Have you ever wondered how a manufacturer knows that their products are meeting their quality standards? Lots of various techniques can be used in product testing to determine the quality and durability of each item. Sometimes these tests are extreme and lead to damage, but other forms of testing do no damage at all (NDT.com.au for example).
These are tests that measure how long something will last, typically under the normal usage conditions. For example, an item with a hinge might be hooked up to an automated machine that opens and closes the hinge until it gives due to wear. Even though the product isn’t actually used in this manner, engineers can then estimate how long it will last under more usual circumstances. When a product claims that it will last for at 5,10 or 20 years, it’s these endurance tests that establish those limits. They don’t actually wait around for that length of time to see what happens.
These tests are a little different. In these cases, the intention is to see how much stress a product can take before breaking or failing. That means pushing it beyond its intended limits. For the same hinged item in our last example, it would mean bending the piece past where it’s supposed to move to see at what point it finally snaps off.
These types of testing can involve dropping products from heights, exposing them to high/low temperatures, crushing under pressure, or other such extreme treatments. It’s the only way to establish what its limits are. If a product doesn’t have the durability to withstand acceptable levels of stress, then it needs to be redesigned with new materials.
Now, these tests we’ve mentioned so far usually result in damage or outright destruction of the item being tested. In many ways, that’s the entire point: to see where the limits are of the product. But what about when you want to do a thorough examination of an item without causing any damage? For some products, this is a very important final step in manufacturing, to ensure quality of each piece before it is sold.
This is where the field of non-destructive testing (NDT) comes in. Technology allows for inspection into a product without doing any harm, to check for flaws, cracks or other imperfections that are otherwise undetectable. Radar, X-rays, magnetism and lasers can all be used in various ways to inspect final products without doing any harm to them. It’s the perfect set of methods to reliably examine a product that can’t be sacrificed.
The specifics of any testing regimen will differ from product to product, and sometimes the approaches can be very unique. Whether prototypes are tested to establish parameters or each individual piece is tested before shipping, each manufacturer will have its own plan for testing. Hopefully, these tests have proven that their products are safe and that they will last a long time.