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Are things designed/engineered to break purposely?

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Bayum

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I think we’ve all had that experience where something breaks just out of its warranty period but actually you expected it to last a lot longer given the price and whatever function you bought it for.
Are items engineered/designed to break at some non-safety related point? Cheap parts, essential piece of kit prone to failure etc. The things you think about wide awake at night.
 
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JohnMcL7

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I wouldn't say items are designed to break even though there's often cost cutting on some crucial part causing it to fail sooner than it should but there's a very definite movement to make repairs or upgrades extremely difficult and uneconomical. A few years ago most laptops would come with easily accessible ram slots and hard drive bays plus the battery was usually easily replaceable as well. However increasingly modern laptops especially high end ones solder in the ram, glue in the battery and in some cases even solder on the storage as well. In the short term this can make it a lot more expensive paying the manufacturer for higher spec parts and in the longer term it means no upgrades to ram or storage but the worst part is if a bank of ram fails which isn't an expensive part, it can't be replaced on its own because it's soldered. This means to replace the failed ram, you need to replace not just the motherboard but the other bank of ram, the storage and the processor which is going to be a similar cost or more to buying a new machine so that PC can end up scrap because of one failed bank of ram. To make it worse some companies are coding spare parts so if you take a spare part from a donor device which is a genuine part, you can't repair the device because it needs an official manufacturer service centre to be able to recode the new part.

Batteries will degrade over time yet often now batteries are difficult or impossible to replace again making those fully functional devices destined for the bin.
 

yorksrob

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I'm not sure if it's deliberate design, but most earphones seem to be so weakly soldered that they might as well be designed that way. I tend to get through two sets a year.

On another matter, there are those street signs that are designed to snap when a car drives into them. I can remember seeing them on Tomorrow's World.
 

krus_aragon

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I think we’ve all had that experience where something breaks just out of its warranty period but actually you expected it to last a lot longer given the price and whatever function you bought it for.
Are items engineered/designed to break at some non-safety related point? Cheap parts, essential piece of kit prone to failure etc. The things you think about wide awake at night.
To a certain extent, yes.

Manufacturing companies all want to maximise profits by minimising costs. So why use 3mm sheet metal on a washing machine when 1mm is good enough? If you don't, your competitor may well do so. In which case, they can undercut your retail price while still making a profit, and take all your market share.

Consumers tend to make their purchasing decisions based on the initial purchase price, rather than whole-life costs. That means its hard for a manufacturer to market longevity against cheap competition. Which all results in a slide to the bottom...



Myself, I feel a greater issue is that many things aren't designed to be repairable any more. Nowadays, a lot of consumer electronics can be sold glued shut, and customers consider it acceptable (or even desirable) to not have ugly screw holes showing. In the mid-20th century, televisions were expected to be repairable, because the item was so expensive, and components' durability was more variable. Components can be manufactured to greater tolerance these days, so one can be more certain that a batch will work for n hours of continuous use, or whatever. A lesser degree of miniaturisation helped too: parts weren't yet too small to handle/see. The integration of all sorts of electrical components onto a single computer chip means its impossible to replace only the failed portions: it's all or nothing. Oh, and desoldering tiny surface-mounted components from a circuit board is not for the faint-hearted, either...
 
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Consumers tend to make their purchasing decisions based on the initial purchase price, rather than whole-life costs. That means its hard for a manufacturer to market longevity against cheap competition. Which all results in a slide to the bottom...

I have an example of this. i am a member of several car forums. There is a chap on one who I completely disagree with. On the subject of tyres, he keeps on advocating the use of cheap Chinese tyres. I am the opposite, I buy top range tyres. I do this because I know the quality of the ones I am buying. There is a rating system for tyres which indicate wet grip and rolling resistance, ie they give you an indication of wet weather safety and their effect on fuel consumption. The other chap just pooh-poohs that as he doesn't drive very fast.

So I pay for safety, fuel economy and long life. He pays for poorer safety, poorer economy and unknown life. This is a typical case of buy cheap, buy twice. And unfortunately it is possible that someone could pay with their life.

As I side note, I have unfortunately had two occasions when people have managed to be in my path when I was travelling at 50-60 mph on straight A roads. On both occasions I couldn't avoid hitting them, and although I have no proof, I would like to think that my decent tyres were at least partly responsible for mitigating the crashes enough that I and my wife could walk away.
 

ComUtoR

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Myself, I feel a greater issue is that many things aren't designed to be repairable any more.

I had an Aiwa portable CD player...

Suffice to say it broke. I took it down to my local electronics retail outlet (Comet) and asked for it to be repaired. The geezer who I was dealing with just shrugged his shoulders and told me to buy a new one as it was cheaper than repairing it. This was more than a few years ago.

So I pay for safety, fuel economy and long life. He pays for poorer safety, poorer economy and unknown life. This is a typical case of buy cheap, buy twice. And unfortunately it is possible that someone could pay with their life.

