RX8 Project – Part 12, Turbos #3 – Flanges

This is a step that most people won’t need to do. Or rather there are usually easier alternatives to! When most people build a turbo manifold they simply buy pre-cut flanges for both the inlet and outlet and weld them onto the ends of whatever intricate bit of welded pipework they have devised and all is well. This is fine for the vast majority of turbos currently available but what if we have one that’s a bit more unusual, say one that most people would never even dream of using for a custom setup. For example the custom housing GT15 turbo used on a diesel Rover from about 20 years ago. That would present more of a challenge! Why do I never make these things simple!

So what we need to do is make some flanges, this isn’t a technically complex task but does take a little thought.

The first step is to carefully measure the size of either the fixed studs (or bolt holes). These are commonly M8 and so the bolt OD will be just under 8mm and if the flange has the holes will be more than the bolt size as they tend to be quite generous to aid alignment. M8 clearance hole might well  be as much as 9mm but note these all down.

Next measure the distance between each of the holes/studs, adding half of each hole/stud diameter on these numbers will give you the distance between the centre of each fixing position. This gives the fixing positions and would allow a template for these to be drawn. If doing the job this way you just need to measure the main port diameter and its distance from the centre of each hole/stud position to the centre of the port. In my case one port was handily central in a triangle so I could just measure half way between each pair of stud and draw a line to the third stud and where they cross the port centre goes.

I also tried another approach which involved taking a thing piece of aluminium and physically imprinting it with the studs using a mallet. This can be handy for really irregular patterns but does mean you don’t have a nice dimensioned drawing to keep, but you do get an aluminium template. Basically you take your aluminium, lay it over the studs and tap it with a mallet. This leaves an impression for all the fixing positions. What you’d normally do here is just drill a small pilot hole where the centre of each stud is to use to mark up your steel. in my case I didn’t want to have to remove the studs from the turbo so I drilled them out full size.

Flange Template

At this stage I used the same method to indent the sheet metal for the port which was then drilled with a 3mm hole for later transfer.

The port mark was critical because the port was the largest hole and most likely to go wrong! After marking it up on the 10mm thick steel plate I was going to use as the flange and looking at my pillar drill I decided I needed a substantial clamp for safety! While I could have bought a suitable clamp kit I decided that since I already owned suitable tee nuts for the bed I could make it safely.

Port Drilling

So this was the final drilling arrangement – and yes that is a hole saw! I feel at this point I should point out that not all hole saws are created equal. Most commonly found at DIY shops are only suitable for wood/plastic/plasterboard and maybe aluminium sheet which not unreasonably are the sort of things used in DIY. Proper tool shops will supply hole saws rated for steel but they will cost a little more the set I used was this one. It’s certainly not the most expensive out there and probably won’t last terribly long with this level of use but it’s rare I use them for anything like this and I can replace the individual saws in the set fairly cheaply.

You need to centre punch where the port centre is to locate then mount the plate onto the drill. Put a smallish drill bit (don’t go really small as you risk breaking it, I started at 3mm but you could easily go a little larger as this isn’t really precise work)  into the chuck and carefully align the punched mark on the plate with the tip. Once you are happy with the location tighten the clamps down. Tighten a little each side at a time if you have an arrangement like mine as otherwise the high pressure on one side will tend to make the place slip out of position during tightening.

Next you need to lubricate! This is absolutely critical drilling metals otherwise you will spend a lot of time either sharpening worn drill bits or trying to extract broken ones! There’s a lot of debate on whats best, for most light work I use WD40 but you will get through it quite quickly as it will tend to vaporise with the heat, this is good in that it helps cool the metal and cutting tool but it must be replaced with more. With deeper holes or larger diameters I tend to use 3in1 as it seems to work well. For the hole saw here I actually started using car gearbox oil, this slows the cutting but protects the tool.

Once you have a pilot hole swap the small drill bit out for the hole saw, make sure you have the speed slow, cover everything in lubricant and gently start to cut. This will take a considerable amount of time, be patient and regularly stop the drill and clear the cut debris away from the saw. Try to avoid using your fingers to do this as the edges can be very sharp. An air compressor is great for this but I have found that cans of computer air duster work pretty well.

