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The importance of environmental testing for sensor products and technologies

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11 August 2015 | Mark Hartree

Mark Hartree of Finmeccanica – Selex ES Environmental Test Laboratory Service talks to CENSIS about the importance of environmental testing for sensor products and technologies.

All products and their packaging are influenced by the climatic and dynamic environment in which they operate. Entering new markets or developing technologies for existing markets in export countries is always strengthened knowing that your product has been independently verified and will survive in its new environment.

In the Environmental Test Lab (ETL) at Selex ES, we conduct environmental tests to ensure that products perform as designed and meet the necessary local, national and international standards. We can also replicate the climatic and dynamic conditions in which products will operate or when they are being transported or stored

Testing for sensor and imaging systems 

The testing and verification of new technologies is critical to the success of companies and organisations commercially. Our main experience at Selex ES is around our core sensor products including: electro-optics, laser, radar, communications, gyros and micro-electromechanical systems. We also have capability and experience to test in other sensor and imaging systems sectors such as:

  • Sensors and electronics – wired and wireless connection of sensors and devices, technology to detect and identify different medical conditions and materials. Early proving of enabling technologies in prototype systems and supply chain of components and sub-assemblies.
  • Energy, renewables, oil and gas sectors – technologies for condition monitoring, data gathering, maintenance, commissioning and de-commissioning. Sensors for autonomous vehicles used for exploration, construction and servicing tasks.
  • Packaging solutions – ranging from the beverage industry to the integration of electronic, optical and mechanical devises, control modules, communications and instrumentation.

Wind and renewable energy 

The UK is at the forefront of developing technologies and systems necessary to capture wind and other renewable energy. Research and development of hydraulically efficient power generation from wind turbines required an engineering design company to approach Selex ES to ask for advice on Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) – testing of their novel control systems for a hydraulic machine.shutterstock_1319500

Through a number of visits between sites and considerable discussion to understand the requirements, Selex ES was able to provide a test regime designed to expose the equipment to vibration equivalent to that seen in service. The vibration tests applied were essentially Sine on Random tests through a step stress approach which were tuned using data measured on a live test rig.

It was a steep collaborative learning curve for the client specialists who had no experience in vibration testing and for the Selex ES environmental engineering team who had no experience in the wind turbine field. The work was completed under tight financial constraints and achieved the desired results. A number of product design improvements were identified enabling the full potential of the product design to be realised.

Medical Instrumentation

Selex ES Environmental Test Lab was approached by a leading medical technology company to test new imaging technology ahead of its international launch. The company was able to apply its extensive expertise in testing a range of laser and optical devices for its military products to ensure the integrity of the new technology. Where available, we comply in full with the requirements of the appropriate standard and with any other criteria prescribed by the body granting approval.

The environmental conditions that the medical equipment would experience during transportation, storage and operations throughout the World were reviewed which led to a comprehensive test programme being developed to simulate these conditions and thereby test the continued quality of the product.

The ETL in Edinburgh has decades of experience testing complex components, sub systems and items up to ~ 1 tonne. Work includes technical verification over low and high temperatures, humidity, vibration, shock and corrosive atmospheres where rigorous testing by an accredited test house brings credibility to the overall design and mitigates reliability and performance issues.

Visit the ETL website at