Comprehensive Guide to Different Methods of Product Testing

No matter what products your company manufactures, you can benefit from product testing. Testing your products during various stages of the development process helps to ensure product quality, reduce development and manufacturing costs, increase customer satisfaction and reduce the time needed for product development. It can help you to evaluate designs, solve product problems, confirm compliance with regulations and ensure product safety.

The term product testing refers to the process of conducting tests to assess the performance or characteristics of a product. Of course, the type of test you use will vary depending on the type of products and characteristics you’re evaluating. Sometimes, a standard or regulatory requirement will specify the test method to use. Other times, you may need to develop a test method yourself, possibly with assistance from an independent product testing laboratory.

In this guide to product testing types, you’ll find an overview of some of the types of tests we most frequently perform at Quality Testing Services.

Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT)

Highly Accelerated Life Testing, commonly called HALT, is a testing method used to reveal weaknesses in the beginning stages of a product’s life cycle, typically the design and development stages.

HALT incrementally increases the stress levels applied to the product, eventually exceeding the conditions in which customers will use the item. It increases stress levels in short intervals, which can cause failure within hours. Testing a product in this way enables you to quickly uncover design problems and anomalies.

HALT involves applying various types of stresses. The testing we conduct using our HALT test chamber typically includes these five steps:

  • Hot thermal step stress
  • Cold thermal step stress
  • Rapid thermal cycling
  • Vibration step stress
  • Combined environment

HALT reveals the weaknesses in a product, enabling you to make improvements to design and fix issues resulting from design and development before bringing a product to market. Conducting HALT repeatedly throughout a product’s life cycle helps you to continually update your product, eventually resulting in the creation of a world-class, high-quality product.

One of the benefits of HALT is the speed with which you can uncover a product’s weaknesses. It can also help to expose many different kinds of failures through one test, which can be faster than using several more specialized tests. At Quality Testing Services, we are experts in HALT. Along with HASS, it is one of the kinds of product quality testing methods we are best known for.

Highly Accelerated Stress Screening (HASS)

Highly Accelerated Stress Screening, or HASS, is used to uncover weaknesses and product defects that may result from issues that occur during the production or manufacturing process. Typically, you will use HASS during the production phase after performing HALT.

HASS involves the application of thermal and vibration stresses to uncover defects. These stresses gradually increase in intensity. The stress level applied will exceed the product’s specifications but stay within the parameters of the previous HALT.

Performing this type of stress test enables you to uncover and correct problems and anomalies that may occur. Without testing, customers may be the one to find these problems, which can cost the company money through returns, warranty payments, decreased customer confidence and reduced future sales. In the worst-case scenario, the defect could be dangerous to users, potentially resulting in injuries or deaths as well as lawsuits against the company.

Conducting HASS can save companies significant amounts of money, as well as potential reputation damage, by avoiding these types of outcomes. HASS is another test for which Quality Testing Services is especially well-known.

Accelerated Life Cycle Testing

Accelerated life cycle testing, sometimes abbreviated as ALT for accelerated life testing, provides you with information about how a product will function over its lifetime and helps you to estimate the length of its life cycle.

For many products, simply observing a product over the course of its life cycle would not be sufficient, as it may take years to reach failure. To get products to market within a reasonable timeframe, you can conduct ALT. This test method speeds up the aging process to get you results fast.

To perform ALT, you subject a product to extreme conditions that exceed standard operating requirements. These conditions are designed to simulate use by the end-user over the product’s expected life cycle. The accelerated nature of the tests causes the product to fail much more quickly than it would under typical conditions.

Once the test is complete, a technician will analyze the results to calculate the product’s life cycle, its limits under extreme conditions and failure mechanisms that will likely contribute to failure over a product’s life.

Unlike the qualitative HALT and HASS methods, ALT is a quantitative test. While HALT and HASS help you to predict sudden failures and improve designs and products, ALT improves your understanding of your product’s typical life cycle.

Accelerated Weathering Testing

Accelerated weathering testing is a testing method that helps to determine how weather conditions may impact a product’s durability over its life cycle. It’s used for products intended for outdoor use.

Products designed for outdoor use are exposed to conditions such as excess moisture, consistent sunlight and temperature changes that can damage products and cause them to fail more quickly than products kept indoors.

An accelerated weathering test helps to determine how weather conditions will affect a product or component without having to wait for the product’s entire life cycle. To conduct an accelerated weathering test, you place the product in question in an accelerated weathering chamber or other weathering system. The system simulates weather conditions the product may encounter and exposes it to ultraviolet light, extreme temperatures, various humidity levels and corrosive environments.

Following the test, an engineer or technician will assess the product for indicators of degradation, including changes in color and strength.

Environmental Stress Screening (ESS)

Environmental stress screening (ESS) is an umbrella term referring to tests that simulate and accelerate the environmental conditions that a product will be exposed to during its life cycle.

ESS can cover conditions such as temperature, vibrations, corrosive materials, radiation and altitude. Two or more environmental factors may be tested at the same time.

At Quality Testing Services, we offer ESS testing services such as combined temperature and electrodynamic vibration, rapid transition rate, altitude and thermal vacuum tests.

To conduct ESS, you place the product to be tested in an environmental test chamber and expose it to various stimuli to help identify weaknesses, defects and failures. For example, a thermal test may uncover seal and gasket failures or poor wiring insulation. Vibration screening is used to detect loose connectors or weaknesses in a circuit breaker.

