Archive for December, 2015

The Circuits That Make Your Appliances Work

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

circuitsAll electrical appliances function based on the manipulation of electric circuits, which allow them to be powered by electricity to varying degrees and turn on and off based on whatever controls you program onto the device. Have you ever wondered exactly how this happens? If so, this article is for you:

When you slip a battery into your electronic gadget, you’re allowing for negatively charged electrons to have a path to travel to the positive portion of the battery. They don’t simply flood from one side of the battery to another; they’re forced to take a roundabout path to the other side and, along the way, they manage to power your device.

Any time you’re using a battery, fuel cell, or solar cell to rev up a device, three fundamental principles are going to be in play. The source of the electricity you’re using is going to need to have two terminals, one of which is positive and the other is negative. Additionally, the source of the electricity will need to be set up in such a way that it wants to push electrons out of its negative terminal at a particular voltage (pressure by which the electrons are pushed). To put this in perspective, a double A battery generally wants to push electrons out at a rate of 1.5 volts. Finally, the electrons are going to have to flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal via a conductor, likely a copper wire.

Given all of this new information, you can now better understand the definition of a circuit, which is a path that goes from a positive to a negative terminal in such a way that electrons can flow through the wire.

So long as whatever you want to have move around is attached to the circuit somewhere in the middle, the movement of electrons (electricity) will have to pass through whatever hoops you’ve set for it in order to reach the end of the circuit. That’s how you manage to spin a shaft (for a motor, like the motor in our blender) or generate heat (like for your toaster) or whatever the heck you want to do.

details of the electronic circuit tracks on a printed circuit board, once of 20 images on our "electronik" design pack

Electricity is generally way more complicated than these rudimentary explanations, but know that regardless of what you’re doing, if you’re using electricity to power something, you’re going to have a source of electricity, a wire to the load (or thing you want to power) and a wire back to the other side of the source of electricity. Electrons always move from the source, through the load, and back to the source.

So just to go over it all again, know that moving electrons have energy. As they move from one point to another, they can do work along the way. This work can involve creating heat, which in turn can create light. They can also do the work of creating a magnetic field, which can then interact with other magnets to create motion. Motors, by the way, are basically just working generators in reverse.

Get Blending

Friday, December 4th, 2015

blenderBroken blender? Not a problem; with just a few basic tools and a continuity tester, you don’t have to be an electrical engineer to diagnose and fix a problem with your small appliance. Here’s how to about fixing your first blender:

Keep in mind that the fundamental task of your blender is to spin the motor shaft that in turn allows the blender’s blade to spin. The best way to keep this process problem-free is to refrain from over stuffing your blender and to keep all seals nice and tight. If it’s too late for preventative measure talk, don’t worry, we’ll get to how you can fix it up again.

But first let’s quickly go over the multispeed switch in your blender. It sends currents to the motor based on which speed you chose (which turned the rheostat to a certain level). More current equals faster, more powerful chopping.

The jar of your blender holds liquids, but also must be able to disassembled for cleaning purposes. This means that the blender has to be equipped with seals to keep liquids from escaping into the circuitry. The blender also has a seal around the coupling to make sure liquids don’t seep into the motor.

Ok, time to repair stuff:

blender insideSay the switch is broken, which is pretty common in blenders. Unplug the blender, remove the blender base, and notice that the multispeed switch is attached to the base with clips or screws accessed from underneath the base’s faceplate or from inside the base. You may not need to remove the switch entirely; oftentimes switch issues are caused by loose terminals that can be tightened back up in no time. If, on the other hand, you see a blackened terminal or wire, you have a switch problem.

Whip out your continuity tester and see if that multispeed switch checks out. If not, some compressed air can help to dry and clean out a switch that has suffered some liquid damage. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to replace the switch.

If you’ve got a blown fuse (blenders are made so that fuses will blow before excessive current is sent to the sensitive and more expensive motor; replacing a fuse is much easier and less expensive), remove the blender base and find the fuse in the wire from the multispeed switch to the motor. Disconnect the wire and check it out with your continuity tester. Open circuits mean blown fuses, so if that’s the case your best bet is to replace the faulty in-line fuse with one of identical rating.

Worst case scenario, your motor is malfunctioning. It’s easily tested: use an ohmmeter to test whether the circuit is complete by placing a probe on each cord prong, selecting a speed control button, and reading the resistance on the meter. If the resistance changes when you rotate the drive stud clockwise one turn, the motor needs service. Let an appliance repair shop handle this one.

However helpful this has been so far, it’s important to remember that the most common problems among blenders are caused by jars leaking liquids. You can tighten the base, but if this doesn’t work you may need to replace the gasket.