After carefully designing your hardware product and running it through multiple prototype phases, you’re probably ready to start some thorough testing. You may not be able to test your product’s durability for every scenario but you’ll at least be able to put it through its paces and deliver a product that’s able to withstand everyday usage. Thoroughly testing your product with these 3 methods will help ensure that your product will be delivered in mint condition.
Of course you can test for more extreme conditions such as launch drop test from aircrafts but to get started, we’ll just cover the basics.
Environmental testing is a process that’s used to determine how well a product can withstand harsh environments. It ensures that your product can withstand:
- High and low temperatures
- Wet environments
- And even electromagnetic interference
Each of these conditions can be tested in specialized equipment such as environment chambers, or known as climate chambers.
These chambers can vary quite a bit in functionality. Some are built for testing salt spray, UV degradation, thermal shock, and the list goes on. On top of that, these chambers can be large walk-in rooms or even small enough to fit on bench tops.
Temperature/humidity chamber, credits to WikiPedia
Drop testing is one of the most well known forms of testing, at least right now. We have YouTube tech channels to thank for that!
By definition, drop testing is a method of testing the in-flight characteristics of a prototype by raising the test vehicle to a specific altitude and releasing it. Other than identifying if a product can still function after being dropped, these tests are also used to determine aerodynamic capabilities.
You might be thinking why even bother with drop testing, your product isn’t going to be dropped from 15 story building, right?
Well, once your hardware product is out of your hands, it’s out of your control. That means that you need to ensure that your customer will receive a product that has survived the trek from factory to destination. Take it from NTS, a hardware testing and certification company that’s been around for over half a century. They have incredible resources all about testing, certifications, inspections and even market segments. In their drop testing resource, NTS states,
“Many products that are subject to handling during transport, installation, or repair are at risk of being dropped. Granted, handlers generally try to avoid these types of mishaps, but when equipment is out of your hands, it becomes out of your control. The best way to ensure that your product survives its journey from the factory to the point of installation is to drop test it and verify that it survives without damage. That way, your company isn’t answering warranty claims from customers who received damaged goods that left your warehouse in mint condition.”
Shock and vibration testing
There’s no telling what happens to your products when they’re handled by FedEx, UPS, or any other postal service. Maybe a driver’s delivery route is over dirt roads riddled with potholes, or maybe your product was tossed over a couple of times during its delivery.
Shock and vibration testing will allow you to better understand how your hardware withstand normal transportation vibrations and temperature changes. NTS says,
“Equipment designed for rugged or hostile environments needs to withstand a lot of vibration without breaking down or wearing out prematurely. And the only way to know if something will withstand its intended application is to test it accordingly.”
Let’s focus on “designed for rugged or hostile environments.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that your hardware has to be made for the military or for extreme sports. In the article, “Prototype to Product: The Important Details of Launching Good Hardware,” by Andrew Dupree,
“Shock and vibe testing simulates the (literally) bumpy road from the factory to your user’s doorstep, ensuring nothing breaks, cracks, or comes loose.”
There’s a ton more that goes into testing, with hundreds of processes, specifications, equipments, and types. For those who are new to hardware, this article serves as a stepping stone into the testing process. Keep in mind that you may also have to test your product for FCC regulations to make sure that you aren’t in violation.
Testing does more than just ensure that your product is in mint condition when your customer receives it. It also helps you save money on having to reimburse customers or repair any products.