Jerry Ludy

Traics continue to FAIL, why?

80 posts in this topic

There was a case several years back where a major manufacturer of Triacs (ST Micro) made several bad batches at a plant in China.  Those should all have made their way through the supply chain by now.

 

Hmmm... the two controllers I'm having problems with are my newest.  One bought last year and one bought this year.  I wonder if this is could be my issue?

 

I lost another channel last night so that makes 5 for me this year(which is 5 more than I've had the previous 5 years).  All on these two controllers and all loaded with 100ct incandescent lights or less.

 

Note, when the channels die I move them to a controller I bought 6-7 years ago and so far so good.

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From what I remember there was a fair amount of chatter about this about 3 years ago.  Good lesson to have an extra controller on hand to swap out if you need to while fixing the other.  

 

As my dad always told me.  "If you are go to play, be ready to pay".  Of course he was talking about other matters, it applies here as well.

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It's been a while for this post, but I thought I'd throw in my experiences.  Right now I have 76 LOR 1602's, old generation, G3's etc.  I keep 10 extra LOR units (86 total) on hand for spares, as I typically lose a unit for some reason about every 4 days or so.  My display is completely LED, by the way.

 

1. Most failures (I'd guess 80%) are blown triacs, and are usually on parts of the display that have no more than 4 strings connected together.  They fail in the 'always on' state.

2. In ALL cases, the failure occurred sometime between the show shut down and startup the next day.  That is, it was working fine right as the show ended (midnight), and the triac was blown when the show started up at 6:00 PM the next day.

3. I fix many of the triacs myself, but I send some back to LOR for repair.  Kinda depends on my mood.

4. I'd LOVE a socketed triac implementation, if that is ever possible in the future.

5. For some reason, my G3 units have a much higher incidence of triac failures than the older units.  I have about 8 G3 units, and all others are the older versions.  So far this year (since Nov 28th), I've had 17 triacs blown/replaced, and all but one were in the G3 units.

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What can be really frustrating is that most of the people here on the forums know what they are doing -- That is they know how NOT to overload a triac.  Since we (board members) only seem to hear from people who know what they are doing, that 1% of failures sounds more like the norm.

 

You guys don't get to see the help desk where we get them every day.  We had one the other day where the user melted both of the fuse holders.  Those fuse holders are rated for more than 20A, so melting them is pretty difficult.  He had no clue what his loads were.  I'm 100% sure when that controller comes in for repair it's going to need triacs as well.  

 

On the other hand, I can NOT discount that other 1%:

  • I have personally seen 8A triacs fail with a .16A load.  
  • I have personally seen triacs that can fully turn OFF the load, but for some reason flicker ON and OFF for no good reason.  
  • I have personally seen triacs that have no issue with full off, or full on.  Trying something inbetween just turns them on solid.
  • I have even seen a triac work BACKWARDS - telling it to turn on turned it off.  Turning it off turned it ON (at around 50%)

I'd also like to point out it's not a question of cost or quality.  Triac problems like this span every mfg and every end user.  There is (at least IMHO) no one company that makes better triacs than another.  The triacs used in LOR controllers are well over-specified for what they should handle.  

 

I know it sounds like a cop-out, but sometimes triacs just die.

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I just noticed one of mine isn't quite shutting off. There's still a lot of ice out there so all I can do is wait and see after the ice is gone.


Its just a single channel and only two small strings of LED's on that channel so current draw is probably next to nothing.

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just my two cents, few dozen LOR boards in my display count, only have two bad channels over the years, and yes I push some of my channels to the max of the ratings.

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I have found over the years that "ANYTHING MADE BY MAN, CAN AND WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL!"  So a few triacs needing to be replaced is not a big deal to me.  BUT, it would be great if they were socketed :D

 

Tom Straub

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A quick question... is there any output protection on the triacs (true RC snubber for example)?  From what I remember in the older 1602's, there wasn't really anything like that.  You wouldn't think there's much of an inductive load with (in my case) LED strings, but I've never really set out to measure it either.

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Does LOR or someone else, sell the actual triacs that we can purchase? Since some boards are 30Amps and others are 40Amps, are the triacs different as I would imagine they are?

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Several links exist.

Before Gen3, all used 16A parts. Now all use 24A parts, and these can be installed on the prior boards as well.

