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July 22, 2021   •   3 minute read

The Benefits of Portable Conditioning Units for Environmental Testing

testing, AES Insights, portable conditioning units

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Almost every industry relies on environmental testing in some form. It stands to reason, then, the methods of testing vary significantly. 

Small electronic devices slide neatly into a test chamber work space, and chambers can even be built to accommodate small planes and cars. 

But what if components or products are extremely heavy, bulky, or otherwise difficult to move? 

It’s costly to design a chamber that easily accommodates them. In these cases, portable conditioning units (PCUs) provide you with a cost-effective and flexible way to properly condition a workspace and complete testing.

What Are PCUs?

A good way to think about PCUs is to consider home air conditioning units. Many regions don’t have air conditioning (AC) installed throughout the entire home, such as the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, where temperatures rarely require a comprehensive cooling system. On occasions when hot weather conditions make life less bearable, people can attach an AC unit to a window, plug it in, and wait for cooling air to fill the space of a living room, office, or bedroom. 

A similar method applies to PCUs, except these units provide extreme heat or cooling. The conditioned air is then pumped into enclosed spaces to assist with a variety of testing, commonly used to verify the quality and durability of heavy, oddly shaped, or otherwise difficult-to-move products or components. Technically, they can also be used for humidity testing, but creating a sufficiently saturated workspace takes a long time, especially removing the wet air. So it’s not recommended as a first option in most cases. 

As compared to the typically heavy and stationary nature of walk-in chambers—or for tests that require a vibrating component made possible by AGREE test chambers—PCUs are adaptable and help you maximize space. They effectively transform any enclosed space into a workable testing environment. 

For example, large chassis for electric vehicles can be moved on durable carts into cases. This enables you to condition three to four units simultaneously, rather than having to haul them into a chamber one-at-a-time. Keep in mind these weigh several hundred pounds each, which is why this flexibility with PCUs is such an advantage.

 

The Benefits of PCUs

PCUs can be employed whenever cumbersome or difficult-to-accommodate devices under testing (DUTs) won’t easily fit inside an organization’s test chambers. Think of heavy products or large quantities: Rather than purchasing a walk-in chamber to accommodate hundreds of electronic devices for testing, you could use a PCU and enclosed space to test them. 

PCUs are utilized by various industries, including telecommunications, defense, aviation and aerospace, automotive, and just about anything having to do with electronics. Here are just some of the benefits of PCUs: 

Mobility, adaptability, and storage: The most significant advantage to PCUs is their mobility. Rather than be anchored to a specific workspace, restricted by location or chamber size, any enclosable area, or one designed and manufactured for your custom specifications, can be turned into a viable environmental testing option with a PCU (so long as the connection is air-tight). You can also easily store PCUs as well, making them an ideal option for companies with limited lab space. 

Cost-effective: Many companies will purchase PCUs instead of AGREE test chambers or walk-in chambers because they are more cost-effective. You’ll encounter fewer upfront costs with PCUs, so long as you have the enclosed spaces and additional capabilities (vibration for an AGREE test) to conduct testing. 

Easy access to DUTs: Rather than having your view obscured by a test chamber, or only having access to the front end, you can interact with the DUT from almost any angle. This is important both pre- and post-testing if you want to easily rearrange components or get a first-hand view of how they handle testing. 

 

The Importance of Working with an Experienced Manufacturer: When Is a PCU Right for You?

Ultimately, you want control over your testing and results. While the benefits of PCUs are apparent, there can be some attendant challenges. For instance, when you build your own testing environment, employing a PCU, you run the risk of inaccurate data or inconsistent testing conditions. 

These are simply risks you must assume when you’re customizing things on your own. Even the most thoroughly designed testing environments lack the repeatability and guaranteed quality of professionally constructed ones. 

You also face obstacles with humidity. On hot and humid days, you’re more likely to have equipment frost up while running below freezing temperatures. This may cause coils to ice up.

Furthermore, rather than having the ease of placing a product inside a chamber for immediate testing, you have to ensure your testing environment is well-prepared beforehand, including the seals, which have greater potential of leaking when utilizing PCU-based environments.

An experienced manufacturer designs PCUs to give you the highest possible degree of control while preserving adaptability. They make testing easier for you, whether that’s in customizing a PCU or delivering a standalone chamber. 

And if you work with Associated Environmental Systems (AES), you have the option of getting the best of both worlds. AES’s line of PCMs can be customized and used as standalone chambers in addition to portable conditioning units.

Find out if it’s the right solution for you by contacting AES. Begin reaping the benefits of flexibility in your testing, alongside onsite assistance with installation, maintenance, repairs, and support. 

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