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Good ideas with bad execution, or good execution of what should be bad ideas - an analysis of inferior, off-beat or malfunctioning products, and how other people's failures can help us design better stuff.

How to turn your enameled aluminum juicer into a battery

famousfoods-store-1967-16691674.gifmbm1014-003a.jpgClick to view detail Here’s a lovely before-and-after shot of an Amco enameled aluminum juicer after only a few cycles in the dishwasher. Though this particular juicer came with no instructions whatsoever, the product description online clearly states “dishwasher safe.” Designers apparently missed the materials science class in which aluminum’s susceptility to water corrosion in the presence of anything that dissolves the passivation layer was covered. I recall learning that aluminum parts could literally be destroyed in even a brief cleaning operation with detergents with high pH levels. What happened to my juicer is also what guarantees that beach chair salesmen never lose their jobs, as salt water dissolves the passivation layer that ordinariliy protects aluminum from its otherwise high rate of oxidation.

Aluminum also has high electronegativity. As the detail shows, there is clearly a ferrous hinge pin holding the two halves of the aluminum casting together, ensuring the kind of galvanic couple that ensures that between citrus juices and high pH-level detergents, you are going to see all sorts of exotic reactions. Geez, it’s a fricking battery! While the baked enamel coating on this part was clearly intended to protect against exactly this type of thing and is harder and more wear resistant than paints, it clearly failed in its duties. Designers probably chose it because it’s cheaper (it’s often a one-coat process) and more decorative than paint, though, which clearly were the wrong performance trade-offs in this application! Stainless steel or some sort of filled polymer seems like it would be a better choice, or clear instructions on NOT running the part through your dishwasher.

Tags: amco, materials science, passivation layer, salesmen, science class

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