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REVIEW: Dianyang Technology CA10 Circuit Board Thermal Analyzer - Repair / R&D

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Dianyang Technology CA-10 Thermal PCBA Analyzer

User Review June/July 2021

Hardware Version 1.1.0
Software Version  1.0.2
Introduction:

PCBA thermal analysis and profiling

In the fields of electronic research, development and repair the thermal imaging camera can offer an insight into circuit and component behaviour that is otherwise challenging or time consuming to achieve with other test equipment. When designing electronics there can be issues with component cooling and casing designs that need to be addressed for longevity of the product. In the field of electronics repair the thermal profile of a PCBA can reveal components that are in thermal distress, high currents passing through conductors or an unexpected operating state, such as parts of a circuit not operating or operating when they should not. Modern electronics can use the smallest of SMT components in high density PCB layouts that challenge the repair tech if a component causes a low impedance on a power supply rail. The thermal imaging analysis of such a PCBA may reveal the source of the low impedance or short circuit through the thermal signature that is created.

Historically generic thermal imaging systems have been used or adapted for use as PCBA analysis tools. This often involved arranging a suitable mounting system and modification of the cameras close-focus distance to achieve the required clarity in the thermal scene. Whilst such adaption is capable of producing good results, the solution can be cumbersome and the analysis software limited in functionality suitable for PCBA thermal profiling.

In recent years there have been some thermal imaging solutions specifically designed to serve the needs of these who need to carry out thermal analysis of PCBA's. Whilst such equipment can be invaluable to the technical operative in their work, it has traditionally been an expensive investment. Less expensive dedicated PCBA thermal analysis solutions have been produced but these are often limited in their capabilities by low resolution and/or imaging core performance.

Dianyang Technology has released the CA-10 PCBA Thermal analysis system to meet the needs of both R&D and Repair technicians. The system was developed after research was completed into what the intended customer base needed and wanted from such an imaging system. I am specifically using the term "system" rather than just 'camera' and a PCBA thermal analysis solution needs to be far more than just a camera. It should provide a thermal imaging camera of suitable performance, coupled with an ergonomic mounting system and an analysis software package capable of providing images required by the intended user. Dianyang Technology believe that the CA-10 fulfils all of these requirements and is a complete PCBA analysis solution. This review will present the authors experiences whilst testing the CA-10 system and any comments deemed of interest.


Summary:

The Dianyang CA-10 PCBA thermal analysis system is, without doubt, a well crafted solution that will appeal to those needing such a capability for Electronics R&D or Repair activities. The system uses quality components yet manages to maintain a list price that could be afforded by many individuals or small businesses. The required financial investment is now easily offset by the efficiency gains of PCBA thermal profiling and inspection.

In the relatively limited range of dedicated PCBA thermal imaging solutions, the CA-10 shines as a well engineered and ergonomic design that provides the required imaging to enable the user to make informed decisions. It is the view of the author that any modern R&D or Repair section should equip themselves with a thermal imaging capability as such has never been more affordable and offers much to the user. The CA-10 would be well worth serious consideration if seeking such a PCBA thermal analysis capability.

Fraser:
CA-10 system Description:

The Dianyang Technology (DYT) PCBA thermal analysis system is a dedicated solution that has been designed to meet the specialist needs of those who need to thermally profile a printed circuit board assembly. As such the system closely follows the design of another PCBA inspection tool, namely the optical microscope.

The system uses a solid metal base to provide stability and a working area on which a PCBA may be placed. A vertical pole is securely mounted to the base and in harmony with a Z axis adjustment system positions the camera head at the desired working height above the PCBA. The camera is equipped with a manual focus lens that may be used in harmony with the Z axis controls to achieve proper system focus. 

System connectivity to the host PC is accomplished using a standard USB umbilical cable and this also provides power to the camera.

The image collection and analysis software is installed on a standard PC that is using Windows 7 or 10 software. The PC and software provide the user with the required imagery and analysis functions.   



