Sunday, April 2, 2017

BEARS Radio Station in a box assignment

I have been having so much fun building Radio in a Box projects, but just how many radios in a box does one need?  I know, it was rhetorical !

Lucky for me, I belong to the BEARS (Boeing Employees Amateur Radio Society). They have found a new home at the Museum of Flight (MOF).  Quite a few BEARS volunteer at the Museum doing a wide variety of tasks.  In turn, the Museum allows them the use of a meeting place and a location to place their radio shack.   As part of our efforts to give back to the MOF, I was assigned to assemble a radio station to be used in their Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  Basically, the BEARS said replace the current setup with something that looks a bit more "professional".  Other than that I was on my own.

The MOF resides in Tukwila, Washington.  The Tukwila Emergency Communications Team has been "Partnering with the City of Tukwila to Provide Reliable Communications" for quite some time and we decided that would be a good resource to communicate with during an emergency.  Their amateur operators are focused D-STAR radios, so to that end we needed to have D-STAR capability.

In addition, we needed normal EMCOMM ability on a local, county and state level.  The station of course needed to operate without commercial power for at least a few hours and longer with additional batteries or generator.  With that as a starting point off I went to gather the parts and hopefully come up with a professional looking radio resource.

The bits and pieces that went into the BEARS Radio(s) in a Box are:

First, purchased a ICOM ID-880H radio ($200) from Arlene, KF7NDO.  This is the same type mobile radio used by the Tukwila Team.  This purchase included manual, programming cable and software, a older Donner sound card interface for packet work and various other items to make operations easier.

Next, the BEARS had received a complete HF/VHF/UHF rig donated by Dan, N7PWO.  This included a Yaesu FT-897, and compatible LDG  tuner, RigRunner 4005 power distribution unit and the bits and pieces to hook everything together.

Rich, K7RFH (that's me) donated several items from the salvaged parts bin, such as, parts carrying case, switches, wiring, brackets, screws, bolts, zip ties, etc.

The rest of the items were purchased either online or from other Hams.  Since I carefully shopped sales, the current prices for these items may be different from what I payed.  Listed below are what I payed and links to examples products.  Those items included:
  1. 6U 19 inch rack audio case (did not need to be weather resistant)  $93
  2. Two 2U metal 19 inch rack shelves $28 each
  3. 2U 19 inch rack slotted panel for holding gauges, switches and power inlet $15
  4. 12 VDC power supply sized for the needs of the box $20
  5. power management unit to provide auto-switch-over between commercial power and battery, plus battery charging maintenance $55
    Example: Low-Loss PWRgate 
  6. Anderson Powerpoles, fused commercial power inlet, Powerpole bracket and LED lighting strip.
    Examples: powerpoles $45
    power inlet $5
    PP bracket $5
    LED lighting $6
    LED 8mm connectors $4 
  7. Sealed Lead acid 7AH AGM battery $29
Most items were purchased through, but they were not necessarily sold directly by Amazon.  All other products were purchased from other amateur radio operators.

Below are some photos of the parts donated and purchased.

6U audio case with shelves and front panel installed.
Donated FT-897 and LDG Tuner
Low Loss PWRgate from Flint Hills Radio
  Donated RIGrunner 4005

12 VDC Power Supply, grounding block and two power inlets.
(The inlet on the right was selected for this box.)

For the construction, all radios were attached to the shelves with bolts or screws either directly or using a mobile bracket.  In addition, nylon zip wire ties were added to secure FT-897 to the rack shelf.

The following photos are of the completed box and show some detail (closeups) of the installation.

 On the left is the box in travel mode.  Note the yellow lettering is done with reflective vinyl.  Using a flashlight, these glow and make the box easier to find in the dark.

On the right is the accessories box.  It contains microphones, power cord, etc.

This pair of photos show the "butterfly" latch operation.

Shown on the right is the front view of the box components with the LED light strip illuminated.

 Detail to the left shows the battery enable/disable switch. Next to the switch is the Battery IN and 12VDC OUT Powerpole connections.

