Wednesday, April 14, 2010

brief status update

Work continues slowly on the mad scientist light switch. Some of the work is rework to fix mistakes, but I'm still pulling ahead slowly. That remains a priority just so I can get all of the parts off of my bench.

I'm also working simultaneously on the micro-Marx generator. I am rapidly gaining respect for the guys who designed the new breed of fast Marx generators in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, because I now realize that every time you want to change one little thing, EVERYTHING else in the system changes. Like Tesla coils, Marx generators look simple as a schematic on paper, but turn out to be surprisingly complex in actual physical design and the calculations required to determine said physical design. The best performing examples are finely tuned devices. I am aware that I'm probably smarter than the average man on the street - tho I'm no genius - but the guys who do this stuff for a living are considerably smarter than I.

I'm in the process of evaluating two physical layouts for the insert panel which will hold the spark gaps on one side and the caps on the other. The winner will offer the best tradeoff between number of stages which will fit into the available space and self-inductance. I was surprised to notice for the first time a few weeks ago that the design I am working from as a stepping-off point creates a helical current path when the bank erects. I can't help wondering whether that is deliberate or accidental. As near as I can tell, any stray or self inductance in the system is undesirable. Stray capacitance quite the opposite, as it can be used to decrease erection time significantly.

I've also changed the sphere gap size, which required an extensive redesign in SolidWorks and as I still do not have a SolidWorks platform at home I'm limited to working on that task on my lunch hour and after work hours. It's taking a while. Any readers out there feel like donating a semi-modern Windows box for me to use as a CAD (SolidWorks) platform?

I am attempting to learn how to calculate all of the stray inductances and capacitances so as to determine the device's characteristic impedance. I'd like to include such design parameters in my spreadsheet-based "Marx Calculator". Good thing I'm studying calculus this year. At least in theory. Free time seems to be at a minimum lately.

There are some physical machining tasks for the micro-Marx housing and liner which will not change no matter what happens to the innards. I can start on those whenever I have the MSLS done.

So things are happening, they just aren't happening quickly, and I haven't any photogenic progress to show off for the moment. I might be able to post something along those lines near the end of next week. I want to put up some images, notes, and calculations from the micro-marx design I am working on.

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