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Yes, we test IGBTs

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 10/6/2016 to Software
We were asked the other day whether our curve tracer CTR-101 can test IGBT devices.

What's an Insulated Gate Bipolar Tranistor (IGBT)? If you live in a world of small analog signals (that's us), then you probably haven't used an IGBT. But if you work in high power applications such as variable speed drives for induction motors or welding controllers, you've probably used them.

The IGBT is one of those hybrid devices that is 'the best of both worlds'. It combines the high input impedance of the MOSFET with the low saturation voltage of the bipolar transistor.  The IGBT is used almost exclusively as a switching device, so in the ON state, the power dissipation is proportional to the saturation voltage.  Smaller saturation voltage results in less power dissipation and simplified cooling requirements.

We ordered some of the IGBT model IRG4PF50 to test on the curve tracer. The specifications are impressive: 900 volt breakdown voltage, 51 amps current, 200 watts, all for $6 from Digikey.  Even allowing for the limitations of heatsinks and thermal resistance (which always make the actual power less than shown on the spec sheet), this is an impressive device.

The CTR-101 can measure up to 30 volts or so at a test current of 1 ampere: it's intended for small signal devices.  But we can test the behaviour in the small signal region.  This would be useful, for example, if you needed to match one or more units.

The figure shows the results: on the N-MOSFET setting of the curve tracer, we get a family of curves similar to an enhancement mode MOSFET.  There is certainly enough information here to determine the gate threshold voltage and match device characteristics.  So yes, the CTR-101 can measure the characteristics of an IGBT.

A transfer characteristic (drain current vs gate-source voltage) might also  e useful: if you have some interest in that, give us a shout and we'll add that feature to the software.

Peter Hiscocks
October 2016

On Power Supplies

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 1/13/2016 to Products

Are you starting to learn electronics? A power supply is an excellent starter project: the basics are very straightforward, and a power supply is reasonable to built and troubleshoot.  Even better, as your skills advance, there are some interesting - and not so obvious subtleties.

Introduction to Electronics

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 8/20/2015 to Technical Papers
Here is a presentation that Syscomp did for a group at the University of Toronto. Students are assumed to have *no* background in electronics. The objectives are to provide an introduction to circuit building and electronic measuring instruments with immediate results (an illuminated LED!), working up to a light-controlled warbler sound generator.

We also have this material available as a slide presentation. Contact us ( to obtain a copy in Open Office Presentation or Microsoft Powerpoint format.

New Product: DC Power Supply

Posted by James Gaston on 7/29/2015 to Products

We are pleased to announce a new product, the DC Power Supply PSM-101.

Power Supply

Consistent with other Syscomp products the PSM-101 has all-electronic controls and a backlit LCD for setting the output and reading the internal status.  Small, light and with a rounded outline package design, it easilyfits a pocket or knapsack.  Like all lab power supplies, the PSM-101 has adjustable output voltage with adjustable output current limit: zero to 14 volts at up to 1.25 amps.  It's protected by multiple safety mechanisms.

The PSM-101 is priced under $100.  Another version, the PSM-101A, includes USB control and open-source software for an additional $25.

The combination of the PSM-101 power supply with a measuring instrument like the CGM-101 or CGR-201 CircuitGear forms a complete electronics laboratory: light, compact, portable open-source instruments, affordable by students and hobbyists as well as engineers.

The PSM-101 is in stock and ships immediately.

Toronto Maker Festival 2015

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 7/23/2015 to Products

Who can resist a good party? Especially when the party is for people who Build Interesting Stuff. We had a great time at the Maker Faire Toronto 2014, so we're back again for the Maker Festival 2015: Saturday August 1st, Sunday August 2nd, at the Toronto Reference Library.

We'll be showing off the new, 40MSample/sec CircuitGear CGR-201 Oscilloscope-Multifunction instrument, and the new, USB controlled lab power supply PSM-101. Headward, the Tracking Head will be there to stare at and track visitors. We'll have giveaways and Faire-special discounts.

And if you are using our instruments, we'd love to hear your comments and applications.

Drop by and say hello!

CGR-201 Announcement

Posted by James Gaston on 5/8/2015 to Products
We are pleased to announce a new model of the popular CircuitGear series: the CGR-201. We are referring to this instrument as the Mark II since it is a significant upgrade to the original CGR-101.


From the outside, the CGR-201 appears to be similar to the CGR-101: same size and weight, same USB connection. Inside, it's very different with a whole host of new and improved features...

Boosting Maximum Frequency on the WGM-201

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 2/10/2015 to Products
The WGM-201 hardware is actually capable of much higher output frequencies than the defaults programmed into the software. Here is how to increase the maximum frequency.

Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014

Posted by Peter Hiscocks on 1/20/2015 to Products

With drones and kites overhead, surrounded by nerf-gun weilding, cardboard clad stormtroopers, crowded by thousands of visitors and among an incredible variety of Maker exhibits: Syscomp attended the 2014 Toronto Mini Maker Faire at the Toronto Reference Library. James 3-D printed some servo-actuated eyeballs, controlled via a CGR-Mini PWM output, that continuously scanned the crowd. (One eyeball died by the end of the second day. They were inexpensive servos.)

The best part: visitors who said 'I have your stuff, it's great', then telling us how it's being used.

Most unexpected question, from several visitors: How is (the CGR-Mini) different from an Arduino? Our answer: You build an Arduino circuit. It doesn't work. Now what? That's where we come in. You need our stuff to troubleshoot your circuit.

The Faire was very well organized and very well attended - there were 14,000 visitors in two days.  It was exhausting but fun.  We'll be back next year.  And we're looking at some other Maker Faire events.

Curve Tracer Review

Posted by James Gaston on 1/20/2015 to Products

Howard Dicken at DM Data Inc. has written a fantastic review of the Syscomp CTR-101 Curve Tracer.  Executive summary follows:

This tester is recommended either as the basic equipment or as a back-up to other higher priced units in the industry.  This  Syscomp unit will perform 70% to 80% of the normal lab requirements for semiconductor and electronic failure analysis.  In addition this unit will provide several measurement capabilities not available on some Tektronix scopes.

You can read the whole review here.

Toronto Maker Faire 2014

Posted by James Gaston on 10/29/2014 to Products

Syscomp will be participating in the 2014 Toronto Maker Faire at the Toronto Reference 
Library, 789 Yonge Street on Saturday November 22 and Sunday November 23.

If you're in the area, drop by and say hello. We'll have a booth and all our instruments available for demonstration.

 Technical Papers

 The Single Channel Oscilloscope
 Curing Circuit Oscillation
 Testing a Selenium Rectifier
 Yes, we test IGBTs
 Negative Tracking Power Supply

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