…and coming back

So, I get into work Monday morning, dive immediately for the coffee machine to get a pot started, and get allllmost fully seated at my desk when one of the Mechies calls up with “Tim, you’re here! Um…can I come over?”. These are some of those words you just love to hear, like when a girlfriend says “we need to talk…”. Normally people just prariedog their heads around the corner, visually poll for a human and start gabbering; they don’t ask formal permission to enter. Something is up.

Sure enough, in pops Mechie with a dire emergency. I guess Friday or so, one of the lab’s two production routers (again, the mechanical, jigsaw cutting kind, not the computer kind) blew a controller box, and they sprang into action, disemboweling an almost-working spare in a misguided effort to fix it by replacing parts at random. By the time I showed up Monday morning, someone had removed the Y axis motor (stripping out one of the screws in the process) and took the Y axis ballscrew assembly apart, liberating some several dozen ball bearings all over the floor. Really, a ball screw is kind of like one of those novelty peanut cans full of spring-loaded snakes, except instead of snakes, it’s loaded with dozens to hundreds of little ball bearings instead. So yeah, dozens of these bouncing all over the floor, probably not to be seen again.

I get downstairs and Ozo Support Guy is down in the lab waiting for us. I guess someone called him up in desperation Friday and said to book a ticket for Wed. (presumably after an EE could look at it), but he grabbed the first red-eye to be here early Monday morning instead, so here he is. I thought that was a bit cheesy, but on the other hand, it took him all of about 3 minutes to diagnose the problem and have the machine functional again (about long enough for me to come back with a scope expecting possibly hours of debugging), pulling the control box from the spare. $1200 consulting bill later, we have a (mostly) working machine again, just needing to be sort of trial-and-error realigned as Mechie pulled the leadscrew/Y stepper/index wheel off this one too, completely screwing up the factory calibration. (The index wheel is a part that helps the machine determine its home position. After being removed, fiddled around and reattached in an arbitrary position, “home” may be up to a full leadscrew rotation off of where it’s supposed to be…) Something tells me it’s going to take a lifetime of chasing to get Mechie to corral the ball bearings and put my Almost Working spare back together. In fact, something tells me it’s not going to happen within my lifetime (I either end up fixing it again myself, else relegating the whole project to the Fuckit Bucket.)

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