IT Component Failure Analysis: a small circuit card under a blue light

It is not always obvious whether a breakdown is caused by a global environmental issue or a more localised component failure.  We can examine failed circuit cards, IT components, cabinet components with a view to tracking down the root cause of a failure, be it an environmental problem, manufacturer fault or installation error. Reliable IT Environments is independent, not aligned with any component manufacturer, so our analysis is truly objective.

IT Component Failure Analysis

Solving clients’ problems

Power strip failures traced to manufacturer’s lack of stress testing

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A close up of a failed circuit board with a resistor on it.  The resistor is melted and the green of the circuit board is looking slightly charred.

The client was experiencing many failures of multi-socket power strips which were mounted in the rear of server cabinets and delivering power to multiple individual servers. Our analysis of a failed power strip showed a failed internal power supply circuit card, including a ruptured casing around the capacitor, “melted” resistors and charred circuit card. The electrolytic capacitor had clearly overheated and the case surrounding it ruptured at the weakest point.  Clearly the capacitor overheated and failed.  Whether this was a consequence of the unit being at excessive temperature or an overload condition is unclear.  But, the resulting circuit failure caused overheating and failure in downstream resistors, hence their ‘melted’ appearance.  Also, each output was fused at a value which allowed the power strip to be run at above its rated performance.

The power strips were located at the rear, usually the hottest part, of cabinets.  When all servers were running, the heat load, in combination with the strips’ inadequate cooling, caused the chemicals in the capacitor to expand and rupture the surrounding case. Although the capacitor was rated at 100 Deg C., the power strips may not have been tested under full load and under the realistically warm conditions such as those found in the exhaust side of server cabinets.  

A metal circle with 4 lines dividing the circle into equal parts.  The centre of the metal circle is slightly bowed and there is black 'soot' like dust in the centre

When the cause of the breakdown isn’t so obvious


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