ESS is essential for ensuring that your product will perform as expected under the conditions it is expected to operate in. It’s especially useful for products that will be exposed to unusually harsh environments.

Thermal and Humidity Environmental Testing

For some products, it is necessary to perform tests specially designed to uncover failures related to extreme temperatures and humidity.

Thermal and humidity testing enables you to test how your product will perform under harsh weather conditions or during prolonged use. It also helps you to determine the ideal climate in which to use a product. Additionally, it can uncover potential functionality problems so they can be corrected before an item gets put on the market.

This test method involves accelerating the stress levels that a product will encounter during everyday usage. Tests may use static temperature and humidity or involve changes in these conditions.

This type of testing is critical for automotive components because they are exposed to varying temperature and humidity levels during regular use. They must continue to operate correctly in these conditions to ensure customer satisfaction and safety. It’s also important for electronic products, as they are especially susceptible to these conditions, as well as a range of other kinds of products.

Mechanical Endurance Testing

Over their lifetime, products experience mechanical stress through regular use that causes them to eventually wear out and fail. These failures occur even if the stresses applied to a product never exceed its static limits.

Mechanical endurance testing evaluates the damage caused by use over a product’s lifespan. It helps determine whether a given product can endure the load it’s expected to be subjected to during regular use. Unlike some other tests, it doesn’t establish a static stress limit.

In a mechanical endurance test, physical forces such as vibrations, strains and shock stresses are applied to a product. The test is designed to simulate conditions similar to those that the product will undergo during regular use. Types of mechanical tests include fatigue testing, push-pull-press testing and open-close testing.

The engineer or technician conducting the test observes performance quality while the test is carried out. By analyzing the results, you can establish the product’s boundaries of use. It can also help you to improve product quality control.

Vibration and Shock Testing

Many types of products, including those used in the transportation, aerospace and military sectors, are exposed to vibrations and shocks. Testing is required to ensure that these products can withstand the stresses that these vibrations and shocks cause.

To conduct these kinds of tests, a technician or engineer will expose the product to vibrations or shocks using one of various product testing techniques.

Vibration test methods include sine sweep testing, in which a product is exposed to a single sine at a time at various frequencies. This test reveals resonant conditions on electrical components. A random vibration test involves applying all frequencies in a specified range to a product at once to replicate real-world conditions.

A shock test involves applying a sudden, short and high level of force to a product or component. Gauges measure the strain on the test piece to determine whether it meets performance requirements. Shock tests may simulate forces the product may experience during handling, transportation or use. Tests may replicate specific occurrences such as drops during handling and proximity to weapons being fired.

Reliability Growth Testing

Reliability growth testing is a type of test used to uncover failures in prototypes. The results of these tests help to improve future prototypes and ensure a product is of high quality before entering production.

Reliability growth testing involves systematically exposing a product to stresses that may cause failures. By revealing these failures, these product testing methodologies help you to improve a product through changes in design or manufacturing processes.

Employing this type of test helps you to quickly find design and manufacturing, reducing the time needed for production and preventing you from wasting money on producing defective products. It also helps to ensure your product is of high quality before you release it to sell to the public.

A full reliability growth program also includes a management strategy for taking corrective actions once failures are discovered. Using your program will help you to analyze failures to determine their root causes so you can correct them.

The Benefits of Working With a Professional Lab

There are many different types of product testing. The right product testing methods for you depend on the type of product you’re testing, the standards and regulatory requirements that apply, the characteristics you want to evaluate, how the product will be used and more.

If you work with a professional product testing lab such as Quality Testing Services, lab staff can help you determine the right tests to use. They will also have the expertise needed to design test methods, conduct tests accurately, analyze failures and help you with product testing processes. Professional product testing labs will also have high-quality equipment. At Quality Testing Services, we even offer custom test fixture fabrication.

The alternative to partnering with a professional lab is purchasing your own equipment and setting up a product testing lab at your own facility. This is a valid option, but it is often more economical to work with an established lab.

Testing equipment can be expensive to purchase, operate and maintain. You also need to provide training and purchase liability insurance. Working with a third-party lab eliminates these upfront costs and makes high-quality product testing much more accessible.

Considering the opportunity costs of testing your own products is also important. Doing so takes significant time and resources away from other activities that may have a higher return on investment. Working with a lab allows you to focus more on your core business.

Additionally, regulations or standards may require the objectivity of a third party. If it is isn’t a requirement, using a third party for product testing can help increase stakeholder confidence in your products and brands because of the objectivity of the third party.

About Quality Testing Services

At Quality Testing Services, we offer a range of product testing services, including those listed above. We are best known for our HALT and HASS services but also have expertise in many other test methods including ESS, ALT, vibration and shock testing and more. We also offer custom product testing, custom test fixture fabrication and consulting services. For more than 20 years, we’ve worked with companies across sectors such as consumer electronics, aerospace, military, automotive and more.

We focus on the individual needs of our customers. As a small product testing company, we can offer personalized attention that larger organizations can’t. We’ll work with you to understand your testing needs, help you choose the right testing services and understand your results. Our expertise and high-quality testing equipment will help ensure your tests are run accurately and safely.

To learn more about how we can help you create a world-class product through our testing services, contact us today by filling out this contact form or giving us a call at (714) 903-1155. For quote requests, please fill out our request a quote form.

Related Resources:
Product Testing Services from Quality Testing Services
What Companies and Industries Should Do Product Testing
How the Product Testing Process Works