Curve Tracer of LockyZ: Better UI and Translation
Since 2014, Lokcy_Z from China released his transistor curve tracer system, and that helps DIYers a lot. The tracer is powerful and inexpensive, and it seems there is no competitor at its price band.
After the production of first batch, the tracer was discontinued for many years. Until 2019, when Locky_Z announced to re-start the production. The new version has smaller formation and some improvements. The ADC and DAC are actually the same, as well as the software.
From early 2020, I got the new tracer and found out that the software have some bugs and poor English translation. Then, I started my work on optimizing the tracer software. Basically the terminology has been re-translated, so that it is much easier for international users. But translate the manual is huge task that I haven't done yet.
Right now, the software version is V3.5.30, in this version there are 2 important changes:
1. The color of curve tracing area has been change to white and blue, etc. This makes UI more friendly and readable.
2. The stamp of lockyZ's logo has been removed, and this helps when copying traces to clipboard and looks cleaner.
You can download the software here
or go to:
ElecFi Makers: LKZ Tracer ICT V3.5.30i
Any suggestions are welcomed.
The 2020 new version of Intelligent tracer, and with full schematic attached.
I am modding the tracer,like upgrading Vref IC and place new low-ESR FP-CAP.
Since I got this tracer very early, it uses some second-handed parts, thus I also have to replace and desolder many relays, transistors and resistors that are crucial.
Some resistors have to be precise and low-temp-coefficient, so that the measurement will be accurate; using 0.1% 25ppm wirewound and even 0.01% 5ppm metal foil make sense.
Now Locky_Z is providing all-new-part version of the tracer, which is a good news to late birds. I would recommend this type, for those who haven't buy a tracer.:)
thank You so juch for Your great effort.
having waited for years I also bought the new version with used parts recently and are far from confident with it.
Probabely its still some unfamiliarity with the device, but more often than not it just puts out weird results and wild cards similar to what's shown in Your pics.
I put it aside because of great disapointment and low time.
Maybe Your software changes that.
Many many years ago, before he was selling openly, some of our team members bought multiple examples of his CT.
We found out very soon that he was using parts removed from old equipment to cut cost.
Also many of the key components were already obsolete.
So we contacted him through our team in Hong Kong.
We gave him an English translation of his manual for free, made suggestions to use modern active parts, low Tempco reference resistors, etc.
But he decided that this was not the route he wanted to take.
So we left it as that, and built our own curve tracer, with all the things that we want that are different.
It is actually very easy to do, especially if you have a good USB acope with func gen.
Just a bit of programming to control the device, even if you need to use it for quantity matching.
For one-off measurements, fully manual operation is even easier.
But if you just want to see a curve and not bothered about accuracy, then just be happy with it.
You get what you pay for.
A good USB scope (we use Tiepie HS3) is easily 1k€+.
But then you use it for umteen other things than just curve tracing.
Sounds good. Do you have more information about what your team has developed? I would be interested too given I already have my modded-IC Tracer of LockyZ.
Indeed, the parts used and commercial strategy that Locky_Z have is somehow weird, I think he is an engineer more than a businessman.
I gave him a lots of advice that may be good for his product's expansion and the suggestion of improvement of both software and hardware; but he is kinda stubborn and unwilling to change.
Take a technical detail for example, the DAC he uses is a obselete old Japanese parts. But we have a bunch of modern, better-performance, and easy-to-find DAC choices here. But he just insist not to change, even till 2020.
Another issue is the circuitry, the op amp was supply with up to single 36~40VDC, while the OP's max is 36V, not to mention op amps are used-parts, and this terrible ideas reflect on high fail and return rate.
About the used-parts, yes, clearly he want to cut down cost to fit the Chinese DIY community, that's understandable, and sometime this create many "black technology" to the western people: How can they make and sell on a such low price?!
Because I am happy to pay more for better performance, I also suggest him, why don't you provide another version that use brand new parts for those customer who cares more about quality and precision?
However, no is no. So, I had to buy new relays, resistors and transistors; desoldered parts and replace them with new parts.
Until now, he finally offers new-parts tracer on the ebay for western customers.
And according to my observation, he is the guy who is sometimes stick his own idea and reluctant to accept better, newer ideas. His using software same as 2014 proves this observation.
That is also the reason I make my effort to optimized the software (and he is for sure OK about this). He do provide English interface for international users, but, you know, that's unreadable Chinese-style English. I have to go through the mechanism of the tracer, learn some electronic engineering knowledge, so that I can translate the UI more accurately.
That takes me several months, and the service manual are mostly still Chinese. So I guess there is still several months more work to do.
The reason I do so is that I hope international users can use a more friendly UI and share the common interface/terminology so that users can discuss and generate more ideas on the same basis without language barrier.
I hope my work can make more people willing to use and discuss about the tracer, like modding the tracer, the software, the circuit topology or even firmware which might give us more function and accuracy. :)
For normal working of the tracer, I don't want to see unwanted, sudden failure of the tracer.
So replacing all the realys and OP-amps is a must. For precision measurement, the output resistors of BCE channel needs to be replaced with low-tempco, high precision wirewound resistors.
Personally, I also remove the 78L05, and use a precision 5V voltage source (REF02 or something) to supply the DAC.
These are my suggestions, and it can make your tracer far from sudden failure.
Oh, and try to control supply voltage about 36VDC, because that's the upper limit of signal OP-AMPs. You can supply it with 40VDC to get more wide measurement range, but I think that's not a good trade-off.
For +40VDC supply, the OP-Amp is working on the edge. It may or may not fail, but certainly increase the risk. For that 4 more volt range, I don't think it's worthy to take the risk.
Do you have more details on this?
Iíve thought that an Analog Discovery 2 with an external attachment might be a good solution for a curve tracer. Itís on the back burner of my to-do list (bad mixed metaphor - sorry), but Iím not proud and would be thrilled to take advantage of someone elseís development efforts. Iím always pleased to give someone else full credit.
Life would be even better if someone develops software to take this and other data and creates a SPICE model...
There are many published curve tracer circuits on the net.
This is just one example.
We measure FETs 90% of the time, and then only Id vs Vgs.
But you can easily extend this for BJTs by putting a resistor between driving voltage and base to measure Ib.
And you need a high accuracy 2 channel scope, or you calibrate, or both.
Why don't make a wish-list that a good amateur tracer must have?
For example, automatic Spice model generating, that would be very powerful and useful.
Auto-ranging like DCA75 pro, the machine knows how to choose the right setting of measurement.
Using power OPA like OPA541 perhaps? It would be convenient and powerful. No discrete power amp is needed, and no worries about small OP's max supply voltage.
I think we can organize a open-source project if the demanding is enough.
Like I am always curious, why are there only Locky_Z's product that can provide such a machine for amateurs who don't nor be need SMUs?
I mean, it's right, Locky_Zs have lots of drawbacks, but a least it is enough for amateurs at its price band. But why there is no such another function-specific, easy-to-use curve tracer?
I know there're some project, but they night need scopes, or have poor resolution, like some arduino-based ones. Locky_Z provides a fully assembled hardware, an almost plug-and-use software, and sells for under 200USD. I think it's fine to accept its drawbacks given its price.
So, I believe there is demanding for slightly better accuracy, better functionality tracer for ~300 USD, designed for DIYers!
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