Morris Perfect Storm 2.0 – Fixed


Deland again with Learn to Make, Make to
Learn and in this exciting episode instead of making something I’m gonna
fix something. I’m gonna fix my Morris Perfect Storm 2.0. It’s broken. It’s not
working. It’s a brick. So what is a perfect storm 2.0? Okay, before I get any further I can tell you it is not the remake of a classic movie with Marky Mark. So, all you Marky Mark fans out there, I’m sorry it’s
not gonna happen. I mean it could happen … there are a lot of 2.0s going on
right now. What it is is actually this little black box and what you do is
you input audio into the front, either through this built-in microphone or
through this input audio jack. You can adjust the sensitivity to that sound
with this little knob. You plug some really bright lights into the back, you
know, not to exceed 1,000 watts, and the lights will flash in synchronization to
the sound. So what that means is, thunder goes in, lightning… lights flashing out
the back. Now, when this thing is working, it’s great! It is awesome! It works
really well actually. It is very convincing. It’s just a great effect. The
problem is, this worked just about long enough to get me past my return window.
So, not very long and thank you for that. I got a couple options here. I could just
throw it away or better yet I could, you know, go take
it out into a field and get all “Office Space” on it. The problem with that is I’m
really trying to up my lightning game here a little bit… if that’s even the
thing… and there just aren’t a lot of alternatives to this out there. You know,
people really are not sitting in their living rooms going, you know, “Gosh Honey! You know what would really make the room? 24X7 thunder and lightning.”
It’s just not a thing these days and so, you know, the options out there for
lightning effects are pretty slim… actually. So, that really leaves me with
one option and that is to try and fix it. Now, my experience with electronics is
basically at sort of the Heathkit level. If you don’t know what that means,
Google it. I’m not an electrical engineer. I am not an electrician but I’ve kludged
around on a lot of circuits. So, what I’m hoping is that, if I crack this sucker
open, I will see something that is hopefully recognizable. Better yet, I see
something that looks like it can be repaired. So, my next step is to open this
up, dig around, and see if there is something that can be fixed. So, that’s
what I’m going to do and then I’m going to come back and I’m going to report on
my results. So, I’ll see you soon. … queue angelic voices… Okay, so angels didn’t sing when I opened
the case but, you know, a lot of good going on here despite the fact that it
wasn’t working. First of all, this is unplugged so, if I touch things in
here, generally speaking, I shouldn’t get a shock. So, one of the nice things was,
opening this case, it turns out that this is feeling really very analog. It’s
through-hole components, so I can desolder and solder really easily and
all of these things are really understandable, recognizable, and a lot of
them I have extra bits and pieces already floating around in drawers. So,
what I want to do is really talk quickly about what I think is going on with the
circuit and how I got to a solution. So, again, take all of this with a bit of a
grain of salt. But, on this side of the board, this is really our high voltage
side of the board. What you’ve got is your household, your line current, coming
in here. It’s protected by this 15 amp fuse and this is our power switch. So,
power comes in here and it goes into this little power distribution block…
this little power block. This side of the block is actually output and this is our
output to our lights and so I’ve got a little halogen shop light plugged in
over here and it’s plugged into the back. We’ll talk about this side of the board
in a second. So, power comes in… it goes through this big capacitor… that’s what
this big yellow thing is… and then it runs through this transformer. This
transformer is a 120 volt to 8 volt transformer and what it’s doing is it’s
stepping down the voltage to be used on this side of the circuit and it also
provides a little bit of isolation from the high voltage side to the low voltage
side and it protects the components, including… you know… maybe potentially your valuable stereo that is plugged in through that input. On this
side we’ve got our potentiometer, which is our sensitivity, which we can dial… this is
