Mini Adjustable Voltage Regulator

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Introduction: Mini Adjustable Voltage Regulator

About: Electrical Engineer

The goal was to make a variable power supply and make it as compact as possible. This is what I made. I know there are many other voltage regulator projects out there, but I wanted to make mine to suit my needs. This instructable assumes you know how to solder and basic knowledge of how to align circuit components in a tight configuration. Let me know if you have questions, or try www.google.com for help also.

The items listed below are what I used, or something similar. It isn't necessary to use exactly the same components that I have used, but I am giving you a few links that might help. I also didn't use the capacitors like shown, because I only use it to power things temporarily, and typically don't care if there is some fluctuation.

Bill of Materials

  • Dual 9v battery terminal (this one is parallel connected, I need series connected, just to get higher voltage range, but if you only need up to 9v, then this would work. If you can't find a series connected version, you can easily modify this one to be series) http://www.vetco.net/catalog/product_info.php?prod...
  • If you use battery terminals like I've shown, you will need some prototype board, similar to this, but I highly recommend buying the dual terminals above because it created more work to solder them properly:

    http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/BusBoard-Proto...

  • Mini Digital Volt Meter https://www.adafruit.com/products/705
  • A potentiometer with a knob, the LM350 recommends R2 = 5kohm along with the R1 = 240ohm, but I used R2 = 1000ohm and R1 was a 10-turn 20kohm pot (If I ever rebuild this, I would definitely look for a physically smaller one, but still 10-turn, however this is what I had on hand). I show other potentiometers, but those were very high values like 500kohm and 2Mohm, they might have worked, I just chose not to use them.
  • 1000ohm resistor (if you use a 20kohm pot)
  • LM350 3A Voltage Regulator
  • Toggle Switch something like this is what I used:

    https://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/dimmers-a...

  • Small alligator clips
  • Some wire
  • Solder
  • Heat shrink
  • Duct tape or something to apply to the back of the volt meter as insulation (short circuits are usually bad)
  • Epoxy (I used 5 minute type, but others could be used)

Note: If you use the dual battery terminal listed, then you would not need the PCB

Step 1: Schematic and Battery Terminal Prep

For the circuit, be sure you check the datasheet of whatever voltage regulator you are using. I chose the LM350 because it has higher current output, but I've used LM317 in the past. If you plan to drive something with higher current needs, you might need a heat sink.

You will need to cut wires and cut open the plastic sheath around each battery terminal, if you use the individual 9v battery terminal with wires. If I were to build this again, I would use the dual terminal type on the first page, and modify it to be series rather than parallel like that link shows.

Then you need to cut the prototype board to fit roughly the size of the two batteries together.

Solder the terminals onto the prototype board as shown, and add a short wire beneath the terminals on one end (as shown the red wire in the 4th picture). This will put the batteries in series to give 18v, when you connect the other terminals. Keep track of which is + and - for correct operation.

Step 2: Voltage Regulator Placement and Wiring to Voltmeter and Potentiometer

I placed the voltage regulator on one edge so that I could bend the input terminal and make it stick through to the positive battery terminal. Then you just bend it to touch the terminal from the other side and heat it up and apply solder.

Then you cut the resistor shorter and bend one end around so it can be soldered to the regulator terminals as shown. I planned ahead and applied heat shrink tubing once I had the wires soldered, but don't do it too soon unless you know where to make the next connections.

Refer to the schematic to understand where the volt meter needs to be connected. The red wire is the power for the meter itself, so I connected it to the 18v, and the black wire to the ground point which will be after the switch.

I think I missed taking a few pictures for the rest of the wiring, but if you follow the schematic, you will see the battery ground is connected to one terminal of the switch, then another wire will connect to a terminal of the potentiometer (see yellow arrows on 6th picture).

Then the adjust terminal of the regulator will have a wire soldered to it which will go to the one terminal on the potentiometer. And the third terminal on the potentiometer is unused. Be sure you check that you have adjustable resistance. If you connect the two on the "ends" of the potentiometer, it will just be the max resistance and not on the wiper. The potentiometer I used had its own schematic showing what each pin 1, 2, and 3 are.

The voltmeter black ground will connect to the same terminal of the switch that the potentiometer is, and the red positive wire will connect to the bent terminal of the regulator, which is the Input voltage. The white wire will connect to the Output of the regulator. I made each wire length fit to the distance and location of each connection, keeping enough slack to allow easy assembly.

Be sure you add duct tape or something as an insulator on the bottom of the voltmeter.

