Thursday, March 27, 2014

EQUIPMENT FAILURE CAN BE A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

Diffusion pump taken apart for repair.
I was in the lab with students at Niagara College when the diffusion pump gave out (finally) on the coating chamber beside the one we were using. At the school with students it was an excellent opportunity to show them how to take a high vacuum pump off a coating chamber (letting it cool, venting the pump, draining the water etc.) and see inside the pump. Operation of various pumps is part of the curriculum but getting some hands on with them isn't. This group of student will graduate with a little extra experience.

In a production environment a failure like this can prove disastrous. But don't let the same opportunity go to waste with your staff.

Most technicians, engineers and management don't get to see the inside of a pump that often, or at all. Labs usually have one or two people that swoop in and take care of the repair and/or replacement of failed equipment. Some contract that kind of work out to companies like Intlvac. When you have a failure of any kind (diff pump, gauge head, water leak in the chamber...) take a moment or two and gather everyone to get a perspective or view of equipment we normally don't get to see. And when it's failed equipment make sure to point out the failure.

Broken lab and production equipment is one of those things no one wants but at the same time it can be an invaluable opportunity for you and your staff.

P.S. A couple of years ago I found a very small leak in a meissner trap in a Satisloh 1200 DLF. The polycold gas was leaking into the vacuum. After some troubleshooting and realizing what the problem was I was excited. Maybe a little too excited because the GM wasn't pleased with my attitude towards what turned out to be an expensive replacement part. BUT... I got to see what a meissner trap leak looked like while the chamber was trying to pump down to start pressure. I even grabbed a couple of people to come and see.

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