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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Rack Mount Rigs?

Jeff Kelly (KT2K) on December 12, 2008
View comments about this article!

Recently I was asked to help build 8 ready-to-go Ham Radio Go Kits. I immediately was faced with the decision on how to package all the equipment in a professional manner. The equipment would be shipped to a permanent location and setup indoors but should be able to move outdoors if needed.

I have seen plywood boxes, and the large orange plastic lunchboxes. While very functional, they looked a little too "homebrew" and didn't have the professional look I needed for the client. Also equipment didn't seem to be easy to swap in and out if needed in the future support role.

What became very clear was the desire to have ham equipment in standard rack mount sizes. Either 1U, 2U, of 3U rack units in height and either 1/4. 1/2 or full 19" width with ears would make racking equipment extremely easy. I have seen some rack mount kits on ebay for HF rigs but they seem to perform a shelve role and not a true rack mount that can travel.

So instead of manufacturing equipment and accessories in just about every size and shape would it make sense for manufacturers to make equipment that either was rack mountable or in sizes that are friendly to rack mount?

BTW -- here is a pic of one of my units with HF, UHF, VHF, Voice, CW and packet/pactor 3 Winlink. I used A/V rack equipment to hold the equipment and relied on straps and super velcro to hold some of the smaller equipment.

Jeff
KT2K

Member Comments:
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Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K4MC on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
In a word, no.

Electronics have progressed and become smaller and more convenient. A ham shack no longer needs a full room or series of racks as in the past. If the radios and accessories you have mounted in your rack were designed into a case that was rack mountable, just for the sake of rack mounting convenience, two things would stand out. First, the equipment case would be mostly filled with air. The second is that your go-kit rack would be larger, heavier, and no longer a portable go-kit.

If each of your items were designed for rack mounting, the rack would be nearly twice as tall and not nearly as portable. Many of the items you included are designed for portable or mobile use. If designed as rack mountable items, they would no longer be usable in their designed role.

In totality, is easier to adapt modern compact rigs in a rack than it would be to install full size rack-mountable items into compact spaces.

By the way, you've done a great job with your go-kits!
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W8ZNX on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
NO
rack mount on a rice box
give me a break
as is
they are light compact and handy

can see it now a 19 inch rack mount
for the IC 706 Mark II G
or FT-100 and little auto tuner

want your rig not to move around
when hauling it around in your go box

bolt it down
you don't need a blinking
rack panel

Mac
dit dit
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by EC158 on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Yes

Well, maybe not the radio itself but a kit to convert the radio and accessories to a rack mount. I have done this myself but it would have been easier had the manufacturer made a kit available.

By the way, very nice go-kit.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K1CJS on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I'll second the mention of rack mount conversion 'kits' for the rigs, but not rack mountable right out of the box. Yes, there are a few pieces of rack mountable equipment available, but if you DON"T rack mount them, those mounting 'ears' are sticking out and getting in the way.

Some companies make the rack mount adapter plates, but it would be nice to have full sized 'shelf' type plates with trim rings made especially for the rigs.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KF4HR on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Each to their own, but I consider a "rack-mounted go-kit" to be somewhat of a contradiction in terms. The same can be accomplished with one of the small mobile HF thru UHF rigs, a small auto-tuner, TNC, and small switching power supply, mounted inside a Pelican case.

KF4HR
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KD2E on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Dumb idea....IMO
From a marketing viewpoint, how many hams have 19" racks? Some, but very small percentage.
Most rigs stay on a tabletop.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AP2WF on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I like the idea very much. Not for the commercial rigs only but for the work bench, AVO meter and other similar test equipment. As these mess up the table top. Well done Jeff.

AP2WF
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KC0FNS on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Rack mounting dissimilar shaped gear is a solved problem. Sheetmetal adapters can be made to use the mobile mounting capability on most rigs, and extend it to a rack mounting drawer or shelf. You could probably do this with a sheetmetal brake from Harbor freight and some sheet aluminum.

Your setup looks very clean, and adequate for the job. If all these components were rack mounted in a permanent fashion, it would weigh 40% more - but 25 years from now, it would still be intact, exactly as it was placed in the rack.

73,
Mark Menkhus, KC0FNS
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by N3QE on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Well, the truly top-of-the-line base station ham equipment is almost always rack-mountable, either by default or with some extra ears. The tradition goes back to the beginning of the century with homebrew equipment.

But as a tradition it seems rather dubious today. Conventional racks do not put modern equipment, even if it comes from the factory rack-mountable, in a particularly good operating position or angle, as the buttons on even the "big rigs" are tiny, the screens are not easily read from a distance, and really they work best right in front of a ham. Start designing a custom console desk with built-in racks and then it works out better.

All that said, as a fraction of the market the rigs that by default are rack-mounted are tiny. By far the biggest sellers for decades have been rigs that obviously are sized for inclusion in cars and/or small trucks. And rack-mount width (19") is obviously way too big for any of those things.

Now, adopting some standard non-19" form factors would make some sense especially for "go boxes". Test equipment manufacturers have for years made modular systems that are half-rack-width, etc. and in fact a lot of these "half width" small instrument racks turn up at hamfests etc.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KB2DHG on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
This is all a matter of taste...
A rack mounted set up is fine if you have limited space and need to consolidate your rigs.
I like my station spread out.
So there is really no right answer to this question. It is all a mater of space limitations and taste.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KC5MIB on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Jeff,
Let's start with the kudos, good job, very professional, great looking fly way kit.

Rack mount it, hmmmm. Not so sure. there is so much of my work equipment (broadcaster) that is rack mountable even in the mobile/portable vein and many companies as you probably noticed make fly away boxes to support them. Lots of test equipment have adapter kits, half width trays and the like. I can't say that for the all ham radio stuff. I have seen some adapters for the Icom R8500 on the "bay" The newest Icom radio the 7200 may be a good fit, but knobs, butttons adjustments, etc, might make it awkward to use. If it was just tuning the VFO, maybe.

I know some broadcasters and some military guys that would be green with envy (no pun intended) with the quality of your setup.

Would love to get with you off-line to examine your parts list and what the plan was for antennas.

Just as an aside, I'm getting a used Middle Atlantic Editting station that has 3 rack pods and yes some of my gear (older stuff) is rack mountable and will be mounted. Permanent installation, though.

Good Stuff OM, a great looking professional job!!
John KC5MIB
callsign at arrl net
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W6RMK on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
As other commenters have pointed out, the vast majority of users don't rack mount. It's probably not even worthwhile for the mfr to design and sell adapter panels (except perhaps for standard DIN adapters for mobile installations..)

There's enough difference between applications, too, that everyone's going to want something different. What sort of mechanical loads do you design for? Do you have rails or slides? What about service loops? How do you do the power?

These are all the things that "system integrators" deal with (and get paid well for). The advent of places like FrontPanelExpress that can zap out a custom aluminum panel with weird cutouts that you design in a few days for $40-50 means that there's a solution readily available.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs? Asking for Problems.....IMO  
by W6EM on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
First off, portable audio gear "rack boxes" (or the at least the ones I've seen) don't have venting. Many don't have two covers to at least open up the back. And, they are VERY expensive.

Equipment, no matter the size, generates heat when in operation. That heat must be conducted, convected or radiated away from the equipment to avoid damage.

