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What is inside an alarm clock radio?

In this video we explore what is inside an alarm clock, how it is made, and how it works. Created by Karl Wendt.

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user ∫∫ Greg Boyle  dG dB
    @ Did they mold the buttons into the housing at the same time that the molded the radio casing? I guess I'm asking is it possible to mold different materials which require different temperatures in the same mold?
    (67 votes)
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  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user pramuka.perera
    So, with step-up transformers, does an increase in voltage mean a decrease somewhere else, perhaps the current? And in step-down transformers, does a decrease in voltage affect the current? And if so, does it cause an increase in current? And if that's is the case, is that higher current dangerous for the alarm clock's components or is the alarm clock built to handle it?
    (11 votes)
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  • male robot donald style avatar for user BLAKEYOUNG20
    What is a transformer?
    (8 votes)
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    • piceratops tree style avatar for user Nick Jugganaikloo
      A transformer is very common electrical component that is used to change the voltage and current of an AC power source like wall outlets.Transformers are made of at least two coils of wire usually wrapped around a iron core. The size difference between these coils determines how much voltage and current is decreased or increased.
      (19 votes)
  • mr pink red style avatar for user Cole
    What is Reverse Engineering?
    (9 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user raekhan18
    how does the electricity chose which path to travel along the circuit board if there are multiple paths of copper?
    (8 votes)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user Tedz0r
    Anyone know the details of how the capacitors near the power input () actually smooth out the DC power supply?
    (4 votes)
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    • male robot donald style avatar for user Jeremy
      It's the process of from converting from AC to DC where the smoothing out happens. The video explained fairly well what the diodes do- basically diodes only allow current to pass through in one direction. So that's how the sine wave gets split. 4 diodes are wired to the AC input in such a way that 2 of them only allow the positive direction through, and 2 of them only allow the negative direction through. Then, they are wired back together in such a way that all of the current is flowing in the same direction on the other side-- think of that as basically taking the 2 negative-passing diodes and wiring the output backwards from the positive passing diodes so that all the outputs are now going in the same direction. That isn't exactly the way it works, but a good analogy. This is called a "bridge rectifier."

      So now we have a power source that goes from 0 to some maximum positive amount and back to 0, over and over again. In this case the maximum is 9 volts (since the transformer stepped the voltage down to 9). But what we would like is a constant flow of power. So what we are going to do is use a capacitor. Think of a capacitor like a little tiny battery that can be charged and discharged very quickly. Imagine we only use half of our 9 volts, or 4.5 volts, to run the device. In that case, whenever the bridge rectifier is putting out greater than 4.5 volts (which it is doing half the time), we use the extra to charge the capacitor. Whenever the bridge rectifier is outputting less than 4.5 volts (again, half the time), the capacitor stops charging and starts discharging-- providing that extra power that the bridge rectifier is no longer powering directly. When the bridge rectifier is outputting 0 volts, the capacitor is outputting the maximum voltage, 4.5 volts, so the device always sees a (relatively) constant voltage, of 4.5 volts. By the time the capacitor is completely discharged, the bridge rectifier is outputting more than 4.5 volts again, and is ready to power the device plus recharge the capacitor.
      (13 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Joshua Littier
    If I had a random antenna, would it pick up radio waves even though
    it isn't connected to any filters or inducers?
    (2 votes)
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  • starky tree style avatar for user Tess Moya
    Because if someones phone isn't working you can just help 'em fine out what's wrong, Right?
    (3 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Tesla
    ....... Is that why a lot of wristwatches say QUARTZ on them?
