When it comes to manufacturing, product quality is one of the undisputed kings. Cost and quality do more to strengthen brand loyalty than product certifications alone. When it comes to automotive components, the level of quality necessary to survive driving conditions is much higher than many other applications. To live up to expectations of quality, extensive testing is essential. Until a component can demonstrate its ability to handle the stresses of automotive applications, it isn’t ready for mass production.
Out of all the components in a modern vehicle, circuit boards are among the most fragile components and vehicles are increasingly reliant on them to sense and communicate data throughout the vehicle. They are typically manufactured in controlled environments that protect them from even the slightest abuse. They are then thrown into unpredictable and sometimes violent situations and expected to perform without failure.
There is no situation where these extremes are more contrasted than with automobiles. In a modern vehicle, computerized circuitry is relied on throughout the vehicle. Automotive circuit boards have to operate within the extreme temperatures and road produced vibration of an operational vehicle. That’s the complete opposite of a controlled environment.
To ensure that the boards will thrive in these hostile conditions, extensive component testing is necessary. It’s the only way to meet the automotive OEM and Federal Requirements required of each component. Testing provides early detection of systemic premature failures that can damage a manufacturers reputation and in extreme cases can create dangerous conditions while driving the vehicle.
Automotive components need to undergo a slew of intense integrity tests. Temperature tests ensure that components near the temperature extremes of the interior and/or engine compartment won’t fail in these conditions. Thermal shock testing shows the component’s resilience to sudden temperature changes. Shock tests are important for safe shipping, but they also simulate some of the harsh forces that impact a board in a motor vehicle. Salt spray exposes materials to corrosive elements to see how they fare.
Among so many tests, vibration from various road conditions can be the most difficult to simulate, but it is immensely important in ensuring safety and quality. The numerous dynamic forces an automobile is subjected to can cause dangerous resonances, which amplify the general stress and accelerate failures.
Properly simulating all of these conditions for component testing is no easy accomplishment. It requires specialized equipment and professional application. It’s why these tests are so frequently outsourced to leading test labs.
As an example, a resonance search, track and dwell (RSTD) starts with a sine sweep to find resonant frequencies of a device. That device is then subjected to a series of stress tests at the identified resonant frequencies. The cycles and intensity, along with analytical techniques, will all vary by device. Being able to supply all of this on demand is a specialization on its own.
It isn’t enough to simply subject a circuit board to a slew of tests. The tested board also requires a thorough pre- and post-testing analysis. Especially in stress testing, taking a deep look at the post-test components and solder joints of the board is essential to understanding durability, longevity and reliability. Therein lies the great challenge of testing. In order to understand material stress factors and underlying problems, the tested products have to be analyzed. How can you know if an internal circuit board is showing signs of wear unless you take it apart to look?
One of the great advancements in component testing is the use of x-ray and CT for analysis. Just like radiography and CT scans can find problems inside a patient without the need for surgery, these techniques can image and analyze the internal areas of electronic components without having to destroy them. This allows for Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) of the component. A single board can be tested, analyzed and then repeated through the process multiple times in different areas.
X-ray analysis does not completely displace the need for cross-sectional analysis, but by reducing that necessity, it enables test and validation engineers to zero in on specific areas that need more detail analysis. X-ray analysis allows the circuit boards to be tested more efficiently and can reduce the total testing costs by destroying fewer components.
Specialized tests require specialized resources. Specially designed equipment, intricate procedures and expert test engineers to run it all are all part of the equation to produce quality, reliable components.
TÜV SÜD has extensive experience and expertise testing automotive components and full vehicle systems. From materials testing, shock & vibration, and electrical to automotive EMC, TÜV SÜD’s global network of testing labs and industry experts will ensure all components meet the quality and safety requirements required by automotive OEMs.
TÜV SÜD is a premium quality, safety and sustainability solutions provider that specializes in testing, inspection, auditing, certification, training, and knowledge services. Represented in over 800 locations worldwide, we hold accreditations in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia. By delivering objective solutions to our customers, we add tangible value to businesses, consumers and the environment.
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