Fixing anything

After I fixed the water heater, and the washing machine, and the central air conditioner, my wife thinks I can fix anything.  I got a call Friday from a local machine shop (the guy knows my wife) who had a CNC machine that they picked up used and it isn’t able to spin the work piece in a forward direction.  They had a partial set of schematics, but I wasn’t able to tell what all the sub-assemblies were, and they are using different symbols for all of their electronic parts.  Their symbol for a transformer (for instance) looks like two resistors in an outline with a single bar between them.  The only reason I could tell it was supposed to be a transformer because it had (apparently) 100 volts on one side and 200 volts on the other.

This drives me nuts.  In the electronics industry, we have a perfectly reasonable set of symbols that we use for all of our electronic parts.  When you look at a schematic for an automobile, or an air conditioner, or a CNC machine, they use a completely new set of symbols to describe the same thing.  It didn’t help that much of the text was also in Japanese.

And another thing… I decided to get dressed up to go see the guy in the machine shop.  Big mistake.  I couldn’t even crawl all over the CNC machine with my good clothes on (without ruining them) so the guy had to do all the crawling around.  I might be able to fix that thing (or at least find out what is wrong with it) if I had a week or more.  It’s really hard without some kind of wiring diagram and maybe some pictures to tell me what the heck is going on with the signals.  Somehow, the big ass electric motor must be commanded to change direction, but I couldn’t figure it out with the cursory inspection that I gave it (at least not in my good clothes).  Maybe I could take CNC machine mechanics school or something.  I would probably have to go to Japan to do it though.  In case anyone doesn’t know, a CNC machine is a computer controlled milling machine.  It is a big metal lathe that is controlled by a computer program.  This particular device was built sometime in the 80’s

About whatisblivit

I have been working with computers since the Commodore Vic20. I've been building PC's since about 1989. I received my Electrical Engineering degree in 1986. I have been building and maintaining my extended families computers since about 1996.
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9 Responses to Fixing anything

  1. Kiziah says:

    Are u going to give it another shot?

    • whatisblivit says:

      Sure. I think I might have left my notebook over there anyway. I can’t make any money at it, because it would be unethical to charge him anything. If I fix it, I might ask him if he feels like paying me, but it seems kind of unlikely that I’ll be able to fix it. This thing is super complicated and I don’t have enough info to get anywhere. Maybe if we find more of a manual. The one he has looks like it was torn off of a larger book. There are no schematics showing the computer boards at all. Nothing on it is labeled very clearly (if at all). I don’t know how long this thing can be down while I try to work on it. It might be that he just can’t get anyone else out there. He tells me that most of the people who work on these things are out of town or retiring. It seems like something I need to look into further.

  2. John says:

    go for it.. sounds like a good challenge. Charge him per hour, by installments…

    • whatisblivit says:

      I think I’ll take some pictures of the inside of this thing. You would be amazed. Some of the controls are hydraulic too. I can work on the thing if he’ll let me, but I don’t have enough knowledge of the thing to charge him.

  3. Ken Adams says:

    Read your last two post together; the people in your class probably feel about the way you feel in the other post. No clear directions, no common set of symbols – that is common to the rest of their lives – and no common language – everything about computers is written in Japanese for the rest of us.

    As to charging clients – I have a slightly different take on pricing, based on my 20, almost 21 years of consulting. You have first to bring value; crawling around a machine and partially reading the instructions is value to you, not the client. Come to an agreement about out comes – fix their problem and you get x – x can be calculated on your time and effort, but is predicated on the client having his expectations met. Starting in business is difficult, hang in, keeping expanding your knowledge and set limits on how much you give away – both in time and knowledge. In this economy people have to pay to learn and you need to get paid. good luck

    • whatisblivit says:

      It’s just that I know so little about CNC machines that I don’t feel comfortable about charging him ANYTHING for my time. Maybe if I’m able to fix the problem. I have a bike head tube that needs to be welded. Maybe he can weld it for me.

  4. whatisblivit says:

    I can’t believe no one called me on the statement “In the electronics industry, we have a perfectly reasonable set of symbols”. After all, the people who use different symbols for their electronic parts are probably just as mystified as to why we in the electronics industry use our own set of symbols. (Of course OURS are the RIGHT symbols).

  5. Kiziah says:

    I have tried debating right and wrong with you, I lost. Your right dad 🙂

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