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Author Topic: Ameritron ALS-500 / MFJ Quality Lacks  (Read 95330 times)
AD6KA
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Posts: 2243




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« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2012, 01:53:25 PM »

Horror stories like this are why I only buy new
gear from local well established retailers.
I'd rather pay the Sales Tax than risk the gear
being trashed by a shipper. Plus if you plunk
down big bucks it's nice to actually walk out with
the piece than wait, fret and worry that UPS or whomever
is going to literally throw your new transceiver on
your porch and walk away.

I take it home, if it doesn't work I take it back
right away and they give me another one, no problem.
(Yay, HRO)
Rinse & repeat if needed. But I've been pretty lucky so far.

Unfortunately some folks don't have a local retailer.

I just don't "get" why MFJ/Ameritron doesn't have
better Quality Control. Mr. Jue is no fool, he's a smart
businessman who has built the American Dream, turning a tiny
business into a huge business by offering decent quality
gear (most of it) at a fair price,and creating a niche market
within a niche market.
Ken  AD6KA
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N4ATS
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Posts: 1197




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« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2012, 02:24:45 PM »


"Regarding solder balls and solder splashes there are commercial specifications the detail what is good and what is bad.  And solder balls and splashed are permitted under certain condition."



It IS true and I assume you are in the same line of business as me , 28 years? , been doing it for many many years and continue , as for solder balls across lands and traces , NOT! These are direct shorts. I work in the defense business ( RF Engineer / FTS designer) and we are VERY picky about what you can and what you can't do.

I see it all the time in Ameritron amplifiers , they are a result of insufficient heat and non flowing solder. The other faults are plain stupidity...

As for 10 minutes , I can do it in less BUT the most time is unpacking the equipment and de-lidding it in which I pay my Son to do all that so when I get home from work , I inspect , turn it on , test and video tape.

its not hard..the key...

Organization , Efficiency , Detail, Repetitious and Speed.


If you look at my shop (  www.n4ats.com ) it is set up for fast hookup and jigs. All the RF switches are on the wall for pass , load and dummy from every signal generator to every output. I hook up power , input and output and am done.

« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 02:26:40 PM by N4ATS » Logged
K8AXW
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Posts: 6391




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« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2012, 09:14:45 PM »

I saw the inside workings of MFJ.....the people who worked there.....

Too bad you guys never saw this documentary.  If you had there wouldn't be this conversation!

How in the hell Martin Jue can operate like this is beyond my comprehension!
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VE7RF
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Posts: 212




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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2012, 02:59:54 AM »

I saw the inside workings of MFJ.....the people who worked there.....

Too bad you guys never saw this documentary.  If you had there wouldn't be this conversation!

How in the hell Martin Jue can operate like this is beyond my comprehension!

## Oh, I can well imagine.  With a 60%  failure rate on NEW amps... how can he still be in business?    I wonder if the failure rate on other stuff, like ant tuners, swr analyzer's and all the myriad of mfj gear is as bad ?   Between  mfj +  ameritron.. they make one heck of a lot of stuff.  Even a 10%  failure rate is a pita.   Ship it out... comes back in for warranty repair... then back out again.   Only UPS/fedex  etc benefits from any of this.   I'd be just pissed if the shiny new AL-1200 u open on xmas day...blows up  3 hrs later...and takes out ur xcvr as well.

Jim
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VE7RF
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2012, 03:07:54 AM »


Another example , "BRAND new out of the box Al-1200" , I took off the lids and first thing I noted , the relay (open frame) pins were more narrow than the board layout , so the assembler "pushed" the relay in  (tight fit) THUS the center arm was crushed between N/O and N/C positions , i.e ZERO relay travel. It wiped my FT-920 test radio out in about 2 seconds after power up.

This amplifier was NOT tested , it could never have been.

