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22nd October 2020

New Service announcement - Environmental Testing Chambers

Our environmental test chambers have now been made available for product testing (including where we have had no part in the design activities)

Test your products in a simulated environment from as low as -70°C, up to +180°C

Nothing is more frustrating than creating a brilliant product and then receiving feedback that it’s producing false readings when being used in the field. It’s only then that you find out, too late, that your product doesn’t perform in the heat.

To make matters worse your product can’t handle humidity and suddenly its malfunctioning.

The problem is it’s difficult and time consuming to find trial locations for every environment a product could be exposed to.

Luckily, environmental testing chambers keep things simple.

Why it’s important to test to, and beyond, the expected environmental conditions

As well as testing for user experience and technical faults, products may need to work at certain temperatures for compliance or real-world use reasons. For example, products fitted within a car can easily experience temperature ranges between -20°C and +65°C ambient. Testing on a lab bench in an air-conditioned room is simply not enough to be sure the product is ready to be launched.

If the product provides measurements, then extreme temperatures can provide inaccurate readings making the product unreliable. In other cases, batteries may fail, products may not properly turn on or off, processors can reset seemingly randomly, crystal oscillators can drift causing radio communication channel frequencies to shift with them and more. Best case this could lead to bad customer reviews, worst case this could lead to costly product recalls or even have safety or security implications for the end user.

Not one but two environmental chambers

It is helpful having one environmental chamber for testing standalone products. When products communicate with each other over a wired or wireless link then having two chambers brings an additional level of confidence.  There are many situations where one end of the communications link is down at the cold end of the product temperature range while the other is much warmer.  For example, this could be in a commercial kitchen environment where the temperature of commercial freezers (-18°C or below) are being monitored and communicated to a gateway that is in the main, hot, kitchen area at up to 30°C.

Right now, we have two fully serviced testing chambers ready and waiting to test your products, at our offices on Nottingham Science Park.

Your products can be tested in extreme temperatures both hot and cold and tested in humid conditions. Get an accurate assessment on your product’s performance rather than guesswork.

What’s more you’ll receive a full temperature read out to show investors or to use for pre-compliance.

Dimensions and test space

Test Space volume approx. 100 ltr

450mm x 380mm x 540mm WxDxH

-70°C to +180°C

Rate of temperature change 2.5k/min heating, 3k/min cooling

Why do I need to test at such extreme temperatures?

Your product can be cutting edge in its field at room temperature, but edge cases can occur when the product is used in environments outside this comfortable setting.

Your reliable product can suddenly become unpredictable. If your end user doesn’t trust the product then word will spread, and your profits will suffer.

Which technical faults can occur in hot and cold environments?

Temperature extremes can cause havoc for your product’s performance and cause technical bugs in unexpected ways. Our engineers share some real-life examples of faults spotted by environmental chambers.

Instability fault – Silicon bugs discovered an oscillation at < 0°C in an Integrated PIR sensor causing false triggers below zero, this was a clear problem for an alarm product. As a result of product testing, the sensor had to be withdrawn by the manufacturer.

Loss of communications – Frequency drift in crystal oscillators can affect radio channels causing loss of communications.

Poor Thermal Management Power supply ICs can get too hot and fold back or shutdown due to poor thermal management. Typically, ICs work up to 125°C, so if your power supply design gives an +85°C rise then at 25°C ambient it will work but at 40°C ambient they will stop.

Incorrect readings  – Cold Junction Compensation for Thermocouples needs to be tested across different ambient temperatures to make sure that the thermocouple reads temperature correctly no matter where the PCB is.

Ways in which end users can cause products to malfunction

User environments – Items such as dashcams are often left on a hot car surface or left in the car during a frost. When looking at new technology it’s always good to think about where the device is likely to be used and whether it will be exposed to temperature extremes.

Different climates – Using the same dashcam example is someone likely to take a device on holiday to a hot country or perhaps on a skiing trip? Just because the product is being launched in the UK doesn’t mean it will be used in the UK.

Products working near each other – This is particularly noticeable in systems or data centres were products may be working side by side and generate a lot of heat. For instance, designing a module to be sold into other products. This needs to function in potentially countless end use cases. So being able to quantify the operating temperature of your module allows the customer to make the right design choices with it.

Humidity – Designers will often think about hot and cold environments but forget about humidity. Condensation can easily damage electronics if formed on the surface. Deciding if conformal coating or potting is needed could be an important design decision.

How to test for hot and cold environments without travelling to remote locations

It’s hard enough at the best of times to find hot or cold environments and often these locations can be dangerous. Sticking a product in a domestic fridge or oven also comes with its own risks!

During the pandemic travel has become even less of a practical solution. Our Midlands location makes product testing in the UK ideal and we can test ourselves without you having to stay on the premises.

These chambers mean that designers don’t need to travel to remote locations or create test environments in order to simulate the extreme temperatures.  It also means that if issues occur, or are suspected, test equipment can be easily hooked up to allow root cause diagnostics to be made.

Environmental chambers allow products to be tested in hot, cold and humid environments. These often have a programmable controller which allow target temperatures to be set which is useful for compliance. Our chambers will also allow users to enter temperature profiles which can be used for Accelerated Life Testing by stressing the product with rapid temperature changes.

More about Environmental Chambers can be found here on Science Direct.

What to do when environmental testing uncovers a problem

Specialists such as our Ignys engineers can not only test whether a product survives the extremes but also find ways to combat any faults that occur. Ignys can make redesign recommendations for your product which can be tested to ensure the issue is resolved.

This way your product can move onto the next stage without a problem being spotted post launch.

Book an environmental test today

We have two chambers but with interest growing book now to avoid a wait.

Product Testing from a team of experts

Ignys Ltd are a team of clever engineers obsessed with electronics design and product development. We have many ways we can help you test your product from testing the idea itself to testing designs after launch. Speak with us if you have a question or product testing query, we may be able to help…

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Environmental Testing services

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