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Electronic Building Blocks

By Julian

Quick and easy Great results on

Construction a low budget

Variable PWM power module

Large complex projects are fun, but they take time and can
be expensive. Sometimes you just want a quick result at low
cost. Thats where this series of Electronic Building Blocks
fits in. We use cheap as chips components bought online to
get you where you want to be... FAST! These projects range
from around 15 to under a fiver... bargains!

Control the brightness of lights and the speed of fans

Here is an absolute beauty a tiny, efficient and cheap vari-
able pulse-width power module. Hook it up to a DC fan, and
you can control the fan speed via the supplied knob. Power
filament light bulbs and you can control their brightness,
steplessly and without flicker.
And for around 2, delivered to your letterbox, nothing
beats this module for value.

Many applications
In fact, this module is so cheap that suddenly uses become
viable that would otherwise require less-efficient methods.
The cooling fan in your amplifier a bit loud and strong?
Once upon a time youd have placed a dropping resistor in
series, wasting power and generating heat. Now you can use
this module instead and, via the knob, you can set the fan
speed precisely to give the desired flow. Want the cheapest

Fig.2. Connections are via a 4-way terminal block positioned at

one end. The pictured heat sink is easily unscrewed and replaced
with a larger one; however, in our full-load testing the heat sink
rose in temperature only about 10C.

model train speed controller youll ever find? Just use

a discarded 12V plugpack and one of these modules
perhaps feeding the track in series with a 12V light
bulb to give short-circuit protection.

So is the module cheap and nasty? To my surprise, I
found it lived up to its specs in fact, it more than
lived up to them!
The module is rated by the maker at 3A; quite a high
Fig.1. This tiny module is just 51 33 16mm but can control currents current considering the boards diminutive dimensions.
of up to 3A. Its perfect for controlling the speed of fans and other small But in testing I found its quite happy to run at this
motors. maximum current, with the supplied heat sink rising
I also found it by searching under 1203B DC Pulse
Width Modulator PWM DC Motor Speed Controller
Regulator Switch. Have a good hunt around for the
best price, as the cost does seem to fluctuate a fair bit.

Next month
Heres a cheap module that will provide a charging
source for any USB-charged device a phone, tablet,
even a rechargeable torch. The beauty of this device is
that it is a boost converter, so it can do this charging
while using an input voltage well below 5V.

Fig.3. The connections are written on the underside of the board

in English, making installation quick and easy.

only about 10C above ambient. In fact, I briefly increased

current to 4.5A and nothing turned to smoke
The measured pulse-width modulation frequency is
25kHz. That is, the output signal is turned on and off
25,000 times per second. This is high enough in frequency
that motor windings cannot be heard singing, and gives
good control of small DC motors. The input voltage range
is 6 28V.

Small, versatile and easy to use

The board is about 51 33 16mm (L W H), with
the knob protruding about 19mm. Connections are via a
4-way terminal strip, with the correct connections writ-
ten on the bottom of the board in English. Four mounting
holes are provided.
At this price and with this capability, this might be a Next month a cheap and useful USB Boost Charger
situation where its worthwhile buying half a dozen of the
modules and putting them aside for use as and when needed.

At the time of writing, the module can be found at ebay. as item number 400923847572, or just go to: http:// &217$&7,1)2 7  
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:(%6,7(  35,17(' &$7$/2*8( &20,1* 6221

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Fig.4. OK, so my workplace isnt the tidiest, but here the module 6+23 )25 /$7(67 ,7(06
can be seen powering an incandescent light bulb load, running at
about 50 per cent duty cycle and with a current of just over 3A.