 

##  OK,  so the  NC/NO/Com  were all mashed together ?    what happens ?  u end up with drive to cathode.. and the 1,5 kw  loops around back to the cathode.... and then the entire mess back feeds to the xcvr ??  What if that was a $12K  xcvr ?   I'd be just livid.   What happens then ? 
I doubt yaesu/icom will warranty the xcvr....cuz ur amp blew it up.   Will ameritron pay to have ur $12K xcvr repaired ??   Yikes they would be losing $$ left and right.  U got any idea how much $$ it would cost to ship  a xcvr  + amp..from the other side of the planet.

later.. Jim
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KC9TNH
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Posts: 304




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« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2012, 04:15:51 AM »

I AM doing it for a local company here and appears to be working very well , Maybe other companies will think about it and install their own quality control thus making them stand out of the crowd?Huh
Now.... if Company A said "we're also going to unbox the amp & tube and make sure it's fully functional to advertised PEP into a dummy load with no glitches before we ship it to you" I assure you THAT would be a HUGE game-changer in their favor. Or if they said you can spend 2-1/2 hours & drive over here to pick it up and we'll verify/demo the item before we place it in your hands & take your money, same tip of the scale in their favor.

I hope your approach catches on; in fact, I will go back to the prospective places and pose that very question.
 Smiley
Went back with the proposal to my state's version of Company A (wherein I'd have done a 5-hr r/t and paid in-state sales tax. Response was "sure, AFTER your purchase we'll check it out in the store for the standard hour bench charge ($72)." That response just put them back down into the pack regarding who I'd be making the new purchase from. Don't get me wrong; I didn't expect them to do that, I can see how alot of businesses wouldn't rise to that & why - just a biz decision on their part. Still, as they say in the recruiting biz, it's a discriminator. So it's back to the no-tax, cheaper shipping provider.
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73
Wes -KC9TNH
"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete
W9PMZ
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Posts: 629


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« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2012, 12:37:08 PM »

"It IS true and I assume you are in the same line of business as me , 28 years? , been doing it for many many years and continue , as for solder balls across lands and traces , NOT! These are direct shorts. I work in the defense business ( RF Engineer / FTS designer) and we are VERY picky about what you can and what you can't do.

I see it all the time in Ameritron amplifiers , they are a result of insufficient heat and non flowing solder. The other faults are plain stupidity...

As for 10 minutes , I can do it in less BUT the most time is unpacking the equipment and de-lidding it in which I pay my Son to do all that so when I get home from work , I inspect , turn it on , test and video tape.

its not hard..the key...

Organization , Efficiency , Detail, Repetitious and Speed.


If you look at my shop (  www.n4ats.com ) it is set up for fast hookup and jigs. All the RF switches are on the wall for pass , load and dummy from every signal generator to every output. I hook up power , input and output and am done.


But this is not the defense business, multiply the cost of a ALS500 by 10 or more to design and manufacture this to DOD standards (yes I worked in the Defense Industry also).   And I have 30 years experience, so there (LOL)

Since this is a commercial product your assessment is a little clouded by your past experience, further you said you were a designer.  Design is not how you manufacture, these are two different worlds.  I usually have to argue incessantly with designers on how much is tested.

I would hope that MFJ and companies have aggressive RMA policies and corrective action that results in lower costs of returns.  Assuming that they have a documented Quality Policy, this should be in the documentation.

There are no doubts that lemons come out.  In my 25 years of having MFJ stuff I had my first out of box failure.  I purchased a MFJ998 tuner and the amp key circuit was non-functional.  It had a cold solder joint on the RCA receptacle.  I fixed it since it was more of a hassle to return it.  It probably worked when tested, but upon arrival it failed (I see this all the time looking at in-circuit test results and functional test results).

But I am not going to go on the junk parade because of this.  MFJ gives amateurs products at reasonable costs as compared to MIL-SPEC stuff.  But I agree that MFJ could possibly be doing more to improve their image.  But without seeing the policies and procedures that occur in their facilities it is hard to tell.

And finally still with regards to that 10 minutes your comparing apples to oranges (manufacturing to repair).

73,

Carl - W9PMZ
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N4ATS
Member

Posts: 1197




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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2012, 02:33:35 PM »

"""Since this is a commercial product your assessment is a little clouded by your past experience, further you said you were a designer.  Design is not how you manufacture, these are two different worlds.  I usually have to argue incessantly with designers on how much is tested."""


The designer was in reference to us both working DOD and you brought it up as if it means something per the topic which has nothing to do with MFJ/Ameritron...

10 minutes to test is quick dirty test only , NO repairs. Do it every night and at least 1 or 2 units...

If you had 1/10 th  my work load of radios and amplifiers , you too would become just as efficient. I do an average of 10 to 20 Radios / Amps per week at night after work for the local store and the rest of the world.


