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Old June 7th, 2013, 11:08 PM
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Default TL 12 Electronic Tool Set

I would like to expand some on what should be included in the TL 12 version of the various Mechanical/Electronic/Metalworking tool sets, plus TL 12 Ship's Engineer equipment. I'm going to divide this into four threads, starting off w some of my own ideas, and hoping to get more suggestions from y'all. This thread is for:

TL 12 Electronic Tool Set

First, here is the description for the Electronic Tool Set from The Traveller Book (p.109): TL 7 - 5kg - Cr2000. Necessary tools for basic electronic assembly and repair. May be used with any electronic devices such as communicators, detectors, sensors,and control instruments. Calls for Electronic skill in order to be used properly. Boxed set.

My experience in this area is minimal. I know some about residential wiring and running LAN cables, but nothing about small electronics or repair of same. Suggestions, please!

One thing I think would be very useful would be some sort of fabricator that can make exact replacements for fried chips or fuses or whatever from a feed of raw materials and a descriptive file from the computer, in case you have a problem in transit or on a low-tech world a long way from the nearest Radio Shack.

Maybe a hand computer that can plug into a standardized port on most electronic devices and retrieve diagnostic info to tell you what is wrong and what needs replacement? Could also include a couple of probes and duplicate all functions of standard multimeter.

What else?

Last edited by SpaceBadger; June 8th, 2013 at 02:19 AM.. Reason: added links to connected threads
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Old June 8th, 2013, 03:38 PM
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First, some thoughts on the history of electronic repair.

My Father's Electronics:
When I was very young, I remember watching my father repair his Ham Radio equipment. In a world of vacuum tubes and soldered connections of distinct components to standard project boards with wire jumpers, tubes always burned out and needed replacing. The most common diagnostic tool was God's factory original Eyeball (to look for black tubes or broken filaments). If we assume that some things never change, human sight may continue to be an important diagnostic tool ... augmented with a Magnifying Glass Lamp, a Jewler's Loop and Synthetic Vision Goggles at progressive TLs.
Those big transformers created vibrations that were forever loosening solder connections. So the next most important tool for early electronics was the trusty Soldering Iron along with basic Needle Nose Pliers, Wire Cutters and Wire Stripper. Again, assuming that some sort of wire connections will remain part of Electronics into the Far Future, the need for specialized tools to remove connectors, cut wire/cable to desired length, and attach a new 'plug' on the end of the cable will be needed.

Integrated Circuits and Early PCs
Back in my Computer Days (1980-2000), some things had changed and some things still remained the same. Software ran the diagnostics and 'repair' became more a matter of swapping a bad modular component for a good one. Swap a SIMM, swap a CPU, replace the video card, replace the motherboard, etc. Tools were minimal, Anti-Static Wrist Strap, my father's old Needle Nose Pliers (to move Jumpers on the Motherboard), and my long, fat fingers.

Oops, gotta go ...
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Old June 8th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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A 3D printer to print replacement chips. (Plus a supply of printer materials).



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Old June 8th, 2013, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rancke View Post
A 3D printer to print replacement chips. (Plus a supply of printer materials).

Hans
Does anyone do chip or board level repairs any more?
Does anyone currently print (or in any other way self-manufacture) replacement parts?
[I ask this very seriously.]

From what I see with current technology, the components and modular assemblies are so complex and the equipment to manufacture them so large (economies of scale) and the commercially manufactured components so inexpensive that a printer to manufacture chips will not be practical until the components will have advanced beyond 'electronics'.

In other words, by the time I can print integrated circuit electronics with a portable printer, my starship 'electronics' will be optical and quantum and beyond the capability of a portable printer (requiring a 10 dTon machine costing tens of millions of credits). By the time I can print optical-quantum chips with a portable unit, will my ship be using biological organic modules that again cannot be manufactured with a portable printer.

In short, I question the ability of home printers to ever manufacture state-of-the-art electronics.

I welcome any practical experience that anyone may have concerning cottage manufacturing and state of the art technology.
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Old June 8th, 2013, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atpollard View Post
Does anyone do chip or board level repairs any more?
Does anyone currently print (or in any other way self-manufacture) replacement parts?
[I ask this very seriously.]
Board level repairs? yes. CustomCPU in Anchorage does chip desolder/replacement, and especially notable, fixes broken power plugs on laptops. K's Appliance will fix broken solder on appliance control boards; they've also been known to mill replacement bits at the store for various small appliances.

