There is actual demand for lowering the quality of test equipment. When the pace of change was slow, it was good idea to pay a premium for test equipment that would last for decades. Now, bandwidths, busses and formats are evolving yearly and that piece of test equipment with sheet metal covers and extruded aluminum chassis might still be functional but no one can use it. Manufacturers and labs don't want to pay for longevity, they want reliable low cost equipment which they know will all be obsolete in their processes in a year or two and have to be replaced. Plastic covers, folded sheet metal and just enough performance at a price that that doesn't require five years of depreciation and IRS accounting is where the market is driving.
Yes, decades ago the stuff was better quality and built to last. But it also cost a lot more, too. Todays consumer item is far far cheaper than the items we bought in the 70's. You CAN buy quality tools and applicances, but be prepared to pay a realistic price. (most consumers just want to pay less.
By the way, you might like to compare the length of the cord supplied with the iron with what you got 40 years ago. I've noticed a creeping reduction in power cable length over the years.
Read 'To Engineer is Human' by Henry Petroski for some insight to reasons we do this.
When using pencil and paper (or slide rules) you did not 'push' the slenderness of features of parts because of the cost testing all scenerios and the cost of failure was high and that there were so many things you could not test for that could come up to compromise the design in the field.
Now with FEA on every Engineers desktop, designs are made just good enough to fullful ther expected life cycle and no more. Reliability is only 'good enough' to statistically (99.8%) make it to the end of the warranty period.
I hope for a backlash against this type of consumerism thinking, and can see a case where MORE analysis again increases the longevity of our products, or at least accounts more fully for real world useage.
MAybe with the widespread adoption of additive manufacturing, etc... a cottage industry will emerge to supply the need for 'improved' components and devices. This is if the liability lawyers don't get involved...
It is true that certain modern items seem to be produced with a lack of quality. People often decry the use of plastic in replace of metals - and often an item's lack of mass is looked at as a lack of "material strength".
For example, the modern car is sometimes looked at as lacking quality because it lacks the heavy iron of yesteryear. However, those old cars really didn't last that long in terms of miles. Flat tires were a common occurance, and everyone new how to tear apart the engine because it was occasionally necessary.
So count me in among those who are generally optimistic about the quality from modern engineered items; especially relative to price and relative to our buying power. For most of us, our parents and grand-parents worked quite hard just to afford a few items, tools, household appliances, etc. Today, I freely toss out or give away any older appliance which begins to fail because buying a new one isn't a big deal. My grandmother probably had one simple sewing machine - my wife has 6-7 fancy one. My grandfather was lucky to have a few simple tools. I am fortunate to have a whole shop full of hand tools and power-tools which are just as good or better than the one he had.
The "stainless" knives reminded me of a trip to Home Depot where I picked up some "copper" plumbing. The "copper" was just a flash over the surface of some mystery metal. The flash wasn't even deep enough for me to brighten up the surface for soldering.
That's true. Consumer cost is the biggest driver in manufacturing. Worldwide, people want the newest, coolest item. Irons, especially, need to be lightweight today. As everyone has said, you sacrifice something with those restrictions.
I think there are several problems. In my humble opinion, I'd list the problems like this:
1. Product Design - Poor Engineering
The products are not designed for any sort of longevity US materials. I can't tell you how many "Stainless" kitchen knives that I've had that have rust spots. I can recall a "weld-buster" chisel that I purchased for my air hammer that "flowered" the first time it hit a strip of 7011 weld (rod for mild steel). The workmanship also leaves a lot to be desired. I've had to repair many circuit boards with cold or lacking solder joints. Many times, the electronics will work properly (for a while), if soldered properly. But on other occasions, an electronic part will fail because of a cold or unsoldered joint, for lack of heat sinking, grounding or other issues.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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