Determining Failure in Electronics and Electronic Components: Considerations for Physical and Mechanical Testing

July 12, 2016  by  

Jeff Andrasik (2)

Jeff Andrasik

The reliability of electronic systems plays an increasingly important role in the success of many different types of businesses. Whether it is an electronics system in a vehicle, a personal electronic device or an electronic display on a piece of industrial equipment, it is critical that they all function properly. If potential problems are diagnosed and resolutions are determined before the product is in the hands of the business or the final consumer, then the integration of technology and the efficiency it can bring is much more effective.

While rigorous testing protocols for information software is a critical step in developing electronic systems and components, physical/mechanical and durability testing programs often lack consideration for key environmental factors. Through an independent, third-party laboratory, a testing process can be developed so that tests are executed throughout the systems’ development process with the goal of diagnosing problems and determining resolutions that increase efficiency, success and performance.

The end result of this process is a successful symbiotic relationship between electronics and the people who rely on them everyday.

Common Conditions that Cause Electronic Failure

It is often difficult to predict the life cycle of electronic products because failures can occur at any point. Determining failures in electronics is both time and stress dependent. Durability tests are run in order to determine the cause of the failure. In general, electronic failure modes are unknown until their normal operating conditions are tested.

There are a variety of conditions that can cause failures in electronic systems and products, the three most common conditions are: shock, exposure and trauma. Failure often occurs without warning and can cause extreme interruption to the system’s operation. Testing can determine if failure was caused by shock from a surrounding system operation, trauma resulting from mechanical or manual handling, or exposure to fluids.

Electronic Testing Considerations

Proper testing will replicate the service conditions of the electronic product by applying different non-electrical variables such as temperature, vibration or shock (thermal or mechanical). Electronics are used daily in a variety of applications so all of these varying scenarios must be taken into account. Prior to the test, manufacturers will want to consider additional factors concerning the end use of the electronic system or product.

For Example:
● Where will the product be mounted?
● What is surrounding the product during operation?
● What is the working temperature?
● Will it be exposed to fluids?

The Testing Process

Delving deeper into the testing process, four of the most common types of electronic testing evaluations include:
● Mechanical shock
○ Assesses the fragility and durability of a product to both high performance shock (direct impact) and free fall shock (drops).
● Temperature aging
○ Uses accelerated tests by creating more energy, which allows reactions to occur in a shorter time period.
● Vibration Testing
○ Simulates how a product is affected when it undergoes fatigue, a constant physical stress at low frequencies to determine durability, or undergoes vibration, which forces the product to move in high frequency.
● Fluid Exposure
○ Determines whether the electronic system is affected by temporary or prolonged exposure to a specific fluid.

To further optimize the testing process, it is important to determine the costs associated with testing as well as the costs associated with not testing. The Smithers Rapra Testing Cost Comparison Calculator provides manufacturers the ability to assess the financial impact of outsourced testing by calculating the projected incremental revenues of a new product and factor in the number of months delayed by backlogs in the internal lab.

Typically, internal laboratories struggle with timing, capacity and capability during proof testing. These types of setbacks can lead to delayed launch and even lost revenue. When an internal process is supplemented or replaced with external testing, both time and cost can be reduced. The Testing Cost Comparison Calculator provides a visual representation of potential lost revenue, which can be used for internal projections to validate the use of external testing resources.

The data obtained from electronic testing evaluations can influence a manufacturer’s product development process, increase efficiencies within the product’s life cycle and optimize the testing program to benefit future product developments. The consummation of this process is an improved relationship between electronics and the people who rely on them everyday.

Jeff Andrasik is Product Testing Manager and Senior Test Engineer for Smithers Rapra North America. Jeff joined Smithers Rapra in 2002, and has developed and executed a wide variety of test programs including pressure, vibration, and temperature specifications for automotive, industrial, aerospace, nuclear and consumer products. He has worked in the Smithers Rapra Product Testing Laboratory, Material Testing Laboratory and the Sample Preparation Area. Jeff has more than 10 years of experience testing rubber and plastic components, parts and products against common industry and governmental standards including ASTM, ISO, SAE, Fed, MIL, FDA and automotive OEM specifications. He is a graduate of the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Polymer Engineering

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