Old racks had ventillation, at least convectively, by virtue of their size and in many cases vent slots, louvers, or even forced air ventillation. Many were in fact open frame and not totally enclosed with sides and doors.

Putting a power supply, even a switching supply, of any size at all in the same close proximity with other heat generators as our rigs are, is asking for trouble.

Heat sinks are designed onto the back of equipment and some, like the IC-706 and many compact VHF/UHF rigs have muffin fans built in to force air over heat sinks to transfer the heat. If you enclosue the stuff in a tight space where the heat can't be removed, voila, fail city.

If your really HAVE to put it in an audio gear box, as in the picture, at least install some muffin fans in a panel and make provisions for them to draw in cool air along the bottom and expulse hot air at the top.

I am planning on mounting my IC-706 in an expanded-depth 50 CAL ammo can that was designed for night vision goggle transport. Its lined with foam. But, no power supply and other stuff in the box, and I'm going to make sure there's a convective air channel or two in and out of the box.

A "go" kit needs to be small, watertight, compact and easily transportable and something that won't damage its contents from extended period operation. Most audio boxes are too big, too expensive, and unless provision for heat convective cooling is included, a bombshell.

73.

Lee
W6EM/4


 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WZ1P on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
WOW! I really like this setup. A few friends have made go kit's using containers but this one is the cat's ***. I plan on doing the same thing for my portable ops. using an IC-7200 & IC-7000. I will use this combo as a model.

Thanks,
Dan WZ1P
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KC2RGW on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice job fitting the go kit. Can't tell from the pic, but they make 'shock racks' that have spring suspensions on the rack mounting rails that would be another level of ruggedizing. Might be something you look into.

For those who don't really know, this equipment, the racks, plates, shelves, power supplies are all pro-sound/music equipment. Be sure and shop places like sweetwater.com or other pro-audio suppliers for much better prices than may pop up from 'ham' suppliers.

I have no affiliation with sweetwater outside of having spent my fair share there over the years and they have a great online site as far as browsing items goes.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W3JY on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I like this project. It addresses several real problems with field-deployed temporary stations:

* Ad hoc transportation of (often excessive) equipment and materiel

* Unreliable, fragile, potentially dangerous rats' nests of wires and cables

* High potential of loss and theft

* The confusion and inefficiency of idiosyncratic, personally-specified stations when used by guest operators

My ARES/RACES team makes great use of this concept with our own go-kits and it's a great help. Another team in a neighboring county relies on personally owned gear that takes quite a long time to gather, transport and assemble - and an equally long time to do it all again afterward.

I'd love to see a substantial discussion on how best to do this!
73, W3JY

 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K0BG on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
My go kit is a Honda Ridgeline, replete with antennas. No box needed.

Alan, KBG
www.k0bg.com
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KC0RBX on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with many of the posts here. VERY NICE JOB!! This leads me to my answer to your question. No. You found a solution to, while not a unique problem, a problem which is not very common in the grand scheme of things. The cost of equipment is already plenty. Adding more diversity such as rack mounting to an uncommon problem would increase the cost of manufacturing which would be passed on to the end user, me! Hi Hi. You could, however, start your own cottage industry by manufacturing rack mount kits for various pieces of ham equipment. I think your question would be answered by the lack of orders your new cottage industry business would get. Probably. Beautiful work though! And, you've probably sparked some good ideas for the ARES crowd.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KG2V on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, particularly 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 width units, where it makes sense.

A lot of gear I used to work with (non ham) had option rack kits available from the mfg - you would never know it was an option unless you looked.

All the mfg would have to do is make the rig slightly narrower than 19" (or a lot narrower - the kit can make up the space) and have a few screw holes in the right place.

Take my Mk V field - nice screws on the side that hold on the covers - a nice aluminum pannel down both sides, and a couple of ears (front and rear) - it's be great - but the rig is too wide

By having the rack kits as a OPTION, they aren't any bigger than they need to be, but are a good size. Really, it comes down to, when you are designing a unit, there are some "transition" sizes - if you can keep your unit at or below that size, making a rack kit for it is trivial
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W1VT on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
http://www.tentec.com/news/standard-19-opening-rack-mount-hardware-for-the-omni-vii

Ten Tec makes a rack mount kit for the Omni VII.

They used to make 9.5 inch wide racks--I have a stack of microwave transverters for 903/1296/2304/3456MHz mounted in one.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA7NCL on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
What century is this? Last I check it's the 21st century. 19" racks belong to the 20th century. Even professional test equipment has abandoned it.

How many computers fit in 19" racks? Laptop in a 19" rack?

I should think a bag or suitcase, an IC-7000, an automatic antenna tuner and a laptop would be the modern "go kit". 160 thru 70cm AM, FM, SSB and CW, data modes its all there.
 
Less is often more.  
by AI2IA on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I see in this thread many good, practical reasons for not offering rack mount ready amateur gear. I would like to offer one more which is a state of mind:

If you are attracted to Einstein's statement that everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler, if you detest clutter, if you realize that the more gear you have the more gear you have to maintain, then you are drawn to the habit of keeping things to what you really need and what you can easily set up anywhere. Add to this that every penny you save by not buying into clumsy, less useful gear, you can put toward high quality valuable gear.

Economy in ham radio adds to the value and pleasure of the endeavor. - Ray Mullin, AI2IA

 
RE: "Its All There"  
by W6EM on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
"I should think a bag or suitcase, an IC-7000, an automatic antenna tuner and a laptop would be the modern "go kit". 160 thru 70cm AM, FM, SSB and CW, data modes its all there."

Ahhh. Not quite. You omitted the $1200 SCS Pactor III Winlink Modem (soas to be able to get high speed HF Internet email connectivity).

Granted, the assembly is cosmetically nice looking. A couple of things related to heat generation that I mentioned ought to be rearranged, though. The light weight dual switching PS, (the only thing besides the Furman Audio gear power conditioner that's directly rack mountable) should be at the top of the audio box. Why? Heat rises........ Why warm up the rest of the gear above it unnecessarily?

If the box has a rear cover that's removable, that should address most of the heat concerns. However, if you open the back, you expose the wires. At least one cord going top to bottom from the outlets on the back of the Furman AC power conditioner. The Furman has two "pull out" work lights that look like knobs. A nice feature. Although I don't know if I'd want a glaring numeric red LED AC voltage display looking at me all the time. Especially at night. Perhaps the bargraph model instead....

But, one of the box worries is "how do I get the coax in and out of the gear? With a "back door" removeable lid, that problem's solved.

Most of the gear seems to be sitting on inverted rack shelves. Helpful if they're the vented kind. And, short enough to allow air flow from the bottom to top.






