If a company made a high quality iron today would people buy it? Would people choose it over the $18 and $20 irons I see in stores? At least cars are better these days. Mine has 200,000+ miles with little maintenance. My Dad's cars never lasted that long.
I'm 65, and still using the same GE steam iron my mom used when i was 5-6. I may have to replace the cord some day, as it's got several areas with friction tape on it. Same goes for the Kirby Vacuum my parents bought around my 5-6 th year of life. Still has the same cord, but rubber cover is cracking. I bought an old house in 1999 and there were 2 GE steam irons in the 'ironing board' closet, both work OK, and also have tape on the cords in the same areas. Seems to be where the cord rubs on the edge of the ironing borad during use.
I felt compelled to reply to this issue on lead solder as reliability is very important to me and my customers and the removal of lead from solder was a political issue and IMHO not a well-thought-out scientific (or even green) decision. Decide for yourself- here are a number of excerpts and links and a few of my own comments for your research on this issue.
Impact: I know that when I am flying in a commercial jet, I sure want the comfort of know the avionics was soldered with lead based solder to make it reliable! Same is true when I buy and expensive piece of electronic gear for the factory or for my home- I want it to last more than 6 months or a few years! I want to know that if I drop my cell phone the solder joints won't become intermittant. I don't want to replace the computer under the hood of my car (have you priced those?) just because of whisker growth from removal of lead. And the list goes on.. elevator controls, cameras, pacemakers, Nuclear devices, smoke detectors, ferigerator controls, ovens, fire supression controls, Police, Fire and medical communication gear, ... on and on and on. Think about what unreliabilities and early failures you are willing to live with. When a *good* solution is found, then fine... otherwise leave the electronics solder alone.
Please don't flame me, just study the research and consider the numbers for yourself. I have provided some info below to get you started.
Total impact of electronics-based lead in the world:
Note that electronics and solder don't even warrant a *category*.
RoHS regulations and response-generated industries have not successfully solved the problem (yet), but they are working on other solder additives that will stop whisker growth. For now, however, long term reliability of soldered circuit boards requires conformal coating if you use lead-less solder. Conformal coating, however, (in most formulations that I have seen) does release a lot of VOCs, so choose your 'greenest' option as you see fit. (and the proposed solder formulations may use some very rare additive elements that may be overall more harmful than lead to the planet if you look at the complete birth to grave energy/pollution scenarios instead of just the disposal aspect).
Reliability problems created by getting rid of lead in solder and electronics coatings:
"With the approaching deadline for RoHS conversion, component manufacturers have begun phasing in tin plating without fully addressing the tin whisker risk. Since tin whiskers do not grow immediately but over a number of years, each segment of the electronics industry views the risk differently. The consumer electronics industry, with its shorter product life cycles, does not view tin whiskers as a major reliability risk. But component users in the defense and aerospace electronics community, whose electronics are mission critical, view tin whiskers as a serious risk."
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 | Harvey Miller, FabFile Online (edited slightly for this paste):
"Many should not be expected to know that lead-free solder has significantly increased manufacturing cost, and also reduced reliability of electronic products. Like most on the equipment end of the food chain, people are not familiar with the manufacturing engineers' failed struggle against EU-mandated lead-free solder. Specious arguments that ignored scientific risk-reward analyses by the University of Stuttgart and the University of Tennessee, were used to justify elimination of the miniscule lead content--less than 0.5% of total lead usage--from electronic solder, beginning in 2002. By 2011, lead- free solder had over 60% global penetration."
"I disagree with the stated and implied affect of RoHS, on PWBs expressed in this article. Lead-free assembly reduces reliability by 50%. There can be no doubt about that. There are too many studies that confirm lead-free assembly significantly degrades reliability. There are so many studies that demonstrate a reduction in reliability that Rod's contention is almost laughable. We are now faced with increased failures of copper interconnections and dielectric material due to high assembly temperatures. There is an increase in crazing that can support CAF, significant copper dissolution and cratering in assembly. Switching to lead free in most HDI applications is a significant challenge. Lead-free assembly has a profound affect by degrading a PWBs organic component (epoxy) due the temperature required and copper interconnection and also the exaggeration of the z-axis expansion of the dielectric.
I have heard of anecdotal stories like, "We switched to lead-free with no problem!" But never have I seen data that suggests lead-free does not degrade the robustness of a PWB. It may be some applications have so much extra "reliability," such a large "guard band" built into the product, that there is no affect noted in assembly and the end-use environment. But make a small change like, say, grid size, hole size or layer count and they might be very surprised to find out what worked for years won't work now.
There was this guy standing on the corner of the street snapping his fingers.
A businessman walks up to him and says, "Why are you snapping your fingers?"
The man replied "To keep away elephants."
The businessman said, "There are no elephants within 1,000 miles of here!"
The man replied, "See! It works."
Anecdotal evidence is compelling, makes good and interesting stories and sets one up for major error and embarrassment when offered as grist for the mill of reality. RoHS's affect on the electronic industry, juxtaposed against the benefit to the environment, does not stand up to the scrutiny of critical thinking. It does not appear the decision is based on "good" science or objective evidence. RoHS appears to be feel-good legislation that has, over all, minimal benefit and significant negative impact on society."
JEDEC has a whisker testing standard and a document which talks about ways to reduce the risk of tin whiskers in a RoHS situation:
Some very good points have been made in this discussion ........but does anybody think that anything is going to change?