The bottom line is: (explained up top)

1) The design
2) DVT
3) GOOD documentation
4) Manufacture
5) Quality

MFJ has #1 only , THATS the bottom line...

I design FTS at my job , repairing radios for 30 years plus is a second job , they are apples and oranges BUT link in some areas like IMD , ect (another thread I started)




« Last Edit: February 01, 2012, 03:14:09 PM by N4ATS » Logged
W8JI
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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2012, 03:59:49 PM »

## Oh, I can well imagine.  With a 60%  failure rate on NEW amps... how can he still be in business?    I wonder if the failure rate on other stuff, like ant tuners, swr analyzer's and all the myriad of mfj gear is as bad ?   Between  mfj +  ameritron.. they make one heck of a lot of stuff.  Even a 10%  failure rate is a pita.   Ship it out... comes back in for warranty repair... then back out again.   Only UPS/fedex  etc benefits from any of this.   I'd be just pissed if the shiny new AL-1200 u open on xmas day...blows up  3 hrs later...and takes out ur xcvr as well.

Jim

In all fairness, that 60% figure is pure BS.

There is no doubt they do have stuff go out that testers (everything is tested) miss. Also, anything that is missed certainly is too much. There is no argument that they should try harder to not miss anything.

Let's not exaggerate this with outright falsehoods, no matter how good it feels to do it.

73 Tom
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N4ATS
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Posts: 1197




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« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2012, 04:49:22 PM »

That's not entirely true , I test and repair at least 4 to 8 Ameritron amplifiers per month (sometimes more , sometimes less) , I would say that 50% if not more have solder issues , bad coil solder joints, busted or chaffed wires and a host of other issues. If they were inspected , some of these issues may have been caught. If you would like , I can start doing a tally on what issues I find. Tell Martin I may work with him if he wishes and may do it free.

These problems in MOST cases contribute to the hard failure of the amp itself.

I have repaired about 5 last month , and 4 (rough guess) had solder issues and ONE had an electrolytic cap in backwards that exploded and one had the HV wire smashed between the standoff and the board , blowing the fuse at random

I hate to say it but it is probably more than 60% BUT not all amps but MFJ / Ameriton products in general.

The reason people send them to me (as well as others I am sure) is the typical responce at MFJ that it'a an eight week turnaround. Now "I " am not saying that as I never called and asked but most reports from folks who send me amps and MFJ products say that. I "like" to repair within 3 days so my backlog is low helping the poor hams get back on the air faster and 1/2 the cost.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2012, 05:05:26 PM by N4ATS » Logged
AB1KC
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Posts: 47




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« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2012, 05:56:17 PM »

The Ameritron business model seems to be copied from the same book that took Detroit from true number one to  well..... Maybe they would be wise to consider the history here. Clearly Ameritron has a lot to offer vis-a-vis price vs capability. In the end you can not ignore quality.
My  2 cents...
Bruce
AB1KC
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VE7RF
Member

Posts: 212




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« Reply #26 on: February 02, 2012, 12:27:46 AM »

## Oh, I can well imagine.  With a 60%  failure rate on NEW amps... how can he still be in business?    I wonder if the failure rate on other stuff, like ant tuners, swr analyzer's and all the myriad of mfj gear is as bad ?   Between  mfj +  ameritron.. they make one heck of a lot of stuff.  Even a 10%  failure rate is a pita.   Ship it out... comes back in for warranty repair... then back out again.   Only UPS/fedex  etc benefits from any of this.   I'd be just pissed if the shiny new AL-1200 u open on xmas day...blows up  3 hrs later...and takes out ur xcvr as well.

Jim

In all fairness, that 60% figure is pure BS.

There is no doubt they do have stuff go out that testers (everything is tested) miss. Also, anything that is missed certainly is too much. There is no argument that they should try harder to not miss anything.

Let's not exaggerate this with outright falsehoods, no matter how good it feels to do it.

73 Tom

##  failure rate here locally is 100%...but most of those are AL-80BX's..and not many.  Local hams buy from VE3 land..then shipped to VE7 land.  Then it blows up on Q.  Ship it back to dealer in VE3 land, then back again.  That's a 9000 mile trip, not including from the factory to the dealer. They are not packed well enough either. You need foam on all 6 x sides, like larger metal triodes..and vac caps.  I'm done with fixing them for free.  Somebody asked me about their blown up SB-230..I just laughed.  One local guy had 2 x blown up MLA-2500's. I suggested he either find the nearest dumpster..or sell em off for a 6M conversion.  Funny how most never ask.. "what amp should I buy". 

