It's amazing sometimes how the simplest fix can be the solution to a perplexing problem. Such is the case in this example. Thanks for sharing, as it certainly could inspire other engineers not to overthink a puzzling problem in the future and perhaps find the solution where they least expect it.
Rob, the statement about simple solutions mostly applies to simple problems. How often do we find that "For each complex problem there is a simple solution..... and it is usually wrong". Of course, many complex problems appear complex because they are not really understood, which allows all sorts of wrong conclusions and incorrect assumptions to develop.
In this vent posting it was not really clear as to why the heat rise problem was suddenly arising, when it had not been there before. While cooling the enclosure stopped the symptom it was not really solving the problem that something had changed. It was a good work-around, but it was not a solution.
OR, why was the heat rise causing a power supply problem. I replaced one which had a lot of small capacitors which the leakage changed as it got hot and the voltage drifted. Cheaper to replace with a new supply than to replace all of the drifting parts.
I agree, I have heard alot of instances in which engineers spent hours over complicating the solutions, and figuring out the solution in the most indirect ways. On the other hand technicians coming up with the direct solution in minutes. A great way to start with any problem is definitely to check out the most basic problem a system can have.
This somehow reminds me of a Rube Goldberg system, where mechanical actions have unexpected consequences. I've also call it the "doctor is in" phenomenon: Before finding out what the problem is, it stops happening when someone who can fix it shows up.
One day in the 1980s, my wife called in a panic because our "portable" (read luggable) computer started going haywire. Keyboard characters were coming up wrong and things like that. I was at work at the time so it had to wait until I got home. The problem was obvious to me. She had put a book right up against the computer's vent, causing a temperature increase. Removing the book cleared the vent and all was well.
Some times are ignorance of the obvious solution can become a problem. We have a habbit of going to complicate things ourselves. It is always good to start with the most basic checks then to assume what might have gone wrong.
That's good advice, taimoortariq. We tend to blow up problems into something bigger than we are before taking the time to see what might be wrong at a basic level. I think this is something that's not unique to engineering but can apply to many other situations as well!
a.saji, a backup plan is ALWAYS a good idea, no question about that. Sometimes that plan is just the work-around for the problem that does not cure it b8ut allows one to continue. Other times a backup plan is a separate and different solution completely. And I am wondering what branch of engineering you are involved with, you often have very good comments.
A similar albeit expensive solution involved a printer on an SMT production line. The printer would begin to falter and eventually shut down.
The theroy was that the printer controls were overheating so the enclosure was opened and a fan placed to blow on the electronic control cards. After that failed as a solution, the 2 inch exhaust duct was replaced with an 8 incher, almost sucking the machine off the floor. Still no good so the entire several thousand square foot room was chilled to almost artic temperatures with a month of 100 plus days outside. The electricirty bill alone I'm sure was more than the cost of the printer.
After pleas with the owner, it was finally agreed to PAY for a service tech to look at the machine. Within a short time, the problem was found ( a miswired interface between machines) and all went back to normal.
Meanwhile the months the room was under artic conditions, the process went to hell in a hand cart as solder paste is meant to be printed at room temp (think peanut butter in a freezer and trying to spread on bread)
The penny wise pound foolish attempt at a go around was indeed very expensive in the end.
My father told me a similar story about a cabinet he worked onboard ship when he was a Navy ET. In his case, he mounted a big fan after having the machine shop hop out an appropriate hole, and sucked air thru the cabinet.
Of course, the only logical place for the output was wher a K-Krusty old Chief (a redundent description) liked to stand....
I had a problem with a video recording system I put together for a client. I had a server case (tower that would mount in a 19" rack). The front bay held a bunch of disc drives. I had a high failure rate of drives - excessive read counts. I looked at how tightly packed the drives were. Ended up taking them out, re-drilling the holes to space the drives out, mounted three fans that just blasted air on and between the drives. Worked like a charm, even if I got comments from the MechE's.
Having witnessed electronic equipment failure after failure over the years due to excessive heat, I've become a cooling fan junkie. My wife calls me addicted, compulsive, and anal. I buy the little 4" 120V quiet fans and mount them by every computer, hard drive, digital display, and AV device. It must be working because I've never had another device failure since. Every custom design or install I do starts with figuring out how and where the cooling fan will be mounted.
Latest project was cooling my 27" iMac. Built a simple box using 1/4 inch plywood with a 3" back and pie shaped sides. Installed the fan into the plywood and attached the assembly under my desktop below the computer. Drilled 3/8 inch holes 1 inch apart through my desktop and directly under the edge of the computer/monitor. It's amazing how much cooler the computer runs, 24/7.
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