Smoothieboard QA issues [RESOLVED]

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Smoothieboard QA issues [RESOLVED]

Postby 626Pilot » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:53 pm

EDIT: All clear on this. They explained what happened and why, and what they're doing to correct the issue - they seem to be on point. I shipped the board back, and have received a refund. I may rejoin the Smoothie project next year when they release the Smoothieboard 2.




I'm posting this thread to notify the community of a serious problem I've had with Uberclock, and a more serious problem with Smoothieboards in general. In time, I hope to discover whether this problem was just a forgivable technical issue, or something else.

I ordered two Smoothieboard 5XCs and two of the beefier 5V regulators from Uberclock.com on 7/31/15. I received them in the mail, and discovered that the first one wouldn't home correctly. You can see why in the attached photo:

20150810_190426.jpg

That "QC PASS" sticker seems ironic to me. :lol: I was scratching my head at why it wouldn't home, when I looked down at the board and saw one of its own capacitors sitting on the table next to it. It had fallen off during assembly, without even being touched. I then tested the rest of the caps, and found that another peeled off as though it was held in place with a weak adhesive. The rest of the capacitors had no give at all, indicating that they had been soldered properly. I went on the Smoothie IRC channel and wolfmanjm (pretty sure it was him) said that this was a known issue - the caps aren't always soldered properly. They know this is going on - not just in my case, but in general.

On 8/11/15, I sent this email to mark@uberclock.com, which is published on their store page:
This was an order for two Smoothieboards. One is okay. The other is DOA. Wired up the board and discovered that two axes wouldn't move. Looked next to the board and saw a cap just sitting on the table next to it. It had come off because it wasn't soldered properly. I tested the rest and found another one peeled off with very little effort. The rest were in there solidly.

I'd like this to be replaced. Please send me a shipping label.

On 8/24/15, I hadn't heard back. I sent another email asking for an answer within two days, and stating that I would take action to recover my losses if it was not answered.

It's 8/26/15, after the close of business everywhere in the continental US. There has been no answer. I have filed a dispute with my credit card issuer in order to recover the cost of one of the boards.

I don't know whether Mark's email is busted/full/etc. Maybe that's the problem, and getting dinged by his bank will be what wakes him up to the issue. On the other hand, maybe it's something else. I can't know because I have no information about the man, or any contact from him concerning this issue.

The Smoothie team has acknowledged in public (the IRC channel) that this is a known issue. Because it's not a freak accident, and because they have been unable to get their QA process good enough to catch these duds before they're sent out, my recommendation is that no one buy a Smoothieboard of any kind unless and until they have this issue fixed "for real". Based on what I've seen and been told, if you buy one of these, you're rolling the dice for over a hundred and fifty bucks - and if you roll wrong, you'll have to go after them through whatever bank or credit card issuer you used to pay for the transaction.

The Azteeg X5 is one alternative. I went through two of those in less than half a year (one has CPU "stuttering", the other has a blown bed heater FET), so I can't say my own experience has been very good. However, if I don't see some immediate improvement in communication and QA process from the Smoothieboard camp, I just can't recommend that anyone allow their business (or even leisure) to rely on the Smoothieboard. If I wasn't so heavily invested in improving the firmware, this would be the event that sent me back to the dinky Arduino controllers.
Last edited by 626Pilot on Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby Jimustanguitar » Wed Aug 26, 2015 9:00 pm

It's not a through-hole component that you could repair yourself? That sucks.

They ought to revise their capacitors anyway. After reading up on this thread: http://makerhive.proboards.com/thread/1 ... n-steppers one of our MakerHive members who's a really sharp retired EE had a hunch and looked up the TI whitepaper for that stepper driver. It appeared to him that the power supply capacitor for that driver is severely undersized and might be causing the voltage issue in the blog post.

I hope there's a real issue with their email and that this isn't just business as usual for them. I know that I've contacted them multiple times about being a beta for their LCD panels and never received a response or acknowledgement.

Good luck!

