RF Concepts (Alpha) has a major update on the 4040 Tuner Project

RF Concepts (Alpha) has a major update on the 4040 Tuner Project:

NOVEMBER TUNER UPDATE

In the last 45 days, we’ve made a lot of progress on the Alpha 4040 DreamTuner. As you know, when we tested the tuner under full power, we discovered that the switches weren’t delivering the performance we needed. Dissatisfied with the test results, and knowing it would push the delivery out, we undertook a massive redesign including a new, commercial pad cap, custom antenna switches, and a new layout. The fruit of our labors is a very efficient tuner that is an industry leader in both matching range and power handling.

We ARE shipping beta units this month.  Our first unit already shipped to the owner of RF Concepts, Michael Seedman, AA6DY and he was pleased with the changes and overall design of the tuner.  This is a different tuner than we showed at Dayton last May.  Here’s a picture of the insides.  We’re planning on posting a new section in the website with lots of photos and details.

Thanks for sticking with us over this insanely long period of time.  We’re almost there…

73,
Ken N0QO
President and CEO
RF Concepts

P.S. We are accepting pre-orders. These orders are non-binding, with no deposit necessary.  Click HERE to learn more.

Whole Unit

Here’s the unit with redesigned exterior sheet metal, up and running. The Alpha 4040’s enclosure is designed to support the weight of an 80 pound plus amplifier. There are no protruding screw heads, this allows for easy stacking and placement of a whole variety of gear atop the tuner.

Interior

  • Capacitor mounts and shaft couplers redesigned to limit stray capacitance. Inductor design changed and resonance breaker added to reduce stay inductance.
  • Coupler design changed to improve overall Vector Network Analyzer performance.
  • Antenna and bypass switch changed to handle the voltage and current they will be subject to at high VSWR. Another benefit of the new switch design is that the bypass VSWR, even at 6m, is excellent. This design will also allow you to combine two of the antenna ports.
  • Capacitors were moved towards the back to decrease stay inductance and reduce overall length.
  • The new design allows for easier assembly and repair along with a much lower weight.
  • New mounting of stepper motors designed to simplify sheet metal and improve electrical shielding.
  • Computer upgraded to newer higher performance 1GHz model. All software was ported to utilize the new PC.
  • Printed circuit board assemblies were changed to fit into new metal design.
  • The reduction in minimum capacitance and inductance has dramatically improved the matching range of the tuner, especially at higher frequencies.

Back Panel

  • The back panel redesign was driven by the new switch design. It accommodates Bird type QC connectors. If the A4040 is used to transform high SWR at high power different connectors will be required, e.g. 7/16 DIN. You can easily destroy SO239, PL259 connectors with the voltages that could be present at the connector location with this tuner.
  • The repositioned LAN port allows for convenient wired connectivity. The Alpha 4040 is fully network enabled for remote control and online software updates.

Front Panel

  • Front panel display has been moved to the left to allow for reducing the overall length.
  • Bezel depth decreased to facilitate greater viewing angles.
  • Tuning knob moved down to facilitate length reduction.

Check out the RF Concepts Website at http://www.rfconcepts.com/ for further details!

73

Steve
K9ZW

An Excellent FlexRadio System Write-Up on the Origins of the 6000 Series Online

There is an excellent FlexRadio System write up on the origins of the Flex-6000 series SDR radios and SmartSDR software online :

The FLEX-6000 was born out of a government project we did that involved direct sampling. At the time in 2010 we all believed (as Elecraft has publicly stated) that it would not be possible to build a direct sampling receiver with as much dynamic range as a superhet or direct conversion radio. When we did the government project, Gerald worked a lot on the numbers and RF architecture and we discussed how to get the best dynamic range out of a direct sampling receiver. We were able to use a very early sample of an Analog Devices ADC in that project and found that we were getting better dynamic range than even Analog was reporting, largely because of how we selected key parameters. Gerald realized that we could build a better direct sampling radio than anything we’d built before.

Once we realized it was possible to build a direct sampling radio, all the “what if…” conversations started. What could we do if we did this? What would someone do with that? Would it be better if we did this or that?

….. (much more at the link)

FRS Steve N5AC on “The Chicken or the Egg” development of the FRS 6000 series article LINK: https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/chicken-or-egg

Scroll down that page for N5AC’s excellent write up.

