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Make Your Own CDI

Make Your Own CDI

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Published by rk-rex

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Published by: rk-rex on Jun 23, 2008
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07/18/2013

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A high-energy capacitordischarge ignition system
This completely new capacitor discharge ignition systemhas been designed from the ground up to provide a highenergy "multiple spark discharge" to cope with engineswhich have very high RPM rates. It is intendedparticularly for use with two stroke engines, highperformance four strokes and older vehicles.
Twenty or so years ago. CapacitorDischarge Ignition (GDI) was the ac-knowledged "solution for automotiveenthusiasts wanting a high energy ignitioncircuit. GDI gave a really hot spark whichwould fire virtually any spark plug no matterhow fouled or grotty it was. Tens of thousands of enthusiasts installed them ontheir cars and hence forward swore by themas the greatest innovation system since KarlBenz thought of the horseless
18
 
SILICON CHIP
 
 
 
Fig.1: these three circuits show the three types of ignition circuit. Fig.l(a) is the original points-based system. Fig.lb) shows a typical CDI system which uses a DC-to-DC inverter to charge acapacitor which typically has a value of luF. Each time the switch points in the distributor open, itfires an SCR to dump the capacitors's charge into the coil primary winding. Fig.l(c) shows thearrangement of our new CDI system. It has a DC-to-DC inverter with a regulated 300V DC outputwhich charges up a luF capacitor. Instead of using an SCR to dump the capacitor's charge into thecoil, it uses a pair of Mosfets which are depicted as S1, a single pole double throw switch.
 .carriage. Well, maybe it wasn't quite thatgood but you get the picture. But there wasanother aspect of CDI which wasn't good andthat was "cross-fire". Because the CDI spark was so hot and more importantly, because ithad such a fast rise-time of only a fewmicroseconds, it often fired the plugs in othercylinders. This problem was most troublesomein V8s, in some sixes and even some fourcylinder cars such as the air-cooled VW whichhad the spark leads running close and parallelright across the en-gine fan housing.Cross-fire is caused by the capacitancebetween adjacent spark plug leads. Thecapacitance between the leads causes the fast-rising voltage from the coil to be coupled intothe adjacent leads and thereby can de-liverunwanted sparks in other cylinders.Cross-fire can cause severe engine damageand sounds similar to pinging.Ultimately, CDI fell into disuse formainstream cars because of the introduction of lean fuel mixtures in an attempt to meet risinganti-pollution standards. The very fast andvery short spark of CDI wasn't all that good atigniting lean mixtures. Car manufacturersintroduced transistor-assisted ignition withlong spark durations to ensure that leanmixtures did bum properly. There was oneCDI design which attempted to overcome thelean mixture drawback and that was the so-called "multiple spark discharge"system. However it was a complex designwhich never really caught on.These days, there is no modern car with anengine management system which uses CDI,to our knowledge. Whether they are singlecoil, multi-coil or direct-fire systems, they areall variants of the tried and true transistorassisted ignition (TAI) system. So why designa new CDI?At
SILICON
CHIP, we have tended todisparage CDI systems for years, knowingthat our very popular high-energy TAI systemhas a well-earned reputation for reliability.Gut some readers were not about to be put off.They wanted a CDI design and they wanted itfor a number of reasons. They wanted themfor two-stroke and four-stroke motors onmotor bikes, out-boards and Go-Karts. And they wanted themfor older cars which don't have lean mixturesand which can be par-ticularly hard, if notimpossible, to start when the ignition systemgets wet. Old Mini Coopers and 850s arelegendary in this regard.Some readers also wanted a CDI for racingapplications where multiple spark dischargesystems still have a keen following.With all of these reasons being cited, < whowere we to say that all these people werewrong? So we went back to the data booksand put on our thinking caps. A new CDIdesign had to be a distinct improvement overthe 20-year old designs which did have theirfair share of drawbacks. Like what, forexample?First, many CDIs had very high voltagesapplied to the ignition coil, as much as 500Vor 600V in some cases. They did this to avoidthe inevitable fall-off in spark energy as theengine RPM rose. This very high coil voltagehad the drawback of often causing internalbreakdown in ignition coils, it made the cross-fire problem significantly worse than it wouldhave
Suitable for 2-stroke, older 4-stroke and performance engines (racing).Multiple spark output (see Table 1).Operates on reluctor, points or Hall effect signals.Two points inputs for twin coil engines.Usable to beyond 1000 sparks/second (equals 15,000 rpm for a V8).Regulated 300V supply for consistent spark energy.High frequency operation eliminates audible oscillator noise.Efficient circuitry
for minimum
heat
generation.
 
Components rated to
operate
up
to
100°C.
 
SfiPTBMBEH 3997 19
 
 
 been with a lower coil voltage and it putconsiderably more stress on the ignition leads.So design aim number one was to set the coilvoltage to a much more moderate level of about 300V.Second, because the DC-DC inverters of the time used relatively slow bipolartransistors (eg, 2N3055s), the inverterfrequency was typically only 2kHz. Thistypically sets an upperlimit on the maximum spark rate of about 300to 400 sparks per second, as the inverter needsa couple of cycles of operation after eachdischarge in order to recharge the dumpcapacitor.The 2kHz inverter operation was quiteaudible too and could often be heard throughcar radios. So the new design would useMosfets in the inverter and would operate atabove 20kHz to make it inaudible.Third, CDIs used an SCR (siliconcontrolled rectifier) to discharge the dumpcapacitor and these are typically rated for anAC supply frequency of 400Hz maximum.While the SCRs will operate at higherfrequencies, it is an unspecified condition andit ultimately also sets a limit on the maximumspark rate. That effectively rules out using anSCR in the new design.Fourth, and a rather serious draw-
20
SILICON CHIP 
 
Fig.2; the circuit of the Multi-Spark CDI can be split into twoseparate sections, each using anIR2155 self-oscillating half bridge Mosfet driver. ICl andMosfets Ql
&
Q2 comprise the12V DC to 300V DC inverter.IC2 and Mosfets Q6 & Q7charge and discharge the dumpcapacitor via the ignition coilprimary and provide themultiple spark feature.
 
WARNING!
This circuit produces300V DC which cangive you a nastyshock. Do not touchany part of the circuitwhile it is operating.

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