Thermal shock chamber image courtesy of ESPEC North America.
There are a surprising number of contexts in which products must be resistant to thermal shock. Just as a reminder: thermal shock is the stress or damage to an object caused by a sudden, dramatic change in ambient temperature. Most of those contexts have arisen as a result of the advancement of our technology and our ambition. Just a few examples include flight, space flight, underwater research, manufacturing and advanced product fabrication. Since most of these contexts involve the use of products on whose performance people’s lives depend, it’s important that those products have been tested in advance for their resistance to thermal shock, and it is in thermal shock chambers that such tests are performed.
Consider the space flight example. It has been demonstrated for us more often than anyone ever would have wished just how dangerous manned space flight can be. The failure of even one very small part can cause cascading, catastrophic failure of entire spacecraft, as was demonstrated when an O-ring failed during the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986. While it’s not certain that more rigorous thermal shock testing of the involved failed components would have prevented the disaster, it is clear that since shock testing is a tool now at the disposal of researchers, it should be used.
Sub-space flight is another context that benefits from the thermal shock testing of products. When an aircraft climbs rapidly in altitude, ambient temperature also drops rapidly. Because rapid changes in temperature can affect product performance, all of the components of an aircraft that are exposed to rapidly changing temperatures must be resistant to that change. The behavior of such components can often be predicted after testing in thermal shock chambers.
These are just a few examples of the long list of ways in which thermal shock chambers can be beneficial.