 
RE: Less is often more.  
by W4VR on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
If you don't have room for a table, what's wrong with placing your equipment on shelves of a rack similar to what you're doing? The days of 18" rack-mountable equipment are gone, except for the military of course. Some of the higher-end Icom transceivers are rack-mountable. I prefer to have my equipment on my table so I don't have to get up every time I want to change frequency.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KL7AJ on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
From the Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge and Lore, Chapter 14. :)

.......
Now, despite the inarguable utility of equipment racks, they still tend to look like equipment racks. For some strange reason, many people object to their living rooms looking like Houston Control. For those unfortunate souls, there is the attractive option of actually building some handsome radio-disguising furniture.
A few summers ago, my oldest daughter, Jennifer, a very artsy sort of lady, saw this weird freeform bookshelf in some European catalog of such things. It cost about as much as the down payment on my house. She really wanted something like this in her living room. Being the persistent sort of person she is, she asked if I could build her one. Yeah, right.
My concept of woodworking up to that point was sawing off a couple of one-inch planks and laying them across a couple of cinder blocks for a workbench. I told her if she could draw me the thing, Id see what I could do. This monstrosity needed about 400 board feet of lumber because it had all these randomly placed rectangular cubicles. We took all weekend to assemble this thing, using just cheap pine boards, but after everything was all lacquered up (the wood, I mean...not my daughter and I), it looked fantastic! I probably could have sold it in a European weird bookshelf catalog for an exorbitant price, too. It worked so well, I built myself a modified version of the thing for my ham shack in which to put a lot of my operating equipment.
The only downside of this was that all her friends wanted me to make European weird freeform bookshelves for them too. I took the easy way out; I bought my daughter a fancy table saw so SHE could make her friends the shelves, now that she knew how it was done.
The point of this is that you dont have to be a genius to do some clever things. You just need to be a bit crafty and persistent.




Eric
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KB2FCV on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Quote:
What century is this? Last I check it's the 21st century. 19" racks belong to the 20th century. Even professional test equipment has abandoned it.

How many computers fit in 19" racks? Laptop in a 19" rack?





I can show you server rooms full of computers that fit in 19" racks. Thousands and thousands of computers. I can't imagine the colossal mess it would be not to mention how much larger a facility the company I work for would need if everything was a 'tower'. 19" racks are here to stay in the business and professional world.

19" racks are still an industry standard in terms of organization of large amounts of equipment. It's just not seen around the home except for the very few.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WY3X on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Personally, I prefer rack-mounted equipment. You can buy rigid racks to put an envelope between your equipment and the UBTOA (United Baggage Throwers of America). Admittedly, it's not designed for backpacking like an IC-7000 and autotuner, but let's not forget what we'd be designing for in this particular model. This fellow's gear can have a shipping tag slapped on it and be shipped via a commercial airline with reasonable expectation that it might work when it arrives on location. You can't do *that* with a soft case!

I'd like to see manufacturers offer something like Ten Tec's "Closet Kilowatt" station. The gear fits pretty tightly together for a shorter vertical footprint. Isn't that what most of us try to simulate when we design our desks with shelves rising 3 and 4 shelves high?

Barring something like this, I'd at least like to see gear designed with stacking in mind. Metal straps made into each piece of gear that fold out so that you could stack your gear beginning with a power supply on the bottom, kilowatt amp next, then a rig, then an antenna tuner. (Heaviest on the bottom, lightest on the top.) All gear having the ability to be easily strapped together to prevent tipping, with indentations in the top of each unit to accept placement of the rubber feet from the next piece of gear in the stack. Something like this would require no rack to mount the gear, yet still provide some of the same functionality of a rack. If somebody steals my idea, at least give me credit for having though of it!

-KR4WM
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AB0RE on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
It'd be nice to have rack-mounted equipment as an option, but I doubt the idea would really take off.

A couple of thoughts:

- Using non-rack mounted equipment in a method as outlined above will increase airflow & heat dissepation. Picking up l-brackets at the hardware store for equipment that doesn't come with it's own mount works well.

- Astron (and Samlex?) currently offer rack-mounted power supplies.

- Gator offers portable racks with carry handles and front/rear removeable covers. I believe there was an article on eHam some time ago that outlined using the Gator case to set up a go-kit.

- The Pelican cases (www.pelican.com) are a viable alternative to rack-mounting everything. Check out their website - you can enter the dimensions of your equipment and the website will produce a list of cases to fit your application. They also have a list showing which cases are acceptable carry-ons for the various airlines. Really, a well set-up Pelican case would take only a couple more minutes to set up vs. a rack-mount set-up, and would offer the advantage of being able to position the equipment better at the operating table. (i.e. It's nice to have the HF radio at table-level so you have a wrist-rest as you are spinning the dial.)

73,
Dan / ab0re
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by NB3O on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Half-rack width mount rig options for a Go-Kit would be OK for travel or emergency. For leisure operating, I prefer a more ergonomic table-top rig sloped upward.
The tiny knobs and buttons require elbows to be steadied on the table top over the long term. The displays also require a closer working distance than having a rack off the corner of the bench.
Now QRO in a rack would be a different story........
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K5UJ on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with W4VR. To rack or not to rack depends usually on the matter of utility. You find racks in professional installations where the equipment is in a building built for radio and the equipment needs to be adjusted once in a while and given preventive maintenance on a schedule but otherwise does not get any attention (until something fails). As a part of a hobby, a ham rig has more of a consumer electronics role and while in use, is usually getting continuous attention by its operator. Putting it in a rack would be inconvenient and anyway, the ham equipment industry has never standardized on cabinets of the right width for rack mounting. A few stations items such as linear RF amplifier and audio processing gear might be okay to rack mount (if the cabinets are designed for it) but in most stations there probably isn't enough gear to make it worthwhile. However, if you want the look of a professional setup, and do the kind of operating in which you don't constantly need to look at your rig, then rack mounting has a couple of advantages--it is a way to tidy things up and get wiring under control, and it frees up a lot of table top space at the operating position for other things.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WI7B on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

"So instead of manufacturing equipment and accessories in just about every size and shape would it make sense for manufacturers to make equipment that either was rack mountable or in sizes that are friendly to rack mount?"

No.

I use equipment racks in the lab at work. Who routinely uses 1U, 2U, or 3U racks at home? Someone who needs a life in addition to ham radio...

73,

---* Ken
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by EC158 on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
WA7NCL

I happen to be in the IT field and the server room in our building has no less that twelve 19" racks holding over 100 late model HP and Dell servers.

And our data center has hundreds of 19" racks that hold thousands of servers.

And it IS the 21st century!
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K8QV on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nice looking rack (I've never said that to a guy!).

As far as the question/comment - ham radio is already a small niche market for electronics firms and I doubt it would be economically feasible for them to design and produce rack-friendly equipment for several pieces of their gear with only a few thousand (maybe only a few hundred) hams interested in buying them (or complaining that the price is too high).
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W7NWH on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I think I might cry.. that is the most beautiful "shack in a box" I've ever seen.

I had a SIB once then I got over the portable thing and put in 4 full size racks and have never looked back.

Clean, trim and professional, rack-mounting takes us out of the "shack" so to speak and put us into a pro environment. You'll notice all the high end gear does usually have rack ears on them or available as an option.

With my limited space radio room, going vertical was the only solution. Rack mount shelves for all the non-rack gear. Expandable, easy to ground, and it's rather impressive to step into the radio room. Comments of "do you work for NASA" and "what is all this for" are quite usual.

So yes, ham gear should have some nice rack ears or rack conversions available via mfr or third party.

A great place to start for most all ham gear is -

http://www.novexcomm.com/

ideas here -

http://www.novexcomm.com/gallery.htm

Another option is tapping the music industry portable "roto rack" and knock-off's. SKB and Gator are big names. This is where the original SIB concept came from. Roto racks start at about $80 and up from there.

Shelves are not cheap at $30 and up - shopping around is key.

I found Gruber to be a great deal for sturdy rack shelving and better quality then Mid Atlantic.

http://www.gruber.com/

And to sweeten the deal you get free hard candy in every box with a new shelf! Odd...

