Issues In Design And Quality

First I’d like to apologize that it’s been so long since the last post, until recently we’ve been short handed at my day job and are now finally caught up. Part of that backlog is what I’d like to talk about in this post, it’s a story of investigation and differentiating between manufacturer issues and product choice and use.

We have Chromebooks, and over the last 9 months or so we’ve experienced a lot if issues with them. Not wanting to go off just anecdotal reports I decided to do some data collection. So off I went creating a Google Form and an associated Sheet. This took a bit of tweaking to find the right categories, criteria I wanted to report on, etc. Then I went to Google Colab(after trying a local Jupyter Notebook) and started doing some basic data analysis.

The data showed we had a few issues, screen breakage among users was second, the first was a puzzling issue pertaining to power buttons failing. So I used my Google Fu and searched around, not much of a known issue so far for this particular model. On this model the power button and volume buttons are on the side of the Chromebook. After looking at the daughter board that these buttons are soldered to in the Chromebook I found a few things, first that they used two different type of switches for the same board, and second that they were not consistently soldered down the same.

The switches were either single color and had very short support legs, or two toned with longer support legs. In some cases, particularly the short leg version, the through holes were not soldered at all. This meant that those not soldered, particularly the short version, would pull up pads and traces with them. So we have a manufacturing issue, but that wasn’t the whole story.

The long switches were jamming, and that was an issue. It could be that this was a consequence of part selection, or it could be a design issue, or how they are being treated and used. After looking into the issue it’s a mix of all three. The switches and design are not conducive to the use they were selected for, but the design itself may not be the best for the intended use either.

While we work to get a handle on this, looking at new cases and bumpers for the students to use to work around the design, we’ve been working with the vendor. It’s been a bumpy road with the vendor, but we’re working through it. It’s hard when you get backlogged to have patience and work through issues like this, but keeping level is the often the best way to get through.

This is one of the many issues that have kept me busy. I’m also working on some videos of Chromebook and circuit board repair to help new techs and temp techs get up to speed and have a reference to go back to as the help-desk evolves. I hope you all have a great holiday and look forward to writing the next post!

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