Thing-O-Matic: Extruder Controller Power Supply Improvement

The Thing-O-Matic Extruder Controller uses a 7805 linear regulator to produce +5 V logic power from the +12 V input. Unfortunately, the board’s +12 V supply input is grossly overloaded: a single 20 AWG wire and Molex-style connector pin must supply several simultaneously active high-power loads:

  • 5 A → Extruder heater
  • 6 A → Build Platform heater
  • 1-2 A → Extruder motor

The return current path to the ATX supply uses two pins and wires, so it contributes half as much to the problem. Molex connector pins aren’t rated for that much current (11 A @ 30 °C rise), so the +12 V supply arrives at the board in poor condition.

Worse, the brushes on the DC Extruder motor introduce large switching transients, even without PWM speed-control chopping. The Extruder and Build Platform heaters also present somewhat inductive loads to their MOSFET switches that create significant switching transients. The 7805 regulator isn’t well-suited to removing high-voltage transients; its bandwidth isn’t high enough.

This modification gives the Extruder Controller clean +5 V logic power by removing the 7805 regulator chip and connecting the +5 V pin at the power supply Molex-style connector directly to the PCB pad that was the regulator’s output pin.

This is what the modification looks like on the PCB layout.

Extruder Controller board modification
Extruder Controller board modification

Unsolder the regulator and remove it, which will reveal the outline printed on the circuit board. This picture is rotated a quarter-turn counterclockwise from the PCB layout shown above.

Extruder Controller minus 7805 regulator
Extruder Controller minus 7805 regulator

You’ll need a beefy soldering iron or an Old Skool soldering gun to make headway on the 7805′s center pin, because it’s firmly attached to the ground plane on both sides of the circuit board. A solder sucker and desoldering braid will come in handy to remove excess solder before extracting the regulator.

Then connect a jumper from the Molex connector’s +5 V pin to Pin 3 of the 7805 regulator outline. The wire can be any size, because it carries minimal current to the logic circuitry; I used a strand stripped from a ribbon cable.

Put the wire on the bottom of the board, because the connector pin isn’t accessible from the top. However, the trace at the regulator output pad is on the bottom where it’ll butt against the wire insulation, so make sure there’s a solder fillet between the wire and the pad.

Extruder Controller with 5 V jumper
Extruder Controller with 5 V jumper

Reinstall the Extruder controller and marvel that nothing seems to have changed.

The next modification to this board will move the heater power supplies off the board, but it’s a much more aggressive hack. This simple change should eliminate the random resets and crashes that seem to be plaguing the stock Extruder Controller board; it will not prevent burning out the DC motor controller chip.