Once you have your main port drilled remove the plate from the drill and file back any sharp edges then use your template to mark the centres for all the other holes, these will then need to be centre punched as before and drilled out to size in stages, I went 4mm, 6.5mm, 8.5mm from what I remember. The only critical one being the final size with the earlier steps being arbitrary. If smaller increments are used the cuts are normally quicker and easier but it adds more operations and so will likely take longer. Also I drilled all the stages on a single hole and then moved the plate which adds many more drill changes but you could also drill all the holes to one size then change drills but this has the added risk of the alignment being off which increases the chance of the bit chattering and potentially breaking but can be done if you’re careful. For the level of precision we really need it doesn’t really matter.

Rough Cut Flange

By now you should have something a bit like this! At this stage with the new flange seated in place marking the outside edge of the flange becomes much easier – you simply bolt the flange in place and draw (or even better scribe) round it on the mating side. The flange then needs to be removed and trimmed back to the mark. I rough cut the bulk off this with and angle grinder and then tidied the edges back with a bench grinder. Again working 10mm plate takes a little time but it’s not too bad and the outside edge doesn’t need to be perfect just not look silly or clash with anything and still be wide enough to hold a gasket.

Turbo Flanges

Here’s the result, two respectable looking turbo exhaust inlet flanges. The process for the exhaust outlets was exactly the same but the main port was 55mm diameter rather than 36mm diameter making the process take even longer! If you’re in a hurry get them laser/waterjet cut!

In another entry I’ll be looking at the process of making the custom exhaust gaskets I need to match.


Subwoofer Project – Part 1, My First DIY Amplifier

This write up is largely just to set the scene for my later forays into audio projects which I will progress onto in later sections but it does ramble a bit!

Some time ago back when I was still a student I realised that most reasonably priced speaker systems consisted almost exclusively of a series of tiny satellite speakers and a main sub which was often comparatively overpowered in order to mask the inadequacies in the satellite speakers mid range. Now there are systems about which actually use pretty well performing satellites with a decent frequency range but these are usually quite expensive making them well beyond my reach as a student and still a bit lacking and so I started working out what I could do.

My first project was based around some amplifier kits I found at a local electronics store on offer so being student with little money I decided they would be a good place to start so I bought a pair of them to provide both left and right channels with the heady heights of 7W per channel! Shortly afterwards I went on eBay to find a cheap and reliable way to power them from the mains to make a self contained unit with minimal risk of death! I ended up buying a job lot of 5 transformers each rated at 12VAC at about 5A, or about four times what both amplifiers would use at peak output! But they were cheap and well insulated (much safer than cutting up a wall adapter and fitting it in the case). Some may ask why I didn’t just use a normal 12VDC wall adapter and just have the amplifier modules in a case – basically I hate the things but it was also because I wanted to be totally sure the power supply wasn’t the limiting factor!

Note : Since writing this post the company I bought the kits from (Maplin) has ceased trading and so the link above no longer works. The kit in question is Velleman K4001 7W Mono Amplifier details can be found here.

Going off on a tangent….

Now all this was going well except one thing, at the time I had virtually nothing in the way of tools I needed to build this apart from the soldering iron – an item my dad happened to see in a skip when a local college was upgrading their equipment back in probably the late 90’s and an item that has been used for every electronics project I’ve done ever since! If anyone is curious it’s actually one of these Xytronic XY9-60A  but it’s been branded as a Rapid Electronics unit and is orange rather than the blue shown.

These were about £100 new and my advice is if you know anyone who is starting to show an interest in soldering buy them something like this! There are plenty of even cheaper, decent soldering stations around now due to the greater number of people doing hobby electronics projects at home and it makes these projects considerably less frustrating!

One key thing for me was the temperature control which being an analog control on mine isn’t terribly precise but it’s still a huge improvement over very basic soldering irons and good enough for the vast majority of hobby projects. The second thing is the soldering tip is small and also interchangeable. A soldering iron that looks like a screwdriver isn’t terribly helpful in most cases because it makes even easy joints much harder to get access too. Back during the early 2000’s when the old Nokia phones were popular there was a brief craze of changing the tiny keypad and screen backlight LED’s out for different colours and I actually did several of these with a soldering tip I filed narrower for the purpose!

