In-house testing facility with Thermal Shock Chamber

08 April 2016

Electrolube invested in a cutting-edge Thermal Shock Chamber, enhancing its sequential in-house testing capabilities.

The test laboratory grade system can achieve a rate of change of temperature close to 40°C per minute, and has a working temperature range from -65°C to +200°C, facilitating severe testing of electronic assemblies, representative of real environments, which is particularly critical for those destined for military and harsh automotive applications.

A thermal shock chamber cycles rapidly from low to high temperatures to study how test specimens, contained within the chamber, cope under such conditions, including the effects of rapid expansion and contraction on PCB substrates, coatings and adhesives. The hot and cold cycles make the test subject expand and contract rapidly. Due to the variety of thermal coefficients of expansion of the materials used in the construction of a printed circuit board (PCB) this places significant stress on the test substrate.

If the item is coated with a conformal coating or encapsulated with a resin this can often crack due the accelerated change – effectively a ‘Thermal Shock’; when a material just can't catch up to the rate of the environmental temperature change surrounding it. Other complications can also result from this kind of extreme temperature change, such as a loss of adhesion. 

Thermal shock testing is an ever-growing issue as manufacturers increasingly adopt solvent-free materials that make up the bulk of Electrolube's product portfolio. Thermal shock is one of the main challenges to this technology, so Electrolube will also use the new test equipment, which is in situ at both of its key manufacturing sites in the UK and China, to speed the development of robust VOC-free products and their time-to-market.

Investment in such equipment is rare among developers and suppliers of electronics protection systems, who would normally use the services of a third party test house to establish the capabilities of their products. Through investment in the Espec state-of-the-art system, Electrolube has extended their facility to run individual thermal cycling routines, which considerably improves its responsiveness to clients facing short design-to-manufacture lead times.

In addition to these client services, the thermal shock chamber provides an even more advanced in-house testing platform for Electrolube's own product development programme, enabling formulations to be tested and developed on an increasingly rigorous, shorter timescale and avoiding external test-house schedules. Thermal shock is the hardest test of all and is followed by corrosive gas, salt-mist testing and longer-term exposure to elevated temperatures and humidity. Electrolube’s enhanced testing procedure is second to none and provides customers with an all-encompassing sequential testing programme.

Electrolube’s Managing director, Ron Jakeman, commented that instead of using 5 separate test conditions to mimic the life of the PCB, test coupons are subjected to the entire environment in order to understand whether the layer of protection can last, following attack from different environments. Our sequential testing process, rather than conventional separate tests from test houses, enables us to offer customers an even greater insight into how consecutive corrosive environments impact on the long-term performance of assemblies.

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