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.