Environmental Testing chambers and the questions you want answered
What are environmental testing chambers?
Environmental test chambers simulate the environments a product could be exposed to in a lab environment. This allows product performance to be monitored with lab equipment without waiting for a sunny or cold day outside. This means products intended for Antarctica can be tested in Nottingham, Sydney or even California. They are also known as climatic chambers.
Why do product developers use environmental testing chambers?
- You want to validate new component performance before designing a product around it.
- Are scaling up from prototype to production.
- Need to validate performance in real world climates, not just in an air-conditioned lab.
- You value your customers and have a quality mindset.
- To reduce the risk of potential problems and minimise the possibility of product recalls.
- In order to understand the difference between a handful of prototypes and manufacturing. In 10’s or 100’s of thousands of pieces every year.
- You need to solve a product problem you suspect is related to temperature where multiple measurements can be taken for diagnostics.
- There is a high product return “no fault found” rate.
How to test products for high and low temperature?
There are four options available for testing product at high and low temperatures.
1) You can visit the locations where the kit will be used in the right season with a load of test equipment.
2) Leave it to your customers to do.
3) Cobble a test setup together using a domestic fridge/freezer or shoebox with a hairdryer. Then hope that condensation or overheating doesn’t cause too many issues.
4) Use an environmental test chamber with control over both temperature and humidity in a repeatable manner.
Why do I need to test my product works at high and low temperatures?
Through product testing you can ensure that the products work in the areas you sell them.
All components have a specified operating temperature range. Products themselves generate heat from operation. Temperature impacts the performance of devices, these can show up in:
- Timing issues
- Start-up issues
- Over-temperature shutdown etc.
Mechanical shock can occur when devices are heated or cooled. Thus resulting in cracking of solder joints or devices where there are different materials. Surface temperatures may be exceeded where enclosures as used for heatsinking.
Humidity can cause component shorts, reduce insulation resistance of air gaps, and accelerate corrosion.
How much does it cost to buy an environmental testing chamber in the UK?
The price of environmental testing chambers varies by physical size and temperature range. The price can range from around £10k for a small temperature only unit to over £100k for a walk-in chamber. Test chambers which go below room temperature cost more. Ones which can go a long way below freezing have a significant increase to their price tag.
Test chambers also need regular maintenance and calibration to keep them operating properly. Also, because of their refrigerant gases, they must meet the F-gas regulation requirements.
How much does it cost to rent or hire space for an environmental test?
Chambers are hired on a per day basis either for a working 8 hour day or a full 24 hour period. Longer term testing is a lower daily cost than short term testing. The hire cost can vary from around £135 per day to £200+ per day depending upon requirements.
What kinds of testing chambers are there for products?
There are chambers for temperature, humidity, corrosion, Electromagnetic Compatibility, water ingress or IP rating and more.
What is destructive testing?
Destructive testing is when an item is deliberately operated beyond its designed parameters. To confirm how much safety margin is present. The item will be broken or damaged during the testing.
Is environmental testing destructive?
Environmental testing is not usually destructive. Safety limits can be placed on the test equipment to ensure temperature ranges are maintained to avoid damage. The unit under test is typically operated within or at its specified operating conditions to confirm operation and not taken beyond these.
What kinds of tests can be done in an environmental testing chamber?
Tests including general operation over the expected temperature range, cold and warm temperature startup, tolerance to anticipated humidity levels, drift of crystal oscillators, timing margin confirmation, maximum component temperatures and endurance to cycling wet or dry heat can be performed.
Where to book an environmental testing chamber session in Nottingham UK