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Author Topic: Ameritron warning-UPDATE  (Read 40443 times)
V47JA
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Posts: 205




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« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2013, 09:47:14 AM »

Hi,

Government mandated or not, a primary concern of every manufacturer should be the safety, and safe use of their products by their customers and agents.  It should not have to be ORDERED by a government agency.

73,

John
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W1QJ
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Posts: 2966




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« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2013, 09:50:59 AM »

What do they intend to do with all the defective units they sold?  Hardly a week goes by that I don't read about a product or food recall so I don't understand how they could get away without issuing a recall for those units which were not wired properly and advertising in amateur radio magazines and on the Web.  I would've thought the CPSC and its European counterpart would order them to issue a recall.

I don't know the answer to that, sorry.  Neither is that my concern.  my only concern at this point is to enlighten owners of these amps that the step start circuit is not wired according to the schematic which hinders its effectiveness,  Many amps do not interlocks nor do they have step start circuits.  If either of these are a necessity or not is not the debate. As far as I am concerned the post should be limited to the technical discussion of step start circuits and not to legal issues.  I am not a lawyer nor play one on TV Grin
Lou,

I've read all your posts on this topic and I was under the impression from the start your primary concern was that somebody might attempt to repair one of the improperly wired amps under the impression there was no voltage because a safety interlock was built into the amp and wind up with a potentially lethal shock. I always thought the non-functioning step-start circuit was just an ancillary concern for you. 

The first sentence of your first message reads as follows:

"All owners of a particular run of these amps need to be aware of a potentially dangerous  shock hazard!"

IMO, it seemed your main concern at the start was a potential shock hazard and not the step-start circuit not working properly.

This has been a very interesting read so far.  I don't normally read the amp forum but I'm going to stick around.  I've already learned a lot in the past week or so.



Yes you are correct that I did, and still do have a concern about a potential for a shock.  The 2 circuits, S5 interlock and the step start circuit are pretty much interconnected and as a result the interlock and the step start circuit are both affected in their operation.  My intend was to bring the situation to the attention of those who may have these affected units.  It was NOT my intention to make a legal issue over it nor take any such action in that direction.  At this point any one owning the amps that are affected by this could decide for themselves if they want to consider taking steps to have the  amps conform to the schematic.    Over the 20 years I have worked with these amps I have seen several with welded step start contacts on the relay and replaced the relays.  Unfortunately I never discovered this problem before.  I can now see why there is quite a large spark at the step start contacts because as WX7G pointed out the delay of an additional 100ms is eliminated by the mis-wiring.  I would imagine if the units were wired according to the schematic both situations would be resolved.  It seems that the issue of the voltage has been taken care of in the newer amps but I believe that the step start circuit is still lacking the delay time due to the wiring of the primary of the step start relay coil.  I am still discussing that issue with Mike at Ameritron.  I expect I will hear back from him tomorrow.  I brought it to his attention that the whole circuit needs to be wired according to the schematic to gain maximum effectiveness of the step start and not just eliminating the voltage issue.  Would seem to me that doing the wiring correctly in the first place is no harder than doing it the way it has been done.  I'm not sure if the issue about the step start effectiveness is at question.  After all, it took me 20 years to find the problem and my fix would have been the same as theirs until WX7G noticed the timing issue which I think is significant.  Ultimately I will try to convince them to simply wire the amps as the schematic shows.  I'll see what happens.  
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W1QJ
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Posts: 2966




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« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2013, 09:59:07 AM »

Hi,

Government mandated or not, a primary concern of every manufacturer should be the safety, and safe use of their products by their customers and agents.  It should not have to be ORDERED by a government agency.

73,

John

Agreed, but I'll bet if we continue to discuss issues about legalities and government mandates this thread will be closed by the moderator.  I suggest we keep the discussion geared toward the technical issue as it affects the amplifier itself.  I would hate to have the thread closed until we can resolve the technical issue and hopefully get subsequent amps leaving Ameritron wired according to the schematic.  I think we already got the idea about the non technical issue.  I have not seen anyone come forward looking to correct the issue with these amps.  I intend however  to re-wire the unit I am working on to reflect the proper wiring.  I want to see how it affects the "spark" I am accustom to seeing at the contacts when the SS relay closes.  It may or may not make a whole lot of difference but it seems that it very well may.  I will report my findings when I complete this.
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NU1O
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Posts: 4622




