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Sherlock Ohms

Super Mistake Caused Super Voltage

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naperlou
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Blogger
Darnn those inductors
naperlou   9/25/2012 10:34:21 AM
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Rod, it often is a smallish change that causes a problem.  I was also impressed by your reasoning and problem solving.  Thanks for an interesting article.

gsmith120
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Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
gsmith120   9/25/2012 4:28:21 PM
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Naperlou, you are so right about the small things that cause problems.  I have found more times than not very simple and often over looked things causes the biggest problems.  In community college as a part of a troubleshooting exercise the teacher stated if something isn't working check the simple things first.  If the equipment will not turn-on, make sure it is plugged in and power switch "on".

Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
Re: Darnn those inductors
Jennifer Campbell   9/25/2012 5:05:18 PM
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Great advice, @gsmith120. More often than not, common sense flies out the window when trying to solve a technical problem. Is the thinking that if you have a highly technical problem, the answer must be highly techical? It's amazing the way the brain works for some people.

Just today, for instance, my printer would not work. I restarted it a couple of times, checked the paper tray, made sure the ink cartridges were in working order. It took 5 solid minutes before I picked up the phone to call IT. It was then I realized that the printer was not plugged into my laptop. Sometimes it IS the little things.

Walter
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Silver
Re: Darnn those inductors
Walter   9/25/2012 7:06:24 PM
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When trouble shooting I always remember these two mottos:

1 - If at first you don't succeed, ask yourself, "Is it plugged in?"  People often get offended when I start with that but then they get kind of sheepish when I do plug it in.

2 - "The malfunction is at the junction'" covers about 90% of remaining electrical / elecgtronic problems.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Darnn those inductors
Rob Spiegel   9/25/2012 7:38:53 PM
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That's funny, Jenn. I'll be you're glad you figured out it wasn't plugged in before IT showed up. It is the simple things. Over and over again we see that with the Sherlock Ohms blogs. One of my favorites is the guy who carried magnetic disks in his pocket that also held a magnetic screwdriver.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Darnn those inductors
Charles Murray   9/25/2012 9:57:00 PM
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I'm intrgued by one particular line in the story: ..."some engineering upgrade had added inductors to the input filter." I'm always leery of upgrades. Seems like, more often than not, upgrades end up downgrading some aspect of a product's performance.  

wbswenberg
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Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
wbswenberg   9/26/2012 9:42:01 AM
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Charles you are thinking software.  IT and software service has given all service groups a new level to live down too.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Darnn those inductors
Rob Spiegel   9/26/2012 11:34:08 AM
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Interesting through, Chuck. We've seen a number of Sherlock Ohms pieces where an upgrade had a negative affect on an existing system. "Everything was working fine until they 'fixed' it."

notarboca
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Gold
Re: Darnn those inductors
notarboca   9/29/2012 4:31:04 PM
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I have to agree, lots of "upgrades" are undertaken to solve one specific problem and consideration is not given to the operation of the system as a whole.

jmiller
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Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
jmiller   9/25/2012 10:23:15 PM
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I've read several articles written by IT guys and it's amazing what we who don't know how to use our computers properly do to make them not work.  I also find it a little frustrating when they tell me to shut it off and turn it back on before they will help me.  I have also learned they have some interesting terms for people like me with problems I have.  It's called a "PEBKAC" errlor.  Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.  Or it's an "I" "D" "10" "T" error.  you might need to write that one down on a piece of paper.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Darnn those inductors
Rob Spiegel   9/26/2012 11:36:29 AM
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Yes, Jmiller, it's a matter of blaming the user. However, sometimes a world of problems can be solved by a simple reboot. 

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
jmiller   9/30/2012 5:48:49 PM
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I understand that a reboot can fix the problem.  But I don't know if that really solves the root cause of the problem.  Somewhere there's something in the code that caused this problem.  And if rebooting means the system will work right now, it doesn't necessarily mean the problem is solved.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Darnn those inductors
Rob Spiegel   10/2/2012 11:02:41 AM
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Actually, Jmiller, you're right. The problem eventually resurfaces. 

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
jmiller   9/25/2012 10:19:43 PM
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Also, I think it is smart to remember that if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  We need to be careful when trying to solve a problem not to play directly toward our strengths but let the problem lead us.

3drob
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Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
3drob   9/26/2012 9:30:23 AM
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Sometimes relay chatter is a good thing. 

I remember as a kid pulling apart an old phone from the '20's (I assume, perhaps earlier).  It had a relay that had it's coil connected thru the NC contacts.  Figuring out that circuit was my first experience with Engineering (it impressed me at the time repurposing something by using it "wrong", and it's probably why I became an EE later).  To spell it out, that relay was actually used as a buzzer (no bell on this phone).  Provide DC and it closes, opening the circuit making it start all over (i.e. makes a buzzing noise).

Of course, what impressed me more was accidentally touching the input contacts while removing power on this low voltage DC circuit.  The shock made me respect the physics behind inductors and their ability to do damage.  Over the years I've seen similar circuits elsewhere, usually designed to boost voltage or generate AC (including HV for the spark plugs in older cars).