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I've lost between 1 and 3 every year. I'm all LED so I'm not overloading them and I doubt I'm shorting them out because when I move them to a new channel all works great for weeks (shorts don't heal themselves). I've just come to think it is a fact of life and live with it. Having LOR come up with an automated routine that would change a channel assignment to all my sequences would at least take the big pain in the butt out of it anyway

Lost one on the first night this year already.

Jim.  This tool http://forums.lightorama.com/index.php?/topic/30005-lor-cc-dmx-lets-you-use-cc-in-the-visualizer-and-dmx-in-the-show/ should do that.  Just make both the source and destination LOR and make the start channel the same as the max channel:

{
    sourceDirectory: "s:\\Light-O-Rama\\Sequences\\Christmas\\2013",
    destDirectory: "s:\\Light-O-Rama\\Sequences\\Christmas",
    mappings:[
        {
            name: "bad channel",
            From: {
                protocol: LOR,
                network: D,
                units: [1],
                startChannel: 5,
                maxChannel: 5
            },
            To: {
                protocol: LOR,
                network: D,
                units: [1],
                startChannel: 8,
                maxChannel: 8
 
            }
        }
    ]
}

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I got your PM with the ticket number, and you are absolutely correct -- rather than offer to send you some, we only gave you some links to buy them.  We really dropped the ball, I apologize for that.

 

I'm going to re-open your ticket and get some sent to you.  

Dropped the ball on my request too, however I've already gotten my replacement and don't need/want you to send me replacements.  Just wanted to provide another data point.

 

Jim.  This tool 

http://forums.lightorama.com/index.php?/topic/30005-lor-cc-dmx-lets-you-use-cc-in-the-visualizer-and-dmx-in-the-show/

should do that for you...  Just make both the source and destination LOR and make the start channel the same as the max channel:

{
    sourceDirectory: "s:\\Light-O-Rama\\Sequences\\Christmas\\2013",
    destDirectory: "s:\\Light-O-Rama\\Sequences\\Christmas",
    mappings:[
        {
            name: "bad channel",
            From: {
                protocol: LOR,
                network: D,
                units: [1],
                startChannel: 5,
                maxChannel: 5
            },
            To: {
                protocol: LOR,
                network: D,
                units: [1],
                startChannel: 8,
                maxChannel: 8
 
            }
        }
    ]
}

 

Darn bleeding link and lack of edit.   It's fixed in the above quote.

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So is there a way I could put a meter on a triac to test if it is good or not!\?

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So is there a way I could put a meter on a triac to test if it is good or not!\?

 

Yes. Triac tester here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Atlas-SCR100-Thyristor-and-Triac-Tester-/161061126371?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item257ffdc0e3

 

I have one and it works very well.

 

This triac is about the biggest you can get at 24 amps without outgrowing the circuit board.

 

Keep spares if you need to.

 

I have theatre type of dimmers that can use the bigger 40 amp versions.

But they have a bigger spread on the terminals and won't fit into LOR devices.

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Another Issue that DevMike didn't mention:

 

Supply of electronics, LOR buys from "X" company, they in turn (X) buy from a supplier or mfg. overseas, HOWEVER, that supplier can be fooled (this is NOT LOR's fault), the supplier can be buying clone units (they look like they are the real manufactures, BUT are NOT). heck, even the supplier doesn't know they are clones, these are generally 3rd rate parts (again, this is NOT LOR's fault, they (LOR) are at the mercy of the supplier, and even the supplier can be "duuped").

 

Clone electronics have become a multi billion dollar industry, why ? that's easy... people always want stuff cheaper..........

 

This is NOT in any way a LOR issue, this is up the chain from them, I'm NOT saying they buy junk, what I'm saying is there is junk out there, and many companies or suppliers can be fooled.......

 

Greg

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Another Issue that DevMike didn't mention:

 

Supply of electronics, LOR buys from "X" company, they in turn (X) buy from a supplier or mfg. overseas, HOWEVER, that supplier can be fooled (this is NOT LOR's fault), the supplier can be buying clone units (they look like they are the real manufactures, BUT are NOT). heck, even the supplier doesn't know they are clones, these are generally 3rd rate parts (again, this is NOT LOR's fault, they (LOR) are at the mercy of the supplier, and even the supplier can be "duuped").

 

Clone electronics have become a multi billion dollar industry, why ? that's easy... people always want stuff cheaper..........

 

This is NOT in any way a LOR issue, this is up the chain from them, I'm NOT saying they buy junk, what I'm saying is there is junk out there, and many companies or suppliers can be fooled.......