## IF one is hell bent to get an Ameritron, they should buy TWO of em..and ship back which ever one blows up. jue needs to get himself ISO certified.   When the fella states he had amps with HV caps installed backwards, and relays mashed into sockets, there is NO way in hell they were ever tested.  My CD brand of hv caps [ 2500 uf @ 450 vdc] all have 3 x pins out the bottom, designed for pc board mounting. The 3rd pin does nothing..except ensure that their is no way the cap can ever be installed backwards ! Now that was pretty simple, just order the right caps.  Now that doesn't work with my 2300uf @ 450 vdc caps, since they have 10-32 machine screw terminals. Just mark the + end with a RED jiffy marker.

##  How come there is no "QC" sticker with 3 x initials on it ??   That would at least allow the end user to know that the amp indeed did work on all bands, b4 it left the factory.  Trying to trbl shoot an amp [ or any eq] that you know worked at one time is a far cry from trying to trbl shoot one you know was never tested.

##  perhaps the fellow should post u tube video's of new amps blowing up. That would get some body's attention..real fast.

Jim
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W8JI
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« Reply #27 on: February 02, 2012, 12:45:51 AM »

That's not entirely true , I test and repair at least 4 to 8 Ameritron amplifiers per month (sometimes more , sometimes less) , I would say that 50% if not more have solder issues , bad coil solder joints, busted or chaffed wires and a host of other issues. If they were inspected , some of these issues may have been caught. If you would like , I can start doing a tally on what issues I find. Tell Martin I may work with him if he wishes and may do it free.

It's important to understand what you are saying, which many people won't bother doing.

You are saying you test and repair 4-8 amplifiers a month, and out of that you guess 2-4 amplifiers have some sort of shortfall in something if you spend time looking them over.

From that you imply they are not inspected, which is not true. I can go through things and conclude I would not have passed something, too, but that's a far cry for saying 60% fail in the field. This is what VE7RF said:

Quote from: VE7RF on Today at 02:59:54 AM
Quote
## Oh, I can well imagine.  With a 60%  failure rate on NEW amps... how can he still be in business?  


What you are saying isn't that the sample of amplifiers didn't work, or that they failed. We don't even know if what you set as a criteria actually MIGHT cause a failure.  
    
Quote
These problems in MOST cases contribute to the hard failure of the amp itself.

What does that mean? Now are you saying they do fail in those cases? If so, that is a rate >25% (on a guess).

Quote
I have repaired about 5 last month , and 4 (rough guess) had solder issues and ONE had an electrolytic cap in backwards that exploded and one had the HV wire smashed between the standoff and the board , blowing the fuse at random

Are these random samples, or are they returns? If they are returns, you can't have the faintest idea what the new amplifier fallout is. If you sample 100% of everything, or a random statistical sample like 20% of all, then you could get an idea.  

I hate to say it but it is probably more than 60% BUT not all amps but MFJ / Ameritron products in general.

Quote
The reason people send them to me (as well as others I am sure) is the typical responce at MFJ that it'a an eight week turnaround. Now "I " am not saying that as I never called and asked but most reports from folks who send me amps and MFJ products say that. I "like" to repair within 3 days so my backlog is low helping the poor hams get back on the air faster and 1/2 the cost.

This sounds like you are getting repairs. If you getting field repairs, then you have no earthly idea what the failure rate is. It isn't based on a ramdom sample of ALL units, it a sample of failed units. You are saying about 50% (or less, it's hard to filter through your comments) or failure returns are due to workmanship.

This does NOT indicate 50% of new amps fail. What you seem to be saying is 50% of the out-of-SERVICE amps you get from the field have manufacturing defects.

What that means, based on your own wording, is about 25% or more of field failures are caused by manufacturing defects. That is not the same as saying 25% fail, or 50% fail. Here is why it means that. You said:

1.)
Quote
The reason people send them to me (as well as others I am sure) is the typical responce at MFJ that it'a an eight week turnaround. Now "I " am not saying that as I never called and asked but most reports from folks who send me amps and MFJ products say that. I "like" to repair within 3 days so my backlog is low helping the poor hams get back on the air faster and 1/2 the cost.

So you get field repairs, NOT production samples. You data is on RETURNS, not output.


