Guesses on FormLabs Form 1+ Galvanometer Control Board

The laser galvanometers on this FormLabs Form 1+ resin laser printer no longer move, which rendered the printer useless. Probing voltage of wires leading to those galvanometers weren’t as enlightening as I had hoped but hinted that actuator position sensors were analog. Earlier probing of wires between printer mainboard and galvanometer control board, I also found mainboard commands were analog voltages.

With these analog inputs, I was confused by the fact I found no analog-to-digital converters among the list of ICs. The STM32 microcontroller has but a single ADC channel. And even if it had enough channels, I doubt they’d be fast or accurate enough. (Built-in ADC peripheral proved to be limited when I used a ESP32 to measure voltage, and when I used an ESP8266 to measure temperature.) I found many digital potentiometers and a two-channel SPI-controlled DAC for converting digital commands to analog voltage, but not the other way around.

I went online to look at other galvanometer control boards. Looking at this unit (*) and this unit (*) found a few commonalities. They have six wires leading to their galvanometers as well, hinting at a standardized system or at least a convention. I see they also want positive and negative supply voltages, which matches what I’ve seen. I also noticed they want different input voltage ranges, and their galvanometers don’t operate with the same mechanical ranges. (Movement in terms of degrees of rotation.) Dashing any hope of a direct replacement.

They also have 6 or 7 potentiometers on board for tuning, and this was my “A-ha!” moment. I saw similar potentiometers on the teardown of a Form 1, but such manual tuning potentiometers are missing here. This is what the STM32 and those digital potentiometers/SPI DAC are for: instead of manual tuning control with potentiometers, the upgraded Form 1+ galvanometer control board uses a STM32 to manage those parameters using those SPI-controlled digital potentiometers. The high-speed control loop is still an entirely analog process built out of those quad-pack op-amp chips.

Looking at this system with new knowledge, I see a tempting possibility. When I turn on the printer, I see a few brief LED flashes on the galvanometer control board as if STM32 booted up. Probing the 3.3V regulator (component U5) I saw it received +24VDC input and output the expected +3.3V DC for digital logic. Looking at the burned-out power connector, I saw the drama happened with the purple wire which I now know carried -24VDC. Perhaps this damage meant the board no longer has negative voltage and that’s why analog control system stopped working. What if I soldered the purple wire to some other location on the -24VDC plane? Say the input leg on one of two L79 negative voltage regulators? There’s a good chance it’ll only recreate the electrical fire, because I have not fixed the root cause of whatever caused that fire. But I see a slim chance rerouting -24VDC will get the galvanometers running again.

While I contemplate this potentially destructive experiment, I will look at other parts of this printer starting with the rest of those mainboard connectors.


(*) Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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