Don Davidson Computer
Posted 3-29-03 / Old post, but heed the warnings of cheap motherboards.

Possible Short Circuits - Archives
Note: Most of these problems have been rectified on the newer boards

Bad System Board Capacitors!

More pictures below

 On September 13, 2002, it was reported to Passive Component Industry Magazine by contacts in Japan that an unusually high rate of failures of aluminum electrolytic capacitors produced in Taiwan by Lelon Electronics, Luxon Electronics, and other aluminum capacitor manufacturers had been traced to a problem with an aqueous electrolyte (insulation) that had been used throughout the Taiwanese electrolytic capacitor industry. Reportedly, the problem developed after a materials scientist working for Rubycon Corporation in Japan left the company and began working for Luminous Electric in China. The scientist then developed a copy of the Rubycon P-50 type water-based electrolyte, used in aluminum electrolytic capacitors developed by Luminous and equivalent to the Rubycon ZA and ZL series. Subsequently, the scientist’s staff members defected with the formula, and began to sell an electrolyte at a low price to many of the major aluminum electrolytic houses in Taiwan, including Luxon Electronics, Lelon Electronics, and other aluminum capacitor manufacturers. (IBM has stated that five companies were affected, while other sources in Taiwan suggest that as many as 11 companies were affected.) Unfortunately, the staff members who defected from Luminous Town Electric with the formula copied only the partial formula, and the subsequent electrolyte produced was unstable when packaged in a finished aluminum capacitor. The instability of the electrolyte in the aluminum electrolytic capacitors using this water-based electrolyte leads to the build-up of excess hydrogen inside the aluminum can, which results in either a rupture of the can itself or destruction of the rubber end-seal. Either failure is potentially catastrophic due to the leaking electrolyte. According to top material scientists in the aluminum capacitor industry, if the correct amount of additives is not mixed into a water-based electrolyte, electrolysis will occur, releasing a high amount of hydrogen gas in the can and resulting in catastrophic failure. Results, to your electronic device, can be anything from intermittent crashes to fire.

Aluminum electrolytic capacitors produced in Taiwan by Japanese aluminum capacitor houses revealed the occurrence of catastrophic failures of the Taiwanese aluminum electrolytic capacitors after 2000 hours of operation on parts rated for 4000 hours of operation. Intel has stated that the aluminum capacitors with the poor electrolyte may fail after only 250 hours of operation. Industry sources have further revealed that many top companies in the computer motherboard and telecom infrastructure businesses have been scrambling to obtain parts from aluminum electrolytic capacitor suppliers who did not have plants in Taiwan. Subsequent reports suggest that Rubycon Corporation, Nichicon, and Nippon Industries (NIC Components) have been inundated with orders for aluminum capacitors, as more customers shy away from Taiwanese-produced parts. Rubycon, Nichicon, and Nippon Industries (NIC Components) do not have plants in Taiwan, and thus were not exposed to the bad electrolyte in their aluminum capacitors. Further intelligence has revealed that lead times for low- ESR aluminum capacitors are now increasing, and price increases are imminent as Japanese suppliers prepare to fill the void left by this unfortunate incident. Many industry insiders note that some major Japanese aluminum capacitor houses also have offshore production plants in Taiwan, including both Nippon Chemi-Con (Hsien plant) and Matsushita (Nantou Hsien Plant). However, our research has concluded that many of these companies obtain their electrolytes directly from Japan and were probably not affected by the tainted supply. Other Taiwanese suppliers, such as Jamicon (Kamei), apparently were not affected because they obtain their electrolytes from Japan. Teapo has stated that it also gets its electrolytes from Japan, and was not affected or disqualified. Some industry insiders further speculate that many of the original equipment manufacturers in the computer industry may not be aware of the problem because visibility into component supply chains is limited due to the increased usage of contract electronic manufacturers in Taiwan. Other industry sources have commented that the movement of contract electronic manufacturers to Asia, coupled with a tendency to source low-cost components locally, opens up the potential for additional component problems in the future.

Potential long-term Effects The effects of the bad electrolyte on the aluminum electrolytic capacitor supply chain are not known at this time.

Two factors play an important role in determining the effects :

• How long have these electrolytes been in the field

• Has the problem been contained to Taiwan, or have the electrolytes found their way to other nations?

As the industry becomes aware of the problem, it may experience a shift in the supply chain for aluminum capacitors. This could result in an increase of lead times and prices for aluminum capacitors.
Pull the power cord and cover and take a peek inside or
if you are concerned about this possible problem, have a qualified service technician inspect your computer.

If you are qualified to fix it yourself, Radio Shack sells the caps or they can order them.
On these new multilayered boards, caps can be difficult to de-solder. The best way is to contact the manufacturer. They may repair it free.


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