 

Greg

 

Counterfeit products are indeed a problem when it comes to electronics.  You don't need to search too hard to find major companies that have had issues with components failing because they were counterfeited.

 

For example, Dell took it on the chin a several years ago when capacitors on their motherboards started going kaput.  The problem was traced back to a company that was producing Electrolytic Capacitors with a stolen INCORRECT electrolyte formula.  I believe Apple took a hit from it as well with their G5.

 

There is/was a problem with certain pixel products based on a certain chip.  My memory is very fuzzy on this so please correct me.  At the time a single company owned the patent for a chip that could be used to drive RGB pixel type products.  China immediately started making clones, but the problem was that many were seized by US Customs because they were counterfeit.  

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Yes. Triac tester here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Atlas-SCR100-Thyristor-and-Triac-Tester-/161061126371?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item257ffdc0e3

 

I have one and it works very well.

 

This triac is about the biggest you can get at 24 amps without outgrowing the circuit board.

 

Keep spares if you need to.

 

I have theatre type of dimmers that can use the bigger 40 amp versions.

But they have a bigger spread on the terminals and won't fit into LOR devices.

 

:rolleyes:   Thanks for the quick reply Ken!  I have GOT to get one of those!  That will make diagnosing issues MUCH easier!  ;)

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Obviously whenever the word 'triac' is mentioned it generates a lot of post!

Now for my question.  I have about a dozen bad triacs over about 3 dozen controllers.  I have a kid with better eyes than me who has offered to replace the bad ones.  I can see them on the circuit board.  Is it possible to unsolder the old one and replace it with the new one without removing the board from the plastic case?  Or do I need to take it all apart and remove the board so he can get to the backside of the circuit board?

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Simply put, unless you've soldered before, it sounds like you haven't, its best to let LOR handle this for you. You must remove the board to access the bottom of it where the triac is soldered. You'll need a solder sucker or solder removal strip, plus the correct size of soldering iron for this board. If you use the wrong size, it either won't be hot enough, therefore the triac won't come out or too hot and you'll fry the board. Also, you need to know how to solder to insure you don't bridge other circuits or create what's called "cold solder joints". If you burn the board, you could easily ruin it.

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Agree, there is no way you will be able to get the solder on the back of the board to flow properly from the top. Also best way to do this is to take side cutters and try to cut the leads near the body of the Triac. Leaving something to grab a hold of once the solder has melted. Then come back and clean the board via solder sucker as mentioned and what is called solder wick that dgrant was trying to put name to. Ok this is just my opinion and I am sure that there will be others who disagree. I would use nothing less than 80 watts myself. But been building for the past 40 years. Still lift pads from time to time, but its been some years since the last time.

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I should have said also that with 80 watts. Do not stay on the joint more than 4 seconds. Or you might burn the board and lift pads as dgrant stated.  Give the kid an old board and tell him to show you his technique. Hey we all need to learn by doing and you will be giving the kid a chance to help and build his skills. But he has to agree to back off if you ask him to.

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Thanks Max-Paul, I certainly could not remember the name of that copper wicking strip. My mind drew a mental blank all of a sudden even though I could see it clearly. Normally for most cards, I use either an adjustible soldering iron with temp display or stick with a lower 35 watt iron. Not forgetting a card holder for better access!

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FYI.  By the way I'm posting with IE 11.0.1   Everyone should/need to know that any electronic failures (televisions, receivers, computers, etc, and LOR controllers are typically caused by excess heat.  I have the large heat sinks in all but one of my controllers and I've only had 1 triac fail in the last 6 years.  It's my believe that was caused by a short in one of my unfused C9 strings that had four strings connected together (about 6 amps total).  You can't overload Triacs.  You need to calculate/measure your current loads on all circuits if you want to help your controllers operate without trouble.

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Dang, all of this bad jue jue has hexed me. Now I have a string on at 100%. Opened the box and the Triac related to this string of LEDs does not have a screw holding it to the heat sink. I cant believe I forgot to install a screw. And did not give the box a good looking for the screw. I suspect that the LEDs (one string of 100 C6) was enough to blow it. Must have been some of the rain/ice that did me in too.  Oh well looks like I am going to join everyone else replacing a Triac. And then make sure it is screwed to my home made heat sink. I only run LEDs thus only a few amps. So my piece of 1.5" angle aluminum does the job. And it is just a bit longer so I can use it to screw into the box to mount it.

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