Detail to the right shows power panel (cig socket, meter, USB power), LED light switch and power cord connection and fused inlet switch.

Shown on the right is the rear view of the box components with the LED light strip illuminated.

On the left, is the Low Loss PWRgate and behind it is the RIGrunner 4005.  Just to the right of the PWRgate is the 12V power supply.

On the right is the accessories box, an example of the antenna connectors, programming cable for the ID-880H and lower in the frame the AGM battery.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New power distribution kit build - Now that was fun!

At the Mike & Key Flea Market I came across a table which was displaying a radio in box concept in a small ammo can.   Not unusual, but how they put it together was very intriguing.  A QYT tiny radio was interesting, but the real surprise was the power distribution box that was built from a kit.
It had more outputs than I had see before in such a small box and there were LED lights that displayed when power was on and status of each of the outputs, as well as a digital power meter.   Since I was working at the flea market I didn't get around to buying one of these kits, until afterwards, when I contacted K9JEB  and below is the result.

K9JEB , John Boal offers the power distribution center kit at $50 plus shipping (at the time of this writing).  Per his web site its features/advantages are:
  • Build your own Kit - save money and do it yourself!
  • Flexible - build only what you need now, add or upgrade options later
  • ARES, RACES, RSGB, ARRL standard connectors
  • Industrial Strength DC Power distribution
  • Genuine Anderson PowerPoles
  • Each output Fused with its own Fuse-Blown / Short-Circuit LED
  • Filter Capacitors on each output connection (optional) - keeps electrical/vehicle noise down
  • Hot-Connect, quick-change PowerPole connections
  • Daisy-chain several units together for lots of outputs
  • Use for collecting energy from multiple Solar Panels
  • Great for power distribution from Solar Charge Controller output to the DC load
  • Use in the Car, EOC, Go-Kit, Home, Base station, or all of them!
  • Handles 30A (total load) with optional upgrade to 45A
  • Optional features:
  • Digital Voltmeter
  • 3A Max (2.5A continuous) DC-DC USB 5V Charger Power Module Option
  • 1-10V 3A Step-Down DC-DC Power Module option Can use for Baofeng, other Handheld Radio Chargers
  • 15-30V 3A Step-Up DC-DC Power Module Option - Charge your laptop battery!
  • Shipping is about $5 in the USA

You never known with "kits" what the quality will be or if the instructions cover everything.  I can say with this kit, the instructions were close too perfection.  The quality was excellent and surprise, it came with all the parts needed.   The only things I had to add was about 18 inches of #18 solid wire (which came from my scrap wire bin) and the soldering labor to make everything stay put.

Any question I had was answered by the downloadable documentation and in an evening I had everything together, tested and in operation in the shack.

My power distribution center box is the standard one with no optional power modules noted above.  Basically, one Powerpole pair for 12 volt input and eight Powerpole pairs of various amperage outputs.  The power meter was quite accurate and I mounted it on the surface of the project box.  Also included was the USB power port which is rated at 3 amps.  This works well for phone charging, running a USB light, charging a tablet or whatever other USB powered device you have hanging about.

I replaced a RigRunner 4005 with this kit.  The advantage over the 4005 was more output pairs, the power meter and of course the USB power.  The 4005 is rated a bit higher amp-wise then the basic kit, but even that is covered in the instructions.  Details are provided on how to modify the board so that it can surpass the amperage of the 4005.  I did those mods, but have not fully loaded the box.

You can see several photos of the power distribution center kit on John's website.  They are nicely put together.  I have included a photo of mine below.  Since I immediately put it into service the night I finished it, there aren't any "progress" images.  Did I mentioned it only took an evening from start to finish?  Trust me, it was easy to assemble, as long as you follow the excellent instructions.

Overall, I would highly recommend this power distribution center kit to anyone interested in learning what goes into making one and as a side benefit save a bit of money.   It was a fun project!  

Thanks to John Boal, K9JEB for creating the kit and answering all my question prior to purchase.