I try to look at racks every chance I get.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by QRZDXR2 on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Lots of room or else lots of fan to help keep them their little small compact boxes cool.

On of the major probles we faced after making a small go box was the units overheating.

Most ham stations at home are configured in the vertical almost like your picture. Not much difference except for the words rack mounted. Instead it should be group placed for portablity.

Antenna placement,connections were also a issue.

then came the audio, speaker, phones etc... blending, mixing... one speaker, two or each to their own? Those take up a lot of room too... a simple audio amp with multipul inputs will save on size by controling it to just one speaker size.

Nice application of the AV box though.



Remember the house thieves will also enjoy the fact that you made the station compact. Makes it easy for them to walk out the door with everything.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W7ETA on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Looks FB OM!

Nice prose.

"So instead of manufacturing equipment and accessories in just about every size and shape would it make sense for manufacturers to make equipment that either was rack mountable or in sizes that are friendly to rack mount?"

The added cost would be reflected in retail prices.
Those wanting that feature would buy; those not gaining any benefit from the higher prices would not buy.

My best guess is that the not buys vastly out number the buys. The result is fewer units sold, which in turn means that "fixed and semi-fixed" costs are spread over fewer units sold--profit decreases.

Also, it could be that the change increases the sales of the competition?

Neither of my speculated outcomes seem like good reasons to try selling rack mounted rigs.

73
Bob
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K9CTB on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Jeff! Really good article. You have a nice setup there. I think rack mounts are nice. I've seen quite a few featured here on e-ham. I like the pictures because they always give me ideas. As for rack mounts and my shack? No, but I think they're great if an entire shack is designed around them. Some guys really make them look nice. What kinda puzzles me is "handle kits" like the one for the Icom IC-7200 (a radio I really like, by the way) that "look" like a rack mount, but ain't (no mounting ears)! Doesn't make sense to me because there's already a side mounted carrying handle. Icom always went with that pseudo-military look and carried it off well, but trying to make the '7200 look like a pacset with all it's connectors on the rear like a conventional rig is a bit much for me.

73 es thanks for a great post!

de Neil
K9CTB
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by N9XCR on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
YES! YES! YES! Give us the option!!! :)

Many of you have made the point that equipment has become smaller over the years, and that the smaller size has many advantages. I completely agree with you, but...

There is no reason that the equipment couldn't come with the holes already drilled and tapped in the sides to accomodate rack ears. Just because they exist doesn't mean you have to use them. I've worked with quite a few Ethernet switches lately that are about the size of some smaller radios, but they are made to accomodate rack ears.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KC4RSL on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I don't care much one way or the other about rack mounts for hf rigs.

What I don't understand is why some of the VHF/ UHF rigs that are designed for mobile use aren't built to fit into the same DIN dashboard mount as a car stereo. Some rigs now even come with FM broadcast reception. I'd gladly swap out my car stereo and mount a rig in it's place rather than have remote heads hanging about. I might even be able to convince the better half that one would work in her car as well, then...

KC4RSL
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W7NWH on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I think a few of us have some serious rack envy perhaps?

Rack mounting has never really gone away, prosumer audio gear, rack mount computers, LCD monitors, some of us must prefer a rats nest of wiring, wall warts, dust collecting on operating tables and sensitive gear.

As for cost of rotoracks? If garage band kids can afford them?

As for heat? doing a nice rack elevation will help with that. I like to leave at least 1 RU between rigs and 4 RU for tube amps, I run my 30-L1 and heat build up has never been an issue.

As for SIB's the SKB units have nice back hatch doors that open up for all the cooling you'll ever need. I have a buddy in a band that has 2 Crown 1200 watt audio amps in a $100 roto SKB case and after 2 hours on a Friday night you can't touch the heat sinks. The case is just fine, so no traction here!

I could deploy my SIB in about a minute - sans antenna hook-up, run 12VDC Powerpole to external or Samlex PS and be off an running at a local hospital. While my ham friend was juggling with power supplies, and a nest of small boxes and coax, I was already in contact with the outside world. A hospital administrator noticed the rapid deployment.

When you deploy from a suitcase of any form, you have all items as separate elements - rigs, cables and accessories that can get wet when the case is open, hard to assemble in a hurry. Parts get lost, stepped on, damaged and mixed in with other ham gear.


My old SIB could be set up without issues while the guys pulling beat up and chipped radio gear out of suitcases took "handling" to make work. My SIB for FD was up and running and the envy of the ham baggers that showed up with all mix of original boxes, suitcases and some guy even had an old dented ammo case with a some pine shelves. It was messy and unreliable with bad cables and a stepped on PSK-31 interface, at best, putting the "ham" back in radio, it also made for interesting comments from the local police showing up for a little tour. Unfortunately, in our society, first impressions still count.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WB2WIK on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Unless you mount rack equipment on slides, serviceability stinks.

Heavy stuff is pretty much a two-man operation to install or remove anything because one man can't hold the stuff up long enough to install the mounting screws. Slides work great but are fairly expensive (good ones are easily $50-$100 per set) and take 10-15 mins to install in the cabinet, and of course the "other half" of the slide set mounts on the rig, so if you slide the rig all the way out to remove it from the cabinet, now you're left with these two ugly protrusions on the sides of your rig. Plus, most rigs don't have the threaded inserts to even install them.

The IC-7700, IC-7800 and FTDX9000D all are rack mount transceivers for HF. Most "old" stuff from the 40s and 50s was rack mount also, or at least the gear was set up to accommodate rack mounting. It was big and heavy.

Today I think it's silly. My rigs are much more serviceable by not being rack mounted. I can reach around the back of any of them and swap cables, connectors, etc.

For ruggedized transport, I do use Hardigg cases which have internal rack rails that are shock mounted. You can pretty much drop one of these from the back of a pickup or van to the ground without damaging any of the installed equipment. The cases are over $2500 each.

And yes, computers are rack mounted all the time. In fact, almost all "servers" (generally computers shared by multiple users and networked) are rack mounted. You can also get "laptop" sized PCs that are 1U rackmounts, with KVM drawers that are also 1U rack mounted. You pull out the drawer and a 15" LCD monitor pops up to reveal the slide-out keyboard/mouse. So common that nowadays they're cheap and used everywhere.

But not in many "homes," just in industrial settings.

We use 'em a lot.

WB2WIK/6
 
Rack mounts should be option  
by N8EKT on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I think companies should make rack mounts available
in case the equipment needs to be installed among tower site equipment and or 911 center racks.
I have always rack mounted my repeaters and power supplies at my tower sites.
Nothing looks worse than a bunch of ham junk just sitting on top of someone's rack or on a milk crate.
That go box of yours looks very good.
I hope you also planned on an exhaust fan in the cabinet.
I made a 15 watt uhf repeater mounted in a Pelican
case ready to go at a moments notice.
Just plug it into the 125 AH deep cycle battery and connect it to my mobile antenna and it's a repeater I can get to the scene before 911 dispatch even figures out their tower is down and it will provide more than 24 hours of operating without commercial power.

I like the go box concept for emergencies.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KQ9J on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
As soon as I get my hands on a Collins 20V-2 I will need a rack to mount my Sta-level, limiter, modulation monitor and other goodies.

For the kenwood I have now, it can sit on the desk.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KB9CRY on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
How am I to fit that large rack on my operating desk?

