The post shows how the versatile IC LM317/338/396 may be used as a variable voltage regulator and also as a variable current regulator through simple configurations.
The idea was built and tested by Mr, Steven Chiverton and used for driving special laser diodes which are known to have stringent operating specifications, and could be driven only through specialized driver circuits.
The discussed LM317 configuration is so accurate that it becomes ideally suitable for all such specialist current and voltage regulated applications.
Referring to the shown circuit diagram, the configuration looks pretty straightforward, two LM317 IC s can be seen, one configured in its standard voltage regulator mode and the other in a current control mode.
To be precise the upper LM317 forms the variable current regulator stage while the lower acts like a variable voltage controller stage.
The input supply source is connected across the Vin and ground of the upper current regulator circuit, the output from this stage goes to the input of the lower LM317 variable voltage regulator stage. Basically both the stages are connected in series for implementing a complete foolproof voltage and current regulation for the connected load which is a laser diode in the present case.
R2 is selected to acquire a range of around 1.25A max current limit, the minimum allowable being 5mA when the full 250 ohms is set in the path, meaning the current to the laser may be set as desired, anywhere between 5mA to 1 amp.
Calculating Current Limit
The above is calculated by using the following formula:
R = 1.25/max allowable current
The current controlled voltage acquired from the upper stage is next applied to the lower LM317 voltage regulator circuit, which enables the desired voltage to be set anywhere from 1.25V to 30V, here the max range being 9V since the source is a 9V battery. This is achieved by adjusting R4.
The discussed circuit is assigned to handle not more than 1.5amps, if higher current is required, both the ICs may be replaced with LM338 for obtaining a max 5amp current or LM396 for a max of 10amp current.
The following lovely pictures were sent by Mr. Steven Chiverton, after the circuit was built and verified successfully by him.