Yes, I would like to start a website called "not_crap.com" and sell products that have an acceptable MTBF .....but's that's not going to happen. Many of us know that motor efficiency standards have been mandated under the Energy Independence and Security Act using the premise that waste makes us (as a country) vulnerable. In my opinion material waste is just as damaging as energy waste but until the political pundits can gleam some personal benefit in fighting this windmill I don't see a MTBF act being enacted.
Unfortunately our only alternative is to hold on and rebuild durable products as long as we can. I have a 1956 Gravely mower that has more steel and beefier castings than most of the newer cars.....I wish I could find more items worth rebuilding and keeping them forever.
Several months ago my wife and I had the need to buy a new blender. Our old one lasted for about fifteen years and we had no heartburn when it bit the dust. After carefully looking at the options available, we selected what we felt would be one equivalent to the one we had. Arriving home, I took the device out of the box, even read the directions and plugged that sucker in. Nothing happened--nothing at all. I plugged another kitchen device in to the same receptacle to see if there was an issue with the breaker--no issue at all. Immediately I consulted the "troubleshooters" checklist provided with the use and care instructions to make sure I had covered all areas that might cause a problem. Long and short, it was DOA. I took the blender back to the store to affect a swap. I demanded that we remove the blender from the box, plug it in and take it through all of the cycles. The clerk was none too happy but that was THE requirement prior to leaving. One month, two months then during the third month it stopped working. It would not start on any cycle. I returned this one also, this time asking for my money back. I have no idea as to why there were issues and I don't really want to know. I can tell you it was manufactured and assembled in China, just like every thing else. The quality of merchandise we receive today is no where close to what we have had in the past. For me, this scenario has been repeated several times over the last few years with residential and commercial products. They just don't' make them like they used to
Quality, Cost, Endurance and the end user. Quality is highly dependent on three things. The beholder, the user, and the buyer. MG cars were quality to the guy in the goggles. Or spectator dressed up in a scarf and cap and dreamed. Under the hood they were lower quality. Sometimes recycled cans. And to the buyer/dealer they glowed gold. The Sunbeam Auto-lift wedding gift toaster was a marvel of engineering. And as long as people don't flame them with toaster strudel and poptarts, they last in use like mine. Same function can be replaced for $7 but its a statistical crap shoot how long it will last. Cars, appliances, entertainment boxes, tools, they've all evolved as our economy model has. It used to be there was an industry for repair and maintenance. Now that business has flipped to cheap best deals and disposal. I have trouble taking things to the transfer station or "dump". Most of my neighbors move a cubic yard per week without hesitation. I'm not better for that. I prefer to keep what I've selected and learned to use. And I try not to trade my time/money for waste/scrap.
As a person who has made a living using tools, I have a brief list of tools and appliances that don't perform as expected. Hand saws - once dull they can't be sharpened:Wood planes - steel too soft to hold an edge: Screw drivers too soft to avoid bending and camming out: Taiwanese metal lathes unable to hold accuracy: Shop-vac's with brush-type motors with no-oil bronze bushings that sound like jet engines at take-off and last a year of moderate use: Electric coffee pots, irons, dish washers that have high-temp cutouts with MTBFs less than a year: Pry-bars and combination wrenches that bend!: Battery powered drills that die before the batteries wear-out. Manufacturers make tools for consumers that want to purchase a tool that looks, smells and feels like a tool, but will only be used occasionally. We have done this to ourselves by rewarding the seller who offers the lowest price and driving the higher quality manufactures either out of the country or out of business. Designers and engineers are tasked with making the lowest price component that meets the overall marketing goals. Unfortunately, we, as consumers do not know until after the purchase, whether the device will meet our needs and once we learn, it is often too late.
I respectfully take umberage at the notion that engineers are to blame for the lack of quality in modern products like these irons.
The foundational truth in this issue is the modern economics are to blame as much as all other factors. Wal-Mart itself has an economy that is larger than most countries in the world. Last I checked it was bigger than the economy of Denmark or Norway. The marketers at places like Wal-Mart, or Home Depot in the case of tools set the features, the price point they want and own or control many of the factories that manufacture consumer goods. Add to them, Lowes, Target, K-Mart, Harbor Freight, and all the other cheapo retailers and the influence is monumental. This enormous influence means that even if a few consumers desire, and manufacturers want to produce higher quality, repairable consumer goods; they find it nearly impossible to compete.
Each year, these retailers drive manufacturing costs lower and lower to preserve their 'Low Low' prices and profit margin. To wit, my modern battery powered cut-off saw - the main shaft that holds the chuck broke in two and the chuck flew off. I don't know what it was made of, but it was not solid steel - the break had a sintered look, like pot metal. There is nothing of higher quality available!
If you want to change this, don't take it out on engineers. They are paid to design an inexpensive product that looks good and performs adequately. Quality and reliability are not major factors, and repairability is not a factor at all - these products are disposable.
What you can do is shop at locally owned, independent retailers (like your father did). Insist on the highest quality you can, and take the money out of Wal-Mart (and the others) pockets. And pay the price premium. If I'm gonna buy a drill or an iron or whatever that won't last anyway - I'd rather keep my local hardware or home goods store in business in the process. About twice as much money of what I spend there will stay in my local econoomy than the money spent at the big box stores, and the service is far better.
P.S. (I was able to order parts and repair my cut-off saw - as I'm sure many of the readers here would also. Unfortunately we are a tiny minority. . .)
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.