NPD Jargon Buster: Accelerated Life Testing (ALT)

Learning Centre > NPD Jargon Buster: Accelerated Life Testing (ALT)

Accelerated life testing puts a product through conditions beyond its normal service conditions to discover faults and potential failure modes in a short period of time.

Accelerated life testing puts a product through conditions beyond its normal service conditions to discover faults and potential failure modes in a short period of time.Accelerated life testing puts a product through conditions beyond its normal service conditions to discover faults and potential failure modes in a short period of time.

When developing a new product, you want to make sure it is of the highest quality. However, in order to do this, you need to test it under conditions that are more extreme than what it will experience in normal use.

This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, for example, if you want your new product to last for 20 years of normal use, but you only wanted to test it over 1 year. This is where using accelerated life testing comes in; allowing you to test your product at more extreme conditions for less time, and thereby providing the necessary data that will ensure your new product is of a high enough quality.

Accelerated life testing can help speed up the process while still yielding accurate results. With this approach, products are subjected to conditions that are more extreme than normal use in order to uncover faults and potential modes of failure. By analysing the product's response to such tests, engineers can make predictions about the service life and maintenance intervals of a product.


What is Accelerated Life Testing?

Accelerated Life Testing (ALT) is a way to test products under more extreme conditions in a shorter amount of time. This way, you can find out about any faults or potential modes of failure in the product sooner. This can be useful for products that must be of high quality, such as those that need to last for a long time. Accelerated life testing can save you time and money while still giving accurate results.

What is the purpose of an Accelerated Life Test?

There are three main use cases for an Accelerated Life Test:

  • To identify how well a product will perform under normal use (low failure).
  • To find potential wear-out causes of the product (high wear-out)
  • To find the most common modes of failure for the product (high longevity)

Low Failure

Knowing how your product will perform under normal use is very important in product development. By creating an Accelerated Life Test, you can find how it will perform at more extreme conditions than what it will be used under in the long run. This is useful for testing products that must be of a certain quality and therefore need to perform well under normal use.

High Wear-Out

Knowing how your product performs under high wear-out conditions is also very important in product development. By testing it at more extreme conditions, you can uncover any potential modes of failure from gradual use rather than a sudden shock. If the primary cause of failure would be from a sudden shock, then a Highly Accelerated Life Test (HALT) may be more appropriate.

High Longevity

Finally, knowing how your product performs under high longevity conditions is also very important in product development. By testing it at more extreme conditions than what it will be used under in the long run, you can uncover any potential modes of failure from gradual use rather than a sudden shock.

What Environments Can I Test in?

Accelerated life tests can happen in any environment your product would be subjected to under normal use. Once you have created the test plan, it's up to the engineer running the test to decide which environment to test your product in. This can include humidity, thermal cycling, EMC testing and electrical stimulation.

What Factors Should I Test my product for in an Accelerated Life Test?

There are a number of different factors you should consider including when creating an ALT:

  • Temperature - Most components have an upper and lower temperature limit under which they will operate within their nominal range. Testing the product at extremes of temperature, such as high and low temperatures, can uncover faults related to mechanical deformation, thermal shock or physical fatigue. Additionally, it may also create conditions where certain chemicals within the product begin to condense if the temperature is too extreme for their boiling points. This can be particularly harmful to electronics, so testing your products in both high and low-temperature environments is highly recommended.
  • Humidity - High humidity levels can cause corrosion, freeze the product if it gets too cold, attract dust particles or create damp conditions that could promote mould growth. Low humidity has similar effects as high humidity but to a lesser degree.
  • Altitude - Some electronic components are affected by altitude differently than others. For example, some semiconductors are known to experience different performance at high altitudes than they do on the ground. Furthermore, atmospheric pressure decreases with height which can cause problems with certain mechanical or hydraulic components that rely on a constant fluid pressure for optimal operation.
  • Shock - If your product is likely to be dropped or subject to sudden shock, you should test it at a number of different locations where shocks could potentially occur. This may be the front, back, top, bottom and any external surfaces or edges that your product is likely to experience shocks from.
  • Vibration - Some products are more sensitive to vibration than others. For example, a mobile phone with a vibrating ringer might not seem like a big deal, but the same phone in a vibrating medical environment may be highly dangerous. If you can create an environment where your product will experience vibration, you should test it in that environment to see how it performs.
  • Environmental EMC - Atmospheric conditions have an effect on radio signals and electronic interference. For example, if your product is a mobile phone, you should test it in an environment with as little interference as possible. This may be by testing it on the moon!

In order to create a product that is resilient to gradual use, it's important to test it in various environments. By testing your product at extremes of temperature, humidity, altitude and shock, you can uncover any potential modes of failure. Additionally, by considering the factors that could potentially affect your product during its lifetime, you can create a more robust design. At Innovolo, we offer comprehensive R&D services including accelerated life testing so that you can be confident in the quality and longevity of your products. Let us help you take your product development project to the next level!

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