don’t have is a spare TO-3 holder. Plan is to replace the TIP29, the 2N3771, etc. basically the whole base drive, pass transistor and few other parts, regardless of what they measure and see what happens next.

Oh btw, when I back fed power, the Voltages that are off, showed more or less what they should be.
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Old 09-18-2023, 01:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Just thinking out loud, I better check the hFE from the 3771. I am sure the TIP29 had an hFE of 40. I wonder if the hFE at the 3771 is something like one or two. Lol
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Old 09-18-2023, 02:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

I tossed some 1973 TIP29's in the garbage, their hFE was lucky to be 20 lol.

Maybe check the 2N3771's emitter resistor or base-drive diode/resistor is OK.
Astron also have last-minute values for Rx etc. to tweak the current-limit.

You could override the current-limiting by shorting 723 pin 2-3 together. But that is risky, maybe use a variac. Then you can take voltage readings at the TIP29 and 2N3771 to see what the problem is. Use a small load like a light bulb at 100mA or LED.
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Old 09-18-2023, 03:38 PM   #8
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Reason I am saying this is I had worked years ago on a Motorola Micor squelch cards that didn’t work anymore. I tested every transistor with the DMM a in diode mode and they all were fine as kind. Once I took them out I found while the transistor read fine, they had very low gain hFE gain. I replaced the transistors with the low gain and the squelch card was working o.k.
I am going to put a new 3771 in and see what happens. I’ve repaired truck loads full of linear power supplies, specifically Astron’s, but never had an issue like that on any of them. I suspect if the hFE aims indeed very low, the output of the 3771 would never reach 13.8V triggering a shutdown. Very interesting failure of a 3771. In an afterthought I suppose a 40 year old 3771 may have an issue like this due to old age. First I need to get the parts.
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Old 09-18-2023, 06:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Exactly as I said. I did replace the 2n3771 temporarily with a 2N3055 that I had kicking around and the power supply does work now!

Sure enough, the old 2N3771 tests fine as a NPN, but it’s got very low hFE of 3! It should have something like 70 or 80?

Going to wait for the new parts.

Problem solved! Damn power supply still not smarter than me.
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Old 09-18-2023, 08:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Ahhh a good find.
I would say the transistor is damaged - three pins so actually 12 measurements I do if I really want to be thorough testing a transistor, like my life depends on it.
I do it with big audio power amps where a damaged transistor can look OK yet blow up all the new ones.

Diode-test all 3 polarities on 3 pins so 6 readings.
Ohms all 3 polarities on 3 pins so 6 readings.

I would bet the E-B junction is pooched.
With no load on the PSU even a very low hFE part will still work, output 13.8VDC.

I also add a power on LED to these and backfeed diode if somebody decides to charge a car battery, in an emergency say.
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Old 09-18-2023, 08:19 PM   #11
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

These are used at local Fire Departments or other commercial outfits for base radios.
And no, this old transistor does not work, even so it tests as an NPN. I read it again, swapped the ole 2n3771 back in and no go. It is definitely the transistor, my tester now said an hFE of 2.

Last edited by CapLeaker; 09-18-2023 at 08:24 PM..
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Old 09-19-2023, 04:37 AM   #12
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

we used to use 723 based psu's in the arcades a lot - i still have tubes of them.

i found a modern TIPL762 works well with them even though the hfe is only 60.
the original was a 2N6057 darlington with a 3500 gain
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Old 09-19-2023, 08:01 AM   #13
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Sounds unbelievable, but today I tested the old pass transistor again. Tests as NPN fine, but extremely low on gain. So I want and installed the ole 3771 again. Turned the PSU on and of course nothing. Then I retested the old 3771 and now she is done for. I verified this with my Fluke meter and same thing. Never seen anything like this. Given this PSU is old and ragged looking, rusty screws, pitted TO-3 3771…. Maybe it has something to do with that?
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Old 09-19-2023, 09:29 AM   #14
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

What's a modern TIPL762?
Can't be obsolete, right?
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Old 09-19-2023, 11:20 AM   #15
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

TIPL762 is a TO218 packaged 6A transistor.
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Old 09-19-2023, 01:20 PM   #16
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

2N3771 is a rare bird. The 2N3773 140V 16A is more popular and available.
I use MJ15003 140V 20A. There are very few TO-3 offerings out there and most are old tech so pretty low hFE at high current. You'd have to go TO-247 or TO-264 for newer tech. I put in 2SC5200's last lol.
If the PSU is outputting 10A hFE of 5-20 means 0.5-2A of base-drive required from the TIP29- which is OK if it has a good heatsink. Most of the time the driver has no heatsink and burns up.

I find HV BJT's tradeoff is low hFE, TIPL762 is 20-60 and 400-450V but I think you need at least 100W ability.
There is a benefit to using lower voltage power transistors I think.

Why the old 2N3771 failed - you can hacksaw off the top and peek inside. It might have been the PSU trapped driving a shorted cap, the transistor would just sit there full power hot for hours, days, weeks...

In my day there was no "component tester" so I only use a multimeter to test parts. Especially these GM328 things that have no DAC.
The old part prob. last died due to mechanical or soldering stress finishing it off. Might be a cracked die.
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Old 09-21-2023, 01:24 PM   #17
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Got my order today. Put in the new MJ15003 and she works fine as kind. I am going to keep the old 3771 and put it in a revisit later pile. It’s just funny to me how it went. Never seen this happening to a TO-3 transistor. Measuring good but yet no workie… maybe it has something to do with the condition and the shape it is in. Time will tell…
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Old 09-21-2023, 02:32 PM   #18
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Avr transistor tester is still doing static tests at low current which may miss some faults. TBH I 'd relegate that 2n3771 to the round file.

I had a small "4Amp" linear psu that failed (output 16V and no longer regulates) which used a series pass Darlington configuration output drive with some TO220 (TIP31?) and a 2n3771 (I think...marking was gone) as the main series pass element. The 2n3771 failed short and the TO220 was still fine.

That 2n3771 is in file 13... Well, in my jar of failed components... Maybe should delid it...
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Old 09-23-2023, 07:20 PM   #19
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Default Re: Astron RS-7A/10A not regulating output voltage low

Mostly on any of these old linear power supplies I change the pass transistor(s). Next is the regulator IC. Followed by capacitors, resistors, diodes SCR and rectifiers. Then last the base driver like the TIP29 for the pass transistors. These rarely go.
However this 3771 showed good on the tester and I had tested it with my DMM by hand and I thought it was good, but yet didn’t work. I kept getting weird voltages. So I started this thread, only to figure out that the problem was yet the 3371 even so it tested good, but had extra low gain on my tester. Anyway I may de lid it in the winter time.
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