100% agree with you.

Every time I renew my tyres I spend a good few days researching which is the top brand/model for my car. I always get the best ones. Sure there is an issue of price but many years ago I had some words of wisdom given to me from a random car mechanic. "The only thing connecting you and the road is your tyres, a good set of tyres will save your life"
 

HSTEd

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The obvious example is the Dubai Lamp, which demonstrates what the state of the art for LED lamps actually is (huge lives and half the energy use)
 

DB

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Certainly in consumer electronics, many things don't last as long and are difficult / impossible to repair as indicated above. Even business laptops, which are intended to be repairable, are getting worse - had a fairly new model of business laptop repaired yesterday under warranty (it needed a new keyboard). In the past I'd just have told them to send me the part and I'd do it myself (on earlier models, a keyboard change took about 2 minutes). However, on this recent model it's a complete dismantle job (motherboard out, etc) because it's now mounted from the bottom rather than the top - a good example of form over function. I decided I couldn't be bothered to do it myself so they could send a technician (and it took him 20 minutes, despite no doubt being familiar with where all the screws are).

And so far as repairability computers are some of the best items for this in the consumer electronics world - smartphones, tablets, etc, tend to be far more difficult / impossible to do anything with, depending on the brand / model and what's wrong with them. Apart from at the high end, things such as radios, CD players, etc are rarely econimic to repair.

And of course many white goods now fall into this category too - either because they are designed to be too difficult / expensive to repair, or because the parts are too difficult to obtain.
 
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The issue is that some people may be using outdated technology, and if repair isn't possible, replacement may not be possible either. For example, what about the few people who still wish to their collection of audio or video cassettes? They may not wish to spend a fortune transferring to a digital format.
 

JohnMcL7

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Certainly in consumer electronics, many things don't last as long and are difficult / impossible to repair as indicated above. Even business laptops, which are intended to be repairable, are getting worse - had a fairly new model of business laptop repaired yesterday under warranty (it needed a new keyboard). In the past I'd just have told them to send me the part and I'd do it myself (on earlier models, a keyboard change took about 2 minutes). However, on this recent model it's a complete dismantle job (motherboard out, etc) because it's now mounted from the bottom rather than the top - a good example of form over function. I decided I couldn't be bothered to do it myself so they could send a technician (and it took him 20 minutes, despite no doubt being familiar with where all the screws are).

This is a good example of how laptops have become worse and one of the reasons I used to favour business laptops because they were easy to repair. Since there's a good chance keyboards can be damaged older business laptops had keyboards which could be easily replaced, just a couple of screws to remove the tab, left the keyboard out and done in seconds. Hard drive swaps were very frequent and normally just one screw, take the tray out, slot the new one and done in seconds. On the current business machines we use which are typical of their type even swapping the hard drive means opening up the entire chassis with numerous screws and clips.

I have an old Sony TX series laptop from around the mid 2000's, it's a tiny little 11in machine still comparable to similar machines today yet while a current machine will have soldered ram, possibly soldered storage and likely hardly any ports at all this tiny machine has an accessible ram slot, replaceable battery (offering the option of a monster battery with 13,000Mah at a time when standard batteries in this class were around 3,000Mah), USB and ethernet ports plus even a modem port, a docking connector, a 1.8in hard drive and a DVD writer. It shows it's easily possible to make small, light machines that can still be repairable and upgradeable with a good range of ports.
 
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It may not be ideal, but a damaged laptop keyboard can be replaced by a remote usb keyboard, with the advantage that one combined with a mouse can replace the horrible cursor pad that I just don't seem to be able to get on with.
 

DB

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This is a good example of how laptops have become worse and one of the reasons I used to favour business laptops because they were easy to repair. Since there's a good chance keyboards can be damaged older business laptops had keyboards which could be easily replaced, just a couple of screws to remove the tab, left the keyboard out and done in seconds. Hard drive swaps were very frequent and normally just one screw, take the tray out, slot the new one and done in seconds. On the current business machines we use which are typical of their type even swapping the hard drive means opening up the entire chassis with numerous screws and clips.

I have an old Sony TX series laptop from around the mid 2000's, it's a tiny little 11in machine still comparable to similar machines today yet while a current machine will have soldered ram, possibly soldered storage and likely hardly any ports at all this tiny machine has an accessible ram slot, replaceable battery (offering the option of a monster battery with 13,000Mah at a time when standard batteries in this class were around 3,000Mah), USB and ethernet ports plus even a modem port, a docking connector, a 1.8in hard drive and a DVD writer. It shows it's easily possible to make small, light machines that can still be repairable and upgradeable with a good range of ports.

Indeed. We buy Dell kit, and the laptop with the keyboard fault was a standard 14" business model (mid-range Latitude).

