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Items filtered by date: June 2014

Thursday, 05 June 2014 00:00

How We Fix Damaged PCBAs

-- And Why We’re Better Than The Next Circuit Board Repair Shop

No matter what brand or board type you’re working with, it’s impossible to escape the reality that PCBs are inherently failure-prone. Planning for when, rather than if, your circuit boards will malfunction is an approach that reduces costs and relieves future headaches.

Shipping out your faulty PCBA for service can be stressful when you’re on a tight production schedule and board failure has already led to downtime, but it pays to have practiced technicians discover the root cause of a circuit board’s failure and analyze the extent of its damage.

In addition to physical damage to the circuit card, like cracks and corrosion, discrete and power components can deteriorate for a wide range reasons, including extreme heat, over/under voltage surges and sags, and age; contaminants like grime and dust are also frequent sources of trace damage. Contacting a repair provider is the best way to ensure that your circuit board assembly functions properly once it’s reinstalled, and—more importantly—that your industrial electronics won’t fail again a few weeks down the road.

Even though factories save millions every year by repairing and/or reworking circuit boards, the guesswork associated with choosing a repair shop and anxiety about the quality of the craftsmanship they offer convinces many plant managers to purchase brand new replacement boards instead. This is a costly decision in the short and long-term: in addition to spending an arm and a leg for new boards, OEMs don’t provide preventive and corrective repair recommendations and actions to help your electronics equipment (not just the circuit board part that needs to be replaced) exceed its performance expectations.

What criteria should guide your selection of a service provider if you've decided to repair or rework your circuit board? We recommend focusing on “Three E’s”—Expertise, Equipment, and Economies of scale.

I. Expertise

Circuit board repair remains a labor-intensive process at its core, demanding highly-skilled handiwork and technical knowledge.psi-circuit-board-repair-services-II

One of the benefits of working with service-centric repair companies, as opposed to OEMs, is that their profitability depends on the capabilities and customer service of their engineers and technicians. Their ability (or inability) to deliver high-quality and reliable repairs before deadline—especially when large or complex projects are on the line—powers (or stunts) their growth.

Subsequently, longevity is an important factor to consider when choosing a repair company—there’s a reason why some repair providers have been operating and growing for several decades and others stagnate after a few years in business.

Certifications are another obvious factor to bear in mind: if a company’s technicians aren’t qualified in Electro Static Discharge (ESD) and Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits (IPC) repair and rework standards, you shouldn’t trust them to handle advanced microprocessors and digital signal processor circuits.

Similar to this, while not advertised publically, ongoing specialized training for technicians is a sign of a competent independent service provider (ISP) committed to competing on a global stage. Technicians should be able to operate the latest diagnostic technology and also develop world-class programs for handling and testing parts.

In addition to having the ability to quickly diagnose a failing circuit board component, execute its repair, test its performance, and provide an aggressive warranty, repair companies should also be eager to offer value-added technical services. These might include: removing and replacing stressed parts, improving inefficient design with stronger, more reliable technology, remanufacturing unsalvageable or obsolete components, manufacturing custom-designed products and implementing End-of-Life (EOL) strategies, among others.

II. Equipment

Everything else held equal, up-to-date diagnostic and testing instruments can make the difference between a 1-day turnaround and a 3-day turnaround on an urgent project. For this reason alone, ISPs invest millions to equip their facilities with the most state-of-the-art equipment available.

Specifically, ISPs need a mixture of equipment in order to address the digital, analog, and power sections of circuit cards. A properly outfitted PCB repair facility will incorporate the following equipment into their production process:

1. In-Circuit Testers perform both a powered, in-circuit logical test of digital and many analog ICs, as well as signature analysis of the chips. These tests check for the Boolean functions from digital chips, and also provide a signature analysis of dynamic operation. Unknown chips can be identified by its Boolean output. The Diagnosys PinPoint System also contains libraries of digital chip pinouts to assist the technician in troubleshooting, and can determine wiring patterns of the circuits.

2. Data I/O Programmers read, verify and store data in programmable logic devices, such as PROMs, microprocessors and memory devices. A master database of all programmable devices are stored for current and future repairs.

3. Hot Air IC Installation & Removal Systems – with this equipment, surface mount ICs are subjected to temperature-controlled hot air to reflow solder. A vacuum pickup tool is used to remove or install the chip with the help of a magnifying CCD camera.

