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Author Topic: Transceiver Service Period  (Read 4349 times)
K8AXW
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« on: August 16, 2011, 08:59:56 AM »

I just read something I find disturbing!  A question was asked in the last issue of QST how to find out how long a company will support a new transceiver. 

The answer in a nut shell was, and to paraphrase, "the equipment manufacturers are at the mercy of the chip makers."

Since most modern transceivers use very sophisticated ICs, usually SMTs..... what happens if the said chip maker decides to quit making that chip or they go out of business?

To take this thought problem further, say you spend $2500.00 for a transceiver.... or worse yet, a little over $10,000 for one of the best ones available, and just a few years later you find that you can't get it repaired!

Now if this doesn't bring your lunch up into your throat, nothing will! 

Comments??
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AE4RV
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2011, 09:43:55 AM »

Same deal with PA transistors. A downside of the modern era.
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K1MMI
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« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2011, 10:42:46 AM »

You will find that almost every solidstate transceiver made for the last 20+ years has a lot of parts that are no longer manufactured. For example, DDS units, Microcontrollers with ROMs inside of them, unique LSI chips, Display Unit chips, Keypad assemblies, LCD Display screens or LED type displays for a particular transceiver, plus many other unique parts.

When manufacturers of these parts decide to stop manufacturing them they usually notify customers who buy in large quantities of their plans and give manufacturers like ICOM, YAESU, KENWOOD and etc. the oportunity to have one last buy - so they can buy spare parts for future repairs.

I would say typically manufacturers repair transceivers for 7-10 years. Some individuals who repair transceivers are still repairing transceivers that are 20 years old - provided they feel they can usually get the part to repair the transceiver.

I think you will find, in general, that typically it is rare that a unique part will go on a transceiver. Most parts that go are readily available - resistors, fuses, transistors, diodes, capacitors. Plus some failures are cold solder joints as the years roll on.

I work a lot of stations that have transceivers that are 20, even 30 years old, that continue to run fine even though they have had some failures over the years. I've also worked people who have been using a transceiver for 20+ years and have never had a failure.

When a unique part does fail the options are:
1. Contact the Manufacturer - they may have that part collecting dust in their stockroom.
2. Get the part from an identical model transceiver that has been junked for parts. (I suspect if a repair technician had a junked transceiver they might be able to remove unique parts or assemblies from that unit and end up eventually repairing 5-10 other defective transceivers of the same model.)
3. Some people disassemble their old transceiver and sell it off as individual parts and assemblies.
4. If a transistor is no longer available you should be able to find some other transistor that would work as a replacement. You might have to be a bit creative to mount the transistor but very doable.

What happens if you spend $12,000 for a top of the line transceiver?
That may be a real problem - given there aren't a lot of junked old $12,000 transceivers around.

The beauty of an old $2500 transceiver is there are a lot of them around for spare parts. Plus many Hams feel more comfortable trying to repair a $2500 transceiver and the knowledge gained will come in handy when the Manufacturer no longer repairs that model transceiver. Many Hams still repair their modern solidstate transceivers.

Ed - K1MMI

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AD4U
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2011, 10:46:21 AM »

Long live boat anchors!  I am not aware of any of the commonly used vacuum tubes that are not available NOS.

I have posted several times about 40-50 year old boat anchors that are still working just fine, while asking how many of the modern high tech radios will be working in 40-50 years.  IMO the answer is NONE.

HI....Dick  AD4U
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W3LK
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2011, 12:15:59 PM »

My KWM-2A (built in 1961) and my 30L-1 (built in 1966) are both working just fine 50 years later.
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A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.
K2OWK
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2011, 02:15:53 PM »

If I remember correctly manufacturers are required to support there products for a minimum of 7 years by law. After that time period mandatory support is no longer required, but most reputable manufacturers support there products way beyond that time to keep customers happy, and for return business.

73s

K2OWK
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KE3WD
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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2011, 04:48:57 PM »

google "Moss-Magnuson Act"

That sets forth the requirements for manufacturers of consumer products and support in the US. 


73
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K2OWK
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2011, 08:09:56 PM »

KE3WD, Ham radio equipment is a consumer product, and most are suppored in the US. Just about all consumer products are manufactured in China, Mexico and other out of country manufactures, but are supported by the US importer. The seven year support is valid in these cases.

73s

K2OWK
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G3RZP
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2011, 12:52:36 AM »

Where an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) has been specially made, once stocks have gone, they're gone, unless there's a big enough order. Assuming the technology is available, of course. If it isn't, then redesign is needed.

As for salvaging from another unit, it may work. But if an ASIC is in a BGA (Ball Grid Array) package, that's pretty well unsalvageable - and the PC Board  is likely to be too.