CustomCPU has also been known to fix non-computer electronics, when convinced you intend to actually pay for the diagnostics and repair.
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Old June 8th, 2013, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atpollard View Post
In short, I question the ability of home printers to ever manufacture state-of-the-art electronics.
I hear what you are saying, and can't think of any good arguments against it, however I think that a starfaring society would have to deal somehow with the problem of electronic parts going bad while the ship is away from port. A few ideas:

1) carry LOTS of spare parts; or

2) use parts that are a bit below your max TL, so that your fabricators can make replacement parts when needed.

Otherwise you end up with lots of ships getting stranded and waiting for someone to happen along with spares.
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Old June 8th, 2013, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atpollard View Post
Does anyone do chip or board level repairs any more?

Oh, yes, very much so. One of my current clients repairs set top boxes for a nationwide cable TV corporation. Set top boxes are essentially computers and, as the cable industry migrates to cloud-type operations, set top boxes will become even more so.

The repair center's "footprint" ranges from New England to Richmond, VA to western Pennsylvania. You would not believe the "throughput" their facility sees. I am still amazed and I've been dealing with large industries for a quarter century now.

Quote:
Does anyone currently print (or in any other way self-manufacture) replacement parts? [I ask this very seriously.])
In all seriousness, the answer is "It Depends". Additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing, is advancing at a fantastic rate. What will be done at a tabletop hobbyist level only 5 years from now will surprise even me.

Quote:
In other words, by the time I can print integrated circuit electronics with a portable printer, my starship 'electronics' will be optical and quantum and beyond the capability of a portable printer (requiring a 10 dTon machine costing tens of millions of credits). By the time I can print optical-quantum chips with a portable unit, will my ship be using biological organic modules that again cannot be manufactured with a portable printer.
A very good and cogent point. Let me counter with the idea that manufacturing machinery has never produced it's own raw materials. The Brown & Sharpe screw machines I set-up as a teenager didn't create the tooling or the raw materials they used but they could make any number of things with both.

Quote:
In short, I question the ability of home printers to ever manufacture state-of-the-art electronics.
I think the problem here is that 3D printing is being presented as the latest Santa Claus machine ala nanotechnology. 3D printing isn't magic, it cannot spin gold from straw. 3D printing is merely a more capable method of assembly(1), it is not a "transmuter".

What it 3D printing can do - and what it will do in the future - will depend very much on the materials and components available to the "printer", the tooling available to the "printer", and the instructions available to the "printer". A ship isn't going to be able to "print up" a new gravitic compensator, maser modulator, or left handed smoke shifter without first having all the necessary materials, components, tooling, and schematics.

Some play examples would be:

A doppler compensator for the radio? Yeah, I've got everything we need for that.

We've got enough matrix materials for it but only three of the four LA-8897 chips required. I could strip one out of an environmental control unit but that would mean shutting down a stateroom.

Z axis field controller for the MHD? No way. I don't even have the schematics for it, Fluid-Dynamics keeps their prices high, and can't even guess what components are required.

1 - By assembly, I'm referring not only to printing or the laying down of material(s), but also the "pick & place" of previously manufactured components.
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Old June 8th, 2013, 08:19 PM
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With the right system, one could have an automated microcircuit printer on one's desktop... the problem being that it's using exceedingly dangerous materials.

In all seriousness, I think that the computing tech is going to slow down. (it already is slowing down in computational power growth. It's moved from direct individual processor performance to multiple, less powerful, but better used, cores.)

I don't see a potential problem with an Electronics shop having a fabricator that performs standard chip manufacture... need not be fast, just accurate.
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Old June 9th, 2013, 01:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramis View Post
I don't see a potential problem with an Electronics shop having a fabricator that performs standard chip manufacture... need not be fast, just accurate.
Also, as atpollard noted in the Mechanics Tools fabricator, a piece made this way probably costs 10 times as much as a mass-produced piece from a regular manufacturer, which is why you reserve it for emergencies and don't just make everything this way.
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Old June 9th, 2013, 05:12 AM
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Nope, nope, nope.

Having worked in the semiconductor industry, a 3D printer isn't going to pump out any kind of microchip that I can see.

The process I worked had over 8000 distinct steps, and the dangers of one of the dopants we used (arsenic) limits home-based manufacture, in my opinion.

However, I have been wrong before...
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