This tale is one more example of the futility of attempting to protect stupid people. On quite a few occasions some stupid interlock designed to prevent one action winds up preventing some other action, until the interlock function and hardware is removed, completely and positively bypassing whatever intent was in the original design. Of course the fact is that the less skilled person would probably do much more damage to the product while removing the interlock function.
I believe code now requires that all smoke/CO detectors in new homes receive line power, trigger all other detectors, and have a backup battery. You cannot put a stand-alone smoke/CO detector in new construction. You can buy wireless alarms and use them to replace older "solo" alarms. That's what I'd do in a home without hardwired alarms.
The law is probably in the way of making this easy - what I mean is that the usual 9V battery for the smoke alarm makes it a stand-alone device that anybody can install at their ceiling. As soon as you make this device use grid power to avoid the use and requirements of replacing batteries, you are immediately confronted with either:
- use a power supply and a wall/ceiling outlet and run the cable to the smoke detector, a pretty ugly solution but if you can install near an outlet it could still be a customer installable device
- attach the detector to the house wiring, which should require an electrician, though this is a permanent solution and you never have to change a battery again. It can be costly though to run wires, install an outlet and connect each alarm to it.
If you want to go for a system that sounds the alarm in all rooms when there is a problem in one location, then you will need either wireless or the grid connected alarms which have an additional wire installed to communicate with each other and set of the alarm on all units
In a previous century I got so fed up with buying and changing batteries that I used a rechargeable battery and trickle-charged it directly from the grid through two very high value resistors that constantly replaced the fractional mA consumption plus self-discharge, so I never had to worry about it again until I moved out of that house, many years later.
I have seen many smoke detectors, have been installing them in my house since some 20 years. All follow the same essential basis rules, including the *inability* to close the cover when there is no battery installed, to avoid malicious people from making it "look good" without actual battery as well as to force/remind you to purchase a new battery (after it started beeping in the middle of the night and you yanked the battery out) for that dangling-open smoke detector...
Having a detector that not only closes without battery but even locks you out unless the battery is already installed is exactly what you don't want and a typical case of a design spec saying "must have locking feature" and the engineers faithfully implementing each of the line items. I have seen a lot of specs that in their context were not ambiguous, but when read line by line, you could clearly see how the engineers implementing the literal text of the spec got it exactly reversed. This product is yet another example of such. The product should not be sold if the store is aware of the problems with it though.... That is just bad service to your customers.
It is interesting reading all these threads. I suggest you read the book "poorly made in China". I have worked directly with our suppliers in China and there is a good correlation between my experiences and those quoted in the book.
You're right, Rob, you can probably multiply this by a thousand. What always amazes me is that there are so many of these kinds of problems, and that it takes so long for companies to notice them -- or, more accurately, to admit that the problems exist.
I'd like to offer an alternative to this being a poor product design. It is entirely possible that the design was validated and performs as intended, however, a manufacturing blunder may have caused the problem. If the injection mold was not assembled correctly then the latch could have been molded with the ramp on the security tab facing the wrong direction.
I have seen/heard of many injection molds where the inserts are not keyed to prevent improper assembly. The mold may have been assembled properly for the design validation and acceptance run only to later have been taken apart for maintenance and re-assembled wrong.
Many years ago I read an article in the long-gone industry newspaper, "Electronic News." It seems a fire broke out at a... now wait for it... smoke-detector manufacturer! To save consumers time, the company preinstalled the battery or batteries. When the firefighters arrived the noise from all the screaming alarms was so loud they had to let the fire burn itself out.
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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