2.)
Quote
I test and repair at least 4 to 8 Ameritron amplifiers per month (sometimes more , sometimes less) , I would say that 50% if not more have solder issues , bad coil solder joints, busted or chaffed wires and a host of other issues.

So you say, out of the field repair return sample you get, about half have manufacturing defects.

That all makes perfect sense. If we looked at vehicles in a service shop, we would find a statistically high number that fail due to manufacturing defects. Half would not be unreasonable. When I look at data, I see about half of field returns are operator or parts failures, and the other half manufacturing defects.


The failure rate based on production output, however, is in the single digits.

Now all of the number-cooking and drama aside, I certainly agree they need to do better. There should not be ANY returns due to manufacturing shortfalls. They certainly do need to do better.

The point I am making is this, and anyone with an ounce of common sense should understand it....

If we sit at one point and look ONLY at field returns, we cannot possibly conclude anything about failures except what percentage of returns is due to certain things.

Let me give an example. In the 1980's, when the AL80A was running, purchasing and Schumacher Electric got into a fight over something. Purchasing switched to another transformer company, and we ordered a standard 250 piece order of transformers. The normal practice was to take 50 pcs in a month in the busy seasons. Out of those transformers, we had out first field infant failure in HV breakdown from the HV secondary. By the time we had a second failure, I knew we had a problem. This was two out of 100 or more. We canceled the orders and went back to the original vendor, where infant mortality for insulation failures was zero.

Now we can be pretty sure that with a few failures that soon, many more were on the way.

If we looked at service history of returns, units using that transformer vendor would have an apparently high field failure rate due to secondary insulation failures. In two years time (we had a two-year warranty period), about 10% of the units sold with that vendor failed. As I recall, that amounted to about 60% of returns. Of the rest, we probably were about 50% customer error, 15% our fault, 10% shipping, and 25%  other parts failures. The overall return rate was only a few percent, but it more than doubled because of those transformers.
 
If we had a service operation and looked at returns, we could conclude that the AL80A had a junk transformer. We would not realize, or have any way of knowing, whether it was every transformer used or just one batch. Someone might wonder how Ameritron stayed in business with over 60% of failures due to expensive transformers. What they don't realize is that was 60% of around 4%. About 4 out of 100 would fail, and if we looked at the failures it would appear over half of the amplifiers had bad transformers. We normally ran less than 2%, and out of that <2% about half were customer error. The rest were our faults, shipping, and other part failures.

YOUR sample is of failure returns, not of production. What you are saying is about 50% of failures are due to manufacturing errors. You are not saying that 50% of new units fail.

73 Tom
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W8JI
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« Reply #28 on: February 02, 2012, 12:49:18 AM »

##  failure rate here locally is 100%

That's right.

Local failure rate here of new Cobra Mustangs is 100%, too. A friend of mine and I both bought one, and each of us had to return them for service work.

As a matter of fact every car or truck I have every bought has gone back for something.

We should have bought two of them, one to drive while the other was returned.  

I always told production workers that some Hams were broadcast stations, and that if just one amplifier failed some people would spend the next 25 years broadcasting about it.  :-)  Some hams are not happy unless they have something to bitch about, and they are always the expert on statistics and how to do things better, except they have never managed to do anything except complain about how good they could do something compared to the rest of the world.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 01:02:36 AM by W8JI » Logged
N4ATS
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« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2012, 03:58:33 AM »

Tom , as stated many times , I believe you are a good man , good RF designer , know amplifiers more than most and have a good reputation..

Please don't defend what you KNOW is wrong.

THE BOTTOM LINE as this thread tended to run over is "MFJ / AMERITRON LACKS QUALITY" PERIOD.

Get a cheap Q.A person on board and you will NOT have as many failures.

Lets stay on the tracks...

To answer your above question about repairs or checkouts it DOES NOT MATTER. When an Ameritron (example) comes in with a coil that is not attached because the wire used was 1/8" to short and someone used solder bridging technique to extend the wire (we've all done that) to the coil , then after a few weeks of vibration the solder bridge opens and the operator is with out his gear is UNNACCEPTABLE .

Its COMMON to see these types of flaws in MFJ/Ameritron products. There is no argument , I see it most of the time.

Lets stay on the tracks , get a QA person on board , sales will sore ... Read peoples comments...
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 04:03:01 AM by N4ATS » Logged
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