Setting Goals for Life Cycle Testing

We receive many requests for Life Cycle Testing of electronic products and the first step is to define the scope of the test and the overall objectives. When applied early in the product design, Life Cycle Testing and Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) can help uncover failure mechanisms and weak design points. Life Cycle Testing of final products can help define warranty periods and increase confidence in product reliability throughout its projected life.

There is no “standard” Life Cycle Test, so Elite’s experts tailor each test program for a specific product and application to accurately simulate an entire lifetime. Planning a successful Life Cycle Test starts by considering a few key questions:

1. What are the critical failure modes and mechanisms for your product?

Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA) provides a formal approach to answering this question, but can be a bit intimidating. First, consider the critical functions of your product that must operate properly under all circumstances. Next, consider the external stresses that would impact those critical functions – including environmental (temperature, humidity), mechanical (vibration, shock, impact), and electrical (high voltage or current cycling) considerations. Cycle times and levels for each stress are then determined based on the anticipated operating environment.

2. How should mechanical components be cycled?

Repetitive motion of a mechanical component (such as a control switch, knob, keypad or actuator) typically defines the “cycle” part of a Life Cycle Test. Setting parameters for motion range, force application, and actuation cycle time to represent operational use is crucial to accelerating product use. Our Machining, Automation and Controls team fabricates automation systems to precisely apply those motion parameters for the duration of testing. With an in-house machine shop and 3D printer, our experts design systems to custom-fit your products.

3. When is the Life Cycle Test completed?

This question can be more complicated that it appears and it is an important assumption in pricing. Life Cycle Tests follow one of two paths: success-run or test-to-failure. A success-run test would set a specific number of cycles or hours that the tests samples must endure to meet the lifetime goal. For a test-to-failure, completion time is more open-ended so typically a maximum test duration is set. It is also important to define what operation is required for a sample to be considered “functional” throughout the test.

Considering these questions will clarify your goals for Life Cycle Testing and ensure valuable data is collected from your Life Cycle Test. Elite’s experts review your goals and help design and execute a test plan to achieve them in one location. From designing and fabricating automation systems to accelerate a lifetime of repetitive motion, to simulating virtually any environment, our Environmental Stress Testing and Machining, Automation, and Controls teams are ready to put our resources to work for you.