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naperlou
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Built to a price
naperlou   8/29/2012 9:02:18 AM
The problem you are experiencing is driven to a large part by the large retailers and partly by consumers.  The products are built to a price.  What that ends up meaning is that the products are made overseas.  That is why I get really upset when I see articles wondering if US workers cvan handle the manufacturing that "coming back".  This is crazy.  Who do you think is doing the manufacturing in Asia???  These are peasants from the countryside that just before they became a manufacturing force were working farm plots by hand.  Don't get me started...

But really, it comes back to the consumer.  One time I was going hunting and much of my stuff was at another location.  I needed a knife for dressing out the game.  I went to the large retailer, which was the only store in the area, and the only stuff they had was cheap junk.  I bought one anyway, but later threw it away.  It's a good thing I did not get anything that weekend. 

That said, I know manufacturers who deal with those large retailers and it is the case that they determine what price they want to sell each item at and the manufacturers have to comply.  Since they are so large, they drive the train and the manufacturers comply. 

I remember the tools and appliances you talk about, Eric, and they do make a difference.  I still have a ratchet wrench from a large tool brand that my father made when he worked in  a drop forge.  It is still going strong and it is much older than I am. 

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Built to a price
tekochip   8/29/2012 9:27:11 AM
Absolutely true, much of the blame rests on consumers that decide which product to buy based solely upon the cost rather than the quality.  If customers looked on the the WALL of their local MART and decided that they wanted a product because it was built to last rather than the cheapest one they could find then corporate management would demand that the suppliers build that product.  The big box stores are so big that they tell their suppliers what to build, how much it will cost and the profit the supplier is allowed to make.  The big box store demands to see the product Bill Of Materials and then tells the supplier how much profit they will be allowed to make, very often the first year of production is required to be for break even money.  They even demand to see the die area of semiconductors and base the cost of the semiconductor purely on the size of the die.
 
Shop somewhere else.


Astro-Eric
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Re: Built to a price
Astro-Eric   8/29/2012 10:04:20 AM
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Thanks for the comments naperlou, tekochip.  Funny thing is that I'd be more than happy to spend the money to get a good product, rather than having to buy frequent replacements.  But this option doesn't seem to be available in most consumer items.  You can still buy some good tools (if you look hard enough) and I seem to be able to get good astronomy equipment.  The price is high, but so is the quality.

 

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Built to a price
Rob Spiegel   8/29/2012 1:33:40 PM
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Eric, where to you think the source of the problem with lower quality products comes from? Off-shore outsourcing? Poor engineering?

Astro-Eric
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Blogger
Re: Built to a price
Astro-Eric   8/29/2012 3:43:50 PM
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Hi Rob,

I think there are several problems.  In my humble opinion, I'd list the problems like this:

1.  Product Design - Poor Engineering

2.  Materials

3.  Workmanship

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. 

 

 

tekochip
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Platinum
Re: Built to a price
tekochip   8/29/2012 7:44:17 PM
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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.


Larry M
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Platinum
Re: Built to a price
Larry M   8/30/2012 4:41:16 PM
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Astro-Eric wrote: "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."

Astro-Eric, don't blame the workmanship for that. Soldering materials are not what they used to be thanks to our European friends and their misguided RoHS legislation. You try soldering with lead-free solder for a while and you will be convinced.

notarboca
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Gold
Re: Built to a price
notarboca   8/31/2012 11:54:47 PM
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I have to say, Pb-free solder is quite a different animal from the old days pre-RoHS.  Took (and takes) greater individual skill, closer tightness to reflow parameters, and attention to flux than lead solder ever did.  But we reduced the amount of lead leaching back into the ecology (we did, didn't we?).

Silver
User Rank
Iron
Re: Built to a price ... lead solder
Silver   9/7/2012 7:21:43 PM
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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:

Chart:

http://www.ilzsg.org/static/enduses.aspx?from=5

Note that electronics and solder don't even warrant a *category*.

Page 40 of:

http://www.kemi.se/Documents/Publikationer/Trycksaker/Rapporter/Report5_07_Lead_in_articles.pdf

From the above UE report, lumps it in with "Other".

Reliability issues with non-leaded solder:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisker_%28metallurgy%29

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:

This one is a great write up-

http://www.hlinstruments.com/RoHS_articles/Tin%20Whiskers_A%20Long%20Term%20RoHS%20Reliability%20Problem_RLandman.pdf

 

http://www.empf.org/empfasis/july05/whiskers705.htm

"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."

http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures

 

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."