from zero to whatever. There are lots of little resistors… couple diodes in here…
some capacitors… electrolytic capacitor. This is the audio input jack. This is our
microphone… a couple other capacitors resistors.. there’s some power diodes
sneaking around back here… capacitors and then, you know, besides all of those sort
of really standard electronic components, there are a few little integrated
circuits or chip like things. This, after looking at the part number on it and
doing a little research, is an op-amp. This is an optical isolator and this is
a triac. We’ll talk about those in a second. So, again, not an electrical
engineer but I’m going to kind of walk through what I think is going on with
this little circuit board. So, you’ve got power coming in… 120 household voltage. It goes through this little sort of, you know, conditioning and voltage reduction
to get it to somewhere around 8 volts on this side of the board and you have
audio input coming in so it can either come in through the jack or through the
microphone. This is very, very low voltage and so what I think this op-amp here is
meant to do is it’s meant to boost that voltage to a level that is usable over
kind of around the corner here on this side of the circuit. Now what you’re
doing with the potentiometer is you’re controlling the amount of, I’m guessing,
voltage and… I didn’t trace the traces… but the amount of voltage or signal
coming into the op-amp. When I use the term voltage and
signal, it’ll probably make people who really know what they’re doing and do this
for a living cringe because I’m probably a little sloppy with that language. What I’m meaning by either signal or voltage is it is that input that is
driving the way that the circuit functions to deliver the output
because it’s it’s not just a straight up it’s 120 volts here it’s 8 volts here.
There’s a lot of varying input driving varying output. So, I kind of use
the term signal a little sort of fast and loose there. So, we’ve got basically
this varying signal coming in… this varying voltage coming in from the mic
or the input jack. I’m guessing it needs to be boosted a little bit here
and this is sort of varying the amount that it’s pushing sort of into that.
There’s probably some sort of threshold that this helps adjust for. At
that point, it’s amplified and it kind of comes around here and it hits this
little optical isolator. What the optical isolator does is it basically
does the same thing that the transformer does on the input side and it provides
isolation between the two halves of the circuit on basically our output side. So,
it is forming a barrier on high voltage 120 and low voltage
8. What you’ve got inside that little package is generally or usually a
infrared sensor and an infrared emitter. So, the emitter is on the, you know, is
delivering a signal or a little pulse to the receiver… the sensor which then is
taking that and translating that to the triac and the triac, in this case, is what
is our, in effect, switch. So, as that signal is being delivered off of the
optical isolator to the triac, the triac is basically turning the power on and
off to the light. So, the triac is connected to our output. So, varying
voltage in… there’s a little bit of a signal boost here… a little bit of a
boost in the op-amp… it comes around through some, you know,
fits and starts and turns and hits the optical isolator. The isolator basically
transmits that information using light which protects the circuit. Then
it transmits to the triac. The triac, sensing that varying voltage, switches on
and off in relation to, sort of, those peaks and valleys and turns light on and
off. Okay! Simple enough. So what could go wrong? Well, one of the things I looked at
was obvious damage scorch marks… things like that. Something that looked fried, broken, baked
and there really wasn’t anything like that.
The main things that could go wrong then sort of felt like the little integrated
circuits. On this side of the board, these kinds of things you know… I didn’t I
didn’t have, you know, ten thousand watts of lights plugged in… you know a hundred-thousand Italian twinkle bulbs… you know. I just had no more than five hundred
watts plugged in and so I felt like the the chance of really over doing it on
the triac was low. The optical isolator… it feels like it’s sort of in a safe
little place here because it’s basically protected by all of this in
here and its role is to, you know, transmit that information. I kind of felt
like it was kind of a safe little little guy over on that side.
