What Is Accelerated Life Testing?


Quick Answer

Accelerated life testing involves placing products under conditions of extreme stress to simulate the process of lifetime wear and tear in a shorter time. Engineers use these in product design to develop usable life estimates more quickly than it would take for the products to wear out over time.

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Full Answer

Accelerated tests can use qualitative or quantitative methods. Qualitative tests are designed to show likely failure modes so that engineers can improve elements of the product design. Typical qualitative tests include what are known as torture or "shake and bake" tests. Quantitative tests are designed to produce numerical data that leads to actual accelerated life data analysis.

During a quantitative accelerated life test, the technician picks the stress type(s) that would eventually cause product failure during normal use. Typical examples include voltage, vibration, humidity, temperature or any other source of stress that would directly impact the life span of the product. The technician applies the stress at chosen intervals and then records the time it takes the product to fail under those accelerated conditions. If a product functions normally at 80 degrees Fahrenheit but elevated temperatures cause failure, testing might involve environments of 100, 120 and 140 degrees. The recommended maximum is the use stress level, which is compared to the product life at elevated temperatures.

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