Companies conduct environmental testing at different phases of product development. For newer companies, it’s an important part of prototyping and proof of concept. For experienced ones, testing confirms their latest innovations and helps them beat competitors to market.
Different phases require different test profiles, although it’s important to note that you should spend more time identifying potential weak points during research and development (R&D). They are much more costly to address—including in time lost—after or during production.
Research is essential for the technology and engineering activities required to advance the design and development of products. Companies in almost every industry rely on research and development (R&D) to plan, design, and deliver new, innovative products.
Environmental test chambers accommodate various aspects of R&D. Some are designed for laboratory research, testing in search for or evaluation of product alternatives, construction, and testing of pre-production prototypes.
The most common tests run are for product shelf-life. Companies simulate the lifespan of a product (e.g, a change of five degrees in the test chamber is equivalent to two years in a real-world environment) through what’s known as highly accelerated life testing (HALT). The goal is to identify the so-called ‘failure point’ of products, so companies can set expectations or, if need be, focus on a different design that proves more durable.
The more time, resources, and energy you put into R&D testing, the more confident you’ll feel advancing to production.
Companies approach production testing differently depending on the products themselves and the industry. For example, producers of defibrillators test every device that comes off the line with highly accelerated stress screening (HASS). (The goal of HASS testing is to prove that the product reaches the failure point identified during HALT testing without malfunctioning). Each serves a life-saving purpose, so it’s imperative they all work as intended without defects.
In fact, individual product testing is a requirement in certain industries. Companies often test products off-the-line, too, as a matter of practice. Others, however, will test batches of products at once in an effort to save time and resources.
No matter the method, the thought remains the same. You need to confirm the quality and reliability of your products before they reach the public. The testing also legitimizes the time and money that went into R&D.
Does the product work as intended? That’s what you seek to determine in quality testing. Quality assurance and quality control ensure the excellence of a product. Many products, components, and parts in different industries have specific environmental quality requirements. These requirements may be regulatory through government or industry bodies, or maybe an important aspect of the company’s design or manufacturing specifications.
Here’s where the environmental conditions really come into play. Electronics manufacturers, in particular, test to ensure their products perform in a wide range of settings, from extreme temperatures to high and low humidity levels. The results inform the expectations and directions they set for consumers. Reliability testing also helps reduce the risk of unexpected and costly product failures after the product has been released. If you can identify points of failure in HALT testing, and ensure that products coming out of production reach those limits reliably, you can confidently go to market.