I have spare ICs for my FT102. The display is made of unobtainium, but I could, at a pinch, cobble something together with 7 segment displays and discrete old CMOS ICs.
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N2EY
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2011, 03:41:42 AM »

Ham radio equipment is a consumer product

That kinda says it all. Sooner or later there will be a ham rig with the label "NO USER-SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE"

The seven year support is valid in these cases.

Which raises the key question: How long is a "consumer product" supposed to last? And why is one replaced?

For example, if you're reading this online, how old is the computer you're using? If you have a cell phone, how old is it? Your TV? Kitchen appliances?

For many decades, ham gear could be expected to last decades or more because most of the parts were commonly available, and those that weren't could be fabricated or substituted. There's probably nothing in a Collins S-line you can't find with a few mouse clicks.

Part of the reason for this is that ham gear used to be so expensive that it was almost always worth fixing. 50 years ago, a KWM-2A cost over $1100, which equates to $8500 or so today.

That's all changed.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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K8AXW
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« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2011, 09:30:34 AM »

Many fine points where brought out here.  For example, older gear can and is being repaired and maintained because of the relatively simply circuitry.  During the past 10 years, perhaps 15 years, technology has become so advanced that something like an intergrated circuit can effectively require trashing a very expensive piece of gear! 

Sure, I can throw away my cell phone, or microwave and any of the other "throwaway" appliances we use daily.  But, to throw away an expensive transceiver because a PCB (which is really what we're talking about here because to have a 128pin SMT chip relaced is seldom done) would cause many months if not years of nighmares!

To expect only 7 years of service from a $2500 and up transceiver really gives me pause!
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N2EY
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« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2011, 02:19:18 PM »

To expect only 7 years of service from a $2500 and up transceiver really gives me pause!

Me too - which is one reason I homebrew.

In the bad old days the rigmakers used a combination of standard parts and parts they made themselves. So you could get replacements for years. That's all changed now.

--

Some hams get around the issue by replacing older gear before too much time passes. For example, they'll buy a 2-year-old rig (so they don't pay full-new price), keep it 3-4 years, then replace it with another 2-year-old rig. Of course that can be an expensive system.

--

It would be great if somebody made rigs that used all standard parts. Elecraft comes very close to doing so, and their kit rigs are designed to be worked on. If you are concerned about support and product life, they are probably your best bet. (The K2 appeared in 1999 and is still on the market and fully supported).

Trouble is, if you make something that can be repaired easily and indefinitely, you may limit future sales.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K2OWK
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« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2011, 02:26:12 PM »

How about this. A $25000.00 car only requires a seven year service requirement or parts availability. Of course just about all automobile manufacturers will maintain there cars and part inventory for much longer then that and for many years past there required service. Ham radio gear just like expensive LED and PLASMA TVs are old technology after a few years, and most people replace them after they fail, because the repair cost almost as much as buying a new one which is usually better with the newest technology. Ham Radio equipment falls into this category. After X number of years, better equipment becomes available for a lower price and we all know that most hams like myself included wants the latest and greatest. This is the price we pay for advanced technology. Just remember that $8000.00 ham radio only cost us $95.00 a month less then most cell bills, and this is for the best of the best. I try to keep my equipment for as long as it lasts, and when the repair becomes impractical I get rid of it and buy something new.

73s

K2OWK
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K8AXW
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« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2011, 07:18:48 PM »

OWK:  Your auto analogy doesn't hold water.  Sorry. For example, I have two 17 year old vehicles.  I have very little problem getting repair parts for them because when auto manufacturers stop making parts for them, there is almost always an inventory someplace.  Not only that but there are the aftermarket parts providers that allow us to maintain vehicles for over 20 years.  Actually, the antique auto people find parts for their endeavours for decades.

Not so with electronics.  As you pointed out, if a high end TV goes, it hits the landfill.  But we're still talking less than 2 grand.... and normally the XYL is on-board with this.  However, try to sell her on the need for a new megabuck transceiver because you're just went south!

I think the Elecraft idea is worthy of a great deal of consideration!  I have more faith in them than the foreign manufacturers. 

The power plant I worked in found it necessary to spend millions of dollars every 5 - 8 years simply because of the parts replacement problem. 


I don't know what the answer is except buy less than what I can afford and save the rest for a buffer.
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K1MMI
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Posts: 51




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« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2011, 01:55:43 AM »

Check the Ten-Tec website for service and support. They make a special effort to try to be able to repair every radio they have ever made. I have read Ten-Tec spends time searching the internet trying to locate obsolete parts - so they can buy them and continue to repair older radios.
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