CA-10 Published Specifications:

Resolution: 260 x 200 pixels
Frame Rate: 25Hz
NETD: 70mk@25C
Focus Distance: 2mm to Infinity
Measurement Temperature range : -10C to +120C (potentially higher temperatures in the future)
Measurement accuracy: +/- 2C +/-2%
Interface to Host: USB C / USB 2
Operating systems supported: Windows 7 and Windows 10

Fraser:
Unboxing:

The DYT CA-10 is delivered in a very neat cardboard box that is similar to those used for laptops and tablet computers. The box is fitted with custom foam inserts to protect the camera system in transit. The transit box is of such quality that it may be used to store the CA-10 system when not in use.

The following items are contained in the box

1. Metal Base plate Qty 1
2. Vertical pole assembly pre-fitted with Z axis adjustment mechanism Qty 1
3. Camera Head assembly Qty 1
4. USB C umbilical cable Qty 1
5. Socket head countersunk screws Qty 4 (2 are spares)
6. Allen Key screwdriver for socket head screws Qty 1
7. Quick start guide Qty 1
8. Inspection certificate Qty 1

No software is provided in the box as this is downloaded direct from the Dianyang Technology Website to ensure that the user has the latest version.

No lens cap for the camera was provided in the box which was a pity as dust and dirt contamination on the thermal camera lens is best avoided where possible.

Fraser:

Assembly:

Assembling the three main parts of the CA-10 system was a simple matter of attaching the vertical pole assembly to the base plate using two of the provided socket head countersunk screws and inserting the camera head horizontal arm into the Z axis adjustment mechanism. It was then just a case of installing the CA-10 software and connecting the camera to the Windows PC using the USB C umbilical cable.

Fraser:

Hardware:

The hardware used in the CA-10 design is impressive considering its price point. Anodised grey coated aluminium pervades and gives the system a feeling of quality and stability. The author was pleasantly surprised at the use of so much metal in the design and quality of the engineering employed. it appears that no corners have been cut on the mechanical design front which is good to see.

Starting with the least interesting, but still important part of the hardware, namely  the base plate. This is a two piece construction, a solid anodised aluminium base plate with a rubber sheet attached to it to support and insulate the PCBA under test. The base plate provides a choice of two mounting positions for the vertical pole bracket and two additional holes that are used if the base plate expansion kit is used. The base plate measures 220mm x 170mm but this may be expanded by adding another base plate of the same size alongside it. A pair of securing plates rigidly join the two plates together. This expansion capability is good to see but those who do not need such do not pay for it as the base expansion kit is an optional extra. The underside of the base plate is fitted with good quality low profile rubber feet to help prevent the system sliding around on a surface. 

The vertical pole assembly that attaches to the base plate and supports the camera head is an "all metal" design. The actual vertical pole and its associated bottom bracket are made from anodised aluminium and are of good quality and finish. At the top of the pole there is a removable screw cap that has been beautifully designed. the poles height may be extended by 50% by the attachment of a pole extension kit. This extension has a male threaded end that securely mounts into the female threaded section of the vertical pole. This is an excellent idea but the extension pole is an optional extra as not all users require the extra height.

