Advice for tape drive repair / maintenance

Billy Pettit Billy.Pettit at
Tue Dec 19 17:24:57 CST 2006

Tony Duell wrote:
At which point I have a device assembled with lead-free solder, 
soldered at too low a temperature, so it gets dry joints within a few 
months. With plastic mechanical parts made from the cheapest plastic 
imaginable that make a freebie toy look solid. I'd be lucky if that $89 
machine lasted for a couple of weeks after the warrenty period...

Now guess which I am going to do...



Oh so cynical for such a young man!  I work with lead free solder every day.
And WD builds tens of millions of drives with it every quarter.  All without
"dry joints within a few months".  

So why do you assume that good engineers wouldn't change the temperature of
the soldering machines?  Processes change constantly.  And every major
producer of PCBs has had more than 5 years to move to lead free environment.
That was not a difficult change for competent manufacturing engineers to

Yet, I think this is the third or fourth time you've brought this up.  You
must have had a bad experience someplace and are judging the technology by
that experience. I know a lot of hobbyists, as well as lab technicians, were
annoyed at having to buy new soldering equipment for higher temperature

But the world has moved on.  Lead free soldering is as good and in many
cases better than lead based soldering.  On the data from more than 100
million lead free PCBs, I can attest dry solder joints are not a problem.

As for the cheapest plastic imaginable, I just don't see that in the
marketplace.  My current assignment is working with DVRs, STBs and TVs using
disk drives.  So I always have a couple of dozen units torn down on my
bench.  What I see are vendors that have had 20+ years to refine their
design, their processes and their materials.  I see components and systems
that have an order (or orders) of magnitude better reliability than the
products of 20 years ago.

This "everything old is good, everything new is crap" is not verified by the
data from the industry world wide.  Some things do improve with time.
Especially in a cut throat competitive industry where warranty costs from
poor products will put you out of business in weeks.  Customers (and in the
US, laws) demand reliable products.  Companies don't survive if they make
consumer products that wear out in "a year and day".  (Anybody here remember
that poem?)

Tony, you have your preferences and choices and more power to you.  But if
you did a study of current state of the art electronics, you would find it
to be far superior to that of 20 years ago.  Even if it won't provide a
maintenance manual.


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