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EDIT 1: I was able to get it to work, but I am not at all sure what happened here... I decided to build this circuit again - exactly the same layout and parts (see original question below).

As soon as I turned it on (with 800mA load), I heard quiet crackling, like something was repeatedly sparking (I heard the same sound when the EN pin burned in the previous attempt). This time I could see the sparks and the smoke coming from the input capacitor, not the EN pin!

I turned the circuit off, doused the board in isopropyl alcohol and then blew it out with a can of compressed air. I saw quite a few chunks of dried flux (I am assuming it was flux) fly off the board. Turned the converter on again, and now it's been running cool and quiet for 30 minutes.

So what is that all about? I was sure flux was non-conductive... So what did I remove with compressed air that finally made the circuit work? I am using Acid Paste Flux SP-30.

Original Question:

I've been struggling with making a functional buck converter based on AP3431, and after getting some good suggestions here I was finally able to achieve stable operation for about 6 minutes (that's a huge improvement on my previous result of 30 seconds). Before the problem was wild oscillation of the output voltage. This does not happen now. Yay. The new problem is - fire :)

I've never had this happen before, so I am looking for some ideas on what the cause may be: enter image description here enter image description here

If you look at the video of the burning process, you can see the conformal coating boiling around the chip, which suggests a lot of heat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GttTQ8RhIts&t=0m7s

It is strange that most of this action is going on around the EN pin, which is supposed to have ~2uA going through it.

Here's how the board is designed: enter image description here

Any idea what might be going on here?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Apart from the obvious things like checking for shorts, you may want to investigate with a scope to look for high-frequency instabiltiy and the like. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin James May 30 '14 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ And..... success! Built another circuit just like it, and got it to work, but not sure how.... I'll update the question with new info. \$\endgroup\$ – Val Blant May 30 '14 at 7:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ For one thing, you should never be using acid-based flux on electronics. That's strictly for things like copper plumbing. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed May 30 '14 at 10:33
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I think my problem here might have been the use of acid-based flux, intended for plumbing, rather than electronics.

From the data sheet:

Like other inorganic acid fluxes, Kester SP-30 is too corrosive for electrical or electronics soldering applications.

Oops :). I'll need to use something a little less crazy in my future projects.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you serious! \$\endgroup\$ – Kaz May 30 '14 at 23:57

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