Here are six questions to ask:
1. What is your product?
Your testing laboratory will need to know the specifics of your prototype: the number of samples to be tested, their dimensional size, weight, and any specifications unique to the product (such as material composition, structure, and construction). It’s important to also consider the environment in which the tested product will ultimately be used. Detailing the anticipated types of stresses will help your testing laboratory determine the types of mechanical vibration and shock testing methodologies to employ in simulating actual use, as well as any extremes. Often overlooked—but critically important to yield the most accurate data—is the need to use the actual fixturing that will ultimately be employed to secure the prototype during testing. Always provide the testing laboratory with any supporting or integral components that will be associated with the item. If those pieces are not available, be sure that the testing facility has the means to reproduce those fixturing items as closely as possible to the relevant specifications so they can best replicate the application.
2. What is your testing timeframe?
Depending on the parameters of your testing needs, the timeframe to respond to your request for quotation (RFQ), to setup for your test, and to conduct the actual testing process will vary. Variables include the specification standard(s) your prototype is being tested to, the number of samples being tested (either simultaneously or in sequence), and the number of setups required. If your testing company operates more than one laboratory, your wait time may be reduced. Another way to save time is to invest in a face-to-face meeting to discuss your testing needs and parameters, if possible. Although it is extremely helpful for your testing provider to receive a written document detailing your requirements, a sit down discussion can often result in both time and cost savings.
3. What are your test specifications?
Depending on your industry and your prototype’s application, there are a multitude of commercial, automotive, medical, and military mechanical shock and vibration standards—as well as a broad range of customer-defined test specifications—that your testing provider can implement. The most common vibration and mechanical shock testing capabilities include random, sinusoidal, mixed mode, transportation, packaging, and gunfire. Inquire about your facility’s vibration testing capabilities—including force output, axes, displacement, velocity, acceleration (sinusoidal and random), and frequency range—to ensure that they can generate the simulation that will produce the most relevant results to your needs. Although certain facilities, including ours, can induce mechanical shocks up to 100Gs and random vibration up to 45Gs, the equipment itself may have some limitations, such as the maximum weight of the item to be tested. Inquire about your service provider’s testing chamber capabilities. Further, depending on your testing lab’s abilities, additional parameters can be applied In conjunction with your mechanical shock and vibration testing specifications. A properly-equipped facility can add extreme temperatures (either gradually or rapidly to simulate thermal shock), force, humidity, corrosion, and salt spray conditions to your testing process as required by the test specifications. A sampling of such test specifications is included below.