The Basics of Environmental Test Chambers
Testing and studying new products is key to ensuring their safety, effectiveness and applications. Since it isn’t always possible, safe, or efficient for that matter, to test products in their actual working environments, using these chambers is the best way to recreate its exact working conditions and measure the results. This is a process that has been in place for a number of decades and has been used effectively by the aerospace industry. Before being able to truly grasp the complexities of this process, it is important to understand the basics.
What are environmental test chambers?
Environmental test chambers are units that allow for a product to experience a variety of external factors to be tested in a controlled environment. As the factors are introduced, the unit and observer can see how the item being tested is affected in various conditions. Many times, levels of factors like vibration, temperature, electromagnetic radiation, humidity, pressure, sun and salt exposure, among others, are applied singularly and then even layered to see how the specimens, products or specific materials function under combined effects.
How are environmental test chambers designed?
Prior to being designed, the function of what will be tested is decided for each chamber. Chambers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from some that are large enough to drive in to and those that are small enough for only reach-in with special tools or robots. Depending on the purpose of your testing needs, you may require one that is floor-mounted, walk-in, bench-top or even as grandiose as an entire room. No matter the size, the exterior of all of these are usually made with steel. The inner chamber can be customized depending on its application. Sometimes a glass window is installed, while other times, a reinforced steel door is necessary. The type of technology used is also dependent on its use. Some of the more recent models have web capabilities to upload test data, and many have touch-screen controls.
How are test chambers used?
Test chambers are used throughout many industries as a way to ensure the perfection of a product before it hits the market. Whether you are in the aerospace, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical, technology or packaging fields, you most likely use or order items that have gone through rigors environmental test chamber protocols. They are also used for compliance testing purposes. International regulations may vary by country, and these chambers allow for testing the various conditions in one experiment. In aerospace, for example, these environments can be used to mimic conditions that would be present in high altitude or outer-space. It would be too dangerous to take a chance with untested equipment, especially equipment that ensures continued life for astronauts. The test chambers can recreate similar conditions in terms of temperature, pressure and oxygen levels. By observing how the items react, the product engineers may need to make tweaks or design improvements for safety and reliability. Virtually every item you use in your everyday life has gone through a testing chamber in one regard or another.
What are the types of chambers available?
Some chambers are specifically created to test products while in their infancy or even research stage. Others are used on products to confirm viability and safety while they are being produced. Many organizations, for example, use ones that feature humidity/temperature chambers or stress/vibration chambers. There are quite a few types of chambers available that conduct important tests like the HASS, or Highly Accelerated Stress Screen, or HALT, Highly Accelerated Life Test. Picking the right one to recreate realistic conditions is required.
Overall, environmental test chambers are a critical component of the design and/or production process for many products and ideas. By testing products in their environmental conditions in a controlled manner, the researchers can ensure they are safe and adhere to standards, prior to being produced or distributed to the general public.
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