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Made by Monkeys

The Whirlpool Washer Was Trouble

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Charles Murray
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Re: Design questions
Charles Murray   7/9/2013 6:59:33 PM
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One more point about the "top secret" mentality, Analog Bill. Over the past 25 years, I've learned that I can get a quick callback from most automakers when I call with a question. Not so with appliance makers. Usually, I run into dead ends and unreturned calls.

J. Niiranen from ABB
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Iron
Re: Design questions
J. Niiranen from ABB   7/10/2013 3:07:02 AM
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Dear Rob Siegel, this fridge capacitor issue does not make a good Made by Monkeys case because it is difficult to say who to blame.

The capacitor has 275 V AC rating according to the photograph and thus it should be OK for 230 V supply. Thus most likely the reason has been either wrong labeling of the capacitors, defect in manufacturing of the capacitors or even fault in the manufacturing process of the metallized foil.

According to the discussion forums the problems started around 2005 typically after 2-3 years of operation and thus this kind of failure mechanism is difficult to find at factory testing even if you do some acceleration testing.

The problem with these kind of slowly developing faults is that quite a many products have been made before there is any indication that something is wrong.

Good question is if the faulty capacitors could have been detected by overvoltage testing of them.

Naturally it would be nice to hear what was the actual reason for the problem.

By the way, regarding capacitors and possibly related with this, it may not be a well known fact that "Y" RFI capacitors are designed to fail to open circuit due to safety reasons (short circuit would make the chassis under line voltage) and thus it is typical that these lose gradually their capacitance. Thus it may be that old equipment does not anymore fulfill the radio frequency emission limits.

 

Elizabeth M
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Re: Design questions
Elizabeth M   7/10/2013 4:51:03 AM
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Thanks for that real-world perspective, Analog Bill. I am not surprised the manufacturers act that way but it is a bit disheartening. You'd think they'd want advice on how their products could be improved and even potentially be less dangerous to consumers.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Design questions
Elizabeth M   7/10/2013 4:52:33 AM
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That's really interesting, too, Chuck. So it seems like the automakers are a little more forthcoming about things, whereas manufacturers want to bury their heads in the sand. Like I said i my previous comment, this is not good news for people using potentially defective products.

Tool_maker
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Re: Design questions
Tool_maker   7/10/2013 4:50:27 PM
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Elizabeth: Before the manufacturer can want to help, they have to admit that they made a mistake. Lawyers make millions from manufacturers who admit to a poor design. Perhaps they think it is better to be quiet and hope the problem goes away.

  There is also the internal problem of finger pointing as to who screwed up. I have worked places where it is more important to lay blame than solve problems. I also think the earlier post about greenhorn engineers often plays a role in these messes.

tekochip
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Re: Design questions
tekochip   7/10/2013 5:14:17 PM
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I read about a motorcycle manufacturer that had developed a driveshaft system for their bike. Unfortunately changes in torque, like accelerating or downshifting, would cause the the driveshaft to apply force to the rear suspension. The rear suspension would then get a little taller or a little shorter with the changing torque and this would change the rider's center of gravity, which would cause handling problems, particularly if the rider downshifted and then accelerated through a turn.

When the trade magazines reviewed the motorcycle the Engineering Department developed a new rear suspension that would have eliminated the shaft effect, but the Legal department said that making the change on the next model year would suggest that there was a safety issue with the previous model year and expose the company to legal action.

So much for product improvement.

Charles Murray
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Re: Design questions
Charles Murray   7/10/2013 7:54:55 PM
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Yes, Liz, most of the automakers have teams of PR people who help answer questions. Appliance manufacturers, in contrast, have PR departments, but they often treat journalists as adversaries, and seem to believe their role is to keep us at arm's length.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Design questions
William K.   7/10/2013 9:25:05 PM
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It is a real pity that our lawyers act like a bloodthirsty mob of hungry ants, and worse yet that the judges approve of this. So it goes, that many omprovements are met with "why didn't you do it right the first time? ", which is certainly an attitude that would tend to stifle any desire to provide real improvements. Even the quite intensely regulated auto industry suffers from it a bit. 

As for the problems with the Whirlpool washer, they were about what I would expect to see. I know that is quite a cutting remark, but true it is.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Design questions
Elizabeth M   7/11/2013 6:18:33 AM
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Sounds similar to how some companies would deal with me when I covered the business side of the technology industry. It wasn't really industry-specific like this, though. Some companies had PR people that wanted to help and work together with journalists, while others, like appliance manufacturers, viewed journalists as the enemy. It's really a shame that they behave in this way, especially since it really hurts the consumer, who is investing hard-earned money and trying to make good buying decisions. They deserve the truth.

Charles Murray
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Re: Design questions
Charles Murray   7/11/2013 6:06:43 PM
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A few years back, Liz, we gave a quality award to an appliance manufacturer. A year later, I called with a question, and they wouldn't respond. I guess I should have offered them another award.

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