Have you wondered how manufacturers make products that perform as per promises made for daily use? For instance, they work in extreme temperatures and air pressures as well as sudden changes in them. They perform equally well under the scorching sun of the Sahara or the icy cold of Siberia. Similarly, they function well under humid conditions of a coastal Mumbai or the dry conditions of Jaisalmer. Manufacturers use environmental chambers specially fabricated to simulate conditions of the real atmosphere to test the products they make. Special chambers are available for simulating various climatic conditions such as temperature, pressure and humidity that include:
- Environmental chamber
- Climate chamber
- Stability chamber
- Humidity chamber
Manufacturers use these chambers to test their products thoroughly before they send them to end customers.
1) Environmental Chamber
The environmental chamber is a testing chamber that can simulate various climatic conditions. Many manufactures use these chambers to test their products before they launch them in the market. These tests help the manufacturers to anticipate problems in the real world and correct any defects in the products. By using test chambers manufacturers can reduce future costs of recalls or repair of defective products.
The environmental chambers can
- Provide extreme temperatures as well as sudden changes in temperature
- Simulate the effects of the sun
- Provide adjustable pressure as well as changes in pressure
- Control moisture – provide dry or humid conditions
- Create corrosive conditions by using salt spray inside
- Create adjustable dust or rainy conditions
Besides the above, chambers can simulate almost any kind of environmental conditions suitable for testing a particular product on various parameters.
Functionalities of Environmental Chamber
The chambers use various mechanisms to provide the functionalities required. For instance
- Heaters increase temperatures
- Steam generators inject humidity into the chamber
- Liquid cooling systems provide cold temperatures
- Compressors can produce stable temperature conditions
These mechanisms can help to conduct climatic tests that include light, temperature, humidity and air pressure tests, and dynamic tests that include rotation, acceleration, and vibration and shock tests.
Chambers come in various shapes and sizes. For instance, there are chambers that occupy the size of a room designed for specific tests. There are much smaller sized units known as bench models that can rest on top of a bench used for specific types of products.
Types of Environmental Chamber
There are various types of chambers designed to help test products on various parameters. They include
- Temperature chambers to test effect of different temperatures
- Salt spray chambers to test effect of corrosion
- Hypobaric chambers to test effect of low-pressure
- Cryogenic chambers to test effects under extreme low temperatures
Environmental chambers find uses in a variety of industries such as medical equipment, sports medicine, aerospace, food industries and defense industries. These chambers conform to standards specified by various world standards organizations.
2) Stability chamber
Stability test chambers are environmental chambers that provide stable conditions to help determine the effect of such conditions on biological, electronic or industrial materials. These chambers provide a wide range of temperature and humidity settings. The pharmaceutical industry uses stability chambers to detect various changes that may occur during the lifetime of a product. Thus, manufacturers can assess the performance of the product under stable conditions and take corrective actions wherever necessary.
Uses of Stability chambers
Stability chambers provide precise temperatures with or without humidity to determine the decay of a product over a period of time under such conditions. These tests help to determine the shelf life and storage conditions for products in the biomedical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. They also serve to determine the packaging parameters needed for safe transportation during transit from production center to retail markets. In pharmaceutical drug testing, stability chambers help to test products under photolysis and oxidative stress conditions.
Types of Stability chambers
Stability chambers come in various types depending on the requirements of the products. Some of them include
- Reach-in chambers – serve the purpose of testing smaller batch of samples requiring frequent changes in settings
- Walk-in chambers – serve the purpose of testing samples under stable conditions over a long period of time
Functionalities of Stability chambers
Typically, stability chambers are stainless steel chambers capable of providing stable conditions using mechanisms such as
- Microprocessor based controls to set various parameters including temperature and humidity
- Outside air intake feature
- Redundant heating and cooling features
- Traceable sensors complying with international standards
- Wide temperature range
- Uniformity in conditions throughout the interior
Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and The International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) require manufacturers to test products in stability chambers complying with guidelines issued by such agencies. Validated stability chambers ensure integrity of test conditions to determine potency, purity and quality of products. They help to standardize tests such as microbiological tests, enantiomeric purity, and effect of light and packaging integrity.
3) Climatic chamber
The innumerable products that we use need to function in all sorts of climates. For instance, the mobile phone has to work in the heat and dust of Egypt or the sub-zero temperatures of northern Alaska. A product and its packaging must withstand vibrations felt while transporting to retail outlets or end customer.
Manufacturers use climate chambers to test their products to ensure they perform under all climatic conditions. Climatic chambers allow simulation of different climatic conditions of cloudiness, sunshine, precipitation, humidity, air pressure and temperature. Climatic chambers come in a variety of sizes and types to meet various requirements of different products.
Types of Climatic chambers:
There are special types of climatic chambers to cater to varied requirements. Some of the types include
- Constant climate chamber – this enables testing of products at constant temperature and humidity conditions
- Humidity chamber – this allows testing of products under various humidity settings including rain and condensing humidity tests
- UV testing chamber – simulates accelerated sun exposure
- Salt spray testing chamber – simulates corrosiveness of atmosphere
- Altitude testing chamber – simulates depleted and normal ambient pressure; suitable for testing the integrity of packages
- Vibrations testing chamber – simulates vibrations occurring while transporting in different modes by using a servo hydraulic system. Can simulate vibrations felt on aircraft or delivery vehicle
There are other tests with climatic chambers possible based on the requirement of the product. The term is fairly all encompassing and covers both climatic and environmental testing. Some of the other tests in climatic chambers include
- Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) – accelerated stress testing in short time to reveal design weaknesses
- Highly Accelerated Stress Screening (HASS) – used for high reliability applications
- Environmental Stress Screening (ESS) – helps to offer a more reliable product to the end consumer
By using climatic chambers to test products before they ship to customers, manufacturers ensure reliability of the product enhancing the reputation of the manufacturer.
4) Humidity chamber
Just as humidity affects human beings it affects products as well. Since products sell in locations with varying climatic conditions, they must function well in both low and high humid conditions. In order to test products under varying conditions of humidity, manufacturers use humidity chambers to simulate varying humidity conditions and test products for their efficacy in such conditions. Manufacturers using humidity chambers can improve product durability and reliability after testing them at various levels of temperature and humidity settings.
Uses of Humidity chamber
Humidity chambers help to undertake climatic & durability tests for a variety of products that include
- Electrical & electronic components
- Mechanical assemblies
- Paints, varnishes and cement
- Drugs, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics
Besides, humidity chambers serve as testing chambers for zoological and botanical investigations.
Functionalities of Humidity chamber
The humidity chamber uses many methods to generate and control humidity and they include
- Water bath – a water bath with heating and cooling coils generates water vapor. Air passing through picks up the water vapor to provide required humidity. This is useful for small chambers. This method uses minimum quantity of water
- Atomizer – a small nozzle sprays atomized water in the mixing assembly of the chamber. When the atomized water passes through the chamber it gets heated immediately. This system is simple and easy to handle, generates large volumes of moisture, saves electricity and cools the air
- Steam Generator – large tanks with immersion heaters send heat to the top where regulation takes place to control the moisture level. This method is useful for large chambers as it produces high volume of moisture required
Humidity chambers need to follow guidelines issued by standards agencies for conducting tests only on validated chambers. The validated chambers must replicate the environment ensuring reliability of the environmental conditions without condensation.
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