Dead Relio Revived

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kcbooboo
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Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:31 am

I was handed a dead (would not even boot up) Audemat Relio remote control unit. These were standard at all ClearChannel stations sometime in the last 10 years. This one is actually labeled ClearChannel on the front, although Audemat sold them too. Fairly nice units, like most equipment, when they work. Linux-based. They're now discontinued and apparently no new motherboards are available. I suspect support has also ended.

Opening it up revealed an 80GB thin (laptop-size) hard drive, a computer motherboard, and a couple of custom analog and digital I/O boards that also contain the power supplies and two Compact Flash slots (one is occupied). The motherboard has a single memory slot, mini-DIN connectors for mouse and keyboard (unused), three DB9 serial ports (two unused), a DB15 VGA video port, two RJ45 network ports, four USB ports (two unused), sound capability (unused), and one 32-bit I/O card slot (unused). It has headers for a floppy drive (unused) and two IDE drives (one goes to the hard drive, the other goes to the I/O boards). I was unable to find any identifying info on the motherboard other than "MADE IN CHINA".

Three of the 18 aluminum electrolytic capacitors had blown their tops and leaked. I got values for all caps, ordered them from Digikey (all Panasonic 105C-rated, same physical size), and spent three hours replacing them. They must have used solid lead for solder (it was very gray and hard to melt), and I was unable to suck the solder away from the leads to remove the old caps. I had to add a bit of 60/40 solder to each lead, heat it up, and wiggle the capacitor out one leg at a time, then suck the solder out of the empty holes. Some of the caps took over 5 minutes to remove, and I still couldn't get the holes cleaned out; I had to heat a few holes and stuff the new cap in through the melted solder bit by bit. I measured each cap as I removed it; all were good (correct value and decent ESR) except the four 1800uF 6.3V caps, three of which had leaked and they all measured "leaky" with >1 ohm ESR. I had no external 12V power supply so I had no way to test my work.

I returned the motherboard to the Relio; a USB keyboard and mouse were plugged in along with a VGA monitor, and power was applied. Surprisingly the unit booted right up as if nothing was wrong. After setting some configuration items, the unit was returned to service. Complete success.

Bob M.

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RGORJANCE
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by RGORJANCE » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:37 am

Bob:

I have run into that high temp solder as well, and after reading your post, I am wondering if that stuff is "lead free", or reduced lead solder. And you are are absolutely right about the solder sucking issue.....it really don't suck!

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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by ChuckG » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:28 pm

Nice work. I wonder what type of solder they used that was that difficult to remove?
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kcbooboo
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Wed Sep 26, 2018 6:38 am

I had my soldering iron up to 425C, way hotter than is normally used with Kester 60/40. The joints just didn't look shiny, and the iron didn't seem to melt anything until I added a dab of solder. The tip was cleaned for each one, too. I would think that the tin would make it shiny, not the lead. This almost looked like it had more lead in it than anything, although I don't recall seeing any lead-free solder joints that I could compare to. Call me old-fashioned but at $20 for a one pound spool of Kester 60/40 solder, I don't waste it.

I'm guessing the motherboard had some internal layers. I also think the plated-thru holes weren't plated very well, and that the clearance between the holes and component leads had to be just a few thousandths of an inch. If I could have identified the motherboard I might have been inclined to buy a new one rather than fix the old one, but I had nothing to lose; it was dead when I got it and if it didn't boot up it wasn't that much money invested. I think the parts cost less than the shipping.

Bob M.

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Bill DeFelice
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by Bill DeFelice » Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:18 pm

I wonder if the de-soldering alloy I use for surface mounted chip removal would have made things easier to remove. I never think of using it for other han SMD repair.
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kcbooboo
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:39 pm

I've never heard of de-soldering alloy. I know there is brush-on flux and that might have helped a bit to wet the surface. I don't know how they even made this board, since there are leaded parts on top and SMT parts on BOTH sides. They couldn't wave-solder it with all those parts underneath.

