Author Topic: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load  (Read 19999 times)

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Offline johnmx

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Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« on: February 09, 2011, 01:32:37 PM »
Hi fellows,

Since I’m planning to build two bench power supplies, I needed to build a current load to test them. So, I’m going to show you my version of the dummy load.
Please note that this project was built ONLY using existing parts in my personal stock.
I had to be silly to put this project on a wood box, but it was the only box I found around. I don’t recommend you to do it, instead use plastic or metal cases.
I wanted to build something simple but with a minimum protection circuit. Thus I added a control circuit to limit the maximum dissipation power to protect the main transistor.

The main specifications are as follows:
-   Current regulation: 0 to 10A
-   Maximum input voltage: 40V
-   Maximum dissipation power: 100W (limiting circuit with warning LED)
-   Analog control: 10 turn potentiometer
-   Analog display: 10A ammeter
-   External power: 12V/0.3A
-   Enable/disable switch
-   Fuse protected: 15A

If anyone has suggestions or simple improvement ideas, I’ll be glad to hear them. Probably I’m not going to change my circuit because it’s almost finished, but it could be useful to someone that could use this circuit as a start point to build their own.

Let me talk a little bit about the circuit. First I wanted to build a self-powered circuit, but since it is necessary to cool the heat sink with a fan, that was out of question. Thus the circuit is powered by an external 12V supply. A TC962 generates the negative supply (-12V) needed by the opamps. I included a RC filter for this supply to reduce the ripple noise. The voltage reference of +4.096V is generated by MCP1541.

The main transistor (BU941) is a Darlington NPN capable to conduct 15A dissipating up to 155W. The transistor tab is connected directly to the heat sink without electric isolation. This ensures a better heat transfer to the heat sink.
The sense resistor is the one included in the ammeter (~5.2mOhm). The exact value is not important because the circuit can be calibrated later with R28 (see schematic below).
The most important of all opamps is U3 because it must have a low offset. I have chosen the MAX430, which is a chopper-stabilized opamp. The maximum input offset voltage is 10µV.

The load current is set by a 10 turn potentiometer (R23). The voltage applied to R23 is controlled by the enable/disable switch and by the power limiting circuit.
The power limiting circuit is based on a simple analog multiplier (circuit around U8). This circuit has 3 inputs: Vx (Vin), Vy (Iin) and Vw (constant divisor). The output signal is defined by Vpwr = Vx*Vy/Vw. R9 adjusts Vw in order to get Vpwr = 4V @ 100W. R18 is used to set the maximum power. When the power is higher than this value, U4B will decrease its output voltage and the voltage at Iref node will decrease too. Consequently it decreases the load current. Opamp U6 is used as a comparator to detect this condition and to turn on the LED. The value of R14 was chosen in order to decrease the output voltage of U4B but also to protect the inverting input of U6 in case the voltage gets negative.

I need to run some tests in order to check if 100W is not too much for the pass transistor. Probably I will need to reduce this value down to 90W or 80W. In any case I have a new and more powerful fan to replace the existing one.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 10:06:39 AM by johnmx »
Best regards,
johnmx

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2011, 03:34:36 PM »
Awesome job, thanks for sharing.
The power limiter is a nice inclusion.

Dave.

Offline AcHmed99

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 01:22:30 AM »
Hj johnmx.

Nice project thanks for sharing it looks much better then mine. I’ve just been using a couple of TO-3PN FETS (290W @ 25C) bolted to a large Microwave oven heatsink. The whole thing is just bolted down to a piece of plywood with a 41CFM fan blowing right on the fins; really HI-TECH I know.  :D With two FETS I’m able to dissipate around 80W per FET at 160W total in open air. I tested these to 200Vdc blocking voltage the Fets are 500VDC; Tjmax 150C. The case temp hits about 100 deg C at that power which is about the max I would want to go.

I’ve been meaning to put together a more permanent fixture with digital display, thermal shutoff and digitally programmable, including pulse load step. Just one of about 4 projects I have around that need to be taken to completion. I like the idea of using an Ammeter shunt for feedback. Hopefully your completed project will motivate me to get off my ass to finish mine. ::)

Thanks for sharing.

Offline zagg

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 02:28:50 PM »
Hello !

Thanks for sharing.
Very nice project !!!

Have a nice day,

Davy

Offline sacherjj

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2011, 01:03:48 AM »
Thanks for the great schematics.  I'm starting to work through my design for this.  I'm building a current limited variable power supply and it made sense to build a constant current load first to use in testing my power supply design.  (I'm building most of my non critical lab equipment as a learning experience.) 

I'm working on integrating this style of current limiter with a Micro for the same Constant Current use (connected or disconnected to computer), but also measure power and source voltage.  For example, you might want to setup a battery discharge at a fixed current and have the computer measure the voltage of the battery.  At a certain level, you will want to switch the load off for unattended runs without completely killing the battery. 

My idea is to run the positive of the source through a SPST relay (normally open) to enable the microprocessor to turn on the load after initial verification.  However, I will need some sensing constantly connected to the source in front of the relay, to determine if we are good to switch on or not.  My switching current on the relay can be limited, but making sure that they PWM output is setup for low current mode before contacts are switched.  Is there any issue with a floating open circuit existing at the Source or Collector of the transistor, with voltage going to the base.  I couldn't think of a problem, but thought I would ask.

My main issue with with source voltage measurement and input protection.  This isn't really a required piece to make this work, as I can just not be a bone head (sorry, deek head) and not hook up a voltage too high.  However, I thought this would be a great project to learn a little more about accurate measurement with input limiting.

