Archive for September 20th, 2012

Multimeter Range Switch Contacts: Whoops!

One of my multimeters began reporting bogus values that improved by working the range switch back-and-forth, which suggested the switch contacts need cleaning. Taking the meter apart was easy, right up to the point where I removed the range switch from the PCB by compressing the four locking tabs on the central shaft:

Multimeter range selector switch

Multimeter range selector switch

Just before taking that picture, the switch launched half a dozen spring contacts across the bench, my shirt, and the floor… I recovered four for the picture and later found a fifth smashed on the floor, but the last contact remains AWOL.

The contact in the middle, the oddly shaped one with small tabs on the ends, is a prototype replacement conjured from 6 mil phosphor bronze stock:

Multimeter range switch contacts

Multimeter range switch contacts

The little domes ensure a good sliding surface, but require two bends in the middle of the contact and some way to shape the metal into a dome. After a few experiments, I filed the end of a nail into a rounded chisel that worked pretty well:

DMM switch contact punch

DMM switch contact punch

The original contacts came from 3.5 mil stock and have considerably more flex; 6 mil stock is what I have.

I think I should make half a dozen contact springs to replace the entire set, a task requiring more time than I have right now. For the record, the overall process goes like this:

  • lay out overall shape, slightly longer than needed
  • cut center opening with abrasive wheel
  • cut out contact
  • punch contact domes (from back = dimples)
  • bend to shape
  • trim ends to length (not done in picture)
  • dress raw edges (not done in picture)

Given the number of parts and the fiddly accuracy required to make the slot, this might be a good job for the Sherline, although clamping each little proto-spring down while getting the abrasive wheel in there seems daunting.

Perhaps cutting the slots and punching the dimples would work better before cutting out the contacts, with a sheet clamped on four sides? The center will be floppy, what with all the slots, but grinding slots on the middle contacts first might be helpful. Would adhesive under the sheet to hold down the middle gunk up the abrasive wheel?

So many projects …

Memo to self: Springs! Always expect springs!

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