 

From: "Paul Reid" Paul.Reid@PWBCORP.COM
To: TechNet@IPC.ORG


"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:

http://www.jedec.org/news/pressreleases/jedec-and-ipc-release-tin-whisker-acceptance-testing-standard-and-mitigation-prac

The documents are:
JEDEC standard JESD201, "Environmental Acceptance Requirements for Tin Whisker Susceptibility of Tin and Tin Alloy Surface Finishes"

and

JEDEC/IPC joint publication, JP002, "Current Tin Whiskers Theory and Mitigation Practices Guideline"


I have not read the documents yet, but plan to Real Soon Now. :)


Other metals are also known to grow whiskers, including gold, but I have never experienced those myself.


Steve Greenfield
User Rank
Iron
Re: Built to a price
Steve Greenfield   9/27/2012 8:22:22 PM
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"Astro-Eric, don't blame the workmanship for that. Soldering materials are not what they used to be thanks to our European friends and their misguided RoHS legislation. You try soldering with lead-free solder for a while and you will be convinced."

While I can't disagree, I will say that I've seen a lot of soldering issues long before lead-free solder. Lots of Thomson TV warranty repairs that required literally hundreds of resoldered joints on boards that mixed PTH and SMD parts.

And it is amazing to me just how many consumer electronics items put temperature sensitive components like aluminum electrolytic capacitors right next to heat sinks. Guess which ones fail first? I don't know how they are now, but for decades Sony TVs were terribly designed when it came to getting rid of heat. Parts packed in close, and the vents designed so that if -anything- interfered with convenction in the slightest, they got very hot inside. Bad capacitors, bad solder joints, etc.

They were beautiful until they failed. But just too much dust in the slots, a doily partly blocking the slots, or even just putting the TV into an entertainment center was enough to cause them to overheat to the point of entire PCBs having bad solder joints and bad electrolytics, and discolored boards.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Built to a price
Rob Spiegel   8/31/2012 4:49:10 PM
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Thanks for the info. Sounds like materials are a really problem as well as the manufacturing process. 

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Built to a price
Charles Murray   8/29/2012 5:47:10 PM
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Seems like there might also be an issue of planned obsolescence here. If you wear it out in a few years, you're left with little choice but to run back to the store and buy a new one.

Astro-Eric
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Blogger
Re: Built to a price
Astro-Eric   8/30/2012 9:15:10 AM
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Couldn't agree more, Charles.

 

 

 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Built to a price
Rob Spiegel   8/31/2012 5:06:43 PM
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Hmm. Maybe you're right, Chuck. Seem that would leave a real opening for a competitor that delivers quality. It worked for Japan automakers when they went after the poor quality Detroit cars.

NadineJ
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Platinum
Re: Built to a price
NadineJ   8/29/2012 7:07:11 PM
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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.

Droid
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Platinum
Glass half full
Droid   8/30/2012 9:58:59 AM
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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.

 

cgosnell
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Silver
Fudge factors...
cgosnell   8/30/2012 10:03:25 AM
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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...

Battar
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Platinum
But cheaper, too
Battar   8/30/2012 10:39:49 AM
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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.

Tim
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Platinum
Re: But cheaper, too
Tim   8/30/2012 9:04:37 PM
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I have heard that prices dropping over time as being called the Walmart effect on prices.  It is normal that cutting edge items get cheaper the longer that they are on the market, but there is no good reason for common items like irons to drop in price over time.  People now expect the prices to come down on all items.  This has driven manufacturers to reduce cost (and mass) to help with reducing prices.

npitech
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Iron
Not just consumer driven
npitech   8/30/2012 12:39:33 PM
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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.

 

dbell5
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Platinum
Not your mother's iron?
dbell5   8/30/2012 1:45:38 PM
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I hate to say it, "An Iron? What's that?!?"

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Platinum
(NO) QUALITY Appliances.
OLD_CURMUDGEON   8/30/2012 2:38:19 PM
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Speaking of clothes irons, last year we went to a local BED, BATH & BEYOND to purcahse a new ion.  Although the field was crowded, there were several from noted manufacturers that lookes cheesy, cheap & ineffective.  These were "sponsored" by familiar names, HAMILTON BEACH, BLACK & DECKER, etc.  However, there were also several foreign brands represented, among them, ROWENTA, supposedly an upscale (in price, anyhow!) manufacturer of German origin.  Well, the (ROWENTA) irons that we looked at were all labeled, MADE in CHINA, but were considerably pricier than those of the other manufacturers.  One model was in the $300 range.  For that money the iron should operate itself, including retrieving & storing the ironing board!!!