    (2 votes)
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  • hopper happy style avatar for user Clay G,
    at what does AC Mean
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Karl] Today, we're gonna take apart an alarm clock radio and we're gonna see what's inside it and how it works. There's basically four systems that we're going to evaluate. There's the power system. There's the alarm clock or the clock itself. And the structure of the device in the interface. Then we're also gonna take a look at the radio. The first thing is let's take a look at the power system. I've already cut apart this plug here. You can see the prongs. That's where the power comes from. We've got the two wires here. The two wires connect to what's called the transformer. In the transformer, there are three key components. We've got a primary coil, a secondary coil, and an iron core. The primary coil is wound around a certain number of times. The secondary coil is wound around fewer times in this particular transformer. That means it's a step-down transformer. What this transformer does is it converts 120 volt AC down to nine volt AC. Because the components in the alarm clock need lower voltage. It steps the power down. The way it does it is this coil induces a current flow in this coil, and the iron core helps that to happen. Because this coil has fewer turns, it's a step-down transformer which means that the voltage is less coming out of this part. If there were more turns, it would be a step-up transformer. The iron core, again, facilitates that process. It's called electromagnetic induction. This coil induces the current flow in this coil. Anyway, the power will travel through the cable here, the wire, and it comes to the alarm clock. Let's take a look at the housing, first of all. It's fairly low cost housing. It's made out of injection-molded plastic. Let's see where that power comes in and where it goes. One of the ways they've been able to reduce the cost of this is they basically just only used one fastener, one separate fastener. This is a screw. The more screws you have in things, the easier they are oftentimes to put together and take apart, but they are also more expensive. Every screw requires either a robot or a person to assemble it and it's an expensive cost adder. The more screws you can take out, the more cost you can reduce. All these fasteners in this are actually molded into the body panels. There's a pin or a tab there, so we can pull this top part off. This part right here is the front plate or the front vessel. It's made out of a tinted acrylic and it's injection-molded. There's two parts of the mold that come together and molded plastic is injected, and then this comes out. The reason it's injection-molded is that it creates very precise part. You can get a nice, clean finish. When you produce them in high volumes, you can do it for very little cost. There's that. The reason it's tinted it that it hides the interior components. Except when the bright lights still show through. This is the inside. Let's take that part out. Let's see if we can get that there. There we go. It's altogether. Part of the way they kept the cost low again is there's not a lot of separate pieces that they have to assemble. There's one module they can just plug in to this housing. Let's take a look at the housing before we get back to the power system. The housing was injection-molded. It's three parts of a mold. There's one part that comes in here, one part that comes in here, and then there's a core that goes in here. One of the ways they've been able to reduce the cost is by molding the buttons into the housing. There's a little surround around the button and that surround is basically a place where there's no material so it allows the button to flex but there's also little tubs that hold it in place. All the buttons were molded in and when you push on the button, it triggers this pin which triggers a switch below. We'll get to that in a second. In the back, you've got a place for the nine volt battery, so your backup battery if the power goes out just slide in so you push the battery in there, and this little tab holds it in place. The battery pushes up against these two little wires right here. Very low cost connector for the battery. They don't need an extra door or housing piece on the outside so again it reduces cost. The way this was made, you saw how the molds came together. The plastic was actually injected right here. You can see that little place right there. There was a piece of plastic that stuck out once this fell out called the sprue, and they broke that off and you can see the remnants of that. By having all those features molded into this, you reduce cost because you don't have to assemble separate buttons and things like that. Let's take a look at the power again. We'll take this top part off here where all the button brackets and things are. Unplug this. All right. You can see the power comes in right here. If I take that off, we have four diodes in a row there. Those diodes function as a bridge rectifier, so they convert the nine volt AC power that's coming in into DC power. The AC power flows like this. It's like a sine way. It's flowing in both directions. They convert it and they cut it so that it only flows like that. They take the sine wave and cut it and flip it over so it goes like this, and so it's still a little rough. It's still a little bumpy. These capacitors help to smooth that power out because these components don't want power that fluctuates a lot. They want really smooth, consistent direct current. That's what those do. That's how those capacitors can help out. Let's take a look at the clock system here. This is our clock divider, integrated circuit chip. What it does is it takes a signal from a crystal oscillator which is a piece of quartz crystal that's tuned to a specific frequency. When electricity is put into the quartz, it oscillates at a particular frequency and produces a voltage. It gives you a very precise division of time. Oftentimes, those voltage divisions can be say like 60 hertz or 60 times a second. Then what you need to do is once you have all those divisions, you need to be able to separate those divisions into minutes and hours and then send the signal from those divisions in