73

Steve
K9ZW

K9ZW Home Station Redesign Project Spills into Bigger Project

As previously posted the K9ZW station is in serious need of redesign.  Back in September this was the list as I was working from:

K9ZW Home Station.pdf

and  I wrote:

I’ve measured the target area and existing bench work. Howard KY6LA corresponded about the ham radio adaption of the FleXy audiophile rack system he has been using, which will be the model for my under-desk and bench-top additional shelves.

In concept the station design is three radios selectable via Julius W2IHY switch gear. Radio 1 is the Flex-6700, Radio 2 the Flex-5000A and Radio 3 a TenTec Jupiter. I am ignoring the Collins S-Line station as it is pretty well self-contained and takes up too much room to co-locate with the other radios.

In addition to the list room needs to be found for basic VHF/UHF operations. Still thinking about this, as I am almost never on VHF/UHF.

Those who have followed my station development might recall that my operating position is one end of a small room originally intended to be our wine cellar. It isn’t time yet to move the station as two of the boys are staying with us while they attend university classes, so we still have a pretty full house and driveway.

Also I think I can reasonably expect to be able to remote at least the Flex-6700 if limited to within the coverage of our router, perhaps by Dayton 2015. So at that time I may well do more operating from my correspondence desk in the library area of our house than continue to hide out in the wine cellar!

Next step is to do some rough CAD sketching to fit & locate everything before I build the FleXy shelf units. Going to try for sketches by the end of the week.

Well things quickly change and what started as a radio bench project and had become a slightly bigger layout redesign in September is now a full fledged project by the start of November!

The XYL  requested that the non radio storage in the former wine cellar be relocated and that we set up the whole room with an amateur radio focus.  While innerly cheering I conceded with a deadpan “okay” lest she catch my enthusiasm as a reason to ask for more redesign or something…

The size and weight of some of the storage units exceeds safe handling, so I’ve arranged for help with equipment to clear the room as much as possible.  This required clearing space in our utility room for relocation which has been made ready.

While I’d like to avoid custom cabinetry limitations in future flexibility and the costs, it may be the only way to go.

From a practical point I can collocate an electronics workbench with my radio room and will also include spare computer project areas in the design.

I also can make  this a much more “social area” with room for visitors to particate in the shack.

I do want to keep my NAS Raid setup which holds my music library and our data backbone hardware nearby, so some serious RF/RFI thought has to be given if the layout expands.

It also makes sense to deadhead incoming cabling then do a distribution system to wire in the radio operating stations.  As digging into the wine cellar walls to bury wiring is not sensible, I’ll need to plan whether cables should be routed in trays, distributed from a ceiling track, or allowed to lay on the floor.  Grounding distribution will need some serious thought as well.

All exciting though more involved than originally thought, expected and planned. Most likely I will cobble the present bench back together with a few changes while the designing goes along.  Sketches and ideas to follow….

73

Steve
K9ZW

More Washington Island portable operations

This weekend is my 4th working the CrankIR and the Flex-6300 from Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, and my first running some digital mode from the farm.

I also brought two laptops , though I think one good one with dual screens would have been more effective.

Did a basic Ham Radio Deluxe setup and with DM780 worked a handful of PSK31 contacts.

Here is the two machines:

And here is closer look at the Toshiba running PSK31 via DM780:

I was able to work our local club president Scott W9JSB on 40m and again had some nice 12m contacts.

PSK31 operations were easy once I figured out the HRD/DM780 set up with SmartCAT and DAX. I will add in DDUTIL later.

My QSO count was down this weekend as I first arrived Saturday morning after catching the musical “Always.. Patsy Cline” at the Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek Friday evening (the XYL came to the mainland by private boat to make our theater date). Also I needed to be on my way noon Sunday, with a dinner out at The Sailor’s Pub and a morning coffee at The Red Cup Cafe .. and an a la fresco lunch at Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm’s bistro all squeezed into the 30 hours on Island.

It will be a couple weekends before I get back to Island operations and then end of October our lease at Rocky Ridge Farm ends.

73

Steve
K9ZW

K9ZW Home Station Redesign Project

After a fabulous weekend out at the Chicago W9DXCC event, I’ve knuckled down to get my operating area redesigned. With new gear unopened in the box, some dating back to the Dayton Hamvention in 2012 and 2013, it is overdue.

