Developing environmental testing to suit your products

The main reason for performing qualification tests is to demonstrate that a product has been designed and built to withstand and operate in the various environments to which it will be exposed over its lifetime. Choosing the most appropriate environmental test standards, therefore, requires a good understanding of the product’s lifecycle, from its initial build right through to de-commissioning, including its transportation and most importantly its operational life.

The process of identifying all of the environmental stresses that are likely to be experienced by the product is an important one and this together with a sound engineering knowledge of the relevant international standards will enable the optimum qualification test strategy to be devised. At Element, this process comes under the umbrella of our Early Stage Qualification (ESQ®) services.

Early engagement with a test laboratory can ensure that a product’s compliance pathway has been carefully considered. Our ESQ® service was introduced to work with product development and design teams, keeping them informed of those future requirements, highlighting the end goal and enabling them to plan accordingly from the very start of the development cycle. The ESQ methodology takes this a step further and makes product qualification part of a company’s processes. This helps to control costs and reduce the risk of failure at the final qualification stage, thereby protecting against late delivery or a delayed time to market.

Identifying tests

Identifying tests that encompass all the different types of environment relating to a product’s lifecycle is not an easy undertaking. It may even be necessary to consider if the most appropriate test is going to be a standard test at all. If there is not a suitable standard test that accurately reflects the environmental stresses then a tailored test might be a more appropriate course of action. Whilst there are a plethora of environmental standards available, it is crucial to formulate a clear qualification strategy and Test Plan: something that the manufacturer and end customer buy into, with realistic test levels and well defined acceptance requirements. In addition, it is important that the qualification test programme, which is typically carried out over a relatively compressed timescale at the end of the development cycle, does not result in the product being over-engineered just to meet unrealistically onerous environmental test requirements.

Impact on larger projects

Larger projects, in particular, can benefit from the ESQ methodology, being naturally more complex and therefore often posing a particular challenge in terms of completion and meeting targets to reach market on time. Overall qualification responsibility within a large project can get lost amongst the different smaller groups completing modules and sub-systems within the supply chain. When the full system finally comes together, just before shipment at final qualification, problems and unforeseen issues frequently arise.

Implications for manufacturers

ESQ supports manufacturers through the complex nature of qualification testing by engaging clients early on in a project and providing strategic guidance from the outset. From initial concept and then throughout the whole development cycle, ESQ provides expert support with a proven methodology to making the critical decisions that will help to achieve first time success when the project reaches the qualification testing phase. ESQ ensures that no matter how a project might change and develop, it always remains focused on the best approach to bring the product to market as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

Element’s engaged experts provide a knowledgeable and experienced resource for environmental testing requirements, helping products through the critical stages of development ahead of the qualification process and then providing expert guidance during final testing and certification.

For more information on Environmental testing, please contact us today or call UK +44 808 234 1667 or US +1 888 786 7555.

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