Extreme Environments

Our definition

The extreme environment has more severe environmental conditions and elements to that of the natural environment. Typically, mankind can only work in extreme environments for short durations, with protective gear or not at all. This is the field in which Environmentally Sound honed their skills - to design for the extreme environment, so that equipment are warranted to function reliably and resiliently in their immediate surroundings.

Introduction

Often, when designing and developing a product, machine or equipment to operate in the natural environment, there are components and/or systems within that product that will experience a more extreme environment to that of the natural environment around it.

For example, let's consider the smart phone when it charges. When the smart phone charges, the phone warms up. The owner becomes aware of the heat as soon as he or she unplugs the phone from the charger. The owner is often concerned, as the lithium ion batteries contains flammable fluid, and with it's poor track record in the press, it's not surprising that the owner is concerned.

But why is the designer and manufacturer not concerned?

To keep it simple, electronics often dissipate heat. The heat causes the temperature in the immediate surrounding or within the device to elevate beyond the temperature limit; and beyond the limit at which the electronics can operate reliably. And therefore, cooling is required to lower that temperature by forced air, natural convection or conduction to a cooler body - a heat sink.

During the design, development and testing of the device, the manufacturer ascertained that the device heats up. It is during these phases that manufacturers gain confidence in their products. And therefore the manufacturer is not concerned when the phone heats up during charging, as they have witnessed it several times during testing, without any failure.

Moving on ...

When designing equipment to be environmentally friendly, it is inevitable that some section or part of that product will be exposed to a more extreme environment to that of nature. This extreme environment could be extreme heat, vibration, noise, humidity, water, salinity, pressure etc.

It is a benefit to our customers to offer this experience and expertise as a service to develop products for extreme environments, as it is inevitable that a part of their product, equipment or machinery will experience a more severe condition to that of nature.

"... making your designs compatible and reliable for its environment!"

Designing for extreme environments

New concepts and ideas emerge during the design phase, and some of them are included in the final design. Often stakeholders are sceptical about these new ideas and concepts, and will seek re-assurance that the new idea or new concept will work.

To provide them with reassurance, typically one would design an experiment; a test that will prove that the new idea or concept will work reliably and resiliently in its extreme environment. Environmentally Sound have tested mechanical and electrical equipment to extreme environmental conditions and standards, and have witnessed equipment fail testing several times.

Why?

... the lack of understanding and communication at the outset. So many times products are designed without the designer being briefed about the full details of the compliance testing, and of the extreme environment in which the product will operate,. When the product is finally manufactured, and put through the strenuous testing phase, a part of it, or the entire product fails the test objectives.

Sound designs in extreme environments

Environmentally Sound Limited have certified equipment for the aerospace and other industries. We are experienced in testing to industrial standards like Mil-Std-810 and RTCA/DO-160 for over 15 years; but our main achievement is correcting or improving the design once it does not meet the favourable test objectives. (Later on, we provide examples of our work relating to these standards). This experience has provided us with much insight in designing equipment and machinery for the extreme environment, as we recognise weak aspects of designs that may cause problems during extreme environment testing, or during the product's life.

Moreover, we have experience in instrumenting units under test (UUT) and comparing the measurement data with that of the analysis model. This we typically perform in order to understand the behaviour of the product during test, if it was not performed before testing. We update the analysis model so that we have confidence in further modifications of the model and the results from the analyses. Once confident that the model is behaving like the real article, we proceed with improving the design.

In the aerospace industry, obtaining compliancy to environmental test standards is supposed to be a tick-in-the-box exercise. However, obtaining compliancy for products and equipment is not that simple, as there are certain tests where the products fail repeatedly, of which one test is vibration exposure.

These failures could incorporate electrical connectors arcing during test, electronic components fracturing, contactors opening during test or even bolts loosening. These are all non-compliances, which we have witnessed on test, and have rectified through analysis and design.

Environmentally Sound Limited has several years' experience in vibration control, on fixed wing and rotor aircraft, in ensuring that products meet compliancy. We have resolved vibration response issues of equipment and instrumentation that are subjected to vibration and other extreme environments.

Confidently designing, developing and testing for extreme environments requires experience and expertise in finding the root cause of failure and the skills to correct it. Unlike a test house, we focus on the full lifecycle of a product, from cradle to grave, and being environmentally friendly throughout its lifecycle.

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