Pressure chambers are one of many types of environmental test chambers, which are spaces or rooms designed to test products of all kinds, to gauge how they weather certain environmental conditions. Sometimes, though less frequently, environmental test chambers are also referred to as climatic chambers or climate chambers. Generally, manufacturers use environmental test chambers to uncover potential points of weakness within their products, so that they can modify them before releasing or releasing them to the public. They also use them informationally, to test the limits of their products. Pressure chambers specifically are, of course, used to see how a certain product responds to, withstands and performs under a variety of different temperatures.
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Design of Pressure Chambers
Because the applications of pressure chambers are fairly wide, they may come in a proportionally diverse number of shapes and sizes. They may, for example, be as small and simple as an enclosed benchtop, or they may be large, walk-in or drive-in chambers large enough to accommodate aircrafts. Additionally, pressure testing may be conducted in a universal testing chamber (UTM), which is a highly versatile test chamber that may be used for multiple, dissimilar tests.
The events occurring inside pressure chambers are accessible via some type of viewpoint or video feed. Reach-in pressure chambers usually come equipped with an opening that technicians can use to physically handle test samples. Note that, if a chamber has an interior lighting system, operators must account for the environmental changes the system generates, and adjust their results accordingly. Pressure chambers are also equipped with one or more pressure gauges that read out interior pressures. These, too, vary in size and style. Some rely on simple analogue meters and needles, some offer digital readouts, while still others use video and graphical displays. Additionally, some may be programmed to sound alarms or turn on signal lights.
Purpose of Pressure Chambers
Pressure chambers are a great asset in the pursuit of quality control, wherein they typically test products under a set of varying forms of extreme pressure to make sure that the products will operate at normal levels. Because pressure testing is so important, the quality of the pressure chamber is equally important. Pressure chambers must be able to withstand the extreme pressures enacted inside them without losing any functionality.
While pressure chambers are almost always built to tolerate the forces associated with low and high pressure levels, the possibility for malfunction always exists. For this reason, human operators must closely monitor pressure to stop the occurrence of any avoidable catastrophic events, such as an explosion. How do they do that? As mentioned, the pressure sent into the chamber is usually displayed on pressure gauges. The operator uses these readings to adjust to interior pressure, based on what he or she sees displayed.
Applications of Pressure Chambers
Who uses pressure chambers? Operators in the service of many industries and applications use them, including those engaged in construction, the marine and aerospace industries, high terrestrial altitude research and other scientific research. Construction applications of pressure chambers include those related to elements of a structure or building, such as the exterior windows, skylights, curtain walls and doors.
Pressure chambers can simulate static and changing air pressure to see if these components will become compromised in any way in the face of it. In the marine industry, pressure chambers may be used to test equipment that is designed to be submerged at great ocean depths, such as diving chamber equipment like cables and umbilicals and submarine components, as well as non-diving applications like hyperbaric medicine.
Pressure chambers are extremely important for use with applications in this industry, because the deeper in the ocean an object or person goes, the more extreme and potentially volatile and/or dangerous the pressure they experience becomes. To ensure the accurate testing of products exposed to these extremes, some pressure chambers can simulate up to 60,000 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure, as well as reduce pressure to create vacuums. Pressure chambers called altitude chambers are essential during research for aerospace vessel building and/or training of astronauts, as well as for mission planning for professionals planning on embarking treks that involve extreme pressure changes, like those encountered during some mountain climbing.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Pressure Chamber
Serious purchasers of pressure chambers will know what type of pressure ranges under which they would like to test their products or processes, as well as the dimensions with which they will work. For the most beneficial and accurate results of pressure testing, interested parties will take these specifications and application requirements to a knowledgeable pressure chamber manufacturer, who will produce an appropriately-sized, trustworthy and safe chamber. Also note that pressure chambers are or can be made to meet any number of local, national or industrial standards, such as ISO standards or ASTM International standards.