We talk a lot about our cutting-edge designs and manufacturing processes. However, something that we rarely talk about is the materials we use and how we make the selection. Job van Galen, head of the materials science lab at Prodrive Technologies explains how and why our “in-house” testing ensures the very best product quality and lifetime.
At the core of any electronics product design is the choice of materials used. These are critical to the performance. It may not be obvious straight away, but over time, and after years of use, the choice of material really matters. It will ultimately affect its longevity. Everyone is aware that low-quality electronics can fail quite quickly which is often because of the material used.
We believe customers deserve and expect the best quality and performance, and our material science and testing laboratory is a critical part of our overall process.
What does “material testing” mean to the customer?
In-house material testing means that we don’t rely on datasheets from our suppliers for critical material properties. That way we can develop designs based on understanding and evidence, not trial and error. This is particularly important where products are used in environments with harsh conditions, like thermal cycling, high relative humidity, in a vacuum, or in high-impact applications, for example.
It ensures that we combine the most effective materials for our customer’s applications with the latest innovative manufacturing processes. This is one reason that you can expect only the very best products from Prodrive Technologies.
Through continuous data capture, our data drives better decisions, which also means that we often have a faster design process. For instance, we already know which adhesive has the right properties for particular applications. We also have documentation of the measurements in our own database, so we can easily share this knowledge across the company.
Then, when our products are in operation, if there are problems with the material, our laboratory team can give extremely fast feedback to suppliers for rapid resolution. We measure problems the same day, helping reduce project timelines by days or weeks.
What do we test for?
To establish critical values and properties, we use our own test standards according to how the material may be used. All types of materials are tested including metals such as solder alloys, nickel, gold, or any other metals used in PCB manufacture. Plus, ceramics, glass, plastics (including adhesives), and many more.
Tests include thermal analysis, elemental and chemical composition reports, mechanical property testing, morphology/topography/defects testing, chemical treatments, and cleanliness testing, depending on the material.
These tests capture data before manufacture, after manufacture, and after lifetime use. Properties tested include strength, stiffness, glass transition temperatures, and composition.
Supplier data vs Prodrive Technologies data
By verifying and capturing the data from our in-house tests, we can ensure continuous improvement across our design process and material selection. A single source of test results using a single set of standards allows for a more accurate comparison of materials. This results in longer product life compared to products built using data from various sources.
As an example, supplier datasheets for plastics often only provide information about the stiffness of plastic at a certain temperature. Separately, a glass transition temperature is specified.
However, in the Prodrive Technologies materials science laboratory, we can test the stiffness of the plastic over its entire specified operating temperature. We can also measure the change in stiffness during the glass transition.
This measurement can then be combined with in-house lifetime tests to see how harsh conditions affect the product’s reliability in the long term.
Using the material data
With different processes in-house, Prodrive Technologies teams get instant access to information about the materials we use. Also, vital data on how they have performed in different applications, situations, and environments.
Where one material may suit one application very well, it may not be appropriate for another.
The materials testing in our in-house lab enables us to better understand the physics of our production processes and development competencies. We are developing an extensive database to capture this data for all the materials that we test. This provides invaluable knowledge to our product development and operations teams. It helps them to efficiently design and manufacture products that perform to the highest standards.
The knowledge and insights of our materials lab are exclusively available to our customers. Let’s work together to identify the best materials for your project.
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