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Remote Control Product Design and Manufacturing Process Analysis

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Introduction

There is a transparent image created in mind by what we refer to as ““remote control,”” sometimes even fondly called ““remote”” – that of the handheld device a viewer reaches for to control the television in switching channels, raising or lowering the volume level, adjusting the picture, or just switching the TV on or off. From a technical viewpoint, however, ““remote control”” refers to a single device and an entire system comprised of several components, mainly the transmitter, the receiver, the control unit, and the load.

Strictly speaking, ““remote control”” (or RC) is not strictly reserved for radio-controlled devices, but on any system that allows for ““the control of an object or device in one place from another place some distance away”” (Cavendish, 2006, p. 1441). In its broadest sense, remote control systems also include those systems that rely on extended physical control links (i.e., using a physical link such as cables or wires and other similar conductors). More typically, however, the phrase is used to refer to wireless connections. There are four essential kinds of remote control systems in everyday use: radio control, infrared remote control, remote-handling equipment, and telemetry (Cavendish, 2006).  

Radio Control Technology

Radio control is the most common type of remote control, and at times the two terms are used interchangeably. As the name implies, this is a way of directing the operation of one or several devices from some distance away through radio waves. There is single-channel and multichannel control equipment. Single-channel equipment is designed to control only one function, while multichannel equipment can control several functions (Cavendish, 2006).  

The single-channel radio control is comprised of a transmitter, a relay, and an actuator or escapement. The transmitter is the device that sends a constant-frequency radio signal when its keying switch is moved. The movement is detected by the receiver and then amplified, triggering the relay which activates the actuator. It is the actuator that executes the single function command which the operator desires to be done. Because the single-channel control can only operate one function, it is somewhat limited and works basically by switching the process online (Cavendish, 2006).

The multichannel radio control system, on the other hand, is designed to handle more than one function. Early models used tone transmitters that produced up to 12 ultrasonic tones; today, however, multichannel RC systems use digital pulsing methods that are more reliable and precise and therefore provide more refined control than tone transmitters. When the transmitter is switched on, it produces a series of pulses continuously. 

The message is encoded in the spaces between pulses; the signal containing the pulses is received and amplified by the receiver, after which it is passed on to a decoder (Cavendish, 2006).

Infrared Remote Control

On the other hand, the infrared remote control is probably the most familiar because it is widely used in a home setting, for operating electrical entertainment systems and similar devices. Infrared RC uses pulses of invisible infrared light as the medium of control; unlike radio control, infrared transmitters must have a line-of-sight path to the sensor on the device being controlled. 

One characteristic of infrared is that it may bounce off walls, but not penetrate them (Cavendish, 2006).

Upon depressing a button on an infrared remote-control handset, a microchip in it activates a signal to which the button relates. The movement is amplified by transistors and sent to a light-emitting diode (LED) that translates the signal to infrared light. 

The LED is located at the handset’shandset’s front, so the light generated is sent to the device where a sensor detects it and prompts the desired action (Cavendish, 2006).

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Other Forms of Remote Control Devices

Some devices are considered too dangerous for humans to come into close contact with, such as radioactive or hazardous materials. Remote handling is therefore resorted to so that the human can effectively manipulate such materials or equipment from a safe distance. 

Remote handlers can be mechanical tools such as long-reachers which resemble tongs, or electro-mechanical devices such as master-slave manipulators. Finally, to reach devices from a great distance, such as in space, telemetry is employed. Telemetry uses a combination of wire and radio links to receive scientific data transmitted by space probes or control the electrical voltage, air or water pressure, or temperature of orbiting satellites (Cavendish, 2006, p. 1444). 

Remote Control of Household Devices

The focus of attention in this discussion is the design and manufacture of remote control handheld units for household devices and appliances. There is a range of products made for home use designed with remote controls, such as televisions, DVD and other media players, set-top boxes, audio/video equipment, fan and light, and air-conditioning units, among others. It isn’t easy to discuss the handheld unit, about the remote control sender or transmitter, separately from and without alluding to the whole system’s design, inclusive of the receiver sensor, the relay assembly, and the load, which together comprise the entire control system. 

