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E-waste design project

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Charlie C, Nov 28, 2012.

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  1. Charlie C

    Charlie C

    Nov 28, 2012
    Hi there, i'm currently doing research towards a product design project on electronic waste. I've come on here to see if i can get some expert advice and views of why it is such an issue, and how we can try to prevent it. Why are electronic products so hard to repair/why is it cheaper to just replace? What is making product life cycles so much shorter?

    Any help is much appreciated
  2. GreenGiant


    Feb 9, 2012
    Greetings Charlie,

    Lets take this in chunks.

    its not the fact that they are difficult to repair in all cases its finding the problem that is difficult, the components are getting so small, and the devices so complex that in something like a laptop or something there could be 20,000 components, thats a lot of time troubleshooting to find the one or two bad parts.

    Narrowing it down to a specific board can make things faster BUT buying said board will probably cost you almost as much as the unit itself.

    Because these things are mass produced the companies buy in bulk, and build in bulk, so price per unit can stay down, but buying one board means they have to ship it to you, and make sure it gets there, and its one piece that is taking a lot of their time to send to you.
    Take, for example, the video processor board for an LCD television, the parts may only cost a total of 40-50 bucks, but if you want to order the board it will cost you almost the whole, if not more than the whole price of the television in question because you are paying for the people who designed the board, made the board, populated the board etc.

    The product life is shorter because of competition, everyone wants to sell as many units as they can, so they want the price to be as low as it can go while having the best features. To do this they use cheaper parts, if they were given the option of 2 chips one warrantied for 2 years at $0.50 apiece in bulk with a week lead time (time to get them from the seller) vs one that is warrantied for 5 years at $0.75 apiece but with a 6 week lead time they will go for the $0.50 one, because they can get it in a pinch, its cheaper, and their product is only warrantied for a year anyways...

    There are also a lot more things to go wrong with the newer stuff, look at an LCD TV, the TV should theoretically last somewhere between 50,000-500,000 hours of on time (depending on manufacturer) but if one thing goes wrong before that it can mess the whole thing up, discounting dead pixels because those are inherent problems of all LCDs.

    If there is a power surge on the lines then the lamps can blow, a whole slew of capacitors can get fried leading to video controller board issues, sound issues, input issues, etc. If one of the chips had a small defect in it when it was made it may burn out earlier than it was supposed to.
  3. shrtrnd


    Jan 15, 2010
    Specific electronic component lines don't last, unless it's a very commonly used component.
    Somebody invents a component, they make them for a while, then somebody makes something better.
    What that means for repair techs like me, is that there are only so many years when you can find the repair parts you need.
    And when you can't find the part any more, you can't fix the equipment needing repair.
    Green Giant gave you a myriad of examples of the issues with newer electronic equipment.
    Equipment circuits are becoming so small and compact, that especially in commercial consumer products, it's more economical to throw away the old one, and just buy a new one.
    The only way I know of to reduce electronic waste, which will probably never happen because of the sheer volume of manufacturers,
    is some type of industry standardization of circuits and circuit hardware.
    Every manufacturer has their own (different) device housing, connectors, circuit card configuration, power supply, etc, ...
    If there was a standard housing for a cell phone, computer, DVD or CD player, for
    example, you could buy the electronic internal replacement, and reuse the chassis.
    Imagine how many different manufacturer parts could be eliminated if every CD.DVD.BluRay tray used the exact same loading system.
    Or every cell phone or other wireless device used the exact same recharger and headphone or interconnect accessories.
    Right now every manufacturer makes their own hardware, the models change every
    year, and all the interconnect wiring is different. Your new cell phone needs a new
    set of power adapters or accessories, for example.
    A lot of electronic hardware gets scrapped, that is still functional, it's just not much
    good when the main piece of equipment fails.
    There's plenty more you'll hear from others about your post, just giving you my 2 cents
    worth for thought.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  4. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    The biggest issue is labor is not free, even at $1 an hour you can easily exceed the cost of a product trying to find the fault... Pay a living wage for the hourly rate and a vast majority of even simple repairs exceed the cost of purchasing new...

    And it's not limited to just electronics it's everything, repair and maintenance cost easily exceeds purchasing new in a vast majority of manufactured items...

    Example... They routinely tear down older million dollar houses in my area to build new ones, its' simply cost effective to do so vs constant maintenance, repairs and updates...

    Example... How many people do you know that are still driving their first car?
  5. GreenGiant


    Feb 9, 2012
    actually shrtrnd you gave me an idea...

    if you look at modern computers there are the branded ones that are not easily upgradable/fixable due to having proprietary motherboards, whereas pieced computers have one case with nearly infinite motherboard possibilities based on a common form factor, like ATX will fit in any ATX so on and so forth

    The reason you dont see that in major manufacturers is because they want their name and their name only on the whole thing, even if they buy from other manufacturers (Vizio uses LG screens, LG uses some Samsung power supplies, etc) so they can claim the most profit from fixing and/or buying new
  6. Jotto


    Aug 24, 2012
    The other thing about repairing electronics is having a schematic. They used to supply them, most were very good. Now they are terrible. Suppliers moving away standardize markings. I remember when you never use a alphabet character that could be confused with a number. They don’t want you to work on it, more money for them if you buy a new one.

    Parts are obsolete before we get the finished product. Also they make the proprietary parts exclusive to their company only. I understand software but not electronic components. Companies don’t train their techs any longer like in the past. People don’t want to learn any longer, they want to do the bare minimum to get by.

    Some problems can take 8 hours or longer to find, maybe it will cost 50 cents to fix and will fix 99% of the problems in that piece of equipment. Some companies think it’s easier to just buy the complete unit and throw the other away. One of the hardest and expensive repairs are on power supplies, it might take 8 dollars to fix a 900.00 power supply. Still its cost effective to repair stuff, but it also takes a good amount of money to set up a bench that is capable of repairing electronic equipment.

    I have close to 30k in bench equipment, not all companies or individuals will purchase that much equipment.

    Have people working in electronics with no electronic experience. 50% of my shop can’t use a multi meter. I was told that there are three kinds of people and we must have them all, it’s called diversity.

    One day they will just have to buy new slot machines when they can’t be fixed because they have dumbed down the personnel with their diversity.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  7. banokmichaei


    Nov 29, 2012
    Your new cell phone needs a newset of power adapters or accessories, for example.[​IMG]
  8. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010
    All of the arguments above tell you why electronic repair has gone from repairing components to replacing boards, to replacing units.

    Component level repair is only economically justified where the equipment is mind-bogglingly expensive, unique, or spare boards/replacements are no longer available. The only other justification is for personal pleasure, but that rarely pays the bills.

    Far worse than waste generated during/because of faults is that generated by real obsolescence (think of all the CRT monitors) and 5 year old computers.

    And even worse again is that generated by "fashion obsolescence" (think mobile phones).
  9. Jotto


    Aug 24, 2012
    What happens when we have to go backwards in technology? We no longer manufacture parts here like before, we are dependent on other counties to do this. We have the best software produced here, but without the components to utilize this, software its useless.

    How long would it take a company here to gear up and start producing parts?
  10. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    I have actually had this discussion before... The fact is it would take decades for a US to gear up and be able to start producing parts in quantity, quality and at market value... And then they would have so much new overhead and US wages that they would never be able to compete in the world market realistically, meaning it's pretty much a failed venture from day one...
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