Guess which one we chose?  The ROWENTA, of course!  And, now I hear comments from the "other" room about the iron.  Next time, I'll stay home to watch the sand in the back yard melt!

p.s.  It's just as "plasticky" as all the others.  Wonder if it will last as long as the one my mother had when she departed this beloved Earth 20 years or so ago???

bdcst
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Platinum
Where to begin?
bdcst   8/30/2012 3:05:53 PM
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The quality of modern appliances, tools and other equipment varies widely depending upon the category, industry, end user.  Balancing profits and service (financial reward versus feeling good about doing good) is the equation.

If you are a firm believer in free market capitalism then the primary goal is growth and expansion of wealth be it corporate, personal or nation.  You hope the market will steer a course between profit and fullfilling a market's needs.  Unfortunately this is a very noisy endeavour.  Sometimes all you get is hollow expansion of profits at the expense of the end user of the product or service.  The mortgage industry stands out as a prime example.

Globalization of manufacturing, moving off shore, is an old story.  It started with post WWII Japan.   When I was a child, anything from Japan was cheesy, flimsy and not much better than a novelty toy.  Candle driven putt..putt boat and toy brightly painted tin cars whose innards were still imprinted Coke or Pepsi.  When grand old compnaies such as Harmon Kardon moved their presigious line of hifi audio products to Japan, the design engieers had to camp out there to insure product integrity and quality.  Today, its China.  Product quality varies wildly depending upon whom the contract manufacturer is and how well they are policed.  I have on my personal bench a $400 DSO that is every bit as good as any domestically sold instrument at 3X the price.  Funny but that Chinese brand is manufactured in the same factory as some US branded products.

When your market consists of mostly of folks for whom money is tight, price trumps quality.  The common denominator in appliances will be cheaper, poorer construction.  Manufacturers who buck the tide will either lose the profitability race or have to settle for a much lower volume high ticket product that only the wealthiest will purchase.

Manufacturers of professional tools and equipment have to sell to tough critics who look for quality, performance and field serviceability.  It's a way different market.  And with much smaller sales volume, penny pinching on components or design does not translate in huge manufacturing cost difference as it does in consumer land.

As for a demand for disposable test equipment, I don't see it.  If the technology is changing rapidly, you rent rather than own the equipment so you can turn it over faster.  Or you opt for software defined test equipment platforms that can be updated for many years as standards and technology changes.  the problem is building in sufficient universal capability including raw CPU core capacity to meet future challenges.  That would increase the initial cost substancially.  Some of it could be shifted to future firmware upgrade costs making the initial platform more affordable.

Heavy iron is still a good attribute for some products.  Not so good for shaving off mileage for vehicles however keeping a serious chassis or frame, as with the iPhone in comparison to Android phones, means I/O connectors can be mounted so the metal case will take the stress rather than the circuit board connections.

In some instances technology has reduced both weight and costs while improving performance.  Take spectrum analyzer's as an example, especially the portables.  Those expensive RF filters and other brass blocks of traditional analog technology have mostly been reduced to DSP code as well as shrinking mixers on chips, etc.  The result is dramatic weight and power reduction, dramatic improvement on displays and connectivity to other devices, lots of built in mathematical processing, almost unlimited event memory, near zero warmup time and much reduced requirement for calibrations.  There is less to go out of tune or to drift.

Yes, all is not rosy but all newer technology has its issues from time to  time.  Take flat panel displays for example.  Compared to old fashioned CRT's they have very limited MTBF.  Typically a switch mode power supply will fail causing the backlight to go dark or the backlight itself might fail long before anything else in the display goes out.  Modern CRT's just seem to run forever.  I own two Sony professional broadcast TV monitors that use Trinitron technology.  They will outlast all of my HD flat panels.

But back when television was young, late 1940's my family had a spanking new Magnavox table top TV set.  It weighed a ton.  The CRT was a metal tube with a glass face!  We went through a CRT every two years!!  The repairman was at our house almost monthly replacing tubes such as the poorly placed 5U4 rectifiers that were overworked and mounted to the side of the cabinet so their filaments (cathodes) would sag and short out!

Astro-Eric
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Blogger
What to do?
Astro-Eric   8/31/2012 9:08:55 AM
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Thanks for all the replys folks.  It's interesting to read everyone's thoughts on the current manufacturing state.

