Elfin Technologies

Anything can be fixed... well almost!

The challenge of modern repair

Once upon a time I could look you in the eye and say, 'if I can't fix it, it probably can't be fixed'. Well my wife may still stand by me on that, having seen me repair just about every appliance, gadget, or computer in the house over the years. But the truth is that repair of everything involving technology is getting harder every year.

There are two categories of challenges to repairing modern electronics. The first and most obvious is keeping up with the changes and advancements in the technology. This indeed requires constant updating of ones own education, tools, skills, and techniques. Certainly not trivial tasks, but at least do-able. The second challenge, however, is more insidious: Many manufacturers intentionally make repair difficult!

Is this a conspiracy?

No, at least not always. Manufacturers often make small inexpensive devices difficult to repair simply to control manufacturing costs. A power adapter that plugs into an AC wall socket is a good example. They are often glued shut, so that they can not be "opened" without cutting. It is simply cheaper to manufacture a case without screws or hardware, and such a device can also be more quickly assembled. These devices are considered "throw away" devices, much like a light bulb. If it dies, buy another or request replacement if the warranty hasn't expired. This also frees the manufacturer of having to support repair facilities with documentation and a supply chain of parts, both of which drive up the cost of a product.

But then there are manufacturers that obviously want to impeded you from fixing anything they make! Forget repair manuals... such manufacturers routinely refuse to offer schematics replacement parts or even schematic diagrams of their products, unless you are an "authorized" repair facility. Such companies simply want to maintain control and prevent theft of their proprietary technology. Especially in products where microprocessors and embedded controllers are used, the manufacturer will often take all possible actions to prevent anyone beyond their contracted control from even acquiring an understanding of their internals. Manufacturers of electronic equipment for musicians are among the worst offenders.

So what can we do? ... a LOT!

  • With over 40 years of involvement with the evolving technology, we are well equipped with the tools and expertise required to service a LOT of electronic equipment.

  • Even devices in the "throw away" category can be fixed. Granted there are cases where forcing a permanent seal may, by necessity, compromise the original cosmetics, but that may be an acceptable sacrifice. Especially for a one of a kind irreplaceable item.

  • A surprising number of repairs really do not require understanding the manufacturer's secret and proprietary technology. Examples include intermittent connectors or adapter cables, hard drives semi-permanently built into the chassis of some computers, and power supply components in just about anything.

  • When repairs are likely impossible without manufacturers cooperation, we seek "authorized repair" status. At the same time we draw upon other companies, contacts, and affiliations within the industry, to acquire the parts necessary to complete the repair.

  • For long term repairs of multiple and recurrent items, we can contract with you or your company on a per-device basis, and even offer training materials so you can eventually take over the repairs. *

  • If all else fails, and you need to restore usability to something whose parts have become too illusive or pricy, we may be able to do a custom enhancement. An example here might be an amplifier with built in effects, whose pre-amp and effects are intact, but whose power amp has melted down. Many times the existing power amp can be discarded and replaced with one of our own modules, whith comparable or even greater output.

Tell us your problem, and lets talk!

Drop us a note using our Contact form. Feel free to upload an initial photo or file if you wish. As always, there is never a charge for initial consultation, even if you never use any paid services.

* A recent example

Early in 2014, a local medical supply company contacted us in apparent desperation. Among many services, this company supplied portable oxygen delivery systems which used specialized Lithium Ion battery packs. Both the devices and the battery packs were made by SeQual, and eventually the cells in these packs would stop holding acceptable charge. This was a case where the manufacturer refused to offer any information beyond replacement, and those replacement costs were unacceptably high. So the supply company began disassembling the packs and replacing the internal cells on their own, only to find the internal battery management circuit boards were apparently failing after the procedure. This, in turn , was rendering the expensive cell packs useless.

When the company first approached me, they were looking for someone to reverse engineer and replicate the mystery PCB circuits that were failing. I offered to first analyze the board, and in the end was able to discover the boards functionality, the manufacturers of key ICs on the board, isolate the components that were failing, and in the end repair over a dozen of these battery packs, which each contained two circuits.

During the repair, some would say i shot myself in the foot from a business point of view, offering to make a complete repair manual for the company, so their own technicians could make the repairs on their own. Not surprisingly, they no longer needed the services of Elfin Technologies soon after this service manual was prepared?

So that was a job well done. The company was satisfied with the work, and the training has saved the company thousands of dollars. Was that a bad business decision? Some would say so, but from my point of view I was simply doing the best job I could for the company. That is simply what I do. (Further references and specifics furnished on request). So if you are working with Elfin Technologies for any kind of service, that is the kind of treatment you can expect.