The diagram following shows an example of a remote control unit. This particular design is a product of Time Warner Cable. According to Fabricant (2009), this is an example of a handheld unit that has become so complicated that it is a particular challenge for its users to make optimal use of. The functions of each of the buttons are indicated and groups of controls that operate in tandem in related sets of functions. 

the peculiar logic of remote control design

Source: Fabricant, 2009 , http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/the-peculiar-logic-of-remote-control-design.html

The complexity in the design of remote controls designed for household equipment is due to the increasing number of remote-controlled devices. Incorporating as many functions into a single handheld unit has become an attempt to simplify the confusing situation of having several RC units. Still, Fabricant stresses that not all the buttons in this type of company use, particularly the “picture in picture” function shown correctly.

Components of a Remote Control System 

The following flow diagram depicts the most important components of a remote control system, an infrared system. Similar fundamental details are found for radio frequency remote control systems; however; furthermore, not all infrared RC units have the same codes or designs. Still, the fundamental parts are consistent with what is shown below:

RC Device Hardware Block Diagram

RC Device Hardware Block Diagram (Nhivekar & Mudholkar, 2011, p. 412)

As earlier explained, all RC systems have a transmitter (whether radio or infrared) and a sensor which picks up the signal. The sensor then transmits the weak signal to the microcontroller unit, an integrated circuit microchip that amplifies the signal and demodulates or decodes the message. In the above diagram, the zero-crossing detector is that component that generates pulses every time a zero crossing of the infrared pulses is encountered, and this signal is sent to the microcontroller and interrupts its operation and triggers the TRIAC consistent with the provided explanation. Finally, the microcontroller unit prompts the load driver to start the signal to the load to execute the desired command.

Types of Materials Used

There are many designs of remote control units. Thus there are also a variety of materials used in the execution of these designs. A simple RC model is shown below to explain the relative simplicity of the internal and external parts of an RC handheld. Evident in the picture is the keypad at the outside, and in the inside glimpses of a printed circuit board situated behind the battery cell. In Appendix A at the back of this report, two data sheets describe the construction of two of Panasonic’s RC units. The two types, Models EUR646550 and EUR7701010 on the page following, are shown with a full description of their parts. External components are the case, keytop, and plate, with allocations for a back label and indication of origin. The keytop is rubber, and the scale is constructed of polycarbonate sheet. 

While the integrated circuit (IC) is designed per customer’s specification, it is safe to say that it is made out of semiconductor material such as silicon or germanium. The LED indicated sis the component which emits the infrared pulses which trigger the sensor.

Garage door opener remote control

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Garage-door-opener-remote-control.png

Manufacturing Processes Used

Manufacturing processes for the assembly of RC units are not highly specialized and need no expert training as work line assembly is concerned. However, the microprocessor circuit designed according to specifications by the client and created with the use of specialized etching and soldering techniques under highly sanitized conditions to prevent the infusion of impurities in the IC that would affect its performance.   

Some machinery and facilities used by a famous remote control unit mass manufacturer, Laxmi Remote (India) Private Ltd. include the following  

  • Fully equipped Unit with Fuji SMT line from Japan
  • Cincinnati and Haitian Milacron machines for plastic moulds
  • Fully Automatic conveyorized plant for quality printed circuit boards
  • Toolroom facilitated with CNC Vertical M/C Centre from Deckel Maho Germany
  • Pad printing machines from Tempoprint Germany for the production of Text/ornamental plates
  • Battery contact division equipped with CNC Wire Forming machines from HTC Taiwan
  • EDM, Wire cuts from Electronica

The following are schematics of simple RCUs, for both the transmitter and receiver units. 

In both designs, allocations are made for three bus lines, namely, the addresses marking the destinations, the data containing the coded message, and the hardwired instruction contained in the IC according to which the data is processed or encoded/decoded.

