Saturday, July 6, 2013

Testing to the rescue

Some times stuff happens and you don't really know why.  This is why you need test equipment.

This was the case with my Dad's new 3D plane.  This was a kit that came without any electronics but had recommendations.  Since it was from Hobby King, of course the recommendations were for their parts.  No big deal, I actually like most of their parts.  I helped my Dad figure out what he needed and what was the best fit of parts from the US warehouse.  When he got everything together he noticed that things were getting hot.  Not a good sign.

He had a good idea of how to put a heat sink on his speed controller, since this is what was getting hot, and I helped him figure out the best way to put it on.  What he did was to use some heat sink compound in the center and then some epoxy on the corners to secure it down.  This was of course after cutting away some of the heat shrink to expose the ESC aluminum heat sink.  This is what he ended up with.

Darn good job, don't you think?

This is the other side showing that it is a Hobby King brand 25A (30A burst) variety.  This should already be a pretty good ESC and with the added heat sink, even better.  The velcro in the photo was something he added to help keep the ESC tacked down in his plane (nice idea).

After some testing, it was still getting really hot, too hot to touch and would actually go into shutdown mode!  This already happened once while he was test flying it.  We initially thought he had lost control when it went behind an obstruction, but we no longer think this was the case.

So, now to the testing and test equipment.  I was able to come down with the family and my gear (yes, family comes first. Since there was still some space left in the trunk I could take my gear along!).  We hooked up my power meter in between the battery and the ESC and began testing it out.

We found that at full throttle it was only pulling 14A.  This is well below the rating of 25A, but it was roasting hot after only about 30 seconds.  It even when into shutdown mode about 20 seconds later.  Even with the added heat sink, it was too hot to touch!

We then tested the power draw on my Wild Hawk which I upgraded to a brushless motor with a Turnigy 25A ESC.  This combination drew slightly more current at about 16A, but stayed quite cool and was barely warm after a minute or so of wide open throttle. 

So, this resolved why he lost control.  This also suggests that two other possibilities.  One is that the Hobby King brand parts (or ESC in this case) are not very good, or the other possibility is that they had a batch of much lower rated ESCs go out with the wrong labels on.  We would not have known this without the tester as we would not have been able see that the current draw was well below the rating.

Well, what does he do now?  He has two options.  One is to pursue a replacement from Hobby King and the other is to just go out and buy a more reliable brand.  Since the Hobby King ESC was only about $7, I think he will just look for a better replacement.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Please feel free to post comments, good or bad, and be sure to come back and check for future posts.

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Mr. Clean