Environmental test chambers are controlled, artificial spaces that re-create environmental conditions, so that the long-term effects of said conditions on industrial and electronic products, materials, and miscellaneous components, can be studied. Conditions simulate changes and stressors that an object will likely encounter during its productive lifetime. Test results reveal things like product decay and degradation and, conversely, product effectiveness and durability, thus helping researchers predict potential useful lifespan. Many industries use environmental testing, including medicine, pharma, food processing, food packaging, consumer goods and services, automotive, engineering, and construction. Products you may use every day undergo this testing, products like car parts, kitchen appliances, makeup, and hand soap.
Environmental test chambers conduct tests related to sudden temperature change and temperature extremes, humidity and moisture, salt spray, and common environmental stressors like UV rays and airborne and structural vibrations. Test chambers are often built for specific purposes, and so have specific names, such as AGREE, cryogenic, altitude, salt spray, vacuum, thermal shock, and temperature test chambers. Read More…
The “AGREE” in AGREE test chamber is an acronym for Advisory Group on Reliability Electronic Equipment, which was a group within the Defense Department of the United States that worked to create the AGREE chamber to perform tests on military hardware. AGREE chambers can produce fast-acting temperature extremes; they can jump from 41 to 104℉ (5 to 40℃) within 60 seconds, even with large loads. They also have removable floors so that they can enact vibration test systems. Today, AGREE chambers not only test military hardware but also automotive, electronic, and telecommunications equipment.
Cryogenic test chambers test products that must face temperatures between -238℉ to absolute zero. Applications that often undergo cryogenic testing include flash-freezing and long-term food chilling, metal strengthening, medicine preparation, and preservation and the production of rocket fuel from liquid gasses.
Altitude chambers, or hypobaric chambers, test the effects of low-pressure on products, packaging, and electronics that will be exposed to high altitudes. They can also be used for testing human respiratory and circulatory response to altitudes up to 200,000 feet above sea level. Human testing is for specialized professions and activities, like astronaut and pilot training and athletic training.
Salt spray chambers, also called fog chambers, test corrosion resistance by hanging an object from a rod as the chamber introduces a salty residue that creates fog. This process is relatively inexpensive and used by a number of industries, including aerospace, automotive, construction, and industrial manufacturing.
Vacuum chambers are testing chambers from which almost all matter, including air, has been removed. This is mostly used for aerospace and aviation applications.
Thermal shock chambers test the effect sudden temperature changes have on a product since thermal shock can cause faulting or cracking along stress lines. Many industries rely on this testing, though ceramics and glass rely on it especially because, due to low thermal conductivity and a tendency to expand and compress unevenly, they are at-risk for thermal shock.
Temperature chambers are self-explanatory; they test the effect of different temperatures. They’re often used in conjunction with other testing processes, like vibration and altitude testing.
Because of these varying applications, test chambers also vary in length, width, and design. For instance, some chambers are large enough to drive into, while others contain only a simple desktop.
Important to all environmental test chambers is the validity of their test results. Accurate test results are necessary to make adjustments and improvements upon a product before releasing or re-releasing it. To get these accurate results, engineers must first carefully map the chamber’s design and construction. It needs a space through or area in which workers can monitor the tests. These typically manifest as viewing holes, video feeds or, occasionally, a stand-in area. Engineers must also consider whether control panels should be analog or digital. Beyond construction, testing engineers must be careful to maintain consistency; they must avoid interfering and keep the process as uniform as possible. Finally, they must take into account pre-existing variations of products and materials. The stricter the control, the better and more useful the results.
Environmental testing is a necessary process for any business that hopes to be successful. By finding flaws and weaknesses before a product reaches the public, a company can save money on fixes and enjoy a reputation for quality. It can offer a better warranty and feel confident that it will not face high reimbursement costs. The long hours and expenses put into environmental testing are an investment worth your while.