Originally Posted by scraph
I'm guessing there are a handful of other engineers on this site, at least. I'm about to get my hands on the Raymarine X-5 SmartPilot Wheel autopilot setup. I read post after post of the problems with these units (which I'm assuming is similar to restaurant reviews ... you only hear from those disatisfied). I understand that they aren't the strongest devices on the planet ... and below-deck autopilot, blah, blah, blah. Has anyone, if only for the sake of challenge, tore into these drive units with component upgrades in mind? Whenever I hear "weak units" in any instance I begin to look for my own solutions. I hear about "cheap plastics parts" always failing in these ... has no one fabricated their own components out of stronger materials?
OK, so I've got one of those below decks things you don't want to hear about. Never the less, I will concede that it should be possible to improve a wheel type drive to the point of making it useful. My concern, in the interest of keeping it safe and practical, would be to keep in mind that most any device will have a failure point. If you beef up the gears, maybe the belt will break. If you improve both belt and gears, then something else will go. Like with the idea of a shear pin, the only point is to be aware of what the weakest link is and then also make sure the point of failure is easy and cheap to replace. If you improve the motor system and it delivers more force, it will also take more current, it could turn out that the weakest link is the power transistor that delivers the current. That's not where you want the weak link.