Product qualification, also known as product certification, is the process of certifying that a specific product has passed performance and quality tests, or qualification requirements, laid out in regulations or by the product’s customer.
Many companies historically start product qualification testing by outsourcing the testing to independent environmental test labs rather than realize the cost of acquiring and maintaining vibration test equipment. However, there are a few reasons to look at in-house testing over outsourcing.
The most obvious reason is simply that if vibration testing is done regularly, the cost of ownership of vibration test equipment quickly offsets the cost of expensive outsourced tests.
However, the most important reason is to bring qualification testing upfront in the design cycle. A very typical scenario is for a company to perform qualification testing after final design and fail testing. The cost of this failure is more than just the cost of having to pay to have it retested, it is also the opportunity cost associated with delays due to redesign. It is not unheard of for a product to be tested at an independent laboratory many times before passing the test. By bringing testing up front in the design cycle, there are opportunities to gauge product performance and gather insight that will otherwise not be there.
Additional side benefits of in-house testing include performing R&D applications, ensuring product secrecy, and even offsetting costs performing contract testing.
Military and Defense Test Standards
One of the most common test requirements is for qualification of electronics, vehicle systems, and weapons for military applications. The US Department of Defense publishes a wide range of standards for the testing and qualification of military equipment. This includes both equipment specifically manufactured for military use and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) equipment that must be qualified for military use. The most common US military standard is MIL STD 810 with various revisions. MIL STD 810 is a guideline for testing, with some recommended, or default, test profiles. Additional US military standards include MIL STD 167, 202, and 901 (shipboard shock). US MIL STD 810 is so common that it is often used in other industries for defining test specifications.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) publishes its own standard for qualification of equipment for NATO forces. This standard is AECTP 400. AECTP 400 provides the characteristics and data on climatic, mechanical, and electrical/electromagnetic environments.
Commercial Aviation Standards
Equally critical is the standardization and minimum performance of aviation equipment. The most common commercial aviation standard in the US is the DO-160 (Environmental Conditions and Test Procedures for Airborne Equipment) published by RTCA, the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics. DO-160 is coordinated with the EUROCAE/ED-14 specification from EUROCAE.
Automotive Qualification Testing
As automotive OEMs shifted costs to their suppliers, they also shifted the majority of testing requirements as well. There are many ISO standards geared toward automotive vibration testing, however most qualification acceptance standards are published or provided directly by the automotive OEMs. For instance, GM routinely publishes specifications such as the GMW3172.
Seismic vibration testing involves measurements and activity concerning earth motion, such as earthquakes. Seismic tests are often multishaker tests.
There are many standards governing seismic testing in different industries. For telecommunications testing, the NEBS (Network Equipment-Building System) guidelines are most often used. IEEE 344 defines test requirements for safety related equipment in nuclear power plants. Another recent earthquake test is the ICC-ES AC156 test that defines the “Acceptance Criteria for Seismic Certification by Shake-Table Testing of Nonstructural Components.”
Read more about Seismic Testing.