To understand how these systems work, we first have to address the process that requires the assembly and leak test machine. The assembly line drives a significant amount of precision and efficiency metrics. The leak test can accelerate improvements in areas of development and product performance.
With both elements playing such important roles concerning product and service improvement, it begs a simple question.
Are you considering an automated assembly and leak test machine for your facility?
To answer that important question, here’s a closer look at the benefits behind leak testing automation.
Determine Type of Leak Testing
To automate any form of leak testing, we first must clarify what is being tested and how it is to be measured. While many will use the DMAIC analysis process, this can be done with a series of simple questions.
- Are we testing a product or system of products?
- Is the substance flowing through the product gas or liquid?
- Will the product or its seal be tested?
- What types of defects or breaks are probable: holes, cracks, or split seams/seals?
Many different types of leak testing exist with their own set of limits. By determining the type of product, we can develop a proper set of tests.
For instance, let’s say an enclosed piping system needs to be tested. When a leak occurs, we know that the internal substance flowing through the pipes will move from high pressure toward low pressure. Both the flow rate and the loss of substance can be measured and assessed to determine improvements.
Parameters and Use of Product
After the type of testing is determined, parameters must be set. While it is obvious that a fail limit must be determined, it is critical in many forms of testing that the upper-performance level also is set. This type of benchmark is critical to find potential high-performance opportunities for product improvements.
How the product is to be used may also impact how the automated testing is structured. For instance, let’s say you need to make sure a mobile phone remains sealed and waterproof regardless of conditions. When conducting stress tests that impact the phone, the measurements would reflect the shell remaining intact. Therefore, testing for seal leaks directly after the product endures a series of drop tests is critical.
Fail limits can be set on repetitive phone drops to determine how much impact a phone can endure and still maintain its waterproof seal. Knowing the point at which the seal starts to crack can lead to a search for new seal material and the creation of a higher-end product, reducing repairs or returns.
Placement in Process
There are several ways to implement an automation system, including the consideration of multiple testing stations. An automated leak testing system might be ideal for the development of new products and prototyping. Quality control might use a customized automated leak testing system at the end of the production line.
Procurement might even get involved by testing incoming parts before feeding the production line. Some companies have even used product testing to negotiate higher vendor standards and discounts.
One of the most important aspects of establishing an automated leak testing process is the safety factor. All testing processes are designed to test whether or not a substance is leaking out or leaking in. The automated test process is always designed to be non-destructive (Non-destructive testing plays a critical role).
Since there are numerous types of leak detection methods, there must also be safety parameters set for the testing process. Each method, including water-dunk, tracer gas, flow meter, pressure gauge, differential pressure, pressure decay, vacuum decay, occlusion, warping detection, etc., must have test-specific safety limits.
These safety requirements are developed during the conceptual phase and refined throughout the production and automation engineering process. The result will generate a better product and benefit the production line employees and the customer.
Refining the Test Design
In collaboration with the product engineers, the automation engineers will determine if there are outside factors to consider to refine the testing process. There might also be some inherent aspects of the production process that alters the state of the product to impact the measurements.
These can be addressed by asking additional questions.
1. Is the product clean or dirty by nature of the production or operation process?
2. Does the product reside at an ambient temperature before, during, or after the test?
3. Is the product rigid or flexible?
4. Does the product have hidden chambers that impact the flow or volume?
5. What material or surface finish are the products and seams/seals made from?
These questions may spark an additional series of questions, all of which may need to be answered during the automation design process. The more insights the team brings to bear when developing the process, the more beneficial the company’s measured outcomes will be.
Acceptable Leak Rate
Due to wear and tear on equipment and the exchange of machine parts in manufacturing, no product can ever be perfect. All products have a threshold that will be crossed at some point based on a given set of manufacturing circumstances.
Therefore it is important to plan for failure rates and the rates of excellence. Also considered are those product systems that fluctuate, temporarily creating false positives on the tests during certain periods of time within the test plan.
In the case of a pressure decay leak test, once the product is filled with pressurized air, the product is sealed, and the pressure is allowed to settle. Any decrease in pressure over time is measured as significant. In other words, the initial settling of pressure is not considered a leak.
Assembly and Leak Test Machine
The new assembly and leak test machine can be positioned to improve product development, quality control, and other measurable segments of the critical process. Productivity is one of several benefits from the automation process that the company will see.
The next step is to contact our automation experts to open a dialog on integrating leak testing within your overall process.