We are often called to custom build test fixtures, protocols, and even equipment to conduct specialized testing. The following represents only a small number of these tests.
Ice Cream Shipping Challenges
A producer of high quality ice cream noticed that they were having difficulty shipping new flavors of ice cream over high altitude passes, even though other flavors seemed to travel just fine. This producer approached Westpak to determine what shipping parameters may be affecting the ice cream and how they could test for those hazards.
Through experimentation and R&D work, Westpak determined that the three parameters that affect ice cream during transit are temperature, vibration, and atmospheric (barometric) pressure. After further experimentation, Westpak finalized a test setup that could control all three parameters within the ranges necessary for ice cream shipment. By carefully studying the distribution environment for this product, Westpak was able to determine the correct level for each parameter and incorporate this into a test protocol. The client now reports the successful shipment of all new flavors of ice cream in environments that previously had caused substantial problems.
Specialized Pillow Tester
An innovative client developed a special pillow with a unique material and a unique shape that would assist in the treatment of sleep apnea and similar sleep disorders. They asked Westpak to create a machine to simulate the wear and tear of a human head on this new material.
Prior to marketing this unique pillow, the client asked Westpak to develop a specialized test fixture that would accurately simulate a human head compressing the pillow in three different methods. In addition, the client also wanted the test fixture to rotate the head form stimulating turning of the body with the head resting on the pillow.
Westpak developed the fixture with platforms that statistically matched the 95 percentile male head in both mass and center of gravity. Actuation mechanisms and sensors were installed and calibrated to accurately measure the deflection of the pillow material for each compression and to calculate the degree of compression set.
Suitcase Handle Integrity
The manufacturer of a high end laptop computer system was very interested in shipping the product in a container designed like a small briefcase. However, they wanted to make sure that the handle applied to the shipping container was both strong and reliable prior to committing to the package design.
Westpak designed and built a system for swinging this briefcase-sized shipping container in ways that simulated extreme handling by the purchasers of this product. Testing even included a ‘fall out of the back of an SUV’ input. The data clearly identified the best possible handle design for their anticipated in-use environment.
Many smaller or handheld devices rely on human input by means of mechanical buttons. The reliability of these buttons through multiple cycles is an important characteristic in the overall design and reliability of the product.
In the first of many requests, a smart phone predecessor requested actuation of each button 250,000 times. Westpak designed and implemented a number of different devices that use small pneumatic cylinders to actuate buttons at the proper force level, frequency, and number of cycles. In some cases variables may include the angle of impact, the force of the actuation, and the sequence of button pushing on a multi-buttoned device. Some manufacturers even require verification of proper contact prior to continuing the test. A requirement for a unit under test (UUT) to pass 1 million cycles or more is not unusual.
Strain Relief on Electronic Cords
The ability to resist cracking and failure of electronic cables fastened to a rigid component of a product is important in the overall product design where flexible cables are attached. Exposed wires can lead to safety issues and mechanical failures.
The manufacturer of a game controller approached Westpak to simulate strain relief failures that had been occurring at demonstration facilities for their products. Westpak was able to determine the motions required and designed a piece of test equipment that accurately reproduced product motion and the related field failures.
By using Westpak’s test equipment and test method, the manufacturer was able to test various different types of strain relief mechanisms and was able to determine the best solution.
Simulation of the Jogging Environment
The manufacturer of a small handheld device wanted to simulate the environment of a youthful jogger with their device strapped to the jogger's waist or wrist.
Visual observations were made and measurements were taken using portable electronic devices. The frequency, amplitude, and sequence of physical inputs were established.
A test device was then constructed to properly reproduce the exact frequency, amplitude, and sequence of vibration and impacts experienced by the device when worn by an athletic jogger. Results were favorable.
Reproducing the Wind Environment Affect without a Wind Tunnel
A producer of solar photovoltaic products approached Westpak to reproduce the effect of wind vibration on their product without the use of an expensive wind tunnel. The manufacturer wanted to determine the effect of wind induced vibration on their products.
Westpak determined that the response of the product in a wind tunnel was the same as the response from a strong wind environment produced in the laboratory. By mounting powerful air blowers in parallel and focusing the wind in the proper position, an exact replica of the field effect was obtained. Wind speeds in excess of 200 km/hr (124 mph) were measured at the surface of the product. The mounting technique was validated along with wind induced vibration response.
Reliability Testing for Smart Meters
The harsh environment experienced by outdoor products such as smart meters was a concern for those designing some of these new devices.
Extreme thermal cycle testing was considered to be one of the best possible indicators of long-term outdoor reliability. However, a critical component of the product could not be exposed to these temperature extremes because it was not intended to be mounted and subjected to the same thermal extremes as the meter itself.
Westpak designed and built a special thermal break whereby components of the smart meter that required temperature cycling were exposed to extreme temperatures necessary, with the other components mounted outside the environmental chamber. This thermal break protected the components from the rigors of thermal cycling. The test procedure and special equipment developed by Westpak has become a routine part of the reliability testing for these devices here.