Toyota is as Toyota Does

Everyone else seems to be writing about Toyota sudden acceleration problems, so I should probably do that too.

Or should I? Personally, I have absolutely no solid information about what’s going on with Toyota cars. There’s an awful lot written, much of if by people that also don’t have any real information on the subject. Here’s what I do know though:

  • Some people (some with actual knowledge and some without) are speculating that electronics might have something to do with the problems.

That’s about all I know relative to the specific concerns. On the soft side, I do know that people tend to pick on the big guy. Funny how none of this was big news until Toyota became the #1 car maker in the world. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. I also know that in any system there are gobs of places where issues can lead to failures. Of course, to counter that, I know that good, well thought out design – both in the hardware and the software, can produce a quality product that will keep working. Of course, to counter that, I know that good, well thought out design – both in the hardware and the software, can produce a quality product that will keep working. In summary, I really don’t know anything about the Toyota issues

However, any time some sort of actual or potential technical problem makes big news, it’s not a bad idea for those that design and build things to take a step back and evaluate our design practices. I’ve got software in my past, so I’d have to suggest a good solid code review, if you don’t already do one, but today, I’m talking about hardware so I’ll sample just a few things to double check.     

* Those pesky land patterns: Does the land pattern fit the part? Will the copper area and stencil opening allow for a good solid IPC-passing solder joint? It’s so common (as you well know if you read here regularly) to re use or create new CAD part foot prints. Make sure the foot print, stencil, mask and silk layers fit properly.

* Vias in pads: Plug them and plate over them when using small parts. If the solder surface is big enough, like with a power component, you might be able to just cap them, but don’t leave the vias open. In some cases, you may be able to leave very tiny vias open on thermal pads, but it’s best never to.

* Thermal mass: This is important both for operation and for assembly. If you’ve got components that sink and/or generate lots of heat, make sure there is enough air flow to cool them during operation and make sure that the assembly house can build it. Put a couple of high thermal mass parts too close together and an otherwise perfect PCB assembly may end up with some cold solder joints or damaged components that later come back to bite you or your customers.

There are lots of other things to check out too, but those three are just some of the more common traps to keep tabs on.

Duane Benson

I don’t have a Toy Yoda. If I did, I’d sell in on eBay.

2 thoughts on “Toyota is as Toyota Does

  1. This is the kind of thing that happens
    when you replace a 49 cent throttle cable
    with 39 cents worth of electronics.

  2. The old “throttle cable” .. would not pass the expectations being placed on Toyota’s system.

    Throttle being disabled by brake? …. nope.
    Throttle defaulting to “safe” condition under all possible failure conditions? … nope.
    Broken return springs and broken cable at same time are possible (yes, very rare)
    By everyone’s account.. Toyota’s problem is very rare.

    Are the current expectations being put on Toyota .. reasonable? .. depends who you ask.

    Is there room for improvement in the product/processes?…
    It would be a very rare occasion if there wasn’t room for some improvement.

    as for plugging vias….
    I am getting mixed signals from industry “experts” on the reliability of plugged vias.. (thermal expansion of a plugged via vs cross section of pcb.. not so good)
    Depends on which process was used in plugging the vias .

    An expert stated in a presentation this last fall (has PHD on the subject, “world renown”, etc) … Open vias , correctly done , same reliability as correctly plugged vias. ..
    He presented the data to support this statement.
    He was addressing the question to a group of pcb designers.

    as usual.. devil in the details…

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