I did some research and found similar boards on the web. These are mini-ITX boards. I've heard of ATX and mini-ATX but ITX is new to me. They sure pack a lot of stuff onto the board. Unfortunately I couldn't find any boards for sale. The few I could find were made around 2004-2007. 1 GHz Celeron, Socket 489 I think. In 10 years they've obviously improved things but when replacing such a board, you have to be careful about I/O ports and other built-in capabilities that the Linux drivers are prepared to work with, so a replacement has to be exactamundo. Repair is probably the only option.

Bob M.

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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by Bill DeFelice » Thu Sep 27, 2018 1:12 pm

I usually get it from Mouser when placing regular parts orders:

https://www.mouser.com/Tools-Supplies/S ... 2eZ1yzskbq
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:40 am

Pricey stuff. I have heard of ChipQuik flux, which seems to be quite helpful for soldering SMT parts. I just do so little SMT work, and don't have a hot-air workstation, that I just learned to "make do" with ordinary soldering tools.

Bob M.

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Bill DeFelice
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by Bill DeFelice » Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:48 am

@Bob: For removal the Chip Quik works fine with a decent soldering pencil as it keeps the solder molten for quite a while. Of course when you're out of it you need to find an alternative, considering I rarely do SMT board repairs.

Without Chip Quik I use Kaowool insulation and cut a hold big enough to expose only the component I need to remove. I use a modified heat gun to remove the component and remove it with a pair of tweezers. I re-worked the display board of a Daysequerra M2 modulation monitor that way and was quite successful.
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by KPJL FM » Fri Sep 28, 2018 7:04 am

Sounds like it wasn't 'solder' but conductive glue.
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:39 am

Once the iron softened it, it sucked out like solder. It just took a tiny dot of 60/40 solder at the tip of the iron to get the heat into the joint to get it to soften enough so I could wiggle the capacitor lead out about half its length, then I had to heat the other lead and wiggle that one, and back and forth until the cap could be extracted. Cleaning the holes was the most time-consuming. I'm guessing there are internal trace layers plus a ground plane on the top and bottom. 140w of Weller soldering gun heat won the battle in some cases.

Bob M.

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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by ajstriker » Mon Oct 01, 2018 9:32 am

Two things typically make solder hard to melt:

1.) Using a silver solder. Some lead-free solders contain silver. The melting point is higher than regular solder.

2.) AS mentioned above, caps were possibly connected to PCB planes (most of the time ground or power). These planes can be notorious for their difficulty in melting the solder on leads connected to them because of the thermal conductivity, especially if thermal reliefs weren't built into the copper pattern of the planes. It can be a challenge to melt the solder to a plane without damaging the PCB pad itself. Sometimes it helps to pre-heat the PCB (if possible) before attempting to desolder these components.

Just my 2 cents...let me know if you need change...
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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by kcbooboo » Tue Oct 02, 2018 6:25 am

Inner foil layers are a definite possibility. In the past I have actually and unfortunately pulled the plated-thru hole "tunnel" when removing some caps. If there are just top and bottom layers you can just solder both ends of the lead, but the solder just won't flow along the lead by itself if you try to solder only the bottom. If there are inner layers and the thru-hole is broken, it could be a problem that may require adding a jumper IF you can figure out what signal is missing. None of the solder pads came off the board, surprisingly, and some were real thin, especially those that only had a top or inner layer contact.

I can't see China using high silver-content solder. These boards aren't top-of-the-line models and probably sold for under $100 when you could buy them in 2005. High lead-content solder is more like it, as none of the solder joints shined like I expected.

Whatever they used, it just took a lot more effort than expected to remove each cap. The parts cost maybe $5; three hours of labor to change them plus an hour researching and ordering the new parts wasn't too bad though.

Bob M.

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Re: Dead Relio Revived

Post by Deep Thought » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:57 am

ajstriker wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 9:32 am
Sometimes it helps to pre-heat the PCB (if possible) before attempting to desolder these components.
I have used my heat gun to warm up the bottom side of the PC board to just hot enough to hurt a bit when touched with a bare finger and then attacked the pad with a desoldering iron. It makes things a lot easier and less likely to muss up the innards of the board.
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