Environmental testing is the measurement of the performance of equipment under specified environmental conditions. The chambers simulate a full range of temperature testing and humidity testing conditions. Some chambers even account for corrosion through the introduction of salt spray into the chamber. Environmental testing chambers include salt spray test chamber, high and low-temperature test chamber, constant temperature and humidity test chamber, ultraviolet aging test chamber, xenon lamp aging test chamber, ozone aging test chamber and ovens. The main function of an environmental test chamber is to see how products handle operating in various environments.
Quick links to Environmental Testing Information
How Environmental Testing Works
Humidity in the test chamber can be simulated by evaporation of water with a heat source or with ultrasound technology. Water vapor can be introduced using a steam generator. Refrigeration systems are used to cool the environment.
Test chambers vary in size, sometimes being as large as a small room or as small as a countertop device. Generally, test chambers have viewports or video feeds that allow for ease of monitoring. Some chambers allow for reach-in openings that allow for sample testing.
Applications for Environmental Testing
Environmental chambers allow for control over various conditions. For release, the product must be able to operate in a wide variety of environments, both storage and operational. During the design phase, analysis can be performed to help determine a product’s ability to meet each of these environments. During the testing phase, the product is taken through environmental tests to see if it can withstand certain pre-set expectations and standards. If the product does not meet a certain environmental specification, or if the margins between the specification and the actual product operation are deemed not sufficient, then the failure must be analyzed and the product must be made more robust.
Environmental tests can test altitude, explosive atmosphere, fluid compatibility, fungus, ice/freezing, rapid and explosive decompression, salt fog, sand and dust, solar radiation exposure, temperature and humidity, wind, waterproofness and immersion, and life cycle testing. Environmental testing is important to understand the longevity of a product and to understand if they meet or exceed safety standards and requirements.
Environmental Testing Standards and Specifications
Test chambers must follow several organizational standards and guidance in construction, temperature control standards, and engineering tolerances, including:
- Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology
- Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute
- ASTM International
- Underwriters Laboratories
- NSF International
- FM Global
- Canadian Standards Association
- International Organization for Standardization
Things to Consider When Conducting Environmental Testing
It is important to consider how the chambers will be used when considering a testing service. Every chamber has a different standard temperature range, some getting as high as 500F and low as -30F. The size of the product tested should also be taken into consideration. Safety standards require approximately 1/3 product and 2/3 empty space to allow for adequate air flow. It is also important to disclose the type of material tested for the manufacture of the chamber. This allows them to determine the right fit, or a custom builds a chamber. When using a testing service, it is important to consider their capabilities. Manufacturers of chambers bring in expertise, as well as the ability to adapt and customize a machine.