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Sherlock Ohms

The Power of Human Touch

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Rob Spiegel
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The human senslors
Rob Spiegel   5/3/2013 1:16:55 PM
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As well as all of the technological sensors, we also have human sensors we can rely on. David offers a good example. This reminds me of the factory technicians who can determine the health of the line by wandering around and listening to the machines. They say those technicians are retiring and getting replaced by young technicians who rely more on data than feel. We may lose something in the generational change.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: The human senslors
Cabe Atwell   5/3/2013 3:32:42 PM
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Ah.. the technical tap. In your case, touch.

I immediately thought your issue was a connection problem, maybe grounding. Glad to see I am still good at troubleshooting.

The screws made me think of screw-down terminals, which are notorious at appearing tight but making no connection.

C

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The human senslors
Rob Spiegel   5/6/2013 11:07:02 AM
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Good point, Cabe. As for using senses to troubleshoot, apparently vision is not such a good indicator, as you suggested in not being able to see the grounding problem with the screws.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: The human senslors
Cabe Atwell   5/10/2013 4:10:46 PM
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I just has a screw down terminal issue early this week. I was troubleshooting a speed sensor problem interfacing with a stepper motor control board. I was stripping wires, testing continuity, etc. Then it dawned on me... check the screw down terminal at the stepper driver. Loose.

Problem solved.

C

Charles Murray
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Re: The human senslors
Charles Murray   5/3/2013 6:36:29 PM
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Agreed, Rob. Touch, hearing and sight come in pretty handy when diagnosing technical problems. On a much lower technological level, how many of us have discovered a malfunctioning wall switch by touching the wall and feeling the heat around it? I live in an old house, and have made that discovery at least twice.

Debera Harward
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Re: The human senslors
Debera Harward   5/4/2013 6:19:06 AM
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Charles ,you are absolutely correct  . Being technical sometimes we just ignore the minor issues in our circuits and go for the obvious ,immediate and large ones considerig if the circuit is not working definitely there might be a large issue . Instead of going throw all the process we shud first sense it with our hands and nose as they are the easiest way of sensing and then proceeding forward. However loving your work is very necessary but loving the work at the cost of your life is also not good so one should keep away his or her face from these electronic components .

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The human senslors
Rob Spiegel   5/6/2013 6:15:46 PM
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One thing that is interesting, Chuck, is the divide between sensing things and using data. I'm hearing that young engineers at plants trust the data, while the older engineers trust their senses. In this divide, those who trust the data may have the advantage.

Charles Murray
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Re: The human senslors
Charles Murray   5/17/2013 6:53:12 PM
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Oddly enough, Rob, that sounds like the same diviide that was going on in the book (and movie), "Money Ball." The younger executives tended to trust the numbers, while the older scouts seemed to take more of a seat-of-the-pants approach. While the two areas -- engineering and baseball -- would seem on the surface to be unconnected, I do believe the phenomenon you're describing is age-related, across the board.  

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The human senslors
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2013 12:11:54 AM
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Yes, I agree, Chuck. But I would give the old timers a tad more credit. The seat-of-the-pants is actually decades worth of feel and experience. The old guys think that the numbers are less reliable than real-world experience. But, like Moneyball, you can't count the numbers out -- so to speak.

tekochip
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You Gotta Love Your Work
tekochip   5/3/2013 4:36:39 PM
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That's funny, I used to do the same thing, and when I was unsure if the part was hot I would sometimes press it to my face because that was more sensitive than my hand. It looks goofy, but I guess you have to love your work.
 
Back in the third generation computer days it was not uncommon to lose a TTL gate that was shorted to the rail. Since everything was on the 5V bus, it was often hard to find the culprit. I used to current limit the circuit to 100mA or so and let the part bake so that I could find which part was getting warm, and yes, sometimes pressing my lips against the part to be sure.


Battar
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Re: You Gotta Love Your Work
Battar   5/6/2013 8:59:33 AM
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Tekochip, that sounds like a wimpy attitude. We had the same problems with x86 cards which could have over 50 100nF dcoupling caps, and sometimes one of them would go short circuit. Which one? We current - limited to 2 amps, the one that caused a blister needed replacing. It didn't take long to find the culprit. 100mA wouldn't do it for us.

tekochip
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Re: You Gotta Love Your Work
tekochip   5/6/2013 9:07:07 AM
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You're right, of course.  If 100mA is good, 2A is better!

bobjengr
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HUMAN TOUCH
bobjengr   5/7/2013 6:08:08 PM
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As a recent high school graduate I decided that university study could wait so I applied for and got a job as a die setter.  I really wanted to save up for college.  Back in those days student loans were definitely not that available and graduating with debt was frowned upon.  My job was basically loading dies onto OBI press equipment, running trials, and then turning that press over to the operator.  There was one guy, Richard, who could tell just by hearing the die operate as to whether or not the set was installed properly, had and the correct alignment.  All of this was accomplished by hearing the operation.  Richard was an amazing example of the fact that our senses are great assets when used for jobs described by David.  Excellent post.

William K.
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Human touch, or other temperature sensing methods.
William K.   5/18/2013 1:59:08 PM
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this is a good example indeed. I have seen a similar situation associated with motor starters used with three-phase electric motors. I was asked to investigate one which kept tripping the overload switch, which is a thermal switch designed to trip from smaller overloads. But I was not able to touch the terminals, they were live on the 480 volt circuit. But touching the wire insulation next to the termianl gave an adequate clue that it was warmer than it should be. So tightening the connections solved the problem. 

For the safety people who are freaking out that somebody would open an enclosure with the power on, understand that I had great insight into exactly which places were safe to touch, and that I was and still am able to do that kind of test safely. BUT, of course, it should not be attempted by just any person who thinks that they are qualified because they once read how to do it. That attitude is so very ISO9000!

MartyHoyodeman
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Iron
Re: Human touch, or other temperature sensing methods.
MartyHoyodeman   5/20/2013 6:58:20 PM
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A very long time ago I was working on a Tape Control Unit that had a 750 watt linear 5VDC supply (among others) and was having intemittent issues. First thing was to check the supply voltage which was just fine. I then threw a scope on the supply and saw some noise that was a bit above spec and it would come and go. I opened it up and smelled hot metal. The recitifcation was done with 2 diodes that were mounted on a couple of large aluminum plates used as heat sinks (CT xformer). The cables were bolted to the plates as the diodes were also bolted to them as connections. One of the bolts was no longer shiny and I touched it to see if it was loose.... it was..... it was also about 300 or 400 degrees. I left my finger print permanently in the now dull finish of the bolt head. I know it was warmer than the boiling point of water as I put a dab of spit on the bolt just to see how hot it was and it vaporized instantly. After cooling things down, cleaning things up and replacing the bolt/nut/washers and correctly tightening it, everything worked as expected. The point I am making here is when you are dealing with 100's of watts of power, the touch/feel test is quite useable as I found many times after that first incident, however, I tend to be much more careful and to not touch the connection points directly anymore. Infrared thermometers are cheap now and work very well as a bit of insurance. BTW - My finger prints did reappear on my finger some weeks later. LOL

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