Teardown & Analysis of Microwave (26.5GHz) Electro-Mechanical Step Attenuators

In this short episode Shahriar takes a close look at a pair of Hewlett Packard microwave electro-mechanical step attenuators operating up to 26.5GHz. Mechanical attenuators offer excellent repeatability, low insertion loss and nearly limitless linearity. The teardown reveals that the construction of both modules is very similar on the microwave path. In fact, the lower-frequency model still uses the same attenuator components. The newer model employs electronic control circuity while the older generation attenuator uses purely mechanically controlled DC path. Both models use a solenoid style actuators for step attenuation control.

DeoxIT Challenge & Restoration of a Precision Decade Resistor Box

In this short episode Shahriar attempts to revive a high-accuracy decade resistance box using the famous DeoxIT cleaning and restoration products from CAIG Laboratories. The DeoxIT D-Series products are particularly aimed at metal-metal contacts which have suffered oxidization and can provide a low-resistance repeatable contact after application.

The existing decade resistance box shows inconsistent measurements and intermittent contacts prior to the DeoxIT application. After spraying all contacts the instrument is significantly improved with repeatable and accurate resistance measurements. DeoxIT can be purchased from a variety of suppliers and vendors including Amazon.

Teardown & Analysis of an Anritsu MN9610B Variable Optical Attenuator

In this short episode Shahriar takes a detailed look at an Anritsu variable optical attenuator operating in the L- and C-Bands. The mechanical attenuator is defective and provides an opportunity for complete disassembly and examination of the free-space optics, mechanical components and electronics.

The electronics drive a pair of DC motors with potentiometer decoders in feedback along with operational amplifiers and a DAC. This allows the microprocessor to set the exact position of the motors based on calibrated values stored on EPROM. The free-space optics consists of two back-to-back disks with radial metal coatings. Depending on the position of each wheel, the coating limits the transmission of the light through the wheel causing attenuation. The entire housing is hermetically sealed to prevent degradation of the disks.

Teardown, Repair and Experiments with a Tektronix RSA 6114A Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer

In this episode Shahriar attempts a difficult repair of a Tektronix RSA real-time spectrum analyzer. This well-equipped instrument reports several error messages during startup POST including LO Unlock as well as Signal Path failures. The service manual of the instrument does not provide any detailed block diagram and no schematics. Most failures require the instrument to be serviced by the Tektronix factory. The equipment has various advanced options including 110MHz analysis bandwidth, digital modulation analysis, wide-band IF output and deep memory.

The teardown of the instrument reveals a multi-board, multi-module design. The top of the instrument contains all digital blocks and boards while the bottom of the instrument houses the RF deck assembly. The RF deck is broken into various stages such as attenuator, RF switches, first converter, second converter, IF block, reference synthesizer and LO generator. For the purposes of addressing the YIG problems the LO board is examined. The problem is traced to two components, both dividers in the complex PLL system of the LO subsystem. The LO board is fully analyzed and described and the defective components re replaced.

The repaired instrument is tested for various functionality including DPX, de-modulation and measurement of beyond 8GHz CW tones. The instrument passes all self-tests, alignments and detailed diagnostics.

Teardown, Experiments & Calibration of an Ist-Rees Laser Spectrum Analyzer

In this short episode Shahriar takes a close look at an Ist-Rees laser spectrum analyzer. This simple instrument is based on a continuously rotating diffraction mirror to detect various wavelengths. A trigger signal is used to denote the beginning of the scan and the front-panel display shows the current selected wavelength. By aligning the output signal with the trigger signal the wavelength of the input light can be measured.

After the unit teardown, the instrument is used to measure the wavelength of a semiconductor 1310nm laser. The unit is calibrated using this source and is then used to measure the infrared leakage wavelength from a green laser pointer.

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