In fairness these aren't too bad overall to repair - whole bottom panel comes with with half a dozen screws, another few screws to get the battery out, RAM is socketed, couple of screws to get the SSD out. The situation with the keyboard is annoying though - I've not had a screen fault on the current ones yet, so I don't know what that's like on this particular model - but again this is generally getting worse. It used to be a case of unclip the bezel, four screws and a ribbon cable and the panel would be out. More recent Dell business ultraportables, for the sake of saving less than a mm, have such flimsy bezel clips that they amost always break - to the extent that warrany replacement panels are always supplied with a bezel as well. The consumer ones are worse, with the whole top assembly glued together meaning all the hassle of unscrewing the hinges and disentangling the wifi cables. None of this is necessary - for the sake of a mm or two they are being made much harder to repair, and a mm or two is pretty much irrelevant with business machines.

Also, power adapters - all going to USB-C now, which is fine for phones and tablets but crap for laptops - far more flimsy than the older barrel connectors, and more chance of breaking both the socket and the connector of the cable gets tripped over. And the Latitudes only have one USB-C socket which is also used for docking stations (Dell abandoned the much more robust dedicated docking connector on the bottom a few years ago). For the time being, they also have the barrel socket and I can get the older style power adapters as as a special configuration, but I imagine it's only a matter of time...
 

eoff

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The obvious example is the Dubai Lamp, which demonstrates what the state of the art for LED lamps actually is (huge lives and half the energy use)
Nice to see a reference to BigClive here and of some relevance too given the number of teardowns of made-to-a-price dodgy chinese imports he does.
 

david1212

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One generic name for Chinese etc tyres is Ditchfinders.

On a vehicle forum someone posted that the cheap Far East tyres on a trailer disintegrated within a few years.

Many years ago it was said that colour TV's could be made to last for ever but certain core parts were designed for a limited life.


Once the internal low votage power supplies for most electrical / electronic items was based on a transformer. The capacitors following could fail but normally only after many years. For some time now either switched mode or for sealed items a simple capacitor charge pump. For both the combination of the capacitors being worked harder and low grade components results in failure much sooner yet the factory gate price is at most a few pence. While better for safety many items are glued / plastic welded so disassembly is impossible.


As to laptops the one I am using right now is Dell Business class one from nearly 10 years ago.
It is a couple of years since the last new one at work. It still had a proper barrel power connector and externally removable battery. As to if the memory was all in slots or soldered down I've no idea. The latest SSD's of course are not like 2.5" drives but much smaller modules. I've encountered them in small format desktop base units too.


A work colleague is on his third fridge / freezer in not very many years. My separate fridge is 26 years old and the freezer about 20. Logic says to replace before they fail but I'm put off by this. To me a fridge isn't too important for a few days but loosing the freezer would be. Another issue is finding a suitable replacement. I specifically chose this freezer because it has shelves not pull out draws with both break and waste space. I can't find anything similar and for the same external size the internal sizes quoted are 25 - 30% less.
 
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DB

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The latest SSD's of course are not like 2.5" drives but much smaller modules. I've encountered them in small format desktop base units too.
They are NVMe drives, and as you say appear in some desktops too now - the latest Dell one we buy have them, and the 'normal' drive bay is there still, but empty. Not got experience yet of the lifetime of them - not had any fail, but none have reached the 5-year-ish mark after which failure becomes more likely for all IT equipment.
 
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In the field of "designed to make you buy a new one", it's hard to beat the home inkjet printer scam - even when you ignore the usurious cost of ink cartridges.

I had an Epson inkjet printer at home. It was only a year or so old (but out of warranty) when the printer head failed.
I enquired about cost of a replacement printer head - answer was $124 Australian.

The same shop had brand new printers of the same brand stacked up and on sale for $120, so I reluctantly bought one of these.
Once home and setting it up for the first time, the first thing I pulled out of the box was a printer head identical to the one which supposedly cost $124 as a replacement part.
 

yorksrob

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Certainly in consumer electronics, many things don't last as long and are difficult / impossible to repair as indicated above. Even business laptops, which are intended to be repairable, are getting worse - had a fairly new model of business laptop repaired yesterday under warranty (it needed a new keyboard). In the past I'd just have told them to send me the part and I'd do it myself (on earlier models, a keyboard change took about 2 minutes). However, on this recent model it's a complete dismantle job (motherboard out, etc) because it's now mounted from the bottom rather than the top - a good example of form over function. I decided I couldn't be bothered to do it myself so they could send a technician (and it took him 20 minutes, despite no doubt being familiar with where all the screws are).

And so far as repairability computers are some of the best items for this in the consumer electronics world - smartphones, tablets, etc, tend to be far more difficult / impossible to do anything with, depending on the brand / model and what's wrong with them. Apart from at the high end, things such as radios, CD players, etc are rarely econimic to repair.

And of course many white goods now fall into this category too - either because they are designed to be too difficult / expensive to repair, or because the parts are too difficult to obtain.

I must admit, when we all had to exchange our work laptops last year, I was quite pleased to see that the "new" ones were quite obviously the same model reconditioned.
 
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