Now back to the point…

Having no tools I decided to buy something that would cover as many tasks for as little money as possible, so I bought a £20 fake Dremel and an aluminium enclosure and got to it! Some might describe what happened to that case as butchery but at the time I was using what I had. So the case looked a bit scruffy but it did the job! In the process of using the fake Dremel with an abrasive disk the disk shattered and one of the bits flew of and made a mark in my then virtually new monitor but by luck missed my face. Wear safety goggles – they really are worth it!

Taken from Reddit:

View post on imgur.com

I soldered up the kits as per the instructions and then soldered a diode rectifier and a capacitor onto the transformer output to produce DC (like this) and connected this to the two amplifier modules. I used a dual logarithmic potentiometer (variable resistor) for the volume control (one potentiometer wired to each amplifier). This is wired between the audio source and the amplifier input.

Potentiometer Wiring

A single pot usually has three legs, in the diagram the box represents the pot. The audio in+ and audio in- go to the two outer legs (doesn’t matter which way) with the audio to amp+ being taken from the middle leg. Audio in- and Audio to Amp- are both connected to the same leg.

It’s probably best to point out here while it doesn’t electrically matter which way round you wire the In+ and In- just make sure when doing a dual pot make both channels the same otherwise when you turn the pot one side will get louder as the other gets quieter and you have accidentally made a balance control!

Power came through a panel mounted IEC connector. If you can’t cut panel holes perfectly accurate then I recommend buying these as bolt in types, they normally need M3 countersunk bolts and then a matching nut on back but they offer a much greater tolerance than push fit ones and you wont pull them out! As a bonus they can also be fitted to any thickness of material with either long bolts or if you’re trying to mount into a decent thickness of wood even small screws in a sensible length can be used.

The finished product looked like this:

Basic Amp

It’s moved house with me maybe six times and has suffered a bit but it still works ten years on!

As a final note on this, this amplifier is as basic as it gets. The Velleman kits use a TDA2003 amplifier chip for all their functionality and the boards are basically just filtering capacitors for it. These are ok but the main limitation I found is at very low volume they seem to either limit the output power or the frequency response is terrible and all the bass on the audio drops away. As you turn it up the bass comes back which is a bit odd but in some ways actually ok when I was a student as it meant the low frequencies which tend to disturb people at night weren’t so prevalent! I never saw this as a major problem though.

Another point it’s worth considering because very few people actually appreciate it is that 7W per channel doesn’t sound much but it’s quite surprising what it can do – the volume control has lived at 25-30% for most of its life and with the source on maximum you will almost certainly go well above what most would consider a comfortable listening volume. Speakers are rated for sensitivity which is the sound level they generate per Watt of supplier power at 1m distance. The very cheapest speaker drivers should achieve 82db for 1W at 1m so for just 1W of input power we’re talking a sound level similar to a food blender! The issue is that the sound level vs power is not linear, doubling the sound level (+3db) actually requires four times as much power but we have 7W watts and that only takes us up to 4W but clearly another 3dB is beyond the limits of the amplifier but at 85dB we’re at the point where in the UK companies have to supply workers hearing protection. Better speakers can achieve sensitivities  of 90dB with 1W at 1m which puts at noise levels comparable to petrol lawnmowers using 4W of power! Higher power outputs amplifiers have their uses but the next time you hear about someones 1kW+ amplifier it’s worth being *very* dubious!

If you want to understand what this is all about I recommend reading http://sound.whsites.net/articles/pwr-vs-eff.htm  where Rod Elliot describes the concept of power vs sound level in much greater detail. It gets quite involved but will explain the limitations and realities!

Also for a bit of a laugh have a look at http://sound.whsites.net/project117.htm   where he describes what a 1.5kW amplifier would actually look like and involve. Rod is amazingly knowledgable and I have built some of his projects using his PCB’s and used them in my subwoofer project so these will appear in later sections.