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Sherlock Ohms

There's a Mystery Glitch in the Pipe Organ

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Beth Stackpole
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Tried and true engineering skills
Beth Stackpole   9/24/2012 7:37:55 AM
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Nice story and an on-going lesson for up-and-coming engineers that despite the complexities of today's products and tool platforms, patience and persistence as well as a thirst for curiousity and an eye for creative problem solving are still the tried and true foundational skills for good engineers. Thanks for sharing.

naperlou
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
naperlou   9/24/2012 10:24:19 AM
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Beth, I agree with you.  That was an interesting story and a very interesting problem.  There is no way to teach such skills.  You just have to work with the equipment and understand it at many levels to find a solution. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Rob Spiegel   9/24/2012 9:31:19 PM
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Good point, Naperlou, One thing a really like about this solution is how those who built the pipe organ worked to replicate the problem 600 miles away. This is reminiscent of how the Apollo 13 problem was solved. Those in Houston tried to replicate the materials those in the spacecraft has so they could use those materials to solve the problem.

naperlou
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
naperlou   9/24/2012 11:01:06 PM
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In the software world, SAP does the same thing.  They are very specific about what hardware, system software and middleware can be used with their ERP products.  This is a real pain, until you have a problem that needs fixing.  With a certified installation, they have the test fixtures for all valid combinations and can run in the same environment that you have.  It allows them to give a very high SLA.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Rob Spiegel   9/25/2012 5:58:45 PM
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Interesting point, Naperlou. At the beginning, I would imagine it's a pain to have to follow SAP's system requirements. Yet I can see that would give SAP some control over keeping the system working correctly.

Tool_maker
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Platinum
Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Tool_maker   10/10/2012 1:09:04 PM
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  Your example of consistancy in components makes so much sense I think it needs to be amplified. Sometimes an equivalent is not equivalent and can lead to faulty assumptions. I think that is also true in terminology. I do not know if that is ever a case in electronics, but in my field different parts of the country call similar things by different names which can lead to confusion when trying to trouble shoot over the phone.

  I remember an instance when a customer called me at home about a problem he was having and the conversation quickly turned to jargon and we got the problem solved. When I got off the phone, my wife who had listened to the whole call asked me, "Did he understand what you were saying?" Of course. Why? "Because it did not sound like any English I ever heard before."

Nancy Golden
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Nancy Golden   9/24/2012 10:10:41 PM
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Not just a great example of patient and methodical troubleshooting - but also an example of how you can combine your areas of interest in your profession. While I have been a test engineer for years, I also have a passion for horses. I have a small business where my husband and I develop portable trail obstacles for horses. We often combine our mechanical engineering skills to solve problems with our obstacles and are currently developing some obstacles that are PIC controlled. We have a water obstacle that we eventually plan to have activated by a motion sensor. That's the awesome thing about engineering - you can bring it into so many different areas and work on those that specifically interest you - just as the author of this very interesting article has shown...

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Beth Stackpole   9/26/2012 7:10:32 AM
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Love that example, Nancy. Being able to leverage your professionals skills with your personal passions has to be extremely rewarding and a great way to keep your credentials fresh. Not to mention, the possibilities for another income stream! Enjoy and keep up the great work.

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Tried and true engineering skills
Nancy Golden   9/26/2012 12:04:16 PM
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Thanks Beth! It is always a lot of fun when it comes time to test our new products and I get to saddle up my horse Pistol for a day of "work."

rebowker
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Iron
Re: Tried and true engineering skills
rebowker   9/25/2012 11:04:07 AM
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Agree with naperlou. Work with the equipment and understand it. And everything is significant; the 'burp' being a key clue in this story. This reinforces one key troubleshooting theorem I applied first as a technician and then after I got my EE degree: the problem that kicks your butt the hardest usually has the simplest solution, in this case replace the relay.

jmiller
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
jmiller   9/24/2012 11:10:52 PM
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I liked the fact the entire system was rebuilt and the fact that it wasnt a repeating failure.  It was a try and try again to find the failure.  Sometimes the textbooks make it sound so simple with the massless ropes and frictionless surfaces.  Often it takes a lot of hands on time in the lab to solve a problem.

kenish
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Re: Tried and true engineering skills
kenish   9/25/2012 11:58:52 AM
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Agree, great troubleshooting and teleservicing!  This is very similar to another new article, "Super Mistake Caused Super Voltage"   It sounds like the lesson for all of us is to really think through relays in power control applications!  Don't regard them as a simple on/off contact device.

notarboca
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Gold
Re: Tried and true engineering skills
notarboca   9/29/2012 10:42:54 PM
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kenish--thanks for the reference to the other article.  Between these two, I have learned a lot about what relays can do (both desired and undesirable) in a given circuit.

akili
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Iron
Unexpected Rectification Effect
akili   9/25/2012 11:08:35 AM
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Many years ago I was engaged to help a client who had a lot of enthusiasm but little experience and had invested a lot of effort in an amazing invention based around a Tandy TRS80 computer.  He was attempting to control the intensity of several low-voltage halogen projector bulbs by using simple circuits originally intended to vary the speed of a mains-voltage electric drill.  This too was very temperamental and would sometimes work after a fashion but would eventually blow the fuses very spectacularly, accompanied by loud grunts from the transformers that fed the bulbs.  I pointed out that such simple dimmer circuits had no protection against "half-cycling" wherein the AC delivered to the transformer acquired a significant DC component, with obvious results.  The "universal motors" in old electric drills don't mind the ragged waveform, nor would a mains-voltage filament lamp.  I completely redesigned the circuit to use low-voltage DC with PWM control of the brightness and the problem was solved.

William K.
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Platinum
The mystery glitch in the organ.
William K.   10/5/2012 9:34:28 PM
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Very good diagnostics, and certainly a fault mode that would be quite challenging to predict simply by circuit analysis. So the problem was solved, I hope that there was a design change that came from the dicovery of the problem, and a service note sent to the repair people .  That fault mode is not really intuitive. And a quarter of a second is a very short time to hear and evaluate a sound.

So my guess is that there had to be some intuition involved. It is a bit puzzeling about the explanation of how the buzz produced the overload. My guess would have been that it was extending the inrush current time period to where the fuse time delay was exceeded.

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More Blogs from Sherlock Ohms
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
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