4. Signature Analysis is the primary diagnostic tool for PCB repair activity. It works by applying a current-limited AC signal across two points of a semiconductor junction. The current flow causes a vertical deflection of the CRT trace, while the applied voltage causes a horizontal deflection. Together, they form a unique V/I signature that represents the overall health of the junction under test. Analyzing the deflection signature tells us whether the component is good, bad or marginal. Many units also have the internal ability to fire gate-triggered devices while viewing the V/I curves.

5. Oscilloscopes – various bandwidth analog and digital oscilloscopes are used to analyze voltage waveforms under power.

6. Function Generations are used to simulate square, sinusoidal or triangle wave input and trigger signals.

7. Digital Volt Meters (DVMs) – 3 ½ to 6 ½ digit meters measure voltages down to 6 ½ digit precision at the selected measurement range

8. Sencore Cap & Inductance Meters are used to analyze capacitors for capacitance, equivalent series resistance (ESR), dielectric leakage and frequency response. Inductance meters are used for measuring similar attributes in coils.

9. Power Supply Load Boxes – dynamic load banks for testing power supplies capacities, hold-up time, and spike sensitivity.

10. Calibrators are reference systems traceable back to NIST standards for final adjustment of temperature, flow and pressure related products.

11. Mings are hand-held testers for identifying and checking various integrated circuits.

12. System or Simulation Testers provide a means to test assemblies from the connectors to determine entire functionality.

Furthermore, all equipment should be identified as either used for diagnostic work or for final repair (calibrated). All calibrated equipment should be on a scheduled gage program.

III. Economies of Scale


The best repair, rework, and overhaul options at the lowest price points are only sustainable if an ISP is highly scalable.

At PSI Repair Services, customers call us when they want to improve problematic printed circuit board parts through the use of newer, more reliable parts.

Unlike most other repair shops, however, we also have the manpower, experience, and technology to fully redesign PCBs and to manufacture replacement PCBs for obsolete electronics (this service is cost-prohibitive for most ISPs).

We provide additional value by offering a large inventory of new and refurbished circuit board assembly parts, and emergency/rush circuit board repair services to help customers limit downtime and reduce costs.

When the PSI circuit board repair process is complete, the remanufactured, like-new condition board will always meet the same industry specifications for performance as new PCBs, and it will often exceed the expected lifetime of the original board. Best of all, PSI can save you up to 70% versus the cost of buying replacement PCBs from the OEM.

For more information about our circuit board assembly repair services, call us toll-free at 800-325-4774 or visit



Published in Blog
Thursday, 05 June 2014 00:00

Independent Service Providers vs. OEMs


Who Should You Call When Your Wind Turbine Production Equipment Fails?

The clock starts ticking the moment a wind turbine stops working.

Wind turbine efficiency is evaluated in terms of minutes (of production up/downtime) and dollars (spent on after-sales services as a result of system failure). As far as the bottom line is concerned, individual equipment failures and their root causes are moot points.

To maximize efficiency, the ideal wind farm would have in-house resources and know-how to conduct all necessary tests and repairs to restore turbines to full working order. To supplement these capabilities, the wind farm manager works hand-in-hand with OEMs of their turbine equipment to ensure fast turnaround and affordable replacement parts.

Economic realities make this scenario totally unrealistic for most wind farms. The manpower and financial resources associated with running a wind farm and operations and maintenance (O&M) team are cost-prohibitive.

Regarding OEMs, it’s important to remember that they are in the business of making and selling large quantities of the same products. If your defective part is under warranty, ordering a replacement from the OEM is typically a no-brainer. But, when component failure occurs off-warranty and you need immediate, cost-effective solutions, you should always consider a third-party independent service provider (ISP).

From a cost standpoint, purchasing replacement parts at full price from the OEM is exorbitantly expensive and unnecessary. You don’t have to break your bank to restore broken turbine equipment to like-new, working order. Wind farms can save millions every year by repairing rather than replacing defective components and by purchasing surplus and refurbished inventory.

As a rule of thumb, customers can expect to spend 40-70% less on repaired and surplus parts as opposed to new and/or replacement parts. For example, wind farm managers know that a particular replacement pitch system part costs around $5,000 from the OEM. However, when the component is outsourced to an ISP, it can be upgraded with newer technology—resulting in a part that runs cooler and lasts longer—for about 20-30% of the OEM replacement cost.