@Droid:  Thanks for the input.  I'm a bit less optimistic, without some major changes.

@cgosnell:  Engineers have more tools at their disposal, than ever before.  Yet what's being designed is less than stellar.  I for one would gladly pay for quality products, if I could ever find them.  

@Battar:  Funny.  Your cord comment reminds me of my Corporate Engineering days.  I worked in Medical manufacturing.  We'd regularly trim products to the minus-side of their tolerances, just to get the annual 3% for the stockholders.  Seems like cords are going the same direction.

@npitech :  You may be right about certain fields.  But the majority of consumer areas are not like what you described.  I'd love to buy a DVD player that did want it was designed for more than a year or two of operation. 

@dbell5:  What's an Iron?  You know that metal thing that's supposed to be heated and flatten the wrinkles from your clothes, when it works correctly :-)

@OLD_CURMUDGEON : Been there and done that!  'Nuff said.

@bdcst:  I remember the Japanese junk and have had the same thoughts about our current products.  Unfortunately, with the Corporate greed as it is today.  As the manufacturing costs rise in one advancing country, products will be moved and manufactured in another developing country.  This might be great for the Shareholders and large corporations, but consumers will continue to "pay the price"

@Larry M :Yep, done that.  There are certainly challenges with RoHS...

@ Tim:  You're right.  It's a mindset of today's consumers.  What's wrong with paying 2X as much for an item that lasts 10X as long?  But most folks don't see this.  I certainly would have no problem with it.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Mothers iron and a general lack of quality in everything
William K.   8/31/2012 10:11:09 PM
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My feeling is that the problem comes fromus assuming that quality includes a products ability to meet all of it's specifications for a rasonable length of time. When I ask about quality in some stores, the sales person starts to list the features that a thing has, and when I explain that I am more concerned about the products lifetime, they talk about service contracts. So evidently it is that fault of our educational system, in hat they ahve not taught the kids what the word "quality" really means. When did robustness and durability cease to be part of quality?

Astro-Eric
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Blogger
Land Fills & Quality
Astro-Eric   9/1/2012 5:03:43 PM
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@notarboca:  So maybe we've save the landfills from extra lead, at the cost of 10X the volume.  Something seems wrong with this picture, doesn't it?

@William K. : I've had that exact same thoughts.  Now any time you buy something, the salesperson will ask" do you want the extended warranty with that?"  I always reply "Why, is it a piece of junk?"

no_hazmats
User Rank
Iron
Engineers?
no_hazmats   9/4/2012 10:58:21 AM
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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. . .)

bob from maine
User Rank
Platinum
Quality tools
bob from maine   9/4/2012 11:36:16 AM
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.   

loadster
User Rank
Gold
Re: Quality tools
loadster   9/4/2012 4:29:12 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
QUALITY AND GOING THE DISTANCE
bobjengr   9/4/2012 7:22:44 PM
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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

cblocke
User Rank
Iron
Re: QUALITY AND GOING THE DISTANCE
cblocke   9/5/2012 4:13:02 PM
NO RATINGS
If you want a blender to last, spend 200-250 $ and get a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  They last forever

G-Whizzz
User Rank
Iron
On the Subject of Product Unreliability
G-Whizzz   9/7/2012 4:43:48 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

dougspair
User Rank
Gold
Steam Iron
dougspair   9/7/2012 8:05:50 PM
NO RATINGS
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. 

Mack Z
User Rank
Iron
This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
Mack Z   9/10/2012 9:35:28 AM
NO RATINGS
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.

schmadel
User Rank
Iron
Re: This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
schmadel   9/10/2012 2:48:12 PM
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My Wife and I did in fact purchase an expensive iron, a Black and Decker at near a hundred dollars. In about a year, plastic parts inside melted and it was beyond repair. After that we bought a cheap one from a drug store. Over a year later it's still working fine. Eric is right: speding more money does't help.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
William K.   2/25/2013 11:00:34 PM
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One mistake, which is the the B&D brand is NOT high quality! They do have a good morketing program that gives the illusion of quality, and it is a better grade of junk than some of the other products, but they are not high quality designed to last. They are designed to be sold to folks who use them once and then put them on a shelf. I am certain that some will protest my statements, but it is just another "consumer" brand of products.

