Frequently Asked Questions

Note: This is only a partial list. Qualified customers may receive our full, detailed Multibus FAQ list.

1. What is Multibus?

Intel Corporation originally invented the Multibus architecture in 1976. It is a modular computer system bus standard (IEEE-1296) used most frequently in embedded applications, such as telecommunications, medical-instrument, manufacturing automation, networking, and industrial control. The Multibus platform offered standard board-level solutions that allowed companies to innovate at the system level, without having to design custom boards from the component level. The result was faster design, development and production times for their products. It also allowed other companies to develop their own specific or custom Multibus boards and systems, and then quickly integrate them with those designed by other vendors.

The Multibus architecture spanned the 8, 16 and 32-bit generations and is based on the family of Intel processors, beginning with the 8080, the x86 CPUs and on to the first generation Pentium CPU. On the software OS side, it is supported by Unix, Xenix, RMX, DOS, Windows for RMX, as well as other real-time and multi-tasking operating systems. Along with the VME and STD bus platforms, Multibus became one of the industry standards in the 80's and 90's. At its peak, there were over 100 manufacturers of Multibus products.

Twenty years later, in 1996, Intel sold its Multibus division to Radisys Corporation, where the further design and development of Multibus products continued, especially with the Multibus II generation. Its longevity is a testimony to its robust architecture, and it is still in use today in many legacy applications.

2. How is Northwest Technical different from other board repair vendors?

First of all, our specialty is the sales and repair of Multibus boards. We have been supporting this platform since 1989. Because Multibus boards are used in industries such as Aerospace, Telecom, Medical Instrumentation, Industrial Control and Nuclear Applications, these customers will continue to have an ongoing need for reliable third-party support, long after the manufacturer discontinues theirs. Northwest Technical Inc. is providing the highest quality repair services for customers in all of the industries mentioned, and it is committed to continue providing this support in the future.

One of the engineers on staff is Intel-trained and has worked with the Multibus platform since the mid-1980’s. We have assembled an almost 100% complete Intel/Radisys technical library, including hardware manuals, schematics, board histories, ECOs and firmware. We also repair multibus boards made by other former Multibus manufacturers, including Zendex Corporation, NEC and Microbar, of which we have exclusive rights to build and repair. We have test equipment and workstations that have been designed by us and built specifically to debug, troubleshoot, repair and burn-in Multibus board level products. In short, we are the Multibus experts

3. What are your test and repair capabilities?

Our Multibus test and repair facility, located in Brookings Oregon, is fully staffed and outfitted with state-of-the-art test equipment, including workstations that we have custom-designed ourselves. We have several test engineers and certified technicians fully trained in test and repair. We have an engineering lab, a test and rework lab, and a burn-in area for our environmental chambers that we use for hi-rel testing. We can test and repair just about any type of printed circuit board. However, our expertise and specialty is with the Multibus I and II platform.

4. Do you charge for estimates?

With all Intel/Radisys boards and boards that we have a repair history with, we can usually quote our flat-rate repair price for that board. For boards that we may not have repaired, but have adequate documentation for, we will usually not charge for estimates. The exceptions are with emergency orders, or those that may require an extensive evaluation to determine an estimated repair cost. This is because we may have to bump someone else's repair order, in order to handle the rush order. In this case, we may charge a nominal fee. However, we will not commence any repair work on your board until you have been advised and we receive your approval. But in most cases, we can give you a flat-rate quote, or an accurate estimate up front.

5. What kinds of defects or damage can you repair?

We can repair most board faults, which typically include component failures and certain types of physical damage that a board may sustain. Damaged, but repairable PCB traces or lifted solder pads may take a little longer to repair. More difficult failures might include inner-layer opens or shorts, fiberglass laminate layer defects, severe trace damage, burns, etc. These kinds of failures will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in order to determine if they can be repaired or not.

6. Do you provide a repair report or test results when you return the repaired board?

Yes. When we repair a board, we ship it back in a fully refurbished condition. We include a test report showing test results for the tests that we perform.

7. What is your warranty period?

For sales of Intel/Radisys boards, we offer a 2-year warranty on certain new product and a 1-year warranty on refurbished product. For repairs, we offer a 1-year warranty. The only time this would change is if the board is in poor condition with some physical defect(s) that would likely affect its long-term reliability. If possible, we would advise you of this before proceeding with the repair. We would also offer you alternatives, if available. Extended warranties are also available, for a premium.

8. We’re a repair depot and don’t do much Multibus. Can we subcontract these boards to you?

Yes. We have this arrangement with several PCB repair companies. Usually with older and more specialized boards like Multibus, the low volume they may likely see would not justify the high cost of outfitting an adequate test station suitable for troubleshooting and repair—especially if they have the complexity and variety that Multibus I and II boards do.

9. Can you repair custom Multibus boards made by companies for use in their own systems?

Sure. We have been asked to do so, by some companies who manufacture Multibus boards and who wish to outsource the repairs of their own custom boards to us—either for themselves, or for their customers.

10. What is your plan regarding employee obsolescence issues?

In addition to obsolescence issues with regard to parts procurement, which we have addressed in other FAQs, we do have a contingency plan in place—especially with our larger customers whom we have contracted with. It is true that engineers and technicians, who are knowledgeable in these older technologies, are fast approaching retirement age now. Over the past few decades, users have recognized this fact. Those with foresight, purchased spares wherever they could find them. This is one reason why Multibus boards are getting more difficult to find. Because of these reasons, more and more customers are turning to us to have their defective boards refurbished and repaired by us.