Trouble with Dimmer-Based Circuit outside of the U.S.

February 19, 2014

Tod from the U.K. said:

I have noticed that my dimmer anodizer won’t go below about 35v, even if I go above then come down. Would a different wattage bulb help do you think? Or is it down to the dimmer?

My discussion and solution:

I used to have trouble getting the dimmer to work below about 15 volts, coming from 110vac. So trouble below 35v at 220 vac seems about right. And most of the world has 220 instead of 110 vac.

One solution may be to modify the original circuit (discussed here) with a voltage divider: Put the two light bulbs across the capacitor with a tap for the output voltage in between to get at lower voltages more easily.
Voltage divider

The output voltage will then be Cap Voltage x R2/(R1 + R2).
But bulb wattage is counter intuitive here:

  • Power (watts) is proportional to the inverse of the resistance.
  • Also, the actual bulb resistance depends on the brightness of the bulbs. But we can pretty much ignore this because we are measuring only the output voltage.

So using P for the wattage (rated bulb power) the good-enough formula is

V= Vcap x P1/(P1 + P2)

Simply, if R1=R2, then P1 = P2 and it comes out half.

But to get even lower voltages, try 100 watt R1 and 200w R2 to get V = Vcap x 100/(100 + 200) = 1/3 x Vcap
Play with the ratios until you get the range and stability you want.

And note that the output resistor is still there between the cap and the electrodes; we just moved it to the other side of the original dimmer load bulb to put it in series.
Thus the smaller the R1 wattage is, the slower the anodizer will work.

And remember that this only works for filament or halogen bulbs, not CF nor LED bulbs.

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Programmable Voltage Supply?

December 19, 2010

John asked:

Is there any value in a programmable(manual or C/C++) power supply for anodizing?

Say Vout=20+(110*N/(255)); // N=0,1,2,3,4,…255

Giving {20,20.4, 20.8,21.2…129.6, 130}

I can also make this power limited to approximately 13W(0.10A at 130VDC)

I am not selling anything! I am just wondering if this is a worth while adventure.

As a fellow electrical and programming geek, I see the appeal of the project. But practically speaking in terms of anodizing titanium, no. The color is determined by the final voltage, and the faster you get there, the better.

Also, I use down to 8 volts on occasion. And the lower voltages are more color sensitive than the higher, so it should either be 16 bit linear, or have exponential or quadratic output, as in

vOut = (((N/64)^2 + N) *120/255) + 5 // N={0…255}

But if you were to rig an x-y table to such a supply, one could then “print” in anodized colors. However, there is a limited palette. And also one would have trouble with certain adjacent colors, and have to adjust the lateral speed to be proportional to voltage, and maybe fluid flow through the dielectric cathode, and several other engineering considerations.

As such, it becomes fun and useful. But a lot more work. Then you would be able to share it on HackADay.com or Makezine.tv or some such.

In order to make such a project marketable, one would have to write the CADD end to prevent unfulfillable designs. Artists have to have limits imposed.