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« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2013, 10:52:13 AM »

Agreed, but I'll bet if we continue to discuss issues about legalities and government mandates this thread will be closed by the moderator.  I suggest we keep the discussion geared toward the technical issue as it affects the amplifier itself.  I would hate to have the thread closed until we can resolve the technical issue and hopefully get subsequent amps leaving Ameritron wired according to the schematic.  I think we already got the idea about the non technical issue.  I have not seen anyone come forward looking to correct the issue with these amps.  I intend however  to re-wire the unit I am working on to reflect the proper wiring.  I want to see how it affects the "spark" I am accustom to seeing at the contacts when the SS relay closes.  It may or may not make a whole lot of difference but it seems that it very well may.  I will report my findings when I complete this.

I agree that the focus should be to discuss the problem, the fix, and to pass on any pertinent news from Ameritron/MFJ but I also agree with John, now V47JA.



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AH6RR
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Posts: 846




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« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2013, 07:46:16 PM »

Lou I have repaired a couple of the AL-82 that the Step Start relays had welded shut one of them twice but I always worked on them  unplugged. I also know one guy that has a AL-1500 and he has had to replace his relays 4 times so there is a problem with the wiring and timing with the amps because there should not be an arc/spark what the relay closes. I did send an email to the owners of these amps with a link to this discussion that will let them know why it happens. Lou thanks for the find and cure to this. The next time I get one in for repair the first thing I will do is wire it correctly.

Roland AH6RR
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W1QJ
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Posts: 2966




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« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2013, 09:52:48 PM »

Lou I have repaired a couple of the AL-82 that the Step Start relays had welded shut one of them twice but I always worked on them  unplugged. I also know one guy that has a AL-1500 and he has had to replace his relays 4 times so there is a problem with the wiring and timing with the amps because there should not be an arc/spark what the relay closes. I did send an email to the owners of these amps with a link to this discussion that will let them know why it happens. Lou thanks for the find and cure to this. The next time I get one in for repair the first thing I will do is wire it correctly.

Roland AH6RR

Hi Roland nice to see you back in the discussions.  You have been silent lately.  Like I said, I have been working on these amps for 20 years and never picked up on this problem.  The step start relays welding the contacts is wide spread with these amps.  Due to the mis wiring there is virtually no step start action.  As WX7G pointed out, as wired (and as the fix that Ameritron now uses for the 400v problem) still does not address the step start problem.  That means that there is NOT ONE properly working step start circuit in ANY Al-82/1200/1500 EVER made.  ALL units out there no matter what vintage including the ones still on the shelf are ALL wired wrong.  Making it right should increase the step start timing and should reduce that "spark" and may also end the welded contact problem with these amps.  In addition Roland, there is another wiring error.  The line voltage circuit as in comes in from the plug and goes to the fuses are mis wired.  if you look at the schematic you will see that the black "line" wire should go from the terminal  strip to the line side of the fuse and then through the fuse to the load side and then up to the terminal barrier on the back wall.  Then it branches up to the low current fuse for the filament transformer.  BUT....the way it is wired is the black wire comes from the terminal strip directly to the terminal barrier and bypasses the fuse (15A) and then goes to the small fuse.  The other leg of the 240 for the filament transformer (white line wire)  is connected to the line side of the main fuse instead of the load side.  You need to dope out the primary line circuit and compare it to the schematic.  You will find a couple of errors.  Although the amp still works OK, the problem is that if the main fuse blows the HV goes off but the filament transformer is still powered up.  You get blower, lights, and filament voltage but no HV.  You can drive the tube with no HV, the grid current goes way high and tube damage may occur if you do not notice the HV is off.  It happened to me once and that is how I know.  I would think that if a main fuse blows (either one) the amp should go completely dead so the operator knows there is a problem.  One fuse can blow and you would not know it.  If the other one blows then the amp goes dead.  I don't like that.  The schematic is correct and shows that if either fuse blows the amp goes dead.  I brought this up to Ameritron years ago and they never made the change.  You may as well include that in your amp check ups.  I think perhaps a QST article pointing out these issues may be in order. Lou
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AH6RR
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Posts: 846




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« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2013, 09:40:56 AM »

Lou it is time for that article not only for QST but I think CQ and the RSGB and any other Ham publication I know there is a bunch like the VK/ZL and the DL since these amps are all over the world. I received an email from the guy who has the AL-1500 (he now has 4 of them) thanking me he is changing all of them. He had a 3CX-1500 tube at our swapmeet on the 5th of this month for $50 because it had an intermittent problem it would work for about 75 to 100 hours than it would just quit working and it came out of one of the AL-1500's I passed on it but I did pick up a pair of Eimac 3-500z's from him that were pulls from his Henry amp for under $100 both work just fine with over 90% power out, he had picked up a new set of Amprex tubes and swapped them out. So now I have a good pair of backup tubes for my SB-220 Grin. The main reason I have been absent is work has kept me busy as all get out.