How is the placement of the equipment ergonomically condusive to operate it.

That's a dumb idea in my opinion.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K0JEG on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
That rack full of gear looks nice, but would be terrible to use for hours at a time. What I would like to see is to move in a totally different direction for portable equipment, the "lunchbox" portable. My primary rig is an FT-897d. It is a pain to use for hours, not enough buttons and tiny display. If you pick up the rig by the handle and set it on the table with the handle pointing upward, notice the huge blank space you are staring at.

Now, compare this to my old DX-390. The radio is not all that fantastic for SWL, being somewhat deaf, but it is simply a joy to use. Nice big display, keyboard for direct access/band switching, easy to use tuning knob, etc.

I operate mostly portable (without much success, but I'm still trying to build a working antenna that doesn't need to be in a tree), and it becomes nearly impossible to pull off the trail and set up on a big rock, while it is quite easy to do with the DX-390. Another example, the Elecraft KX1 (of course designed to be backpack portable).

As for back at the QTH, I use a PC almost exclusively. I really don't even need any display and would be better served with a "black box" radio with the money not put into a display and controls go toward better RF circuitry.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K0RGR on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
That's a beautiful setup.

I've always wanted to build a custom rack-based operating desk. Our radio club had one of these many years ago, and it added so much to the functionality of the station. The 'rack' laid back at an angle, with a nice formica work surface on the front - plenty of room for logbooks, keys, and mikes. The gear had custom plates fitted to them, that supported and secured the gear. All the radios were on slides, but also, the entire unit was on wheels, so it could be accessed easily.

The main benefit of all this was that all the cables were hidden inside the rack. This made for a very neat installation. Every time I have to fight with a rat's nest of cables or see that my hamshack resembles a bowl of spaghetti, I think of that great operating rack.

You could probably attach some external legs that would let you recline your box at an angle, making it easier to use.
So, yes, I'd like to see some of the gear packaged to fit a rack, or come with standard rack panels and mounts. But, I suspect I will be learning more about metal working if I choose to do this for myself.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by NA4IT on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Ah yes, the days of building and adapting.

$18-$20 will buy you a bench top metal bending brake from Harbor Freight (and other places).

Old computer case are a dime a dozen, or free.

Satisfaction of telling some you made those nice rack brackets... priceless! (And you can charge your buddy $10 for a set! (;-0

By the way your go kit is nice. I recommend leaving the AC power components out, or put them in a separate case. Why lug the extra weight if you will be running off battery power?

de NA4IT
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KT2K on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Well, first, thank you for all the great comments. I wish I had all your input when I started this project.

I want to reinforce that these have to ship around the country and thus the need for equipment to be
wired, tested and interfaced to the PC - and they can't unseat during travel.
That really is the reason for the rack mounts. So the question is - how can you safely build and
ship a ready to go station?

In addition to ssb, fm and cw, this system had to be able to send email either over HF Winlink or
thru VHF RMS Packet gateway stations. All of this has to be ready to go. Going to hams with different
experiences. This is very different than a battery and a 897 in a box!

I did want to add that the silver 19" rack mount is a PC running XP. It has 3 serial ports on the rear,
for the SCS Modem, KPC3+ and the Icom 718 rig control. So once you connect the monitor, keyboard
and mouse you can run the station from the PC (HRD) or use the rig controls. Of course Winlink and
Paclink fully control the modems and the radios. So you can operate in front of the PC monitor if you like.

Please remember this is a deployed emergency station - ready to run, including software.
It is not meant to replace the shack, however I do enjoy operating these stations for long periods of time.
It is however, as capable as your shack.

As some have mentioned the rear of the case comes off just like the front cover and heat is not an issue.
The shelves are designed for ventilation.

Some have mentioned they can deploy a station in a minute. I would be happy to compare setup times!

Weight is 45 pounds.

Jeff
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by NA0AA on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I would LOVE a mission control style rack/desk with all that wire hiding capability and etc. Would be very cool indeed.

THAT is a good looking go-kit though, the advantage of having everything mounted and pre-wired is such an advantage when the operator may or may not have used the station before - installation is limited to connecting feed lines and power. How much better can it get?

I looked into one of these Gator rack cases and may still do one some day, but the extra bulk of the case just won't work for MY usual portable use. My former radio club built one though for public service events - it lives in our comm truck - you don't have to lug it or store it.

I really want to do one just for fun, but man, if you cannot make the shelves and such, prepare to shell out some bucks!

 
DIAMONDS AND RUST  
by PLANKEYE on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
If you are attracted to Einstein's statement that everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler, if you detest clutter, if you realize that the more gear you have the more gear you have to maintain, then you are drawn to the habit of keeping things to what you really need and what you can easily set up anywhere. Add to this that every penny you save by not buying into clumsy, less useful gear, you can put toward high quality valuable gear.

Economy in ham radio adds to the value and pleasure of the endeavor.


PLANKEYE
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AD7WN on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Very professional job, Jeff. Kudos to you.

From the standpoint of professionalism, rack mounting is the way to do it. From the standpoint of marketability, probably not so great an idea. It will add substantially to the cost. Some operators will not be able to see the meters or the screens in modern equipment.

Well written article, Jeff. Thanks for the input.

73 de John
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AI2IA on December 12, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Professionalism?

We are engaged in amateur radio. This is not the place for professionalism.

Amateur is a wonderful word. It means that we do it because we love the endeavor itself. In that narrow sense, amateur radio is superior to commercial radio. Of course, many of us have engaged in that also, and enjoyed most of our time in that, but we did it mainly to make a living and support ourselves and our families.

If you like racks, by all means use them and be happy, but racks don't do anything for the prestige of the amateur activity. The look has a bearing only on the association in the memories of some of what they deem their station would look like if it were a non-amateur station.

Strive to be a good amateur, not a professional looking amateur, and you will get more enjoyment out of it. At least, that is the way I see it. - Ray Mullin, AI2IA
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W8ZNX on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Thank You Ray

we are amateur radio ops
i fear a brave new world
of professional em com go box ops

that have no intrest in
cw, dxing, contesting, building,
rag chewing,
or even learning how radios work

" we are here in out yellow jump sutes
with our professional go boxes "

" all you amateurs get off the air
we have em com traffic to move "

mac




 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by G3VGR on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
This appears to be a backward step. If I tried putting my K2 in a 19" rack, it would look quite silly.
The 45lb example displayed looks like overkill. I find carrying my IC706, laptop and switchmode psu in a backpack does fine and is much less likely to give me a hernia
73 & Merry Christmas to all
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K5RT on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Very Nice looking installation!
In reviewing many of the comments below, its obvious that many folks have never worked in the commercial radio world.
For many, many years now, HP and numerous other equipment manufacturers have made rack mounting kids as OPTIONS to their products.
Simply remove a small plastic cover from each side of the unit and install the rack mounting hardware as provided by the manufacturer.
While I have no desire to rack mount anything in my station, it would be a simple option for the manufacturers to include

Vy 73
Paul K5RT
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W0DKM on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great Story!!

You had a need.

You made a plan.

You did a Great job.

You shared your knowledge.

Very good for Ham Radio.

TNX.

Dave, W0DKM
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by N4CQR on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
by K0BG on December 12, 2008
My go kit is a Honda Ridgeline, replete with antennas. No box needed.

