By far one of the more enjoyable aspects of designing components is being able to test out the design. While testing and design go hand in hand through the entire process, it is usually not until the final product comes together that the major design assumptions can be put to the test and proven out. In addition, the final test is a culmination of all smaller tests that have led up to the final products performance.
United Equipment Accessories' initial product design consists of utilizing prior knowledge of material performance, virtual tests, and real world small scale tests. Prior knowledge of material performance can be a dangerous resource, because past experiences can lead one astray. It is important at the early stage of design, that details about performance assumptions based on prior knowledge is shared with a group of like minded people. At UEA we employ design reviews early on in the process to make sure material performance assumptions are agreed upon by a group of people rather than just a few individuals.
After initial performance characteristics are agreed upon, the design progresses to a more advanced state. Here, design geometry and real world operating conditions come together to form the need for virtual tests and small scale tests. The small scale tests are hard to quantify but usually involve seeing how smaller subassemblies fit into the larger assembly when there are unknowns. Some of the unknowns could be exact hardware dimensions, paint clearance issues, assembly techniques and other smaller details. The virtual test usually involves analyzing the system and applying forces to the components. This is accomplished with hand calculations and Finite Element Analysis (FEA). Here at UEA, we use a FEA program called SolidWorks Simulation. Using FEA is one of my most enjoyable tasks. This software allows one to apply loading to a part or assembly and visually see the stress, strain, and deformation of the part. Having these tools literally at our fingertips gives UEA designers the ability to correctly size components and avoid stress concentrations.
Once the product has been developed to the point of building a complete prototype, functionality and endurance testing can be completed. This type of formal testing includes engineering activities like test plans, data analysis, and forensic investigation to ensure a successful product. At UEA we have invested in numerous endurance test fixtures to support this process, with more in the works.
This level of commitment to successful product development is what sets us apart, it is what has kept us going for 60 years, and it is what will drive this company to conquer new markets and products. This is the UEA way, and you can count on that.