I want a voltage divider and follower much like the center portion of the above schematic with the TL082.  If this is sized to be just under the A/D converter max at the maximum expected incoming voltage, all is good.  However, I'm trying to figure out how I would protect this.  If I have an "accurate" divider/follower that should give an accurate in the expected range, but then have another that is a wider range to be safe for all expected inputs and tell if we are too high of voltage.  Do I just clamp the first with a zener or something similar?  I'm concerned that as we get close to the max, I will start losing accuracy due to leakage current.  Or is there a method of buffering the lower voltage range A/D source that is only enabled by the micro after the sampled "always on" A/D confirms we are good to go?

Anyone have any pointers on a good resource to look at for this?

Thanks!

Offline johnmx

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2011, 09:24:42 AM »
Is there any issue with a floating open circuit existing at the Source or Collector of the transistor, with voltage going to the base.  I couldn't think of a problem, but thought I would ask.
There is no problem. You can even add a small relay in series with the main switch (SW1 in my schematic).

Regarding the last part of your question, do you need high accuracy measuring only the higher voltage and not all range? I don’t see the point of that, but you can measure all range with a higher resolution ADC. Or you can design the signal conditioning circuit with any amplifier that has over-voltage protection in the inputs.
Best regards,
johnmx

Offline sacherjj

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2011, 11:02:47 PM »
Is there any issue with a floating open circuit existing at the Source or Collector of the transistor, with voltage going to the base.  I couldn't think of a problem, but thought I would ask.

There is no problem. You can even add a small relay in series with the main switch (SW1 in my schematic).

Regarding the last part of your question, do you need high accuracy measuring only the higher voltage and not all range? I don’t see the point of that, but you can measure all range with a higher resolution ADC. Or you can design the signal conditioning circuit with any amplifier that has over-voltage protection in the inputs.



I guess I wouldn't need precision for the high indicator.  If I detect voltage at the rail, I assume it is too high.  What I'm asking for help on is a signal conditioning circuit that doesn't affect the accuracy.  I'm probably using the wrong search terms, as I've been trying to look at the inputs to DVMs and such to figure out how this is done.  Most of what I find is for protecting against ESD, not regular over voltage.

I'll look at an over voltage protection for amplifiers and see what I come up with.  Seems like I should be able to have an amplifier with 1/4 gain with this protection and do the division and protection in one go.

Edit: This looks like what I'm trying to learn.  Time to do some reading.  http://www.analog.com/static/imported-files/tutorials/MT-069.pdf
« Last Edit: April 15, 2011, 11:10:09 PM by sacherjj »

Offline johnmx

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2011, 08:32:19 AM »
I'll look at an over voltage protection for amplifiers and see what I come up with.  Seems like I should be able to have an amplifier with 1/4 gain with this protection and do the division and protection in one go.
You can easily find precision instrumentation amplifiers with built-in overvoltage protection up to ±40V, e.g.:
FET-input (low bias current): INA121
Low offset voltage: INA128, INA129, INA141 (accurate gain without external resistors)
Best regards,
johnmx

Offline sacherjj

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2011, 01:02:43 PM »
I'll look at an over voltage protection for amplifiers and see what I come up with.  Seems like I should be able to have an amplifier with 1/4 gain with this protection and do the division and protection in one go.
You can easily find precision instrumentation amplifiers with built-in overvoltage protection up to ±40V, e.g.:
FET-input (low bias current): INA121
Low offset voltage: INA128, INA129, INA141 (accurate gain without external resistors)

Thanks for the pointers.

Offline diff

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2011, 04:25:32 AM »
thanks for sharing, great job.
I'm looking for constant current dummy load around 50A use for testing of my power supply 50A 2-5 hrs.
currently i'm using heater to replace power resistor but the current always drop when the heater generate heat. i want to build DIY constant current dummy load. if i use this circuit which component should decrease?
any advise highly apperiate.

Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2011, 05:18:42 AM »
Nice project ... Congrats   8)

But with out a picture of the PCB of it , I can not feel that much excited about it.  :)
I always had in the back of my head the idea that I need one ,
so to test the batteries from used UPS units , the one that they use two batteries in pair ,
and usually just the one fails , and you had to replace them both. 

Offline johnmx

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2011, 09:52:16 AM »
I cannot share the PCB design because I didn’t make one. I just used a testboard (prototype board).

The final prototype includes a temperature sensor that controls a small fan. This fan is not in the best place, but I only realize that after opening the hole in the box  :-[
Best regards,
johnmx

Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2011, 10:03:14 AM »
I cannot share the PCB design because I didn’t make one. I just used a testboard (prototype board).


No problem  :)
Some one with more skills , he will feel jealous about this unit , and he will make one printed PCB about it  :D

And I will wait in the corner , to get it too ..  ;)

Offline djcrunkmix

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2011, 08:25:17 AM »
Bookmarked.

Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to other good projects like this :)  ;D

Offline Dan

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Re: Complete project: Constant Current Dummy Load
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2012, 02:38:32 AM »
Thank you for sharing this, great job!  I am working on building it now.  I have a couple of questions though:

The +V on the load input; does that just link to the +V on U7B?  And I'm not sure about the Rshunt; is that MegaOhm?  Doesn't seem right to have such a high value resistor in line with the load drain.  But I'm only about 1 year into building my own circuits so I may just not understand...  Maybe it stands for MilliOhms or MicroOhms?  Though that seems too small of a resistance to give accurate differentials for the OpAmp.  If you could clarify that would be great!  I'm really excited to get this built!  I'll post pictures if you want to see my completed project.


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