That's cause you da dude!
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W1ITT on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
We need to remember that, although amateur radio may be a big part of our individual lives, we are really a small part of the market, and a small part of Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom etc. And within that small group, there is even a smaller group of people who yearn to be radio McGyvers and strike out with their "go kits" and yellow vests.
Perhaps there is room for some enterprising person to build and supply aftermarket kits and adapters for rack mounting, whether it be in a 19 inch format or something else.
Market research necessitates talking to a wider group than one's own circle of associates. DXers think everyone is a DXer and wants DX-friendly features in all gear. And perhaps the "go-kit" group believes that everyone will spend money the way they would. If rack kits were supplied with ham gear, most of them would rust away on the cellar shelf.
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by NA4IT on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Most any piece of ham radio gear can be rack mounted using a rack shelf and the equipment's mounting bracket, by removing the feet and using those screw holes, or with a strap or velcro.

If you are interested in doing something like the author did, take a look at http://www.qsl.net/na4it/portable/portable.html for some good info, including links to cheaper sources of the rack boxes and shelves.

de NA4IT
 
RE: Less is often more.  
by N3OX on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
"How many computers fit in 19" racks? "


This one would have if I hadn't cut off its ears...

http://n3ox.net/files/computer.jpg

But it's an anomaly.. how many computers do you know that have hoodscoops?

Guess the guys who are saying "servers" have a stronger point ;-)

73
Dan

 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K6LHA on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
AI2IA posted on 13 Dec 08:

"Professionalism?

We are engaged in amateur radio. This is not the place for professionalism."

I will agree there. :-)

Unfortunately, the urge to be 'professional amateurs' is almost all-pervasive in all the publications about USA amateur radio, has been so since at least 1928...and the famous (or infamous?) "Amateur's Code." <shrug>
............
AI2IA: "If you like racks, by all means use them and be happy, but racks don't do anything for the prestige of the amateur activity."

I disagree only slightly and conditionally. I got started in HF comms some 55 years ago surrounded by rack structures and professionally designed and built high-power transmitters. That is efficient for a 24/7 communications facility in the military or in commercial communications of older days.

Anything NEAT with the "look" of being "business-like" has all the appearance of prestige to any non-radio person. Call it glitz or bling with electrons, it is noticeable. A problem is that few non-radio persons get to see such things.

AI2IA: "The look has a bearing only on the association in the memories of some of what they deem their station would look like if it were a non-amateur station."

Well, many amateurs want to dream of being (at least the equivalent of) pros in radio. The LOOK is a very big part of that...plus, of course, Titles and Rank and Tenure and certificates. :-)
............
On a more physical and serious side concerning Transit Cases, such as for these "Go Kits," some advice from a mechanical engineer would be good in planning. Transit Casings have to endure a LOT of shocks, vibration, temperature extremes, etc., and we don't always have the luxury of transportation so smooth it wouldn't break eggs. Having spent my first two years in industry in environmental testing, I've seen several examples of beautifully-designed, very professional looking electronic equipment that physically broke during vibration testing (complete with distinct rattling sounds from inside them before a shaker was shut down). It is common to talk about 'resonance' in regards to RF tuned circuits but mechanical structures can have definite RESONANCES if not dampened or reinforced.

One way to get rid of mechanical resonances is to "build it like a battleship." Everything massive and stiff. Problem is, that defeats the concept of portability...unless one is a body-builder with lots of weight training. :-) Unlike battleships, such stuff just won't float in flood waters. Airframes are purposely built very light but aeronautical engineering has a lot of experience with mechanical resonances and usually designs that out before an aircraft flies.

Transit Case suppliers have lots of experience in supplying environmentall-resistant, lightweight cases in many varieties. Those are dependable and proven. A problem for most amateurs there is CO$T. There are alternatives and many have tried those and shown them. Few of those are ever tested and I've seen no data on survivability other than some hand-waving remarks that "it works fine." The REAL test of emergency radio equipment is not in its appearance or looks but whether or not it WILL work in unexpected environmental abuse. One can't honestly use the old catch-phrase that "ham gear works when all others 'fail'" common to emergency claims when the equipment gets broken in transit or fails to work as it did at home in gentle room temperatures.
............
AI2IA: "Strive to be a good amateur, not a professional looking amateur, and you will get more enjoyment out of it. At least, that is the way I see it."

That sounds good to me. <shrug>

73, Len AF6AY
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WB2WIK on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
>RE: Rack Mount Rigs? Reply
by W8ZNX on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Thank You Ray

we are amateur radio ops
i fear a brave new world
of professional em com go box ops

that have no intrest in
cw, dxing, contesting, building,
rag chewing,
or even learning how radios work

" we are here in out yellow jump sutes
with our professional go boxes "

" all you amateurs get off the air
we have em com traffic to move "

mac<

::To those, I play a prerecorded message I sent at 55 wpm code, which says, "If you can copy this, I'm with you all the way. If you can't, you're just another jerk in an orange vest. Dit dit."

I haven't found any of the em comm guys who could read it yet, but I'm still looking.

WB2WIK/6
 
Where's Riley When You Need Him?  
by W3JY on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I am disgusted by several of the replies to this very interesting article.

KT2K did a great service building these systems and publishing his report to the benefit of all interested parties. If you don't like it, please keep your insults to yourself and take the barroom behaviour elsewhere.

Sign me,
W3JY
FCC-examined Extra/QCWA/ARES/RACES/BPL/ETC ETC ETC.
LOVER OF MY VIBROPLEX LIGHTENING BUG AND HARD MOUNTED GO-KITS BOTH.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K8QV on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I am primarily a CW op, but what does copying at 55 wpm have to do with anything? Is 55 a magic number?
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by G3UXB on December 13, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I live in the audio rock music business, where everything is 19 " rack mounted, I just wish all my gear was in a rack and movable, I really like the Icom 718 rack mounted as I have one and your set up looks beautiful, not for everyone but would be definately for me, 73 from on the road again
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by EC158 on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
How did this thread go from an intersting article to a bunch of nonsense?
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA1RNE on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

This type of "Go Kit" can be a very useful arrangement for Emergency Communications purposes.

I'm disappointed by some of the nit-picky criticism of this article, some of which emanates from folks who suffer from a flair for the "not invented here" syndrome.


From what I can see, I think you did a good job, but I have a few questions and comments:


1) Can you describe the cooling system design for the enclosure? Do you have any internal photos to illustrate?

If not designed properly, the power supplies, radio gear and accessories will push the internal enclosure temperature above the maximum ambient operating temperature of the gear which could cause it to shutdown, or worse fail.


2) Polyethylene instrument and transit cases are a great choice but they can be expensive. With today's economic constraints, many local EmComm groups may not be able to afford them.

- What are the case dimensions?

- How much did this one run you?


3) For most RACES and ARES applications, a smaller kit may be better for most applications and without the HF rig. (Notice I said "most". Yes, some will need HF.) The smaller size is easier to move because for decreased girth and weight so it's easier and faster to transport and set up.


Here's a typical design that I've been considering for our local emergency management agency:


> One or 2 multiband 6/2/70cm rigs;

> Power supply - preferably a high efficiency switcher versus a linear to reduce power dissipation;

> A ventilation panel to draw air in/out with a suitable DC operated fan;

> A combination power and audio interconnect panel.