SparkyWatt
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Darnn those inductors
SparkyWatt   10/4/2012 6:38:27 PM
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One of the things this should remind us is that all LC circuits are resonant.  I don't care if the resonance is way out of your operating range, something unintended will stimulate it.  Always make sure they are adequately damped.

If, when they added that inductor, they had also added the right resistor in the right place, the upgrade would have never caused a problem.  Of course, if they had done that task right, the dropout problem in the relay might never have been noticed.

Ah well.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Super Mistake and Super voltage.
William K.   9/25/2012 9:54:32 PM
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Chatter in any realy control circuit can cause all kinds of problems, that has been true for a long time. But the very most damaging occurrence that I am aware of was when my employer shipped a large hydraulic system with a 150HP motor to a customer in a "more primitive" country. The system used a two-speed starter system, which was intended to reduce the starting inrush. The first time that an attempt was made to start the motor at the customers site, the power supply line regulation was so poor that the starter went into a chattering mode and all of the contacts were destroyed. The customer was quite unhappy.

This happened a few weeks prior to my joining the firm, so I was one of few who were not stained by the terrible string of errors that led to that disaster. The working fix was to replace that starter with a "soft start" system from a company named "Safco", based in south Africa. The downside was that we ate the cost, and had to install the replacement system at our expense. From that point forard I have been careful about working with motor starting inrush currents.

hydrogent
User Rank
Iron
Upgrade that wouldn't
hydrogent   10/4/2012 4:24:47 PM
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When I arrived at Sunbeam/Aircap, the Chief Engineer proudly showed me the ceramic brusholder they had designed to keep the bakelite holder from seizing on the carbon brush of their motor. By examining some failed parts, I saw the spring collapsed and discolored, plus the solder gone from where the copper braid wire was connected to its metal plate - at the REAR of the brusholder. They brought 120 VAC to the brusholder by a wire attached to a small metal plate that was held against the brush braid wire plate by its spring. Vibration was bad enough to cause chatter between the plates, with heating enough to melt the solder. Once the solder left, the spring tried to carry the current, but its steel turns quickly annealed and relieved the pressure that held the brush against the armature, causing the ring of fire that made the bakelite swell and sieze the brush. About $50 k was spent on tooling alone for that "upgrade". Instead, we added a quick-connect tab intgral to the rear plate and connected power directly, eliminating a part from the BOM, saving money and warranty costs. Mike Harris

Tool_maker
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Platinum
Upgrade?
Tool_maker   10/8/2012 1:01:50 PM
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I am frequently confronted with supposed "Upgrades" that solve some sort of immediate problem, but lead to other problems somewhere else. To me this happens most often in assemblies. One of our customers is heavily involved in hood hinges and locking mechanisms in heavy over-the-road haulers. It is not at all unusual to begin to alter tooling to produce a part which will clear something that has been added under the hood only to be stopped before completion because the addition has been removed.

Years ago the company at which I worked sold the same die block to the same customer (3) times. We were producing a part and had to alter the die to produce a new version which did not work (for reasons I do not know), and we went back to the original design. This happened on two more occasions before product launch when they replaced the part altogether. So after paying for the tool and subsequent alterations they ended up with an expensive boat anchor and I had several healthy paychecks from overtime worked. It was a very enlightening experience in the operation of huge corporations where not everyone was on the same page.

Irwin@DigiKeyEdu
User Rank
Iron
Chatter vs Fault
Irwin@DigiKeyEdu   10/12/2012 9:41:52 AM
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I am looking for a low 1-5v chatter method. Does anybody have any ideals. I would like to see the sch/design/specs of circuit. Because I am working on a new oxidizing graphene method similar to this fault. Maybe this is what my mom meant, when she always use to say to me, "I could be a preacher!. See what we can learn from chatter? Please contact me irwin@911ec.com wh circuit design info.

DanSchwartz
User Rank
Iron
It's called Surge Impedance
DanSchwartz   10/12/2012 1:42:11 PM
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It's called surge impedance, and it's the exact same thing that burned loads & nearly caused fires in another Sherlock Ohms episode:
Noise Messed With the Automation System.
Here is my explanation, copied & pasted verbatim:

It's called surge impedance Zo, which is defined as √(L/C), where L is the inductance in Henrys, and C is the capacitance, which for a coil is the interwinding stray capacitance.

The back EMF V= Zo (δI/δT), and it will have an oscillation frequency 1/(2π√LC). When you open up contacts in an inductive load, δI/δT goes to ∞: You see this as an arc when you unplug an iron; and also when relay & motor starter contacts are switching off an inductive load.

This is also why contactors have serious current deratings when switching off DC: Once the arc is established and current flows through the ionized channel, there is no zero crossing to extinguish the arc, as occurs with AC,

When dealing with AC, you design using the peak (not RMS) value of the load current when calculating, because you don't know where in the AC cycle the contacts will open.

Note: Those of you who are RF jocks will quickly recognize Z(o) = √(L/C) as the equation for the characteristic impedance of a transmission line: Yes, it's the same thing.

Dan Schwartz,
Editor, The Hearing Blog

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