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Wise Choices Avoid Device Designers Pitfalls & Traps
Watch Out For Other Custom Houses & Specialty Houses
What to Look Out For to Avoid Pitfalls and Avoid Traps
Electronic designers can and do use many "dirty
trick" techniques to sabotage the devices they sell. Competent electronic
engineers and technicians know how to do these things - dishonest ones actually
do them. Why would anybody sabotage their own devices they sell so that they
fail early? Simple, by designing in easy failure modes into their devices which
won't likely fail within the warrantee period but will likely fail shortly afterwards,
they can usually force their customers into expensive replacement vs repair
It should be noted that while most people consider electronic engineers to be beyond doing dirty tricks, while true for most electronic engineers, some electronic engineers themselves - some even very famous electronic engineers - practically dedicate themselves to doing dirty tricks. EDN Magazine recently documented the cultural history of famous electronics engineers doing such pranks (4/2/2011 Online) - many better known examples including intentionally sabotaging circuits so they become defective (or at least appear to be defective) or don't work at all. Simply because an icon of the electronics engineering profession designs a device, does not automatically mean he/she did not sneakily incorporate some dirty trick into the device. We take our jobs very seriously here at Lone Star Consulting, Inc., and unlike some other businesses, we never tolerate dirty tricks.
Our goal is to provide you reliable customized
devices designed to last you for many years without problems. Below are
just some of the tactics other Custom Houses and Specialty Houses (as
well as some major equipment and vehicle manufacturers) deploy to likely
much increase your costs in their devices:
(A) Inadequate Power Supply Regulation and/or Filtering: This allows transients, surges and other power supply anomalies get into the circuitry which can damage or destroy all or part of a circuit. Note that a damaged circuit may not even be immediately obvious to its user because it often results in degraded and therefore inaccurate performance over time, and such performance changes may even be subtle. We use robust power supply voltage regulation and filtering. Our electronic devices powered with DC have 1-3 voltage regulator ICs for reliable and consistent operation and circuit protection even if the input voltage varies considerably. Our electronic devices powered with 120VAC (or higher) are also protected with fuse, MOV, GDT and transient decoupling capacitors - circuit protection as good as or better than costly high-quality transient-protected power strips (note that most transient-protected power strips don't use GDTs, we use GDTs because GDTs offer optimum protection from transients). These electronic components not only help protect your devices from lightning strikes and EMP incidents, but also from the destructive effects of noisy and poorly regulated AC power.
(B) Little or No Input Transient Protection: If the device has a receiving antenna, mike or transducer input, if these are not properly protected, a large input spike can damage or destroy the device. We place fast MOVs, zener diodes and/or transil diodes on vulnerable inputs, which always greatly help protect circuit inputs - especially critical for mind control and electronic attack applications as some perpetrators may try to wipe out detection and countermeasure devices by transmitting huge spikes into them. Input circuit protection is also critical to protect your electronics from being fried by nearby lightning strikes and EMP incidents.
(C) Little or No Output Short Circuit Protection: If the device has a speaker, sounder or other transducer output and little or no short circuit protection is provided, an inadvertent short between the output contacts (even if under one second), power anomaly or thermal runaway of the output driver can damage or destroy the output driver, power supply and/or other circuitry. Even those custom houses and specialty houses which do use some output protection can also be expensive to you, for example, by using internal fuses or other fusible parts (usually looks like resistors) which burn out when the output is over its current limit. When fuses and other fusible parts fail, they usually must be replaced by the device maker because most are internal and difficult to find and/or replace - usually at your great expense - and they often don't fail fast enough to protect circuitry resulting in damaged or destroyed circuitry even when they blow. We protect the outputs of our circuits by using expensive and fast PTC thermistors. During normal outputs, the thermistor is of low resistance and allows the speaker, sounder or other output transducer to operate normally with little loss in power. However, when the output current spikes for any reason (eg: shorted output), the PTC thermistor quickly heats up, which causes its resistance to greatly increase, thereby greatly and automatically limiting output current so even dead shorts are quickly remedied, and thereby saving your output driver, power supply and/or other circuitry. When the thermistor cools down, it automatically returns to its normally low resistance state and operation returns to normal. And no fuse replacements, costly repairs or depleted battery replacement are usually required. If you have ever shorted a speaker output and ruined your stereo, you know how important this is. And PTC thermistors allow for softer starts and stops than output circuits that don't use them.
(D) Unique and Specialized Parts: The big areas here are unique and specialized connectors, cables, AC adapters and batteries which some device makers make you suffer with. If you break a connector, or break or lose a cable or AC adapter, or your battery fails, you must buy their grossly overpriced unique and specialized version from them because you can't find or make a much cheaper generic replacement. Some use custom-made rechargeable batteries which can only be charged using their expensive chargers. The connectors we use are all popular and common: BNC, RCA, cable TV type, Banana, 1/8" miniphone type, DB, etc. The batteries we use are also all popular and common: AA, AAA, C, D, 9VDC radio, common pill types, etc. You will never find a unique battery nor unique connector in any device-type we offer.
(E) Cheap Parts: Have you ever had an expensive device fail because of a 25 cent part that you can't get replaced without spending $100+ more? And wondered why the makers didn't use a 50 cent part instead which would have lasted forever? This built-to-fail practice forces consumers to throw away expensive equipment because of intentional weak-link failures so they will buy more also extends to electronic parts as well. We use new high-quality components (no used or circuit pulls) and components with specifications and tolerances much exceeding the minimum required, and we thoroughly test our devices before they are shipped - all to minimize failures and produce better performances.
(F) Designed-In Timed Automatic Failures & Forced Obsolescence: These types of failures do not result from ordinary wear and tear or from changing technology, but from deliberately designed-in "Trojan Horses" in circuitry or software so that after a certain period or amount of use or by a specific date, the device automatically fails (usually shortly after the warrantee expires) - popular with some car makers and appliance makers, now also widely used by disreputable electronic equipment designers, including by other custom houses and specialty houses. If the circuit uses a microcontroller or microprocessor, designed-in failure modes are easier. Some designed-in failures cause the entire device to fail, however, most cause an important function to fail. Years ago, when John Williams worked for another company which both sold and rented out equipment. This company designed in automatic failure modes in its rental equipment only, to remotely activate shortly after the rental period expired to assure that if the renter stole the equipment, he/she would benefit little from the theft. Renters were fully informed, it did much to reduce the stolen equipment problem, and it allowed the company to much reduce its rental equipment deposits. The timed-failure part was reprogrammed or replaced by a new one for each new rental of the equipment. We never design in intentional failures of any kind into any device we sell. In fact, we try to make our devices as reliable, easy to operate and accident-proof as reasonably possible.
For all questions, inquiries and concerns about this topic, please email us.
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