First I am whittling down the gear I will keep “Action Ready,” making a list and populating the list with known sizing, weight and access needs. Here is the list as I am working on it:

K9ZW Home Station.pdf

I’ve measured the target area and existing bench work. Howard KY6LA corresponded about the ham radio adaption of the FleXy audiophile rack system he has been using, which will be the model for my under-desk and bench-top additional shelves.

In concept the station design is three radios selectable via Julius W2IHY switch gear. Radio 1 is the Flex-6700, Radio 2 the Flex-5000A and Radio 3 a TenTec Jupiter. I am ignoring the Collins S-Line station as it is pretty well self-contained and takes up too much room to co-locate with the other radios.

In addition to the list room needs to be found for basic VHF/UHF operations. Still thinking about this, as I am almost never on VHF/UHF.

Those who have followed my station development might recall that my operating position is one end of a small room originally intended to be our wine cellar. It isn’t time yet to move the station as two of the boys are staying with us while they attend university classes, so we still have a pretty full house and driveway.

Also I think I can reasonably expect to be able to remote at least the Flex-6700 if limited to within the coverage of our router, perhaps by Dayton 2015. So at that time I may well do more operating from my correspondence desk in the library area of our house than continue to hide out in the wine cellar!

Next step is to do some rough CAD sketching to fit & locate everything before I build the FleXy shelf units. Going to try for sketches by the end of the week.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – Third Radio Activation

This weekend is my third working the CrankIR and the Flex-6300 from Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island.

Getting past the  learning curve.

Was too chilly to comfortably operate outside, so set up the radio inside one the kitchen table.

K9ZW at Rocky Ridge

K9ZW at Rocky Ridge

 

Easy DX this time and I’ve figured out the band change process pretty well.  Worked on 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, and 40m.

Great fun!

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – First Radio Activation

Even though we have leased the farm for months, I first got around to setting up a portable station this weekend.  Usually when I am on Washington Island I have the luxury of guest operating from George W9EVT’s mega-shack, and even in this attempt George W9EVT saved the day helping me get on the air.

Equipment used was:

  • SteppIR CrankIR antenna with radial and 80m kits
  • FlexRadio System Flex-6300 transceiver
  • A Toshiba Laptop running Win7-Pro I borrowed from work
  • Power supply from my spares shelf
  • Cisco gigabit router
  • cables and power cords/distribution from my spares

This was our first use of the CrankIR and the Flex-6300, so we had a bit of a learning curve.  It was also a fresh install of SmartSDR, SmartCAT, DAX, and fldigi on the Toshiba which all had to be configured.

 

The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna

The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna


The working end

The working end


The Wires side of things

The Wires side of things


Logging on Cardboard

Logging on Cardboard


CrankIR Main Unit up close

CrankIR Main Unit up close


Rocky Ridge Farm Activated

Rocky Ridge Farm Activated

 

 

W9EVT saved the day...

W9EVT saved the day…

Pictures cannot convey the experience of doing a first time setup of the CrankIR – an easy task once you’ve done it, but a dickens the first time.  Winston KC9FVR helped the first setup and I don’t think I could have done it first time without my son’s participation.

I quickly discovered I had no audio out – I forgot to bring a headset or speakers, and ten Flex-6300 does not have an internal speaker, so my initial efforts were digital mode.

No joy there as my signal apparently wasn’t readable on PSK31 and without audio out the portable stup wasn’t going anywhere.

So the next day, hat in hand, I borrowed a headset from George W9EVT and switched to SSB.

Fairly quickly I was able to work a good number of stations on 20m and 15m phone, including several DX stations.

Found that the software juggling on the laptop was a pain, and ended up doing all the logging on the cardboard tabletop cover I used to have a mouse-ready surface.  Later I entered the QSOs into eQSL and I’ll import the adi log file into my main log later.

Mother Nature ended my activation early as it started to rain and the winds started whipping.  Knocking everything down went smoothly and with Labor Day still windy & rainy, further Rocky Ridge Farm activation will wait for another day.

Of course I have updated my gear checklist to include headphones and speakers for the next activation.

73

Steve

K9ZW