Step 3: Final Assembly and Epoxy

At this point, all the wires should be soldered. You can carefully attach the batteries and turn on the switch and measure the voltage from the Output to the Ground terminals and turn the potentiometer, the voltmeter reading should change.

If it makes it easier, solder some wire (see the silver wire) to the Ground terminal of the potentiometer and the other wire (copper) to the output of the voltage regulator and solder the wire to the alligator clips (you might need to redo the heat shrink if you already did that earlier.

If this test was OK, then you can move on to epoxying everything together. No secret or best method, just hold the pieces where you want them to be, then find some way of temporarily holding them together. I used Scotch tape and a Quick-Grip clamp or something, then applied some 5-minute epoxy with a toothpick and just waited until it was dry, then rotate the assembly and add more epoxy as needed to ensure it holds tight. Then remove the tape, clamp, or whatever temporary holding method you used.

Step 4: Short Video Showing Voltage Changing

The minimum output is based on the voltage regulator's internal reference voltage (look at the datasheet formula), and the maximum output is based on the batteries connected and how much energy they have left (as well as the maximum specified in the datasheet, in case you connected much higher voltage).

Hope you enjoy making this.

Step 5: Example Usage

Just showing an example of how I use this adjustable power supply. Here I have a small humidity sensor and another volt meter display to read its output. I set my main unit at 5.0v and the sensor is reading 1.8v. By the datasheet, that means about 40% RH. This made it easy for me to do a quick check of multiple locations, without needing to build a permanent circuit. Eventually, I will just build a permanent circuit or buy a small unit to display the current humidity.

3 People Made This Project!

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55 Discussions

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EmmC3

5 months ago

Alright, sorry if this is something that's been covered already, but for some reason, I'm only getting about .72 of a volt adjustment. I'm pretty sure I've got it all hooked up properly. I'm using the NTE equivalent, if that makes a difference.

3 replies

Sorry I'm slow to reply. The NTE equivalent shouldn't matter, but which part number exactly are you using? Do you have any pictures of your schematic or your actual wiring? I'd be happy to try to trace down each wire, but I'd need good enough pics to help support this activity. With IC's you need to be sure you have each pin exactly correct. Sometimes the makers will swap pins and if you have it not 100% correct, you will have very limited adjust or usability. Also, please check that you don't have any stray wires or solder balls making contact where they shouldn't be.

Sorry for the poor diagram on the board, I covered the back in hot glue to insulate the circuits. Also, no worries about the length of time to reply. I realize this instructable is a little over 3 years old and honestly didn't expect a response. Thanks very much for still monitoring the comment section!

Actually, I think I've figured it out. The volt meter I got online was faulty I believe.

So the difference between yours and mine, is I used a 28 turn pot, and hooked it up to a 24v 750ma wall wart, since I'm using this for electro plating I didn't need it portable

IMG_20180302_221953.jpg

Hi ! Sorry for bring this up again, I hope this will not be a problem....
I bought everythng to make this Instructable, I really need something like this for my lil lab... btw, i´m a begginer, and I only found this Mini Digital Volt Meter I atached the images. The seller told its 3.5 / 100 Volts, and the white cable can work with voltages as small as 1.5 volts. Do you think I can use it ? ( was very cheap anyway ) Thanks in advance !

20160817_215706.jpg20160817_215506.jpg
5 replies

No worries. It's good to get questions like this because sometimes other people have the same question. Do you have a link to this volt meter? I can tell more by the description and specs.

The one I posted in the link above requires 4.5v to 28v DC input, then it can measure 0v to 99v DC.

Power specifications:

  • 4.5V to 28V DC power
  • 0V to 99.9V DC measurement
  • You're on the right track. This is similar to the one I have listed above, except it measures 2.5v - 30v, which is sufficient for most applications like this little power supply. The ones I have actually measure up to 100v DC, but you will be perfectly OK with this one below.

    And yes, you could use a mini ATX power source as the input to the voltage regulator, in place of the two 9v batteries in series like I show. You will just be limited to the max voltage the ATX power source output is. Most are 5v and 12v. Sometimes have 24v output. I would recommend the 12v or 24v, but you can use any voltage up to the max input voltage of the regulator IC that you choose. If you are going to run a lot of current through it, I would recommend using a heatsink on the regulator. You could even screw it to the ATX case. The advantage of this circuit is the fine-tuning you get with a 10-turn potentiometer. Attach pics whenever you build yours.

    http://www.dx.com/p/mini-led-dc-2-5-30v-volt-volta...

