We purchased a Neptune front-load washer/dryer stack back in 2001. We did a lot of research; the reviews of the unit were very positive, and we figured that Maytag had a pretty good reliability record. We purposely stayed away from the super whiz-bang Neptune model with the LCD screen and the electronic sequence control, figuring that the good old motor-driven timer, cam and relay control system would be more reliable. As it turns out, the monkeys had designed the motor control circuit board, setting the stage for a widespread electronics-based defect that led to a class-action suit against Maytag for refusing to acknowledge that there was a problem with thousands of defective control boards. Ours blew up while barely still under an extended warranty (whew!). It was repaired, and we thought we had dodged the bullet. Turns out we didn’t-the monkeys are sneaky, and they got to more than just the electronic design of this product.
About a year ago, the washer began making a very un-washer-like banging noise while in the spin cycle. It didn’t go away; it just got worse. Uh-oh. A visit from the local repair people revealed that the main bearing that supports the washer drum was worn out. OK, sounds pretty simple–could they replace the bearing? No, it was permanently built into an internal frame support structure; a new frame and bearing would cost $500. The washer would also need a new spindle assembly, which fit into the bearing and supported the drum–$150. Add $350 for labor and tax, and we’re suddenly up to a thousand dollars to repair a 10 year old washer, because a simple $50 part failed. Thanks to a non-replaceable component approach to the mechanical design - what should have been a $250 parts and labor repair - ended up with us junking (well, recycling) what was otherwise a quite serviceable washer. And since the dryer was literally built into the washer to form the stack, the still-functioning dryer went bye-bye as well.
Needless to say, once bitten, twice shy. We bought a new LG washer with a direct-drive motor design; it has a 10-year warranty on the motor. We’ll see how reliable LG turns out to be, but Maytag will have to re-earn our trust if they are ever to sell us another piece of white goods. The only reason the Maytag repairman is lonely is because he doesn’t answer the phone-the monkeys do that for him, while they design new Maytag products.
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 radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.