Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Component Tester

In Hardware on Jan 31, 2012 at 00:01

Hameg scopes have often included a “Component Tester” (CT) and mine’s no exception. It’s a really nifty way to identify a component and understand its basic characteristics. It requires a sine wave signal and an oscilloscope:

Screen Shot 2012 01 27 at 19 32 29

Don’t fret too long about the above circuit (copied from this PDF, which I found via Google). It’s just to show that setting up something like this is very easy – but you do need an oscilloscope with X-Y capability.

The basic idea is to apply a sine wave of say 10 VAC @ 50 Hz to the part you want to identify, and to then display voltage over versus current through that component.

My scope has the equivalent of the above simple CT circuit built in:

DSC 2908

Two pins, on which a 50 Hz voltage is applied which varies between +10V and -10V in the form of a pure sine wave. For some reason, the scope won’t let me take screen dumps to USB in this mode, so I’ll use camera shots.

Here’s what you see with nothing connected (note the full scale: ±10 V on X and ±10 mA on Y):

DSC 2900

The horizontal axis shows the applied voltage, and as you can see, no current is flowing. Because air insulates!

Let’s short the two pins with a copper wire (I’ve reduced the image scale to reduce this weblog post’s length):

DSC 2901

Of course: no matter what voltage we try to put between the pins, the wire will force it to 0V, and will simply pass -10 .. +10 mA of current. As you can see in the schematic, there’s a 1 kΩ resistor in series to limit the current.

These two images of open vs shorted set the stage. Now let me insert a couple of different components, so you can see how they behave when subjected to this 10 Vpp sine wave. First, let’s insert a 1 kΩ resistor:

DSC 2902

Make sense? Now have a look at a 10 kΩ resistor:

DSC 2903

So what we have so far, is resistance varying from zero ohm (shorted) to infinite ohm (open), with two values in between. It all ends up as a straight line, with the slope varying from horizontal to vertical. That’s it: resistance!

If you want an explanation: this is Ohm’s law, visualized. Voltage and current are proportional, i.e. V = I x R.

So much for the basic stuff. Tomorrow, I’ll show you a couple of considerably more interesting components.

  1. Bring out the zeners! :-)

  2. We used to work with something like this ,for Power-off testing of printed circuit boards. One probe is connected to ground or power (common) from the pcb the other is connected to the net to be compared, the image is then compared with a know good pcb image and must be the same. It’s one of the fastest and cheapest methods for power-off testing a pcb .

    The test resistance and frequency ( important for Caps and coils ) can be changed for best image.

    see this link :

Comments are closed.