    The only link I found for this Volt Meter is this one :
    http://www.dx.com/es/p/v27d-t1-0-56-3-digital-led-voltmeter-black-dc-3-2-30v-229568#.V7tBO_krKUk

    Thankyou ! I will try to find a link. here in Brazil there are no much info about this type of component, they sell it and "thankyou for your business !"... By the way, would be perfect for me if I can use this with a PC Mini ATX power source. Do you think is safe ? Thankyou for your response !!!

    Well I think its exactly the same :)

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/LM317-Voltage-Calculator.htm

    There are many calculators out there to help determine the fixed values (if you wanted to used fixed rather than potentiometer), however, this link has a nice table that shows various ranges. I have not had any issues with using the 20K and 1000ohm as noted. If you were to use a 10k, I think you would be OK with 500ohm. Try out the calculator and figure out what voltage range you will be working with, that might help determine what values make most sense. Also, it's a simple formula, try doing a few manual calculations just for fun.

    Oh sorry. One more thing. Im guessing that if you use a 1000 ohm resistor with the 20k pot, If i use a 10k pot i would use a 500 ohm resistor. Correct? Or am i doing this wrong?

    Thanks! Helps alot! Theres just so many different alterations and options its hard to tell what to get! Love the instructable too, its exactly what i was looking for!

    Can you put a link to the potentiometer you used please? Im having trouble finding the right one

    1 reply
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    fr3dd4

    2 years ago

    This is a project is a great idea and I may try it soon. Although I have a question on creating a voltage regulator with an input about 20mV. With that low of an input I found a way to have an output of 5volts. The problem is when connecting to a charge a device, the output voltage drops more than half. Is there a way to regulate the output if I am unable to increase my input?

    1 reply

    Hi, thanks for your question. Sorry it took so long for me to reply. I'm not 100% sure what you mean by you found a way to have a low input (like 20mV) and output of 5v.

    V = I * R <--- This is still true

    So if you have a 10ohm load as an example, with a voltage of 20mV , that gives a current of 0.020V / 10ohm = 0.2mA

    At 5V output, that gives a current of 5V / 10ohm = 50mA

    These are just example calculations. If you have a "fixed" load, such as a charge device, chances are, you will need more than just 20mV as an input.

    This link is for a Joule Thief which shows how to step up a voltage from low to higher, but I don't think it will step up 20mV and still have enough current to power a charging device.

    https://www.instructables.com/id/The-any-value-Joul...

    If someone has better method to show the calculations, please do so.

    Hi, this was a very interesting instructable, but I have a couple of questions that I hope you could answer me. Not really having much knowledge on electronics, is there a way to have a switch or button to reset the voltage back to 0? Also, can you make it so the voltage goes up slower? Thank you very much, and I'm really hoping to build this.

    2 replies

    Hi, thanks for the questions. I enjoy helping answer anything that I can.

    To make it switch back to 0v every time, you would need to add more circuitry with something like a programmable resistor to change the value of R2 to whatever value is needed to make 0v output by default. I just remember to turn ON the power switch, then check the voltage prior to connecting it to anything. There might be some other programmable power IC's, but I've never tried looking.

    An alternative would be one of these on this page (just look for adjustable output):

    https://www.pololu.com/category/133/step-up-step-d...

    https://www.pololu.com/product/2572 <-- 4-12v with about 2A output

    https://www.pololu.com/product/2573 <-- 9-30v with about 2A output

    https://www.pololu.com/product/2120 <-- 2-12v with about 300mA output

    So it all depends on what output you might need. The LM350 can give you from 1.2v - 30v at 3A of current (heatsink might be required).

    With my design, the voltage goes up as fast as you turn the potentiometer. If you have a 1-turn pot, it is difficult to control the voltage rise rate. The 10-turn gives very fine, smooth adjustment.

    With a programmable, I am not sure exactly the setup you would need to make it 0v start and slow rise. Maybe any programmable IC (Raspberry Pi, PIC, Basic Stamp, etc...) could be incorporated.

    Good luck, and post your project (or at least a link) in here when you are finished.

    Thanks so much for the quick response!

    I'm trying to pull off a Fallout 4 cosplay, and the idea is to have a functional Laser musket, which is a laser rifle operated by a crank, in which the more you crank it the more power it has. (see video below). Another idea I've had is to have a voltage controlled switch that will turn the circuit on when voltage is higher than x, and turn it off when it's lower than x, basically turning it off by cranking it in reverse.

    This is all working on the premise that CCFL and LED lights can be dimmed by adjusting the voltage. I hope I can pull this off, it's a bit ambitious for my first circuit outside of what school taught me!


    https://youtu.be/RoVOGSYXrtc?t=33s