You've just got your brand new tester in a shiny box. You're happy it's perfectly safe and ready for testing, but chances are that your tester's brothers and sisters have had a pretty hard time before your new tester was shipped to you.
Since most testing products work with potentially dangerous outlets, wiring and all kinds of other harmful stuff, several poor testers are literally subjected to brutal, torturous tests before they're ready to be shipped out to the public in order to make sure your safety is guaranteed when using testing equipment.
These rigorous tests literally involve everything from vibrating testers using extreme levels of vibration to taking the device and baking it until it can't take any more and melts completely. There may even be some freezing involved at some point.
As Fluke says when talking about their rigorous testing programme: "Before a Fluke product earns its rating for safety or performance it may be baked and frozen, drowned in water, choked in a cloud of dust, rattled with vibration, bashed on the floor, and zapped with electricity, again and again."
It all sounds a bit harsh really, doesn't it?
Although most test products probably won't be subjected to the extremes Fluke uses, the fact that manufacturers test their products so rigorously means that the devices can be accurately graded using safety ratings, and also helps the technician to decide whether extra protection needs to be added to the device before it hits the commercial market.
Destroying Stuff For The Safety of Others
While bashing things around really does sound like good fun, Fluke takes its testing regime very seriously.
They outline that the testing ensures that the device's reliability is as high as it can be, allowing the electrical technician to gain the accurate readings they need while also having extensive safety from the device they're using.
The extreme testing parameters - such as routinely applying increasing voltages to a tester until it finally gives up the ghost - are used to not only test whether a product is safe for day to day use, but also to remain safe when something totally unexpected happens. Since everything from overloads to lightning strikes can be a serious risk to the user, having high safety ratings gives the user peace of mind when using the device.
The kinds of tests Fluke subject their testers to are:
- Adjustable Speed Drive Motor Controller - this test ensures that the testing devices can filter out high frequency signals that may get in the way of accurate results
- Electrical Static Discharge - the tester is shocked, again and again, until something goes wrong. The technicians then delve inside the charred remains of the device to find out what went amiss.
- Ingress Protection (IP) Dust Test - Dust is a pesky thing. Not only does it always settle immediately on your shiny black TV after you've just dusted it, but it can also get into the inner workings of your tester and make everything go wrong. Thankfully, testing is done to make sure that the tester is resistant to dust intrusion (particularly useful for those working in environments where airborne particles may be more present).
- Random vibration - the tester is placed upon a vibrating surface that gets increasingly more vigorous. The massive vibrations can cause havoc within a device, shaking loose internal components that make it work. The test is completed until at least something breaks.
- Ingress Protection Water Test - Water is dripped routinely on the device or it's dunked in one meter water depths. The test should prove that the device can safely be used even when water has got on it.
- HALT (Highly Accelerated Life Test) - A combination of rapid temperature changes and vibration is used to affect components.
- Impact testing - In other words - can it survive if I get butterfingers and drop it from a height? This test combines both impact and drop tests to assess the tester's durability.
Will the suffering of the testers never end? On top of these tests there are actually others performed as well, each of which will make sure the device is as safe as it possibly can be.
Written by Barry Atkins at www.tester.co.uk