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby KAS » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:11 am

Same issue with one of mine, but I was able to solder it back on. viewtopic.php?f=82&t=8249#p69342

Yesterday I fried one of the mosfets that control the layer fan. I was able to get a part number fairly quickly from Cecil on IRC.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby Captain Starfish » Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:21 am

Board production issue. Either there's too big a groundplane under the pads or there's enough conductivity up into the lead of the caps. Either way, the joint ain't getting hot enough and the solder pad's not taking to the cap. These things happen, they should be sorting it out for you. Or by the looks you could probably hand solder the caps back on, just get them the right way around.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby Eric » Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:28 pm

Yes, anyone with a good iron and some practice hand-soldering surface mount could fix the caps pretty quick. Not that customers should need those skills to get a working board.

But that's beside the point of this thread...it's more about quality control and customer service, and the future reputation of the supplier. 626 is playing hardball now. Hope it has the desired effect.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby 626Pilot » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:38 pm

KAS wrote:Same issue with one of mine, but I was able to solder it back on. viewtopic.php?f=82&t=8249#p69342

Yesterday I fried one of the mosfets that control the layer fan. I was able to get a part number fairly quickly from Cecil on IRC.

Your cap has legs on it, so I think I could fix something like that - but in this case, the capacitor sits directly on top of the pads. It might take a reflow oven to fix this. I don't know. SMD is less than a percent of my soldering experience. I feel a bit lost.

In any case, I'd rather they replace the board, and fix their broken quality control process. "You're an engineer, fix it yourself" is not the level of service I want to see coming from my preferred hardware vendor. (Not that that's necessarily their attitude, but right now, how can I tell what their attitude is? They don't respond to email.)

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby Captain Starfish » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:51 pm

Absolutely, I'd be chasing a new board.

Because you don't know what those caps are there for, just looking at them. Probably supply filtering, but it's anyone's guess. And in the process of being disconnected from a live circuit, was any damage done to the processor or drivers? You don't know.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby KAS » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:07 pm

It's the same cap, I was able to heat the pad and flow it back without issue. But I used an extremely small tip.

I purchased two boards with one being defective and replaced. The replacement was received with the cap rattling in the box. Decided to repair it myself and never do business with them again.

Exacto for comparison.
20150827_200105.jpg

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby plasma » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:15 pm

Because of the poor quality control from smoothieboard, I ordered this board instead. Its a replica but with excellent quality upon arrival. I have used this board for 4 months now without a hiccup.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Milkshake-Board-5XC-V1-0a-like-Smoothieboard-3D-Printer-CNC-Electronics-/261813722234?var=&hash=item3cf5505c7a

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby 626Pilot » Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:30 pm

plasma wrote:Because of the poor quality control from smoothieboard, I ordered this board instead. Its a replica but with excellent quality upon arrival. I have used this board for 4 months now without a hiccup.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Milkshake-Board-5XC-V1-0a-like-Smoothieboard-3D-Printer-CNC-Electronics-/261813722234?var=&hash=item3cf5505c7a

That's almost twice the money for maybe 5% more value. I won't tell anyone not to buy that board, but to me, overcharging like that is an abuse of capitalism. Crap like this drives up the inflation rate for no good reason. I won't reward someone for doing that unless I have absolutely no other choice. I hate that more than I hate lazy quality control.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby bot » Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:53 am

If you have any inclination to adapt a Dynomotion Kflop+kstep into a 3d printer, that would be greeeeaaat. (I'm helping someone get a 3d printer working and that's the controller he went with.)
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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby geneb » Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:12 am

I'd contact Ultimachine and see what Johnny's cooking up. He's the guy behind the RAMBo board and I'd be surprised if he wasn't working on an ARM board.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby stonewater » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:09 pm

not to hijack the thread here, but how are the hotend mounts coming along?
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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby ZakRabbit » Sat Aug 29, 2015 2:13 am

626Pilot, I wonder if you reached out to Arthur Wolf over at Robotseed if they could help you. He seems to know what it is that's going on at Uberclock, and he's very active on the smoothieware.org forum. I know you've put a TON of work into this and have been a huge proponent of Smoothie (it was your posts that helped me make the decision to go with this board) and I hate that you have to go through this. I do hope things get worked out.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby 626Pilot » Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:09 am

stonewater wrote:not to hijack the thread here, but how are the hotend mounts coming along?