RC Transmitter Unit

Source: http://arif-ece.blogspot.com/2010/05/rf-controlled-home-appliance-circuit.html#more

RC Receiver Unit

Source: http://arif-ece.blogspot.com/2010/05/rf-controlled-home-appliance-circuit.html#more

tv remote control circuit

http://arif-ece.blogspot.com/2010/05/tv-remote-controlled-home-appliance_01.html#more

A schematic is included to show a single function remote control receiver that toggles appliance on or off. Below is the flowchart of the function of the receiving unit shown above?

flowchart of the function of the receiving unit

Source: Nhivekar & Mudholkar, 2011, p. 413

 A Study of the Ergonomics

 A study of the ergonomics

Source: Fabricant, 2009

From the wide variety of shapes and designs of remote control units, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that ergonomics have been considered. However it is evident that attempts have been made to make the remote control unit fit into the human hand; from the various designs above, those RC units that exhibit a narrowing at the centre (see the Time Warner cable shown earlier) or towards one end are so constructed under the influence of ergonomics, to fit the human grasp better.

As earlier mentioned, numerous configurations of remote controller units for household appliances and construction methods may vary. However, such can be produced for one pound (£1). The high speed automated process used to create the IC multiprocessor, the heart of the internal circuit of the RCU, has brought down the relative costs of IC units. Where the assembly and soldering process is conducted on a mass-produced basis, it may be possible that the company’s price would be worth less than one pound.

Conclusion

The remote control handheld unit’s design is not very difficult since the components have been reduced to plug in on a printed circuit board, and the integrated circuits are pre-manufactured in many cases. The multiprocessor design complexity makes the RC a useful device for conveniently controlling the various household appliances that they are designed to prevent. In many cases, RC units are even manufactured by hobbyists without the need for highly industrialized processes, given the appropriate microprocessors are available.

Appendix A

Panasonic Remote Control Unit

Key Standard card

Circuit diagram of a system

MSc Engineering Management Summary of Four Books

Supply Chain Management

Coyle, J J; Langley, C J; Gibson, B J; Novack, R A; & Bardi, E J  2009 Supply Chain Management: A Logistics Perspective, 8th edition.  South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, OH

Summary

This book on Supply Chain Management (SCM) discusses the topic from a business firm’s logistics function. It is comprised of sixteen chapters segregated into five parts. Part I provides the foundation and framework of the book’s discussion of supply chain management and the field’s fundamental concepts, issues, and challenges. It also explains logistics processes considered to be indispensable to creating efficient and effective logistics management systems. Part II examined supply chains in general, including their global dimensions and relationships, and the metrics and information flow supporting them. Part III dealt on the particulars of inbound and outbound logistics, referring to the determination of demand, order and inventory management, transportation and distribution. Part IV treats on the systems viewpoint, particularly network analysis, materials sourcing and reverse logistics. Finally, Part V provides comprehensive coverage of strategic challenges and changes in supply chains and culminating cases that bring the theoretical elements together in an integrated application. A list of suggested readings dovetails each of the chapters to highlight important concepts.

In the early chapters of the book, an exciting diagram (courtesy of Penn State University) shows the development of the field from a series of fragmented topics on materials management in the 1960s (e.g. demand forecasting, purchasing, requirements planning, transportation, and so forth), towards an evolving integration into inbound and outbound logistics in the 1980s to 1990s, to total integration under the title logistics supply chain in the new millennium. This approach provides a comprehensive perspective of SCM not only in terms of scope but also in terms of the development of the field. The book is supported by additional material on a multimedia device containing selected publications, a directory of related professional organizations, and a brief explanation of careers in logistics.

Global Environment and Strategy

Werther, W B & Chandler, D  2011  Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment. 2nd edition.  SAGE Publications, Ltd., London, UK

Summary

This book provides a new view of corporate strategic planning and management that integrates corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental protection in a global setting.

Its eight chapters are divided into two parts.  Part I discusses the broad theoretical underpinnings of strategic corporate social responsibility in general and applied to the sustainable treatment of the world ecology as an integral part of the business.   Part II builds on the theories developed in Part I and develops these issues in the context of actual cases that draw focus on CSR and the global environment.

Part I encompasses the first five chapters.

Chapters 1 and 2 together define CSR and set the broad operational context of its development.  CSR’s origins were explored, and its evolution over time was traced under three different arguments, namely the moral, rational, and economic contexts.  To address these varied concerns, it is necessary to adopt a stakeholder perspective in business firms’ strategic management.  By identifying and addressing stakeholders’ concerns, a firm may strike a balance between the economic imperatives of the business and its moral and rational accountabilities to society.  The third chapter elaborates on these concepts in greater depth and introduces the contentious issues posed by CSR expectations on firms.  