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
Tool_maker   9/10/2012 3:23:09 PM
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@Mack Z: The answer is yes. Rowenta has demonstrated that people will spend exhorbitant amounts of money for what they hope is a quality iron. I must confess that I have never ironed so much as a handkerchief, but my wife irons everything. Her biggest complaints are that the new irons do not get hot enough and are so light they require muscle power to be applied to PRESS the cloth rather than just guiding the iron across the fabric. We have spent over $100 for irons that did not iron to suit the user, my wife. I do not know how long they would last because we never kept one long enough to tell.

Our solution is the same as I have given for other posts on similar appliance issues: Estate Sales and/or Garage Sales. Maybe we buy 2 or 3 at $1-$2 before we find one with which she is happy, but then that will usually last 5-6 years and be discarded. I have also changed cords when required and typically have a few iron cords on hand. The cords are usually heavy duty and flexible. I have replaced cords on a jigsaw and a couple old fans with cords from discarded irons and extended their life as well.

This whole thread could be rerun a dozen times by just substituting the appliance at the core of the issue and I think the bottom line is what the consumer is willing to tolerate.

ian_m
User Rank
Iron
Its better in EU....
ian_m   9/12/2012 7:50:01 AM
NO RATINGS
One of the advantages of the EU is the consumer legislation states that goods should last a reasonable length of time, up to 6 years for "bigger"items. Thus I should expect a washing machine to last this long. This is in conjunction that most goods have a one year warranty anyway, compared to 90 days in US.

My expensive £500 dishwasher failed after just under 3 years and was unrepairable, after a bit of haggling from manufacturer got £270 back. Managed to repair in the end, had obviously had a leak since new and was permentantly triggering the leak sensor, fix leak problem solved.

My wifes £200 steam generator iron packed up after 4 years heavy use, manufacturer couldn't repair it so they replaced it  (OK cost about £40 in P&P to send old back and get new delivered).

Had issues with wires breaking in the seat of my VW car (to do with airbag sensor) and as only 4 years old, sorted for free, after a little pestering and reminder of 6 year legislation.

My mates LCD TV died after 15 months, got his money back on that one as it is deemed a TV should last longer than that.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Made to fail
Cadman-LT   9/12/2012 12:42:43 PM
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I used to work in a machine shop. Those old machines will literally last forever with very little maintenance. I agree, and almost everything made today is junk. Dare I say "made to fail".

dalalhm
User Rank
Iron
This Isn't Yur Mother's Iron
dalalhm   9/27/2012 4:38:56 PM
NO RATINGS
Take your pick. Pretty and light versus heavy and ugly. Today the word quality and long lasting does not figure in people's thinking.

wirebender
User Rank
Iron
Iron Designed by Monkeys
wirebender   11/5/2012 4:18:01 PM
NO RATINGS
It isn't just "made by monkeys" that is the problem with consumer goods, it's also "designed by monkeys" it seems.  I just completed filling out a customer service form on the Sunbeam website concerning my wife's brand new iron.  Following is the message I left:

"There appears to be no closure on the water fill port on this iron.  Consequently,
random spurts of hot water are ejected from the fill port while ironing leaving
wet spots on the clothing.  In addition when the iron is placed on its heel plate
a large drop of hot water flies out of the fill port potentially causing burns if
it lands on the hand.  Every other steam iron that I've ever used (including
Sunbeam irons) had a cover or plug for the water fill port.  THIS DESIGN IS DANGEROUS
AND SHOULD NEVER BEEN ALLOWED TO REACH PRODUCTION!  It will be returned."

Must have been designed by mokeys or at least by someone who has never actually used an iron.

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
MOTHER'S IRON
bobjengr   3/4/2013 2:21:08 PM
NO RATINGS
These are very interesting comments and I think everyone is pretty much right on.  I'm personally "jaded" because the quality of consumer products has significantly depreciated over the years to the point where I expect the products to fail. When I say fail, I mean before their expected life.  I retired from a Fortune 500 company.  During one engineering staff meeting, I commented that I would love to have the time and money to design and build a quality product.  Our VP of engineering told me that quality was really expensive and good enough was good enough, at least for the American market.  What a downer.   I later on wondered if that same philosophy applied to aircraft engines, MRI systems, etc etc.  Let's hope not. 

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: MOTHER'S IRON
tekochip   3/4/2013 2:45:40 PM
NO RATINGS
The appliance manufacturer I worked for had the mantra "it should just barely work.... every time."  If the specification said 100,000 and you passed at 250,000, they thought you should go back to work and find a way for the unit to pass with a cheaper bill of materials.  The priority was always the specification first, then the cost, and since the life cycle was always specified we never had to debate its importance.




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