Some years ago I replaced my 20-year-old American-made washer with a New Zealand-made Fisher and Paykel. It came with all sorts of innovative features such as variable speed DC motors, a smaller agitator, automatic water level control, and other electronic whiz-bang features.
It ran great for a while until one day it refused to drain a full tub of grungy water. A call to their overseas service number prompted them to tell me to free up the drain pump rotor. This required removing the wet laundry and the standing water, then tipping the machine up on edge and removing the bottom cover.
There, a fractional horsepower motor was seen beside the main tub motor. It was about the size of a can-opener motor. A few spins by hand and the motor ran free. Problem solved.
Again, about a year later same drill. This time I pressured the company’s service tech for more information, like what was causing the motor to seize. “Soap buildup” was their answer. Once a year, they recommended I run a full tub of hot water with some dishwasher powdered detergent in the machine. Turns out that the phosphate in that soap is capable of cutting the sticky buildup better than the phosphate-free soap in laundry detergent.
About this time a friend told me that his F-P was in the same state, filled with wet clothes and stalled. I told him the fix, which he applied to solve it. Now I remember to do this trick about every year, and have only been caught a couple of times since, once when I ran an extra dirty load of muddy clothes. I have also learned to be extra careful with laundry, pre-cleaning muddy clothes with a hose. Wouldn’t you think they would have designed that little drain pump with a stronger motor to overcome the drag of soapy scum and extra silty drain water?
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.