The fourth and fifth chapters provide an overview of how firms integrate their CSR programs into their daily operations.  Chapter 4 situates CSR squarely within the scope of business strategy, such that the firm aligns its social responsibility programs with its competitive environment.  Chapter 5 explores how challenging the proposition advanced in Chapter 4 is, and identifies the factors that impede CSR integration into a competitive strategy.  The last three chapters, under Part II, provides the practical applications of the theories earlier discussed.

Quality Management and Reliability

O’Connor, P P & Kleyner, A  2012  Practical Reliability Engineering, 5th edition. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, West Sussex

Summary

The book’s material is divided into seventeen chapters, delving on reliability engineering and its implications on quality control.

Chapter 1 introduces the concept of reliability engineering, what it entails, what it seeks to prevent, and the nature of product failures.  This chapter effectively lays the foundation of reliability engineering, how it developed as an area of managerial concern, the academic literature and programmes involving reliability, and the acceptance of reliability as a parameter of effectiveness.  The second chapter builds on the foundation of the first, providing the mathematical structure upon which reliability is built.  Statistical theories are reviewed in terms of their application as metrics for reliability performance.  Chapter 3 examines concepts concerning life data analysis and how these may be plotted according to probability theory to lead to an assessment of reliability.

The Monte Carlo simulation method is given particular attention in Chapter 4, while Chapter 5 elaborates on load-strength interference and outlines the effects of safety margin and loading roughness on reliability.  These concepts are integrated into Chapter 6, where predictive models and forecasting methods are discussed.

Chapter 7 provides an overview of design concepts that actualize the theoretical approach introduced in the preceding chapters.

Chapters 8 to 10 examine the specific applications of reliability in a business undertaking’s mechanical, electronic, and software aspects. The final chapters round off the topic with a discussion of reliability management and its maintainability.

The book updates the discussion of reliability engineering by more thoroughly discussing the software implementation of statistical methods.

More detailed elaboration on the reliability prediction methods and an expanded explanation of the Monte Carlo simulations method are particularly instructional. They would be of particular value to students at such time when they will be called to apply the knowledge they have gained.

Managing Operation and Finance

Stoner, J A F & Verner, F M  1994  Managing Finance for Quality: Bottom-line Results from Top-Level Commitment.  Financial Executives Research Foundation, Morristown, New Jersey

Summary

The book, written towards the middle of the 1990s, is a forward-looking treatise on the close ties that link corporate finance and quality management within an organization.  The advent of total quality management as a significant concern has revolutionized the way firms conducted business, not only in the operations and technical function but also in aspects of administration not traditionally involved in quality management considerations.  The organization is portrayed in this book as a system whose various units are tied together by processes which functional breakdown boundaries established by convention.  Finance, a traditional department, is seen in a new light as a critical determinant in attaining total quality in operations and the other parts of the organization.

Section I contains the first seven chapters of the book.

The first three chapters of the book delve into the newly evolved total quality approach in business enterprises.

The fourth and fifth chapters show TQM as it is integrated explicitly into corporate finance and corporate finance into the firm’s TQM efforts, respectively.  The central theme is the viability of creating synergies between financial objectives and administration, and the cost generating measures to improve quality in production and operations. The emergent “soft benefits” provide advantages to the corporation that eventually redound to financial plus factors, revenue maximization and cost efficiencies.

Section I dealt with the theory, while Section II is a collection of case studies that drive home the implications raised in the first section.  The case studies were thoroughly discussed in the combined light of both total quality management and financial prudence and efficiency.  The cases included high profile firms such as Federal Express, Motorola, Corning Incorporated, Solectron, and Southern Pacific.  The book is rounded off with a discussion on research methodology, and a list of suggested readings.

Bibliography;
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  • Coyle, J J; Langley, C J; Gibson, B J; Novack, R A; & Bardi, E J  2009 Supply Chain Management: A Logistics Perspective, 8th edition.  South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, OH
  • Cranes Today   2010  “Remote controls: Equipment.” Cranes Today, May 2010, Issue 425, p31-35
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  • Werther, W B & Chandler, D  2011  Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment. 2nd edition.  SAGE Publications, Ltd., London, UK
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