This week’s selection is “How to Find a Wolf in Siberia: or, How to Troubleshoot Almost Anything” by Don Jones.
Troubleshooting is not something you just “do”. It’s a skill, a practice and a science.
If you work with 3D printers or hope to in the future, the science of troubleshooting is an essential skill. Machines will break, and you could spend hours determining what’s wrong and how to make repairs.
If you knew an efficient process for troubleshooting, those inevitable incidents might not be as catastrophic, and perhaps you’d even learn more about your 3D printer in the process.
Many years ago I learned how to troubleshoot complex machine issues from more experienced co-workers. To my surprise there were standard approaches to examining a problem, and they almost always guided me to a solution. Since then I’ve applied the same troubleshooting principles to every failure situation I’ve encountered, whether they involved a machine or not.
That process is the subject of this book: how to troubleshoot almost anything.
Jones reviews his troubleshooting process in simple detail, covering not only the technical steps required, but also the emotional aspects that certainly occur during tough problems. The first step described is: “Before you start, be cool, and get a notebook.”
Very sound advice.
Jones’ method is near identical to my own, and involves steps such as:
- Defining the problem so you will know when it is actually fixed
- Setting the scope of the problem to ensure you are not led astray into irrelevant areas during diagnosis
- Being able to replicate the problem so that potential fixes can be tested
- Examining changes to the situation to narrow focus on the likely causes
And much more. Jones’ process is scientific and effective.
The second part of the book reviews twelve principles that should be in the mind of the troubleshooter, such as “Knows the symptoms in depth”.
One particularly interesting skill that resonates with me is “Can Follow The Chain”. This is a very important practice in which the failure is traced from end backwards to, hopefully, where it started. This is an approach I use in almost every troubleshooting situation.
Finally, the book concludes with a series of troubleshooting stories in which Jones explains aspects of the method through direct experience.
All current and future 3D printer operators must have healthy troubleshooting skills, because they’ll be called upon, sooner or later.
If you’re afraid of tackling challenging failures on your own, I recommend trying this book. It can show you an effective approach for dealing with problems on any machines, including 3D printers.
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