I knew the transformer was working because I took a couple readings off of
a couple points and, you know obviously, I was getting voltage in because, you know,
the light was powering. I could take some readings off of, you know, get
some voltage readings and see that… you know, there was a possible risk that the
fuse had just blown or been a bad fuse and, even though it didn’t look tripped,
it had tripped and so it was, you know… but, even if that were the case, you
know, the light probably would not have powered on with a rocker switch. So,
all roads were sort of leading to this little op-amp. The reason I
kind of focused on the op-amp was because my problem started when I
plugged into that audio jack. I had the CD player, that was playing the CD
that came with it, cranked… really the volume was cranked way up. I
also had the sensitivity cranked way up and I had a sneaking suspicion that I
may have just overdone it a little bit and potentially blown the op-amp. This
microphone is a pretty known item and so to actually… you know, I was having more
luck with just the microphone and really only had problems starting with the
input jack. So, I kind of thought well you know this was working because this is
really a known value coming in and potentially I was injecting a little bit
of an unknown value here and that was creating the problem. So, I got it all
disassembled and I took a look at the back side. It’s through-hole so I was
able to desolder the little op-amp chip. I
soldered in an IC socket so, if this turned out to be the problem, I could
very quickly swap them out should I burn it out again.
I put a new op amp in. Reassembled everything very carefully to make sure
that I had all of my wiring correct… polarities correct.
I made sure that this was again attached to the frame. This is a heatsink and
potentially a point… a ground point. There are some grounding pads basically here
on these mounting screws that felt like again additional ground points. Basically,
assembled everything the way that it was and took it for a little test drive. So,
what I’m gonna do is I am going to plug it back in and I’m going to play a
little bit of an audio track and let’s see what the results were. So,
hold on a second while I plug it in. Okay? So, plugged in. What I’m going to do is
I’m going to make sure that the sensitivity is turned all the way down
and I’m gonna power it up. So, the first good news was that there
was no smoking, sizzling, snap crackle pop, no little blue
puffs… a little blue flame, nothing that smells ,you know, smelled like hot electricity… which is never a pleasant smell. So, all
is well. I’ve got a small halogen shop lamp plugged in. We’re powered up and
we’re going to just play a thunder… no rain… audio file that I found online. It’s
good to have something that doesn’t have a lot of extraneous noise, like rain… wind,
for this. It’s really the most effective audio input. So I’m gonna play that. I’m
gonna prop it up here right next to the speaker. So, nothing’s happening right now
and that’s just fine because, basically, this is turned down and down is
basically off in this particular case. Measuring the the values on the
potentiometer, all the way down is all the way off. So, what I’m gonna do is I’m
just gonna slowly start to increase that sensitivity. Okay! So, now you… I
didn’t turn it much and you can see that I already was getting a little bit of a
flash off of that halogen. I’m gonna turn it up just a little bit more but I’m
gonna wait for some more audio. All right. So, obviously… clearly the op-amp was the
problem. I don’t know what the combination of things was that, you know,
caused it to blow. I’m gonna be extremely cautious when I
use that input jack to make sure that I’m not cranking the volume on whatever
that audio input is you know to 11 and that I’ve got the the sensitivity turned
all the way up. Whenever possible, I’m feeling like, in many ways, the mic is the
safer bet. I’m also gonna be a little gentle with it, you know, overall from a
circuit perspective. So, before I power things off, I’m gonna try to remember to
turn the sensitivity all the way down to again… hopefully, protect some of this
side of it. Just be a little easy on it because really, as you can see, when
it’s working, it works really well. It is a really great effect and you get these
big floodlights going with a nice loud thunder track and it’s actually a super
cool Lightning effect. That’s… that one kind of says it all right there.
So, I hope this was helpful. This was a little bit of a peek into my mind and
how I would go about looking at something like this. Again
I’m not a electrical engineer. I, you know, can’t keep stressing that enough. a lot
of what I was able to do here was basically based on some common sense,
being safe with messing around with electronics, making sure things were
unplugged, always being aware that, even though things are unplugged, capacitors…
high, you know, high-capacity capacitors can hold a lot of energy and they can
dump lethal amounts into your body. So, poking and prodding on things even
though they are unplugged can be a dangerous thing. Just making sure
that, as I was taking apart and putting back together, I was really being careful
to get things back the way they were and wired correctly.That I wasn’t wiring things in reverse because that will usually
have, you know, bad outcomes. So, thanks for watching! I hope this was
helpful. Look forward to seeing you again on
future episodes of Learn to Make, Make to Learn and happy making! Thanks!

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