How transparency is helping electronics design & test engineers overcome 5 key challenges
01 August 2022
Originally developed to manage fluids on production lines, transparent pressure vessels are increasingly being used as testing environments for electronic products & components. With orders from blue chip firms such as TT Electronics & Garmin, plus research organisations like Jabil & major universities, General Manager, Loris Medart at fluid handling expert, SR-TEK discusses how such vessels, designed for industrial use, are now revolutionising electronics R&D...
A version of this article was originally featured in the August 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Fluids have long been seen as one of the most difficult substances to manage on a production line. Movement, pressure, temperature and humidity are just a few of the factors that can drastically alter fluid performance. As a result, when creating the world’s only commercially available transparent pressure vessel, we had to ensure it enabled complete control of the internal environment. Little did we know at the time, but this also makes them ideal benchtop testing vessels for electronic products and components. Three years on and transparent tanks have been used to recreate the conditions experienced by electronic components in a battlefield helicopter, within the human body, underwater and as part of a Formula 1 race car. With nearly half of all transparent pressure vessels globally being used in R&D, here are 5 ways they help solve common challenges for design engineers...
1. Opening a window on R&D
While we’ve been approached by electronics engineers with a wide range of applications, essentially, they’re all attempting to achieve the same thing. They want to understand how the subject of their research responds to certain conditions. This could be by creating a vacuum, increasing pressure, altering temperature and humidity, or adding vibrations. The addition of transparency then allows researchers to identify the exact point that any changes take place, create a visual record and analyse the results.
SR-TEK_Clear tanks All together
2. Ensuring reliable test conditions
There can be a tendency in the lab to build your own testing rigs. In the case of transparent testing conditions, this was doubly the case, as previously there wasn’t a commercially available alternative. One of the biggest issues encountered is then the reliability of the testing environment. Poor durability and an inability to hold and maintain pressure can skew results and delay research. Time and again, we hear from technicians and engineers who have attempted to create their own test vessels, but have found they simply aren’t up to the task. Because SR-TEK pressure vessels were developed for use in industry, they are able to comfortably withstand rigorous testing, enabling pressures of between -1 and 4 bars and temperatures from 4 to 95°C to be applied and maintained for
3. Recreating real world conditions
Fail-safe testing and development for components that are in use in the toughest environments is essential. Conducting real world tests, however, is often costly, impractical and difficult to measure. Fortunately, controlling temperature, humidity and pressure can recreate those same conditions in the lab. One of the testing applications we were approached with recently focused on the durability of electronic connectors used in automotive, aerospace, racing and marine environments. By adjusting environmental variables, engineers were able to accurately assess connector quality, performance and longevity in a variety of real-world conditions.
4. Maintaining pressure
While it may sound simple, creating an airtight, transparent container which can maintain pressure, or in some cases vacuum conditions, for up to two weeks is no mean feat. Every entry point needs to be hermetically sealed, and if the material used isn’t sufficiently durable, researchers can find that they’ve created a benchtop bomb, rather than an effective testing environment. Fortunately, because they are used in industry, each transparent pressure vessel and testing chamber follows Pressure Equipment Directive/ASME regulations, and is fully certified by SR-TEK.
One of the reasons self-built testing rigs are so common in the lab is the ability to customise the test environment. Thankfully, alterations can be made to transparent pressure vessels to allow for additional sensors, monitoring and controls as needed. One of the most common uses is in the testing and development of electronic components, where additional ports are often needed to accommodate cables, measuring probes, precision regulators and ultrasonic level sensors. With a few custom modifications, engineers have been able to recreate conditions as varied as within the human body to 10,000 feet in the air.
Built to better manage fluids in production, transparent pressure vessels are now being specified in leading research and development (R&D) departments and institutions globally. For the first time, electronics engineers are benefitting from a transparent, durable, benchtop testing environment that can reliably recreate some of the toughest conditions on the planet.
Further detail on clear pressure tanks, including free to access datasheets and technical drawings can be found at: https://bit.ly/testvessel