Mounted on the vertical pole is the Z axis (height) adjustment mechanism. It is not uncommon to find a simple sliding bracket with locking screw on inexpensive digital microscope and some PCBA thermal camera  stands but the CA-10 mounting system is a more refined design in several ways. The mechanism is mostly made from anodised aluminium except where steel or nylon parts are required for performance purposes. A mounting bracket is attached to the vertical pole for course height adjustment. This bracket contains a nylon sleeve that slides easily on the vertical pole and a metal threaded locking knob secures the mount at the required height. In many inferior designs the threaded knob is either plastic or uses a metal thread that marks the vertical poles surface. The CA-10 mechanical design engineer has not only use a quality custom anodised aluminium knob assembly but has also mounted a correctly contoured nylon tip on the bolt to prevent damage to the poles surface. Such good engineering practice is good to see in a product and 'shouts' quality. The pole mount forms part of the fine vertical adjustment mechanism. This fine adjustment may appear unnecessary to some, and I had such thoughts, but have since changed my mind. The fine vertical adjustment mechanism uses a sliding dovetail assembly that is positioned using a good quality lead screw, nut, ball bearing face and metal knob. the whole fine adjustment mechanism oozes quality design and some might say that it is over engineered. The use of a lead screw and nut is not uncommon in mini milling machines where height adjustment needs to be precise. its use in the CA-10 design shows thought and it works very well indeed for fine tuning the height and focus of the system. This vertical (Z Axis) height adjustment mechanism must have been a significant cost to manufacture but this is further evidence of the commitment DYT have to providing a quality product to the customer rather than one heavily compromised by cost reduction changes. I applaud this business philosophy.

The course and fine height adjustment mechanism provides a mounting point for the camera head assembly. The mounting point is similar to the vertical pole mount bracket design and uses a nylon sleeved hole with a nylon tipped threaded metal knob. The camera head assembly is fitted with a horizontal anodised aluminium tubular arm that fits into the vertical pole mount assembly with precision. The sliding horizontal tubular arm is used to set the position of the camera head over the base plate.


The Camera head is arguably the most interesting part of the CA-10 system for the technically minded as it is the 'business end' of the system that collects the thermal data. The mechanical design of the camera head is an excellent combination of simplicity and complexity in good balance. The camera head casing is a neat contoured rectangular casing comprising a top section into which the internal components are secured, and a bottom casing cover that is secured in place by six self tapping screws. The camera head casing is made from ABS plastic but is painted the same colour as the rest of the system so this is not immediately obvious to the user. The camera head provides the user with manual focussing of the lens. The manual focus ring is a two part anodised aluminium assembly of excellent quality and design. Once again the designer elected to go for quality rather than the cheapest option. The first part of the focus ring mounts around the cameras lens barrel and is held in place by three grub screws. This forms a very solid base onto which the second part of the focus ring is attached using two machine screws. The assembly uses flange contouring for self centring alignment of the two focus ring components. A very nice piece of design work and DYT could so easily have elected to use cheaper ABS plastic for the focus ring. The anodised aluminium focus ring gives a feeling of quality to the adjustment.

 
As previously stated, the camera head attaches to the vertical pole assembly using a horizontal tubular arm. Instead of a direct fixed flange connection between the head casing and the tubular arm, the designer incorporated an aluminium knuckle joint that permits the head casing to be tilted in the vertical plane. This is yet another example of the design going beyond the minimum requirement and is welcomed by the author. The knuckle joint is preloaded to provide a good level of resistance to unintended movement, yet is easily angled by the user to suit their needs. The knuckle joint is mounted to the plastic camera head casing using four machine screws. As is good engineering practice, there is a large aluminium 'load spreader' plate on the inside of the head casing and this has been threaded to take the knuckle mounting screws. This approach is far superior to using threaded brass inserts in the plastic casing as found on some products. The load spreader plate will prevent cracking of the plastic at the mounting point even if unreasonable force is applied to the knuckle joint and associated mounting plate. moving to the other end of the horizontal tubular head arm it was good to see that the designer included a standard 1/4" 20TPI threaded hole to increase the cameras versatility. The camera head may be removed from the supplied mounting solution and attached to a different mounting system using the standard tripod thread in its tubular arm. This is a welcome inclusion in the design. Many users of the CA-10 may choose to only use the provided base assembly but DYT have catered for those with special requirements who may wish to use an articulated arm or custom mounting solution.

The CA-10 does not come with any form of lens protection system or lens cap. The author recommends adding a lens cap to the system for fitting when not in use.

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