Great Way To Use An Old PC Power Supply To Power Electronic Projects!Wednesday, June 22, 2016
A bench power supply with variable voltage, current limiting and dual positive and negative fixed voltage regulators is even more handy to have for electronics projects operation based on amplifier (op-amp) integrated circuits, testing the dropout voltage of a regulator, determining LED forward voltage and limiting the amp current so your project won't blow up into smithereens!
You can do cool things with bench power supplies like hooking them up in series or parallel to increase the voltage and current respectively. Depending on the model you want, you can pick up a basic linear bench power supply without any fancy features (like computer control) very affordably.
With that said, you can never beat the build quality and affordability of buying an old-school bench power supply like the +Hewlett-Packard 6236B triple output power supply, which has a switchable range on the voltmeter for low-voltage use.
While vintage power supplies are analog, you can always digitize very inexpensively an analog power supply by mounting a volt/amp meter panel. Here is an example of how an inexpensive volt meter panel is hooked up to a 50 year-old analog power supply:
Most computer power supply units (PSU) use the ATX motherboard configuration specification, which produce +3.3 V (orange cable), +5 V (red cable) and +12 V (yellow cable) outputs. By the way, the ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended and was developed by +Intel in the late 1990's.
ATX breakout boards are easy to use and you simply insert the power connector from the computer power supply into the breakout board and you have yourself a variable voltage bench power supply in seconds. There are several ATX breakout board solutions out there and two that I like are the ATX breakout board from +Dangerous Prototypes and the ATX breakout board currently being funded on Kickstarter.
The ATX breakout board from Dangerous Prototypes also outputs 12V, 5V, and 3.3V but has -12 Volt output too, as well as screw banana terminals and separate LED indicator lights on each voltage channel so you know when each voltage is working and when there is a shortage.
As a hobbyist myself who enjoys hobby electronics, I can see the versatility of a bench power supply. You can use a bench power supply for anything from battery charging and powering projects to independently test components and doing small electronic repair of domestic appliances.