Kathy Fedirchuk
Product Quality Engineer

Real World Testing for Real World Products

Editor’s Note: On November 16, 2017, Synapse and Cambridge Consultants showcased brand new, groundbreaking technology, product design, and innovative development at our annual Innovation Day event.

The Day included presentations highlighting the progress and future of technological innovation and over two dozen technology demonstrations with application in consumer, medical, industrial, telecommunications, and other sectors.

One of the technology demonstrations Synapse presented was “Real World Testing For Real World Products”. In this blog, Kathy Fedirchuk introduces the demo.

Knowledge Built By Testing

At Synapse, we love to push the envelope. Our clients want to deliver feature-packed products at the right price point, at the right time, and at the right quality level.

It’s more important than ever that we understand how our designs work and whether they’ll meet our clients’ needs. Over-engineering can be slow and costly whereas under-engineering can leave customers disappointed. We test our designs early and often to learn about them quickly and iterate as needed to ensure they’ll meet users’ expectations.

One of the hardest things to get exactly “good enough” is water resistance. We’ve created many water resistant devices over the years, from 10ATM ultra-rugged smartwatches to products that simply need to resist splashing water. While all sorts of seals, coatings, and materials are available to create a waterproof box, constraints like shape, size, weight, cost, and time can make creating the best seal very difficult.

Although there are standardized static ingress resistance tests (i.e. leaving a device submerged at rest), dynamic testing has always required a more “imaginative” approach; washing machines, dishwashers, and pressure washers have all been regularly re-purposed in our lab. Of course, actual user trials are the gold standard, but time and budgetary constraints mean they always need to be supplemented with lab tests.

Our Splashy Innovation Day Demo

To test early and often and produce consistent, relevant results in the lab, we recently built a machine to test our designs in dynamic water environments. We needed to better understand how our designs will perform in the places their users want to be, doing the things they want to do.

‍‍Early concept development of the tester based on user requirements, translated into tester requirements. Mechanical Engineer Ricky Huff sketches “spinners”, “carousels” and “whirligigs” before the team converged on a final design

The tester is 7 feet tall with a pneumatic piston mounted above a tank full of water. We attach a device to the end of the piston and dunk it any way we want into the tank of water.

The pneumatic piston outputs live position data, which we use to command and monitor the motion of the piston. We can watch the data stream to a custom GUI then download it for analysis. Since we designed and built the tester ourselves, we can fully customize all parts of the test, including the piston’s motion profile, cycle count, run time, and the liquid in the tank. Each use case can be represented by its own combination of test parameters. The breadth of this testing allows us to de-risk our designs faster than ever before.

Dynamic testing can uncover reactions not seen in static testing. Buttons can be pressed, displays can be activated, and seals can leak. Early understanding of these issues allows us to iterate our designs and adjust as necessary.

The main advantage of this tester is repeatable data, delivered quickly and reliably. Engineers benefit from immediate feedback, allowing them to iterate and re-test under the exact same conditions. This consistency also enables other products to be used as benchmarks, which can be exceptionally insightful when you’re trying something totally new.

Getting It Right

Threading the needle of over- and under-engineering of products is incredibly important so they can thrive in the market. We strive to bring client projects to market quickly and economically.

By testing our products in the lab more like they’ll be used in the real world, we can minimize issues and risks and maximize confidence in the design as we move towards manufacturing the right product, on time and on budget.

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