|ATS-3b with switches on "wrong" side and 80m filter|
Then, one day last summer, Jim, AL7FS, started selling off a number of surplus QRP kits, including an ATS-3b. The response was pretty strong, and Jim decided to enter everyone who was interested in purchasing the rig into a lottery, and my name was the one pulled out of the hat!
So, I've got a fairly complex, small, SMT kit to build, and I've never built anything using SMT nor have I built anything at RF! So, I decided I'd work my way up to the ATS-3b by building several other little projects beforehand. And I decided I wanted to hand-solder and not use any of the hot-air SMT methods. I built an SMT dummy load kit, a Softrock SDR receiver, a crystal checker from scratch, a frequency counter, and a couple other small projects. None of these presented any problems. So, I figured it was time to start the ATS-3b!
Last Friday I did a parts inventory for everything but the band boards - the manual didn't include a parts list for these, and I figured anything missing wasn't critical and could probably be subbed from my parts stash. The inventory was OK, with the exception of having two extra resistors of one value and being short one 22k surface mount resistor. After reviewing the parts placement diagrams, it looked like the parts list was wrong and the count was fine, so I launched into soldering resistors. The first thing I realized was that the 805-sized resistors were a good bit smaller than the 1206s I'd used before! Not to mention that the parts were packed in a lot tighter on the ATS PCB! Then, I got started on the 603-sized resistors...they were almost too small to be fun!
Saturday morning I got started back up and completed the resistors and inductors and went on to the capacitors. Luckily, the worst was over with the passive devices - those dang 603 resistors. The caps went a lot faster because they were bigger, as well as color-coded. I was being careful to have all the resistors oriented the same direction, and that along with having to actually read values made the resistors slower-going. So, after taking in dinner and a movie with Mrs. AA4GA Saturday night I got started on some of the chips.
|ATS-3b and Sindy...and a couple more filter boards|
Monday evening I finished the through-hole parts and before testing, built up the 40m band board. I had a bit of a slowdown because the color codes on my trimmer capacitors didn't match the details in the manual I had printed. After some checking on the AT_Sprint Yahoo Group, I decided my printed manual was a later version, so I pulled out the CD that came with the kit and popped it into the computer. Sure enough, the color codes in that version of the manual matched my parts, so back on track. The worst part of the band board was the 45-turn transformer on a .37 inch toroid - not a lot of fun with my fat fingers...and I've got another of those for the 30m board, and one with 60 turns for the 80!
Anyway, I got the 40m board done and started the checkout routine - I put in a pair of earbuds and connected the power and immediately heard a morse "8" - ah, it works! I went through all the tests up to adding L3 into the circuit when I went to bed.
Tuesday evening after work I wound L3 and completed testing - I actually got to use my 'scope for the first time as a real tool! Everything checked out fine and I calibrated the DDS and peaked the RX bandpass...on to the 40m filter board. This is the only place I ran into any problem. I'm only getting out about 1.9 watts using a fresh 9v battery. I played with the windings on the board, but not much improvement. I'll have to do some more checking on this, and see how the other bands work out, so I'll go with ~2w for now.
Connecting the rig to an antenna was pretty neat - it actually hears pretty doggone well! I put the dummy load back on and played around with some of the commands and controls and after a few minutes decided to call CQ to see if I could snag someone.
I tuned up to about 7033.3 and CQed about 4 or 5 times when Bob, W9JQT called in at about 569, giving me a 579. Bob's call was familiar, and during the QSO I remembered why: Bob is the creator of the Rockless - a Rockmite derivative he designed that uses a VFO. Amazingly enough, Bob was running a Rockless! A neat rig that is on my list of possible construction projects.
I did commit a faux pas while working Bob...I thought I was using the RIT on the ATS-3b to tune Bob in a little better, but didn't have the RIT switched on - so we kinda chased each other around the band a bit - ouch!
The mounting of the rig in the Altoids box actually was pretty uneventful - instead of trying to drill the holes, I used a Dremel tool and various grinding bits to open the holes up after drilling small pilot holes. It worked pretty well. So far, I haven't opened up the hole for the digital display...I've found I don't really need it as the rig is designed for full annunciation through the headphones using Morse.