Automated Industrial Testing for Environmental Damage


Posted on: July 29th, 2021

No matter the climate or the product, environmental threats are all around us and pose a direct threat to commercial, residential, and personal property. Manufacturers know that their products must be built to handle a wide range of environmental conditions, including rainstorms, lightning, hail, heavy snow, heat, and wind. On top of that, innovation is driving product specification changes that might require different testing to ensure product reliability. As more manufacturers are assessing what increasingly severe weather and the changing industrial landscape means to their product lifecycle, they are turning to the capabilities of customized automated industrial testing.

Risks of Environmental Damage

The prospect of damage due to environmental stressors can pose significant challenges to manufacturers and consumers alike. Unfortunately, it is a real concern. The severity and frequency of hailstorms, for example, have been on the rise over the last 20 years (6), which means products are now more at risk than ever for potential environmental threats.

The glass used in solar panels and other residential outdoor glass products, for example, continues to get thinner and thinner to create a lighter product that uses less. Bifacial modules, which capture direct and indirect light for a higher output of energy, are typically made with heat-strengthened glass that isn’t fully tempered and has about half the strength. This reduction and change in the glass make it more vulnerable to inclement weather such as severe hailstorms.

Vehicles, especially those driven in northern climates, are often exposed to salt that can cause corrosive damage to both the body and the mechanical parts, leading to a shorter lifespan in parts and operability.

Wind turbines used for electrical power generation are subject to high-velocity airborne particles such as hail that could cause significant surface area damage due to impact force. This impact force, if left unaddressed, could not only cause permanent damage, including indentation but could cause complete penetration of the blade panel, which can cause operational failure (3).

No matter the product, whether you manufacture solar panels, wind turbines, residential outdoor glass, vehicles, or other industrial products exposed to outdoor elements, you want to reassure your customers that their product is durable and long-lasting, even through increasingly severe environmental stressors. To do that, you, as the manufacturer, must evaluate and understand the amount of potential damage your products can withstand. After all, at the heart of risk management is ensuring that risks to your product’s quality are mitigated from all directions, including both internal and external factors. 

This is where automated industrial testing equipment can help.

Benefits of Industrial Testing

You want your testing equipment to work with your product, not against it, and that is precisely what customized environmental testing equipment can do. Weaving automated industrial testing into your product development lifecycle could be a critical differentiator in both your bottom line and your customer satisfaction. It enables manufacturers to ensure that their specific product is safe, functional, and can sustain high performance for decades to come, all while fitting unique manufacturing workflows, and considering environmental situations and industry changes. Take, for example, these specific benefits that you may be able to take advantage of by investing in automated testing equipment for environmental damage:

Lower Insurance Premiums

Annual insurance premiums can be a significant cost component, affecting the product’s price and the return on investment and new project development for manufacturers. High insurance costs can be due to several challenges, including the insurer being unfamiliar with the technology and limited test data for long-term viability under real-life conditions (4). Luckily, when you invest in environmental testing technology and provide that test data, it could translate to better insurance premiums. The idea here is that insurance companies are assured that your product has met safety requirements and will perform well for the end-user by undergoing risk management testing during the product development lifecycle. Therefore, you can market to your consumers that your stronger, tougher product can bring down insurance-associated costs and leave them assured that they are getting a durable product.

Acquiring Certification

Speaking of safety requirements, certification is imperative in ensuring that manufactured products can meet applicable quality, performance, and safety measures compliant with various testing standards, including those set by The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

The IEC is responsible for establishing standards for electronic device testing and gives manufacturers a baseline to gauge their testing effectiveness (1). The IEC is especially notable for the solar panel industry as many states, governments, utility companies, and incentive programs are beginning to release new certification mandates. For example, state-funded solar panel incentive programs typically have specific performance testing or certification requirements that must be met to ensure the quality and safety of a module prior to commercialization (1).

Some common standards from the IEC that can determine performance for environmentally at-risk products include:

  • IEC 61730: Standard for PV module safety
  • IEC 62716: Ammonia corrosion testing of photovoltaic (PV) modules ammonia corrosion
  • IEC 61701: Salt mist corrosion testing
  • IEC 60068-2-68: Blowing sand resistance testing
  • IEC 61400: Wind certification
  • IEC 60426: Electrical insulating materials – Determination of electrolytic corrosion caused by insulating materials

Underwriters Laboratories (UL)

UL provides global safety standards and certification through testing services for electric appliances, industrial equipment, plastic materials, etc. While it encompasses testing across industries, this organization has allowed for clarified testing and certification requirements specific to the wind turbine industry (5).

Notable standards from UL include:

  • UL 1703: Standard for flat-plate PV modules and panels
  • UL 61730: Photovoltaic module safety qualification
  • Ul 6142: Standard for safety small wind turbine
  • UL 6141: Standard for safety wind turbines permitting entry of personnel

Higher Quality and Leaner Processes

With customized automated testing equipment that molds to the specifications of your product, more robust testing can be executed, which better prepares manufacturers for simulating what can happen from real-world environmental damage with their individualized product. This allows for full quantifiability of potential damage risk, resulting in better product design and more savings on future product inspection and maintenance costs.

Not to mention, when your testing equipment is built to suit, the production timeline can be sped up due to a leaner manufacturing process with less waste and higher product quality. As a bonus, you can reassure customers that their investment is economical, reliable, and worthwhile because your production and testing equipment is fine-tuned to your product.

A Solution for Every Need

For manufacturers and developers looking to build the most dependable product, customized industrial testing equipment is the way to mitigate the potential risks that catastrophic events can have on your product. Testing is, of course, a critical component of the risk assessment process needed to ensure that potential defects or “weak spots” can be eliminated sooner in the product development lifecycle. And being able to customize a solution means that you have the versatility to choose what your company needs.

Whether you need to test the impact of heavy atmospheric particle collisions for wind turbine blades or test the durability of residential glass against wind damage or flying debris, SDC has experience developing various automated testing and processing solutions for manufacturers that fall within the requirements of several industry standards.

At SDC, we can help to provide you with a testing solution that will allow you to yield the best product possible. With years of experience in product inspection and testing, we can meet your high-quality standards with equipment that is as unique as you are – whether it is for solar panels, wind turbines, or glass. Contact SDC today to discuss your upcoming automation project, and don’t forget to check out some of our past projects.

Sources:

  1. Solar Panel Testing And Certifications Overview | EnergySage
  2. Solar energy insurance for photovoltaics industry
  3. A Damage Assessment for Wind Turbine Blades from Heavy Atmospheric Particles
  4. Insuring Solar Photovoltaics: Challenges and Possible Solutions
  5. https://www.windpowerengineering.com/new-standards-favor-ul-listed-cables-wind-turbines/
  6. https://www.artemis.bm/news/hailstorm-frequency-severity-insured-losses-increase-since-2007-verisk/