This panel should have receptacles for AC input power while running in a shelter or other mains power, an external DC input connector for battery back-up or mobile operation. An AC voltmeter, DC voltmeter and DC ammeter would be very useful but not mandatory. The audio interconnections should include external speaker(s), headphones, mics and/or headsets.

> An RF panel for antenna connections, preferably located at the top.

A built in wattmeter is nice but not a must. I would keep instrumentation separate so it can be used anywhere it's needed.


....WA1RNE

 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KB3PXZ on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Considering what you did with this rig I don't see the need for rack mountable gear. You have done a great job. I also like your choice of HF radio and tuner. They are the same ones I have in my shack : )
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA1RNE on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Rack Mount Rigs? Reply by AI2IA on December 12, 2008

Professionalism?

We are engaged in amateur radio. This is not the place for professionalism.

Strive to be a good amateur, not a professional looking amateur, and you will get more enjoyment out of it. At least, that is the way I see it. - Ray Mullin, AI2IA


>>> Whats wrong with professionalism? Ill stand by the folks who strive to be more "professional" any day of the week versus the ones who just throw things together without doing any planning or research and end up building something over 2 or 3 times before they get it right.


Otherwise, your right. One should strive to be a good amateur.


....WA1RNE
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA1RNE on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
::To those, I play a prerecorded message I sent at 55 wpm code, which says, "If you can copy this, I'm with you all the way. If you can't, you're just another jerk in an orange vest. Dit dit."

I haven't found any of the em comm guys who could read it yet, but I'm still looking.

WB2WIK/6


>>> Hey good thing Steve. If you did find an "EmComm type" who could, they would probably be stuck in the Twilight Zone listening to a CONELRAD box waiting for the "big one" to drop.


.WA1RNE
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AI2IA on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
To WA1RNE:
In regard to the much abused word "professionalism," I suggest avoiding it especially in the context of amateur activities ham or otherwise. Professionalism belongs with the professions, if we wish to be precise, and we ought to strive to be precise so people understand us exactly as to what we want to convey. I am honestly not being a snob about this, but using not the best word choice creates poor containers for ideas and leads to misunderstanding and poor communication.

Professionalism is fine, and so is "amateur." In fact, in a sense as I mentioned earlier, amateur is sometimes superior. The fact that some folks criticise by saying, "You look and act like an amateur," and other praise by saying, "You are dressed like a professional," detracts from the precise use of these words. We should avoid this sort of thing when we are trying to convery serious thoughts.

I have been a technical writer for most of my adult life, and I have a respect for the autonomy of words that perhaps some others may not appreciate, but it is a good thing to strive to be exact in what we say and in how we say it. It is a life long habit, and I mention this so I am not misuderstood about being a snob about this. - Ray Mullin, AI2IA
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by AI2IA on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
A rack is foremost a utility device. It is very practical for keeping associated equipment together in a neat, safe (if bolted to the floor), convenient arrangement. A rack could have aesthetic value as part of a larger environment. For ham equipment, especially emcomm gear, it would probably be less useful. If someone with imagination and ingenuity can fit one to his needs, that is fine. I think to ask accomodation from manufacturers of ham equipment is to add to their cost of production with little prospect of return on their investment. So, where desired, it is best left up to the few individuals who have a desire to try their hands at it. - Ray Mullin, AI2IA

 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by K6LHA on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
WA1RNE posted on 14 Dec 08:

"This type of "Go Kit" can be a very useful arrangement for Emergency Communications purposes."

"I'm disappointed by some of the nit-picky criticism of this article, some of which emanates from folks who suffer from a flair for the "not invented here" syndrome."

"From what I can see, I think you did a good job, but I have a few questions and comments:"

I will agree that the beautiful picture of great workmanship is worthy of praise! That rig would be top-notch for an EmComm base station...but it would be limited to true portability 'in the field' (away from a base).
............
WA1RNE: "If not designed properly, the power supplies, radio gear and accessories will push the internal enclosure temperature above the maximum ambient operating temperature of the gear which could cause it to shutdown, or worse fail."

Absolutely true, seen by example in hundreds of other radio designs in the last half century. Another problem is COLD. The northeast has just been hit by that and can expect more as the arctic air moves east over the next few days. At colder temperatures transistor beta decreases along with other changing characteristics; the circuit design of everything, radios, supplies, etc., MUST be designed to work in the coldest expected outdoor environment.
............
WA1RNE: "2) Polyethylene instrument and transit cases are a great choice but they can be expensive. With today's economic constraints, many local EmComm groups may not be able to afford them.

- What are the case dimensions?

- How much did this one run you?"

A downside for plastic cases, even with internal metal supports, is the reluctance to transfer heat in either direction. It might be better for smaller backpack-style portable rigs to be carried in cloth cases with or without plastic foam cushions for vibration and shock. A small rig can be removed easily from a backpack-style carrier in HOT temperature conditions.

With any size rig assemblage, vibration and shock are going to be enemies of the rig's ability to get from here to there. An advantage to solid-state circuitry is that it is small, less mass to vibrate or mechanically resonate to destruction...besides taking much less power to operate and being able to be made physically small.
...........
WA1RNE: "3) For most RACES and ARES applications, a smaller kit may be better for most applications and without the HF rig. (Notice I said "most". Yes, some will need HF.) The smaller size is easier to move because for decreased girth and weight so it's easier and faster to transport and set up."

I would promote the SGC-2020 transceiver for HF as a 'made in the USA' HF rig (Stoner-Goral Company is in the Seattle, Washington area) for those who can't stand the excellent Japanese designed-and-made HF small rigs. But, all are highly portable, can conceivably work from a 12 VDC motorcycle lead-acid battery (smaller than an automobile 12 V battery). Last I heard, SGC has discontinued the amateur version of the 2020 (they sold many of their marine version for private boat owners).

A problem with HF for EmComm is the antenna. Real emergency conditions are far from the nice-day-in-the-park-summer-outing and contest known as Field Day. Portability and quick set-up during emergencies are necessary. Not all emergencies allow hours or even days of preparation ahead of time. A physically-small (and reasonable portable weight) HF antenna is going to be a vertical whip. The ground half of that whip is going to be inefficient. An automatic antenna tuner is advised as part of an HF rig.

A vehicle mobile rig for HF would seem the better choice with EmComm to me. It has the power source at hand, the 'ground', and a whip loading sufficient to get as much RF transferred to work short (under 100 miles or so) distances in reasonable clarity. Real emergencies don't guarantee a nice, quiet operating environment to 'work faint signals (of DX).' VHF FM voice is great if the emergency folks being served by EmComm amateurs; the real emergency workers can use their own voices for messaging involving what they themselves need. Small VHF FM rigs can be made bouyant in flood conditions much easier than bigger, heavier HF rigs.
..........
WA1RNE: "Here's a typical design that I've been considering for our local emergency management agency:

> One or 2 multiband 6/2/70cm rigs;

> Power supply - preferably a high efficiency switcher versus a linear to reduce power dissipation;"

Excellent choice on switching supplies! There are hundreds of ICs already made and available to construct many, many different switchers, low to high power. Switchers can work up to 2 MHz but those will hardly affect 2m or 70cm receivers. [another reason to choose VHF for highly portable radios] Switchers are the most efficient supplies, both for economy of stored power and less heat dissipation. Some of those IC makers (such as Linear Technology) have worked out selector programs that will design the whole switcher circuitry for anyone.