73 Roland AH6RR
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G3RZP
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Posts: 1278




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« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2013, 12:10:27 PM »

Something I don't understand about this....

I presume samples went off to an independent test house to get FCC approval. Were the samples wired right? What are the rules on QA for FCC? They must have had someone in Europe approve their results if they sell here: so did the Test House find a problem? Or if it didn't go to a Test House and was self assessed, how come their ISO 9000 required QA department didn't pick it up?

So if the German authorities ( the only ones in practice in Europe who bother) pick this up, Ameritron could have major problems in Europe - like a complete product recall and an ISO 9000 audit.

It could be cheaper for them to wave a finger and not sell in Europe.....tough on their distributors, though.

I rather think that this could escalate from an 'Oh sh*t' to something much worse....
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K7KBN
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Posts: 3682




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« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2013, 12:59:14 PM »

Here is the excerpt from Part 97 of the FCC Rules regarding the certification of external RF amplifiers.

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=7a3207595ee6f4b7797901c594b6e853&rgn=div8&view=text&node=47:5.0.1.1.6.4.157.9&idno=47

Underwhelmed yet?  It isn't FCC's job to ensure a radio-type product is safe, only that its emission properties are within specified limits.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KH6AQ
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Posts: 7889




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« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2013, 01:23:56 PM »

G3RZP, the Ameritron models imported into Europe have the CE mark. To obtain the CE mark a manufacturer can "self certify" and no outside test house or certified body is needed.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2013, 01:26:09 PM »

Pat

there's the difference between Europe and  the US. If you certify in Europe, it has to be safe ( Low Voltage and Radio and Telecommunications Terminals Directives) and meet emission requirements and if it draws more than 75 watts, meet requirements on harmonics pushed into the power lines and power factor (EMC Directive). Now it isn't safe,  BUT somebody somewhere signed a certificate to say it met all the requirements to be able to sell in Europe. Now that may well have been on the basis of the Ameritron QA system, which has obviously failed......invalidating the  CE approval mark.

I figure somebody at Ameritron would be well advised to look for another job....how urgently depends on how much brown stuff hits the fan....
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G3RZP
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« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2013, 01:29:44 PM »

WX7G

Self certification requires an adequate QA system to be in place - basically ISO 9000 certification is needed.

That obviously isn't working in this case.....thus self certification is not going to be applicable - if anybody ever bothers. Which unless somebody moans, then officialdom won't bother - and maybe not even if they do.
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AH6RR
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Posts: 846




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« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2013, 01:57:59 PM »

Here is a Summary for getting an amateur radio amplifier certified by the FCC from Mike K6AER.

" can answer your questions but excuse me this is going to be long.

I just finished the certification process (contract engineer) for the Alpha 8406 (6 Meter) and the re-certification of the Alpha 9500 (160-10 meters) a little over two years ago.

If everything goes smoothly, the cost can be as low as $10,000 and as high as $35,000. Much of the testing can only be done at a range where there is no interference. If you encounter a problem which is hard to fix it at the range, you have to reschedule for further testing after an engineering solution has been found.

There is a lot that is required to receive the FCC certificated approval.  The rules have change little over the years until about three years ago. Then the FCC clamped down hard on what used to be called (FCC Type Approval).

On amplifiers being offered for Amateur use, the process follows several areas and regulation areas depending on how high the frequency is.

•   All amplifiers are limited to 15 dB of gain.

•   All amplifiers must pass Part 15 for emissions to 1000 MHz.

•   All amplifiers must have zero gain at 26-28 MHz. This can be done by none resonate unmodifiable circuitry or with a microprocessor. As with any microprocessor embedded product, part 15 emissions becomes more difficult.

•   Amateur amplifiers are generally regulated under part 97 of the FCC rules except when operation is above 25 MHz. Then the testing process gets tough.

