Reliability... It All Comes Down to the Landing


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My grandmother, Frances, was something. Some thought she was brilliant, and others were convinced she was full-blown crazy. She certainly was creative, though; nobody could argue that point. She spent almost 50 years designing and building a prototype self-cleaning house. She did not have an engineering degree; she was entirely self-taught. Over the years, she worked out all sorts of mechanical solutions and developed water-repellent materials and fabrics of her own formulation so that her home could simply shower itself clean. She lived in that prototype for 40+ years.

However, I have to say that when one detail started to go wrong, everything cascaded out of control very quickly. At one point, Frances made the dish cupboard do double-duty as the dishwasher; just put the dirty dishes back with the clean ones and wash them all, every time. If the cupboard malfunctioned, then a couple of dirty dishes would end up making a mess of everything. Later on, she just kept the dishes on a rack on the wall. To wash the dishes, you had to spray down the whole kitchen. Needless to say, most of the time, the house was like a rainforest. While some of her implementations may have been a bit impractical overall, her self-cleaning house was a reliable solution to her housecleaning problem in that it worked and she didn’t have to.

And that’s our theme for this month’s issue of PCB007 Magazine—reliability in the products that we turn out for use in the world. Of course, to talk about reliability, we also have to talk about the failures we’re trying to avoid. Grandma Frances had a pacemaker that served her well for many years, triggering a heartbeat something like 800 million times while keeping her alive—and creative—longer.

A demonstration of a very different level of reliability is illustrated on this month’s cover. Falcon Heavy’s reusable side boosters are shown landing in unison at Cape Canaveral Landing Zones 1 and 2 following a SpaceX test flight in February 2018.

Our industry is embarking on a new age of technical development to achieve much higher levels of overall reliability that will be required of the devices we fabricate. Medical devices will be relied upon to keep us living in many more situations. Autonomous vehicles will need to be failure-free to keep riders and pedestrians alike safe in the world. IoT will bring opportunities to put smart electronics in new places, performing in unthought-of ways. Reliability will be crucial to both our success and safety.

To read the full article, which appeared in the July 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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