Exploding Circuit Board catches on fire!

 

circuit-board-2
Typical Circuit Board with Public Domain Image

A circuit board that catches on fire in your product does not make anyone happy.  I used to work at a company that had this unpleasant problem in a large electrical control panel for an industrial device involved with explosive atmospheres that was shipped around the world.  This problem made everyone very excited when it started happening on the clients factory floor according to what I was told.

I had never worked on that product line and was barely aware of its existence until my engineering supervisor called me and told me to immediately personally retrieve all of these circuit boards currently in our factory.  I was an electrical design engineer behind a desk at that company and had not yet had the privilege of interacting with everyone in the factory.  There were three boards in the factory at that time and it was relatively easy to retrieve the first two on the factory floor quickly with only minor violations of  factory protocol.

The final board was installed in a large six foot high electrical control cabinet that was packaged tightly in a strong 2 x 4 skid on the shipping dock by a waiting truck.  I asked the workers there if I could open the cabinet to retrieve the circuit board.  They all had a good laugh when I said that and one of them handed me a large crow bar as a joke.  Obviously, they didn’t know me that well. I used the crow bar to rip open the packaging and break the 2 x 4’s sufficiently to get the circuit board out of the cabinet. This rendered the product incapable of being delivered.  The dock workers seemed to be surprised at what I had done.  I returned the crow bar to them, thanked them for its use and wished them a good day.

A short time later there was a conference in my supervisors office about my unexpected actions during the circuit board retrieval.  Fortunately for me the workers had loaned me the crow bar so filing a grievance against me wouldn’t have been a desirable outcome.

My new assignment in life was to correct the defect in that exploding circuit board that a previous employee had designed.  I tested one and sure enough it started on fire when subjected to full heavy loads.  Eventually I figured out that one resister needed a massive increase in the amount of wattage it could handle and made a working model for mass production copies.  Who says that engineering can’t be fun?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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