minutes and hours to a display. Those divisions come from here. They go through the ribbon cable. They go to this seven-segment display here. It's called a seven-segment display because it has seven different segments in each little piece right there. They display the minutes and the hours. There's LEDs here that display AM and PM. LED stands for light emitting diode and it's a very efficient low-cost way to display the time. The LEDs are mounted inside this little plastic piece right here. Inside there, there are, there's kind of a light conduit which helps to spread the light out. LED is a very intense spot of light and so this housing helps to spread it out so it makes each segment look completely full and the LED lights up the whole segment there. On the back side of that is a printed circuit board. That helps to basically direct the electrical signals coming through the ribbon cable to the right seven-segment portion. May turn out that it's 6:30 and so you want only certain segments to light up because of that. We have a jumper here which helps to, you can use jumpers to alter the functionality of the seven-segment display. This one may be programmed or maybe set up to function in a certain way so that this jumper allows you to transfer power to the different part of the display. Then we have these little white spots here, and what that is is the back of this module, this seven-segment module, has these little pieces of plastic that stick through and there's a hot plate that basically pushes on those pins that stick through and melts them, and it holds the plate against the printed circuit board. This is just a cheap way or an inexpensive way to fasten things together. It works pretty well. That's the clock portion. The buttons, let's talk a little bit about the interface. The buttons, when you push down on the buttons here, they trigger these pins and you can see the pins flex pretty good right here. The pins are connected by these little standoffs. Because the standoffs are really thin, they can flex. The pin flexes and the pin rests on top of the switch. When you press the button, the pin moves and the switch gets triggered. When you wanna snooze in the morning, you push this. It shifts the pin and it causes the sleep button to be triggered. That's kinda how that works. This is kind of ingenious in another way too because it holds a bunch of different things together. It's got the pins. It holds the speaker and it also holds the ferrite rod with the copper coil around it which functions as an antenna. That's an antenna for AM/FM radio. The signals come from here. We got a wire broken there. Signals come from here and they go to this thing which is a setup of four variable capacitors and they help to tune out frequencies we don't want. When we turn our dial, we can go right to 101.1 FM or 538 AMR, whichever station we want. This helps us to select those things. Those variable capacitors help us to filter out unwanted frequencies. These two things, they're called inductor coils and they can be used to oscillate at a particular frequency if they're coupled with a capacitor. That can be useful in performing radio functions as well. This guy right here is a, it's a radio chip. It's an IC chip that helps to demodulate or to separate the music or the signal that you want from the actual wave. AM is amplitude modulation so that means that the wave is changed in its height. FM is frequency modulation so that means that the wave is changed in how often it occurs in order to embed the signal that we get to listen to as radio sound. This chip basically decodes that and says, this is the original wave and then this is embedded signal. That's able to be then sent to our speaker right here. Before it gets to the speaker, it goes past this variable resistor right here which is also called a potentiometer. When we turn that, it changes the resistance in the circuit and it either increases or decreases the volume, and increases or decreases the amount of power running to these wires. This one actually has come undone. The wires come here and there's a copper coil and a magnet. When the powers run to the copper coil and the magnet, it causes the paper cone to vibrate and that produces a pressure wave and we interpret that as sound. That's how that works. Then right here you can see there's two different switches here. We've got a switch that controls whether we're an AM or FM and then another switch that's just sort of let's us select different functions like turn the alarm clock off or have it set to buzzer instead of a radio, and things like that. You can also see this right here, this is a resistor. That resist electric, current flow. That can be useful because it helps to prevent too much power from flowing to certain components on the board and things like that. This is a transistor. These things are transistors. They can function as switches. These guys right here are filters and they can help to reduce noise or electromagnetic interference, and they can help to clean up. They're probably used in the radio circuit here to help to clean up the signal. On the back here, you can see again, these prongs connect to the battery. This is the printed circuit board here on the back. Basically, it's a thin layer of copper that's been applied to this fiber glass board. Then a chemical was used. They used basically a photomotion process which is like a similar to remove ... They shine a light on it and they use the photomotion process to remove certain areas of the copper and keep other areas. They'll use an asset or a material to etch away the areas that aren't protected. Those result in copper traces. Those copper traces are basically very well ordered, little tiny wires that are very flat and they allow us to connect all these different components in a very small space very efficiently so we can just push the components. These are called through-hole components. Through-holes and then solder them on the back and then they're all wired up together. We don't have to worry about a lot of messy wires and things not being connected correctly. You can see there's different components, small components on the back. The little surface mount resistors and things like that. That's our alarm clock radio and those are the insides. Hope you've enjoyed it.