A vital step in designing new products is being able to validate they are reliable and meet the needs specified by our customers. At United Equipment Accessories (UEA), we have two methods for conducting product validation, each of which has positives and negatives.
The first option is to do lab testing. The benefit of this validation method is that it can be setup extremely quickly and, in some cases, accelerated. It’s a great initial method we use to narrow down options we are considering that may go on to field testing.
For some parts of a slip ring, lab testing can provide enough adequate information, but in many cases, a field test is necessary.
For our hydraulic swivels, we developed and built an in-house Endurance Test Stand for the purpose of conducting accelerated life testing. The stand’s control program uses a test procedure that strictly follows a specified set of testing parameters. A myriad of sensors measure the response of the tested elements under simulated conditions for a specific period and for a certain threshold. This not only validates the product, but assures the customer the product will last through it’s expected application.
The best option is to complete field tests on the actual machine that will be using the slip ring. While field tests can be the first step in product validation, in most cases, we must go through lab testing first.
For some applications, such as wind power, a field test is an absolute must prior to production. It’s extremely hard to duplicate some of the environments that slip rings are used in in this industry. Factors from temperature and humidity to vibrations, contaminants and electrical current loads can affect how they perform. These are factors that are near impossible to duplicate in a lab.
Field tests are generally a longer process. In most cases the slip rings are going into a new or existing customer’s machine as they need to evaluate if there is any risk. Once installed, the slip ring is in actual use so accelerated testing is not possible, which can mean a longer time to get good data.
As UEA continues to move ahead to new and more challenging applications, we’re certain that lab and field tests will continue to be common practice to validate the designs.