Conducting Wear / Abrasion Tests

Why perform accelerated tests

No laboratory abrasion test can guarantee success in the field. Unfortunately, there are just too many influences to be modeled in the lab. As a result, the tests that are performed may not accurately identify potential problems. Despite testing, manufacturers may be left unaware of field failures until their customers return non-conforming products. If this is the case, why bother conducting tests?

The ideal solution is to analyze the product in actual use under the actual intended use conditions. Unfortunately, it often takes many years before useful data becomes available. Additionally, the cost of conducting a field test could be prohibitive and the complexity of identifying the influences can be unwieldy. How many companies are willing to put a new product release on hold pending a multi-year test?

An accelerated laboratory test is appealing because companies can compress the life span of a product into a much shorter duration within a controlled and monitored environment. Laboratory testing provides a uniform way to measure resistance to abrasion, allowing materials tested in the same manner to be compared. While a lab test may not represent the actual conditions materials are exposed to, they can duplicate many real world conditions allowing you to have higher reproducibility with your evaluations. Plus there is greater flexibility with the methodology, it is less expensive than field testing, and you can test more samples.

Benefits to Testing The primary reason that companies conduct abrasion tests is to ensure that they are producing a quality product that is free from defects, consistent in characteristics and quality, and will endure throughout its life cycle. Through testing, a company can monitor quality assurance of the manufacturing process; conduct product research and development; demonstrate their product conforms to industry standards; develop new products; provide information to buyers; establish criteria for guarantees; etc.

Testing also provides an opportunity to create value with your product, and can be invaluable in solving warranty related issues. Starting with the product concept and design phase, you can use test procedures to do product research and development to evaluate available options. Alternatively, you can establish specifications that must be met with quality assurance testing. Once a material has been selected, incoming inspections and pre-production testing can be performed as an initial step in quality control. During or after the manufacturing process, product testing should be conducted to assure the product meets specifications prior to shipment. Finally, you can monitor consumer feedback and evaluate product returns to ensure that testing specifications are meeting their objective. Comparative tests may be done to ensure that the quality and performance of materials and products are consistent over time and among production facilities, or to verify that a company’s product compares reasonably well with its competitors’ products.

In today’s competitive environment, manufacturers put significant efforts into minimizing production costs to remain competitive. These efforts might involve changing material suppliers or specifying a different type of construction. Unfortunately, changes are made without the proper consideration of how they will impact product performance. When problems occur in the field, it can often be tied to a lack of testing and validation. If you find yourself responding to warranty claims, it is already too late to prevent the problem. However, you can use benchmarking techniques to identify the cause, and adjust formulations to improve and maximize performance.

It is important to note that recognized test standards caution the operator from relying on results to predict wear-life unless there is data showing a specific relationship between laboratory abrasion tests and actual wear in the intended end-use. Most of the recognized test methods provide a comparative measurement of abrasion resistance, and the results are used to rank materials.