From a value and efficiency standpoint, ISPs are inherently geared toward providing high-quality customer service and technical solutions. In contrast to the OEM’s business model, standardized product design and sales don’t move their financial needle. Rather, these service-centric ISPs invest in engineering staff and advanced diagnostic equipment to help clients’ resolve production challenges, and their ROI is grounded in their success doing so. For this reason, parts repaired by ISPs often exceed the performance expectations and expected lifetime of new parts from the OEM.

Of course, not all ISPs are created equal. Finding a single contractor that can handle a wide range of preventative and corrective repair services (e.g. electronics, hydraulics, precision mechanical, etc.) isn’t easy. Even worse, shoddy craftsmanship and knock-off parts are major issues in certain corners of the aftermarket/repair industry.

While these concerns can discourage some companies from contracting ISPs, snuffing out rip-off repair shops and counterfeit parts isn’t rocket science. Here’s how you can do it in five minutes or less:

Use Google to your advantage. Run search queries for the company and scan for red flags on the one hand, and articles that establish their reputation as domain experts on the other. Do complaints or scam reports appear in the top search results? What about interviews or feature articles in various news/industrial publications? Do they have a LinkedIn company profile page, and are their employees listed? Can you find pictures of their facilities and testing equipment?

Then, take a critical look at the information on their website. How long have they been in business? If you plug their address into Google Maps / Street View, does everything appear to check out (i.e. approximate square footage and exterior photographs)? Do they provide case studies and press releases that detail specific examples and applications of repair work performed (Note: if they don’t sound like pros, they probably aren’t)?WindTurbine3v2

Last but not least, what is the length of their typical warranty on services provided? If the ISP has confidence in their craftsmanship, they ought to offer superior warranties. Twelve-month warranties, for instance, offer assurances that the ISP can indeed make the part stronger than the original.

In addition to offering cost-cutting repair services and a wide inventory of refurbished parts, some ISPs deliver even greater value by looking beyond a single component repair job toward the greater picture: efficiency. To really make an impact on a wind farm’s efficiency, it’s not enough to simply replace the part. ISPs can substantially increase wind farm efficiency as a whole by digging into the customer’s O&M processes and equipment and finding ways to root out unscheduled downtime and expenses.

OEMs, by contrast, can only offer the bare minimum—at a premium price point—when it comes to dedicated, value-added customer service and engineering services. Understanding how an individual wind farm uses their equipment—and then determining (and eliminating) the root cause for failure—are capital expenditures that most OEMs won’t invest in.

PSI Repair Services has been a trusted ISP to the wind energy market since 2008. We offer wind turbine component repair and upgrade services for GE, Vestas, Siemens and Clipper turbines. We cover the critical electronic, hydraulic and precision mechanical components that drive your turbines’ pitch and yaw systems and down-tower electronics. Components we service include printed circuit boards, pitch drive systems (such as H-bridges and hub converters), IGBTs, PLCs, controls, AEBIs, proportional valves, pitch and yaw motors, encoders, slip rings, VRCC units, hydraulic pumps, servo motors, transducers and much more. Most of our services come with a 12-month warranty.

PSI has been in the repair business for almost 50 years, with customers belonging to the automotive, aerospace, defense and military, food and beverage, healthcare, public transportation, and semiconductor industries. Our state-of-the-art 60,000 square-foot facility in Livonia, Michigan is equipped with the most advanced diagnostic equipment in the industry.

Just recently, PSI Repair Services surpassed the 13,000 mark for components repaired/serviced for the wind industry. At an average repair price of $1,500, and a conservative 50% savings from the cost of new, PSI has saved the wind industry in the neighborhood of $10,000,000.

Customer savings aren’t merely a result of paying less for repairs, however. PSI’s world-class Engineering Services Department can accurately diagnose performance issues and offer permanent cost-saving solutions by recommending and taking preventive and corrective repair actions. These actions include: removing and replacing stressed parts; improving legacy design with newer, more reliable technology; remanufacturing unsalvageable or obsolete components; as well as manufacturing custom-designed products.

At our core, PSI is in the business of making wind farms run more efficiently by improving turbine equipment performance. If your turbine equipment fails and you’re in a race against the clock to restore uptime, call us toll-free at 800-325-4774 or visit


Published in Blog

Would you like to save your plant $1,000,000 this year? PSI’s award-winning Repairable Asset Control (RAC®) service offers on-site management of MRO parts and manufacture of obsolete/legacy components.