When to Consider DIY Repair for Your Industrial Electronics

Industrial electronic repairsYou know that awful metal scraping on metal sound?  Or that burned electrical smell?  These are dreaded harbingers of damaged equipment…often expensive damage.  Do these situations bring out the DIY repairman in you?  How about doing your own industrial electronic repairs?  Maybe not so much. In a recent Popular Mechanics column, Kyle Wiens, a self-described tinkerer turned fixer and co-founder of iFixit said,” Fixing things is a dying art. This cultural lapse is reinforced by society’s celebration of ending over mending. But here’s the thing: Broken isn’t a permanent state. It’s a challenge….” It’s true that it has become more difficult to repair your own equipment, especially if it is full of complicated electronics or proprietary parts.  Not only are the spare parts more difficult to obtain, there is also a dearth of publicly available repair information and schematics. Mr. Wiens is mainly referring to consumer electronics which are much more tempting to DIY repair.  Industrial electronics, on the other hand, are a different ballgame.  The purchase/replacement cost alone is enough to make most industrial electronics worth getting repaired.  Before going the DIY route, you also need to consider:

  • the cost of your time
  • how much time it would take YOU to repair the item – how long can you afford to be down
  • the warranty status of your damaged equipment (If the damaged item is still under warranty, then by all means, contact the OEM and let THEM spend their time and money repairing it. Or replacing it.)
  • your level of repair skills and equipment, or that of your staff
  • your risk tolerance level – DIY repairs can sometimes (often) make matters much worse and more expensive for a professional to repair

Luckily, most OEMs do repair their equipment while it is under warranty.  However, once out of warranty they are far more likely to want to sell you something new.  It’s easier for them and, of course, more profitable. Mr. Wiens is right.  Broken isn’t a permanent state.  Older, out-of-warranty industrial electronics are well worth repairing. Contact an independent industrial electronic repair center to find out if they are a good fit for your company and your particular repair needs.  They should offer free evaluations for your damaged equipment and, if needed, a free quote for repairs.  They should also provide repair reports and a good warranty of at least one year that covers both parts and labor.

About the Author:  ACS Industrial Services is an independent industrial electronic repair center providing repair services for printed circuit board repairs of all types and manufacturers, drives, servo motors, encoders, monitors and touchscreens, PLCs, test equipment, and much more.  Our customer service team is available to answer your questions and help solve your industrial electronic repair concerns. You can reach them by calling 800-605-6419 or going to www.acsindustrial.com .   

ACS Industrial Services has a building full of “tinkerers turned fixers”.  They are professional electronics technicians and they too regard “broken” as not a permanent state!

4 Ways to Protect Your Industrial Electronics from Lightning Damage

circuit board repairsA lightning strike lasts about 1-2 microseconds…not even time to blink an eye and yet long enough to cause destruction of life and property.  Storms this spring are already ferocious and violent in the U.S.

Lightning bolts and electronics do not play well together.  Check out some shocking facts that put your electronic gear (and YOU) in danger:

  • At any given time, approximately 2000 thunderstorms are in progress around the world with an average of 25 million cloud to ground lightning strikes per year in the U.S. alone
  • 100 lightning flashes strike earth every second
  • Lightning can produce currents as high as 500 kA and voltage up to 30,000 kV  meaning a direct hit is rarely survivable whether human or electronics
  • And no, contrary to a popular myth – wearing rubber shoes will NOT protect you from a lightning strike

Your outside equipment such as your HVAC, fire alarms, perimeter security, remote pumps and controls, even your parking lot lights may already be cowering in fear from the coming electrical storms.

Following a thunder storm, if your industrial electronic equipment fails to start, will not perform normal functions, loses a phase, starters short,  or back up batteries are alarming and will not charge it’s a pretty good sign that you have sustained lightning damage or a power surge, even if your building did not experience a direct hit.

Lightning strikes can cause damage through power surges called “transients” which happen when lightning strikes nearby hitting transmitting devices such as metallic plant equipment, pipes, or wiring.  Even the magnetic field associated with lighting can affect computers nearby causing damage that might not show up until days or weeks later.

Damage to electrical and electronic equipment can include flashover of insulation inside motors or transformers, vaporized traces on printed circuit boards, vaporized transistors and integrated circuits, blown fuses, and more.  None of it good and frequently unrepairable.

The cost of lightning damage is downtime, reduced production, and industrial electronic repairs or replacement costs.  There are some things you can do to help minimize lightning damage:

  1. Diversion:  ground metallic structures
  2. Attenuation:  careful wiring such as metallic raceways, cable shields, twisted pairs, extensive grounding and earthing
  3. Suppression:  up-to-date suppression devices installed at each point closes to the equipment to be protected or where the conductor enters and leaves a structure
  4. Your power distribution systems must be capable of withstanding repeat lightning-induced peak surge currents.   This is not a DIY project.  Make sure you get a qualified electrician for this job.

Know this too:  when you install surge protection devices around your plant, realize that undetected damage may have already occurred to circuit boards, processors, wiring, and connections prior to the installation so some losses may continue for a time and it is not a failure of the new devices.

Even after all that, sometimes your electronic equipment will still suffer damage.  If that’s the case, get a qualified, experienced industrial electronic repair company to evaluate your item to see if it is repairable or “toast”.  If you’re not sure about the potential damage get your equipment checked out whether it’s circuit board repairs, control repairs or any other piece of your electronics.

The best repair companies will provide this evaluation at no cost and give you an accurate quote for repairs.  They should also be able to provide rush repair services and offer a minimum of a one year warranty on most repairs.  If your item is “toast” the company should be able to dispose of the electronics properly.

Keep your equipment safe this summer and most importantly, keep yourself safe.   Unfortunately, there are no surge protection devices for humans!