The term "test chamber" refers to any type of contained space within which different products are placed and tested for their responses to and the long-term effects of any number of changes.
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Applications of Test Chambers
Generally, test chambers replicate environmental conditions that a product will likely encounter at some point while working in its intended setting. In this way, they allow a manufacturer to evaluate the product’s durability and general quality. This gives manufacturers the opportunity to recognize and correct potential flaws before a product reaches the consumer market.
In addition, through the use of test chambers, manufacturers can gauge and increase the lifespan of their products. Test chambers are popular in a number of industries, including, but not limited to aerospace, automotives, consumer products, electronics, energy, food processing, medicine, military and defense, packaging, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.
How Test Chambers Work
Test chambers, also commonly called environmental test chambers, are usually designed to replicate conditions related to altitude, humidity, temperature, thermal shock, and vibration. They also test the effects of salt-spray corrosion, rain, sun exposure, and other climate-based conditions.
While some test chambers only perform one function at a time, the reason that many are designed to simulate multiple conditions at once is that this capability makes chambers more accurate, more functional, and easier for use with a broad user base. Versatility also makes more a better investment. Nevertheless, many specialized test chambers are still available for purchase.
Notable Types of Test Chambers
Popular test chambers include AGREE chambers, altitude chambers, cryogenic chambers, temperature chambers, thermal shock chambers, and vacuum test chambers.
- AGREE Chambers
- The AGREE in AGREE chambers stands for "Advisory Group on Reliability of Electronic Equipment." They are named after the US Defense Department group that originally set their quality standards. When they were first designed, AGREE chambers only tested military equipment. Today, however, they provide a combination of temperature, humidity, and vibration testing to applications in a variety of industries. They can produce extreme temperature changes very quickly, between approximately 41 and 104 (5 and 40) per minute, even with large loads. Their vibration capabilities are based in the feature of a removable floor.
- Altitude Chambers
- Also called hypobaric chambers, replicate the gas and pressure conditions found at differing altitudes. Altitude chambers test not only the response of products that will be exposed to high altitudes, but the response of human trainees that expect to be exposed to altitude changes and the lessening oxygen levels associated with these changes. This includes pilots-in-training, divers, mountaineers, and athletes. Due to the sensitive nature of their equipment and missions, altitude chambers are essential tools in the aeronautical, aerospace, automotive, and military industries.
- Cryogenic Chambers
- Test chambers that simulate environments with extremely low temperature, on average between -238 (-150) and absolute zero, or lower, with the help of liquid nitrogen. Cryogenic chambers may be considered a type of temperature chamber, which is a chamber that studies the effects of sudden variations in temperature as well as extreme temperatures.
- Thermal Shock Chambers
- Measure the stress and strain related reactions of a product to sudden and drastic temperature changes. They, as their name suggests, measure thermal shock specifically. Thermal shock, which causes faulting or cracking along lines of stress, is the result of conflict created uneven element expansion and compression created during heating or cooling. Due to their low thermal conductivity and their tendency to expand and compress unevenly, ceramics and glass are especially vulnerable to thermal shock. This is why so many industries, including, medical, aerospace, automotives, consumer goods, and construction, use thermal shock chambers to test their products.
- Vacuum Chambers
- Create a vacuum by removing air and pressure from a contained space, routinely achieving between 0 and 8 Torr levels. Industries that rely on tests in the low pressure environment of vacuum chambers include aerospace and sealing and packaging.
Benefits of Using Test Chambers
As more products are invented and technological innovations continue, the need for test chambers becomes greater, and test chamber manufacturers work to create test chambers with better environmental controls that lead to improved consistency and more extreme temperature ranges. At the moment, for example, most temperature chambers operate with temperature capacities between -100 (-73.3) and 850 (454).
Proper design and structure choices are essential to the creation of trustworthy test chambers, which is why updated chamber designs are so exciting. They often feature faster cycling times and simpler refurbishing methods easier assembly procedures. Between these improvements and their already sizable value, test chambers are a sure bet for those looking to manufacture a superior, more reliable product.