WA1RNE: "> A ventilation panel to draw air in/out with a suitable DC operated fan;"

...or just a metal panel to act as a thermal transfer agent using convection flow on the inside. Brushless DC motor fans are plentiful and cheap in the consumer computer market, no noise.

WA1RNE: "> A combination power and audio interconnect panel."

"This panel should have receptacles for AC input power while running in a shelter or other mains power, an external DC input connector for battery back-up or mobile operation. An AC voltmeter, DC voltmeter and DC ammeter would be very useful but not mandatory. The audio interconnections should include external speaker(s), headphones, mics and/or headsets."

Okay on that, but I would stress including only what is really needed. If metering is needed, I would suggest using solid-state LCD display voltmeters for both ruggedness, ligher weight, and lowest DC power requirements versus any analog meter type. LCD displays usually have a low-temperature limit that varies depending on their manufacturer, a caution there. Connectors of many kinds, mechanical switches are passive, need no power, but their mechanical support structure can add weight.

A thought on AC charging cords: Several plastic cord reels are on the garden market, are lightweight, are friction 'bearing' types, can hold three-wire #14 cord up to 75 feet. [I have two for general purpose AC extensions around the house] For battery charging purposes the AC line current can utilize smaller AC wire, even a 100+ feet of zip cord on those reels. With a couple straps they can be held on a backpack. If not used for an AC charger, that cord could be part of an HF grounding system?
..........
WA1RNE: "> An RF panel for antenna connections, preferably located at the top."

Well, if I had my druthers, I would use a single dual-band VHF rig in a backpack, including a motorcycle lead-acid battery at the bottom (if I couldn't get a lithium-ion type), the whip antenna being the largest practical size possible for the frequency and antenna pattern, myself being the 'counterpoise' walking around on the ground. I would include short aluminum tubing sections as part of the pack frame, tubing ends swaged so that they could assemble into a primitive mast structure to elevate the antenna if the terrain has obstructions. "Pedestrian portable" would allow operation in a boat by the wearer. A simple poncho with an extra hole for the whip antenna will cover the wearer and rig in rain conditions; a simple handset on a cord can come out the arm sides of the poncho and clip on the poncho outside.

Sound suspiciously like a military radio? :-) Yes, it is. About 54-55 years ago I wore a VHF backpack radio (and had to carry a bunch of other stuff) in the military. As a civilian later, I've 'worn' an HF transceiver on a backpack, one that had a built-in automatic antenna tuner for its HF whip antenna. Military environments are about as close as one can get to real emergency situations. There's lots of experience built up from such environments, a good source of common-sense information.
..........
WA1RNE: "A built in wattmeter is nice but not a must. I would keep instrumentation separate so it can be used anywhere it's needed."

I would say a single DMM with fresh batteries could be almost the entire instrumentation. An Analog Devices log detector in a calibrated coupler can be the 'RF Wattmeter' to complete it. Those could carried be in a pocket of a backpack.

...just some thoughts on real emergency radios...I'm not planning on building any EmComm stuff. Right now, that is... :-)

73, Len AF6AY
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KG1F on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Jeff,

Great looking Go-Kit. Looks very professional - better than a bunch of components and cables patched together in an emergency and cluttering up a table top.
I'd really like to know where you got the case.

73,
Fred
KG1F
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W6EM on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
KT2K, the author said:"I did want to add that the silver 19" rack mount is a PC running XP. It has 3 serial ports on the rear, for the SCS Modem, KPC3+ and the Icom 718 rig control. So once you connect the monitor, keyboard and mouse you can run the station from the PC (HRD) or use the rig controls. Of course Winlink and Paclink fully control the modems and the radios. So you can operate in front of the PC monitor if you like.

Please remember this is a deployed emergency station - ready to run, including software."

Er, Jeff, as pictured, it is NOT ready to run. Having to carry a separate monitor, mouse and keyboard and plug same into "the box" is not ready to run, as advertised.

If, however, you removed the PC motherboard shelf and the very expensive SCS Pactor 3 modem, and used instead key and/or microphone, it would be ready to run when you remove the front and back covers.

Lee
W6EM/4




 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA7URV on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I rack mount all of my gear. When I was walking through Home Depot one day, I noticed the design of a joist hanger, and my convoluted mind figured how I could cut those in such a way as to make brackets for most any piece of gear, mounted through 1/8" thick aluminum sheet. The only gear I haven't rack mounted is gear that is in the "boat anchor class," such as my IC-765, or gear that I want to easily pull for field work (my K1, K2 and K3). My station consists of four wood modules, each 19" wide, that have adjustable shelf standards as well as the capability to rack mount. The brackets I use and the way the gear attaches to them does not scratch or damage the gear in any way. (I want my gear to be in good shape in case I ever want to unload it!)

I have put together a couple of portable stations in SKB cases similar to the photo that started this thread. One of portable stations that I use for Boy Scout field setups has an Icom IC-718 that is rack mounted. That's about as heavy as I want to go.

If anyone is interested in photos, etc., please email me via ARRL's standard email address, with my call letters of course!

73,
WA7URV
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KJ4AGA on December 15, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I kinda like the option to do this if you want it when you order the rig. How hard would it be to make it rack mountable from the factory if the customer wants to pay more?
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WD6GLA on December 15, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Beautiful job Jeff , very professional look to it . I agree with most of the posters here that rack mounting is a throwback to the past , and I doubt if they would sell enough rack mountable rigs and options to make it worthwhile . Icom has a new unit just out that has optional handles on the front and probably rack mountable , I would bet its a fine rig , but I'm curious to see how well it sells on that merit alone . I have a feeling its not . There are a few hams who do rackmount their equipment and most have come up with ways of doing a pretty respectable job of it on their own . Besides ... I dont see how you could buy anything nicer than what you have built :)

N7BDY Bob
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA3VJB on December 16, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
A small proportion of the gear in my station fits in a rack.

The rest is too big.

[IMG]http://www.wa3vjb.com/wa3vjb1.jpg[/IMG]
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by WA3VJB on December 16, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

OK, I give up, how did you embed the picture ?

<p><center>
<img src=http://www.wa3vjb.com/wa3vjb1.jpg></p>

[p][center][img src=http://www.wa3vjb.com/wa3vjb1.jpg][/p]
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by N4PEQ on December 17, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Some sort of a kit for such a purpose would be nice, but 19" form factor is out of date for today's equipment.

What would be more useful is if auto manufacturers would design vehicles with space for our add on equipment.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by KT2K on December 17, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Especially for computers!

http://mysite.verizon.net/jkelly/element/index.htm

Jeff
KT2K

 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by W4PTO on December 21, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
In one word: SEXY!

I like it! For the folks who want to buy it, allow them to have it.

Just don't listen to the naysayers in this discussion. They are either: too notoriously cheap and a scratch-bottom to ever hope own one or, are egotistically set in their over-analytical engineering minds to accept the concept.
 
RE: Rack Mount Rigs?  
by NI6S on December 26, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
All my stuff is from he 1990s, with the excption of some Icom stuff....The rack is back...Only way to go....


www.qrz.com/ni6s

73,
Ed NI6S
 
Rack Mount Rigs?  
by VA6GSP on December 27, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
What a great job. I've wanted to build one of these myself for my home office so that I could pack up and go mobile during camping trips, but I've had nothing but trouble trying to find anyone who stocks equipment. I'll have to shop a little harder now!
 
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