Will it Work in Denver?

After building up the right process and spending quality time on a testing plan, it looks like your product is on time and under budget. But even these best laid plans often make a potentially dangerous assumption – what works in your office will work everywhere else.

How’s the Weather Out There?

A wise engineer once said, “Device operation should not depend on the phase of the moon, unless that is what is measured.” When writing up test plans, this nugget of knowledge is often forgotten, though. The conditions in your office are treated like the phase of the moon, even though the device on your desk indirectly measures those conditions all of the time.

Why should this matter, though? The majority of products are not designed to be left out in the rain, but rather to sit in an office or a home. These places are all typically climate controlled, so an unstated assumption quietly creeps into the back of your mind. This assumption, a danger to your product, is that devices don’t depend on operating conditions because those conditions should not significantly change. Sometimes this is a valid assumption. But most of the time this assumption will be challenged. And all that will take is a trip to Colorado.

Colorado has a wealth of climates, from deserts to forests to snow-covered peaks, with a little of everything in-between. A driving tour of this state will expose a device to a number of operating conditions – even indoors – that it might not experience otherwise. Dry air in Colorado Springs. Low pressure in Denver. Sand particulates in the air at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sub-zero temperatures at the observatory on Pikes Peak. Over less than a 200 mile road trip in the same state, your device has encountered four new operating conditions, and that nasty assumption didn’t account for any of them.

Not every product needs to account for ambient sand particulates, of course. But a product with an ambient air pump might sputter in Denver. Or a product with a heater may not reach its expected operating temperature at Pikes Peak. It is these type of situations that the wise engineer was indirectly warning us about. So, of course, we must plan for testing in these environments. Nevertheless, booking a road trip to test a product all around Colorado isn’t necessarily practical or repeatable, and might not even cover every scenario, so we must find another way.

Road Trip in a Box

When you can’t drive through Denver, why not just simulate the experience? Simulation is, after all, an important component in all manner of testing. And luckily, such environmental testing chambers already exist for all manner of operating conditions. A virtual tour around Colorado can easily be constructed in environmental testing chambers, allowing us to weed out potential operating concerns without leaving home.

  • Humidity Chambers
    Simulates the Colorado Springs leg of the road trip. In this testing chamber, low relative humidity testing can expose issues with static electricity, and high relative humidity testing can expose issues with condensation formation.
  • Temperature Chambers
    Simulates the Pikes Peak leg of the road trip. In this testing chamber, low and high temperature testing can expose issues with temperature-sensitive chemical assays, or accelerated part fatigue in temperature extremes.
  • Dust/Spray Chambers
    Simulates the Great Sand Dunes National Park leg of the road trip. In this testing chamber, ingress protection testing can expose issues with dust, water, or other contaminants seeping into a device and causing internal damage.
  • Altitude/Pressure Chambers
    Simulates the Denver leg of the road trip. In this testing chamber, low and high pressure testing can expose device leaks and physical weaknesses of internally pressurized device parts.

From even this small sampling of testing chambers and concerns they might expose, the path forward is clear. Those already well-made testing plans will be yet further improved now with Denver in mind. Then you can confidently answer – yes, it will work in Denver.

But we’re ready with more vacation testing ideas if you’d like to discuss.

Chris Fleck
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