Are you asking me? I don't know what that refers to.

ZakRabbit wrote:626Pilot, I wonder if you reached out to Arthur Wolf over at Robotseed if they could help you.

He would need a time machine to help me. Here is where I am with Smoothie right now:


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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby geneb » Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:57 am

Best mic drop ever. :D

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby stonewater » Sat Aug 29, 2015 10:46 am

626Pilot wrote:
stonewater wrote:not to hijack the thread here, but how are the hotend mounts coming along?

Are you asking me? I don't know what that refers to.

these parts you were making:

viewtopic.php?f=41&t=7266&p=60856#p60856


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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby KAS » Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:34 am

travelphotog is making those mounts. Unless I missed something?

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby stonewater » Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:53 pm

oops.... sorry my bd.


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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby ZakRabbit » Sat Aug 29, 2015 5:58 pm

It makes me very sad indeed they did not get back to you in time to remedy the situation, I agree there is no excuse to treat a "regular" customer with silence, let alone someone who's put as much effort into furthering the development as you have. I'm looking forward to see where you go from here though.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby Captain Starfish » Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:35 pm

Glad to hear that these might not be the best choice, thanks for sharing.

I'm looking at upgrading my 4 axis router to 5 axes at the moment and smoothies were being thrown around as a viable candidate for the control board.

The search continues.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby 626Pilot » Sat Aug 29, 2015 10:00 pm

Captain Starfish wrote:Glad to hear that these might not be the best choice, thanks for sharing.

I'm looking at upgrading my 4 axis router to 5 axes at the moment and smoothies were being thrown around as a viable candidate for the control board.

The search continues.

I'm currently looking at the BeagleBone Black + one of its 3D printing "capes", or the Duet.

BBB + cape is apparently a big pain in the ass because you have to rely on different projects that are "not integrated/talking to each other". However, it has really powerful specs. I'm waiting to hear back on whether the pain is just in setting it up, or in running it day-to-day. Firmwares available are MachineKit and EMC2. I've never used MachineKit, and have no idea what it's like to work on/with. I use EMC2 on my big Probotix router, but that's on a PC with Ubuntu. I don't know how they changed it to run on the BeagleBone. I will say that the BeagleBone has two PRUs, which are independent processors that can run real-time code while the main CPU is busy doing something else. That seems to be an advantage for controlling robots.

The Duet provides five, seven, or nine axes, depending on whether you get one of the expansion boards. I want six axes, so that's good for me. It runs a little slower than the Smoothieboard (84MHz rather than 120), but it has 96K RAM instead of Smoothieboard's 64. It's still annoyingly split into multiple banks (64+32), but the main memory space is as big as all three of Smoothieboard's segments (32+16+16) put together. This makes memory management less rickety, but still microscopic compared to the BeagleBone's 512MB. Sadly, the firmware is Arduino-based, and nowhere near as well-organized as Smoothie.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby ZakRabbit » Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:03 am

The CRAMPS cape has provisions for 6 modular steppers, and from what I understand, there are Beaglebone specific releases of Debian/embedded Machinekit. I believe Octoprint is the interface used, I'm not sure if that's what mhackney was referring to with the non-integrated projects. https://designmakeshare.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/initial-setup-cramps-beaglebone-cape-with-machinekit/ This is what I keep coming back to, my only "issue" is that it's over a year old and my searches don't seem to be showing any newer development.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby bubbasnow » Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:06 am

machinekit development is pretty active, check out the google group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/machinekit

when i run my bbb+bebopr i use the linuxcnc interface, just like mach or w/e in cnc.

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Re: Smoothieboard capacitors falling off, can't contact merc

Postby SystemsGuy » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:12 am

Interesting - I've had exactly the opposite experience with support for both my Smoothies, and they've been running since the Kickstarter shipped. One of mine didn't work out of the box, and Uberclock actually shipped me a new one without waiting on me to ship mine back.

The above said - there is no excuse for not taking care of your customers, just sayin' with a small operation I'm willing to cut 'em some slack - and it's still the best game in town if you are running a delta.


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