Good points, Scott. I have a Sunbeam toaster that has lasted forever. Same with my TV, my blender, my coffee grinder, dishwasher, and on and on. What I see happening, though, is that consumers replace their products before they break, TVs especially. New features seem to be driving replacement at a rate higher than product breakdowns.
Sadly, I think in this day and age, consumers have gotten used to buying cheap stuff that they complain about which they have to replace later. It's more "fun" to relate a story on your facebook page of how your $10 toaster nearly burned down your house than it is to brag about how satisfied you are with your $50 toaster that works perfectly everytime and which you've had it for 10 years. If we valued quality engineered products, we'd consume less, spend less over the long term and have a higher quality of life.
That's a surprising piece of news, Chuck. I was under the impression that manufacturing in China was improving. I've heard that some plants in China were matching or surpassing U.S. plants. Aparently those plants are in the minority.
For those who are really curious, there's a wiki article, which has more detailed technical info than you'll want to know, including a detailed chemical analysis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague
Its interesting to see the comments this post has generated. Just imagine the number of TV's, Radio's and monitors (or any electronic equipment for that matter) that must be sold just because of a few poor-quality parts!! It just makes me wonder whether the companies that indulge in using poor components do so for saving costs (which would just be a few cents) or selling the next product (a new $200 monitor anyone!!).
I have known companies (not necessarily in the field of electronics) that use reliability engineering to engineer components to fail just outside their warranty period. In fact my old Japanese car had more than its fair share of part failures once it reached the six-year mark.
It begs me to question whether we, as good engineers, should succumb to the shackles of capitalism that drive bad practices? And if not, what could we do about it?
Those who say this may just be a quality issue, as opposed to a deliberate design choice, may be on to something. I talked to a manufacturer today (who shall go nameless). He told me he visited 400 Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturing facilities over four months, in search of a supplier. He claimed that only four of the 400 met his quality specs.
A Google search for images of "blown capacitor" retrieves hundredes of photos. One of my favorites was an image of a smll capacitor mounted in a larget capacitor body. Yikes. Wish I could relocate it.
Some name-brand companies license their brand name to second-class manufacturers, so having a brand name you recognize doesn't mean the brand owner actually manufactured the product.
When lab glassware carried the Pyrex trademark, I knew I could heat the heck out of it and it wouldn't shatter. But apparently some "Pyrex" branded cookware doesn't use real Pyrex-grade borosilicate glass and will crack or shatter. Don't try to heat water in Pyrex kitchenware on a stove burner! It just isn't the same as lab glassware.
Poor quality parts are always around, and nobody would ever copy them because they often have a bad reputation. But of course they are cheaper to buy than the good parts. two year capacitors are fine for products that will break in a year but be obsolete in six months, so there is a place for them.
At one time, long ago when I was servicing Sony brand audio cassette equipment, the bad caps mostly were Rubycon branded. They either opened up or developed excessive leakage, neither was good in audio equpment. So I learned quite quickly to replace certain value Rubycon caps because they were usually guilty.
Manyyears later one of the major semiconductor makers who was diversified also made IC sockets that often were intermittant. But they were cheap. So every time I wrote a purchase request for IC sockets I had to add the note: "## sockets are not acceptable". That company still makes a lot of good chips, but I don't think that they make sockets any more. Sorry about the name hint, but the guilty know who they are.
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