Arduino Uno quality control

in Arduino by Ian | 10 comments

Moogle was disappointed by his new Arduino Uno. He thought it was pretty unrefined: rough edges, thin solder mask, poorly aligned headers. Arduino responded directly that this is an isolated incident. They will replace any less than perfect hardware. (A Moogle followup post)

Additionally, bongobat may have encountered a major bug in the circuit that switches between USB and external power in all Arduino versions. Pololu Robotics did some investigation and the result isn’t great:

Sparkfun has finished looking into the problem, and it sounds like they are not going to do anything about it. We have put a warning on our page for the Arduino, but there is not much more we can do, either.

After looking into the design, it seems to us that the circuit is just fundamentally flawed, and there is little reason to expect it to work well regardless of which MOSFET is used. The newer MOSFET makes the problem more evident, so it is easily verifiable in all kinds of tests. (These were not just contrived tests: on the one laptop we tried, we measured almost 200mA flowing into the USB port after powering it off. We verified that this occurred across the entire recommended operating range of 7-12V on VIN.) The new Arduino Uno looks like it will have the same basic problem, but we have not tried one yet.

While we do not know of any cases of damage to computers, 200mA is not a trivial amount of current, so we do not recommend leaving an externally-powered Arduino connected to your computer, especially while the computer is off.

Another frequent criticism is that routing on the new board is sloppy. What do you think of the new Arduino board? Have you received the hardware?

The first round of a new design is almost always dogged by some issues. The Uno was available just about everywhere the moment it dropped, it must have been a massive undertaking to set that up. Arduino is a popular piece of hardware with a very active community, someone’s going to find a few issues. And that’s a good thing. Open source projects encourage dialog between developers and users, the community can help identify problems and provide solutions. The developers can roll fixes into the next revision.

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Comments

  1. Joby Taffey says:

    Moogle also followed up with a rebuttal and more points:
    http://wtfmoogle.com/?p=1528

  2. steve says:

    The importance of minimal Q.A can never be stressed strongly enough, design faults happen it is the nature of the beast.

    You make 1 it works you make 10 they work, you make 22,000 and 21,000 don’t work,(been there — seen that)

    However the issues related to assembly of the product and quality assurance on the bare PCB/ final product, would indicate a substandard assembly house, with a lack of incoming and process Quality systems.
    This is far more serious than a design fault, since it generally indicates a lack of process control and as such may later lead to serious issues related to long term product reliability.

    The images that show flux on the main IC are far more serious, since it indicates problems related to soldering systems and possible issues related to FIFO component storage.

    But again this highlights the issues related to using offshore suppliers, ‘u’ pays ur money and ‘u’ takes ur chances.

    • Ian says:

      We feel nothing but love for the Arduino folks, our projects have more errata with WAY fewer in circulation. I’m personally interested in the situation because it shows open hardware in action.

      “But again this highlights the issues related to using offshore suppliers, ‘u’ pays ur money and ‘u’ takes ur chances.”

      In this case, off-shore means Italy. Aren’t all Arduinos made in Italy, and part of the promotion of the product is ‘not made in e.g. China’?

      I totally agree to that top-to-bottom QA/QC is critical. In the course of working on Dangerous Prototypes, I’ve dealt with manufacturing mistakes from companies in the US, China, and elsewhere. Depending on QC/QA, I think the stuff out of China is usually better because they do so much more of it, I can’t find anything in arm’s reach other than an Arduino (.it) and a 9volt (made in EC) that isn’t made in China. Most if it is top-notch. If you cheap out too much you get stuff commiserate with the price paid. Oats once through the horse will be cheaper.

  3. steve says:

    “Aren’t all Arduinos made in Italy, and part of the promotion of the product is ‘not made in e.g. China’?”

    Unfortunately no, I know a couple of suppliers making Arduino , in Dong Guan South China and they are very thoughtfully labeled “Made in Italy”, i can introduce to to a couple more that will gladly label a PCB “Made in U.S.A” if it means they can get an order.

    I’m not suggesting that something is ‘going on’ with the genuine suppliers, just that a label means nothing. (after all there is nothing to stop a supplier sourcing Bare PCB in China, in many cases those PCB’s also make it onto the local market to be populated by ‘local’ suppliers).

    My wife says that it is ok because maybe the factory is called “Italy Ltd” ,thanks love I always value the Chinese perspective……

  4. It looks to me like the Arduino Uno and Duemilanove are both in violation of the USB specifications. I’ve only just now looked at the schematics for the first time, in reaction to these hardware bug reports. I see no diode protection on the USB power line which would prevent the Arduino from sourcing power on the USB – and that’s a big “no no.” The Low Drop-Out diode was invented just for this purpose! :-) Granted, one can assume that the FET will open the circuit and prevent power from being sourced, but it looks like there are many cases where no protection at all is offered.

  5. Zinahe says:

    I continued doing more research on this topic and found out (sorry to say) more mishaps around the UNO.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mightyohm/5051676871/?reg=1&src=comment
    http://forum.pololu.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3083
    http://www.on8rth.be/?p=169

    And it looks like, the Arduino guys have not been listening to people requesting them to involve the community before making decisions like the Arduino Uno SMD (http://arduino.cc/blog/2011/01/08/arduino-uno-smd). They need to find a way to get it in to their heads that there are here because of the community.

    • I hate to disagree, but Arduino came before the Arduino community. Perhaps you can say that the company might have failed by now, or they wouldn’t be as big as they are now without the community. But nothing about the situation means that Arduino owes anything to the community.

      It is a fact of life that Arduino will make the products that they want to make. Whether they involve the community or not is up to them, and depending upon who is smarter we’ll see who’s right in the end.

      If the Arduino community is that much more important than the Arduino company, then why aren’t the community members manufacturing their own boards? Who needs Arduino to involve the community? Open designs can be manufactured by anyone. If Arduino makes a bad choice by ignoring the community, then the worst case is that it leaves the door open for someone else who does pay attention.

  6. Bruce Mc Geehan says:

    Very poor soldering on my uno 3

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