•   Amplifiers that can operate above 25 MHz must also pass commercial specifications contained in TIA-603C. Under TIA-603C Harmonics both conducted (coax connector) and case radiated must be down 43 plus the Log of the output power in dB OUT TO THE TENTH HARMONIC. This means an amplifier that produces 1500 watts must have harmonics and case radiation down 72 dBc from peak power. This is a ball buster.

Most amateur amplifiers will pass the older harmonic requirements but will not pass under commercial TIA-603C. When you look at the FCC Certification listing for most amateur amplifier manufactures, you will see they are all listed for operation below 25 MHz and the certification stops at 21.450 MHz or the top of the 15 meter band.  For a long time manufactures have left the twelve/ten meter low pass filter out of the circuit or placed the infamous green wire to be clipped if you had an amateur license. This is no longer condoned and allowed.

Beside your schematics, pictures of the assembly, circuit boards, manuals, tune up proceedures and in some cases safety radiation procedures must also be submitted. You can do much of the testing in house including shots of the test configurations, spectrum analyzer shots, graphs and tables of test results. If the tests don’t pass the sniff test they may require testing be done by an independent lab. In some post audit cases they may require an outside lab to do further testing if interference issues result from customer use.

Currently the only modern amplifiers I have seen certificated for HF operation above 15 meters are SPE Specific, Tokyo High Power and Alpha.

Some manufactures have quoted that their designs meet FCC rules but have no FCC approval Certificate on file. For the life on me I don't know how some amplifiers are being sold or imported under the new rules. When a new amplifier is offered for sale ask for the FCC Certificated registration number. If the manufacture does not have it they are not allowed to ship the amplifier.

Most of the certification process can be done on line with the FCC but your testing material has to be submitted in specific form and will be reviewed by an outside contract agency for the FCC. Once the testing and paperwork has been  approved, the certification number will be issued by the FCC and a short time.

Your FCC number has to be of a certain font and location on the amplifier. If you modify the amplifier beyond the general design then the amplifier has to be re-certified. In some cases the certification can be amended if you can show the modification will not affect the testing outcome.

Many manufactures have been using the same certification number for many models and in a lot of cases the following on products have slipped under the FCC RADAR. For an example, if you changed the design from a triode to a tetrode or changed the output circuit from a Pi-l to a Pi you would have to recertify the amplifier. Going from a 4CX1000A to a 4CX1500B would only require a modification.

This is why new amplifiers are so expensive. The FCC certification process can actually keep a new product from being built for the amateur radio market due to certification cost."

That shows all testing is in house and since the schematic is correct there should have been no reason to think that they were wired wrong. These amps have been in production for many years they met all the requirements at that time. They have been built since at least 1996.  I do not think that once it is certified that is needed unless they make some major modification to the design. As for the ISO9000 I do not think that it ever was done back then. But I am not sure.

Roland AH6RR

 

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AA4HA
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« Reply #28 on: October 14, 2013, 02:57:14 PM »

I guess the disappointing thing is that nobody who is in a position of authority from Ameritron is willing to step in and say "thank you for pointing out the problem, we are now aware of it and are working out a way to notify the owners of our product".

Somewhere between when the schematic was created, the prototype was built and the fabrication instructions were made for manufacturing there was a disconnect <pun> in the process. If this is one of those "no user serviceable parts inside" types of products than the amplifiers that are in the field will either need to go back to the factory, an authorized service center or have a big warning sticker affixed to the case.

As there are amateurs who can and will open the case to modify (correct) the wiring error than the manufacturer should provide a detailed, step-by-step procedure in how to do this in a safe manner.

Unfortunately the fear of legal action steps between many manufacturers and customers. There are probably legions of lawyers who are weighing in on this and giving such sage advice as "pretend you do not know about it and it will go away". Somewhere along the line you would hope that an ethical position would be taken to be honest with the customers, come up with a quick solution and to move forward from here. Nobody wants to wait for a tragedy to unfold before action is forced by some outside agency.
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
NU1O
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Posts: 4622




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« Reply #29 on: October 14, 2013, 04:01:23 PM »

I guess the disappointing thing is that nobody who is in a position of authority from Ameritron is willing to step in and say "thank you for pointing out the problem, we are now aware of it and are working out a way to notify the owners of our product".

I guess this proves the old adage that "NO good deed goes unpunished" is true. 

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