Product failures in HALT testing are defined as either the cessation of any functions or an out-of-specification condition for any performance characteristic. When a failure occurs, it is documented in DES’s HALT log. The exact time and test condition when each failure occurred is noted.
If the product fails to operate, the temperature or vibration will be changed toward ambient room conditions followed by a short dwell period to see if the product recovers. If the product is non-operational after dwelling at ambient conditions, trouble shooting will take place to find the failed component. The failed component will then be removed, repaired or replaced with a new component (as is practical) in an effort to expand the test stresses.
Figure 1 – Failure of Improperly Designed Mounting Tabs
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Figure 1 – DES’s HALT Chambers
Specialized test chambers are needed to perform a HALT. Typical HALT chambers are shown in Figure 1. The specification for HALT chambers is typically the following:
Liquid nitrogen (LN2) is used to cool the air temperature in HALT chambers. This allows for very rapid temperature changes of 60°C per minute and a cold temperature extreme of -100°C.
HALT chamber heating is provided by high power resistive heating elements that can produce changes of 60°C per minute and a hot temperature limit of +200°C.
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HALT procedures vary from lab to lab but are typically performed similar to DES’s procedure which is summarized below. DES’s HALT procedure is divided into 5 Stages: Stage 1 – Temperature Step Stresses, Stage 2 – Temperature Ramps, Stage 3 – Vibration Step Stresses, Stage 4 – Combined Temperature &Vibration Stresses, and Stage 5 – Temperature Destruct Limits.
Stage 1 is used to determine the HALT Operational Limits for temperature. The goal is not to cause destruction in Stage 1, but sometimes the operational and destruct limits occur simultaneously. The HALT Destruct Limits for temperature and vibration are typically found in Stages 3 to 5.
Temperature Step Stresses – Stage 1 (Figure 1)
Figure 1 – Stage 1 Temperature Steps
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Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) is a rigorous reliability test method that is used to expose product weaknesses. The goal of HALT is to proactively find weaknesses and fix them, thereby increasing product reliability. Because of its accelerated nature, HALT is typically faster and less expensive than traditional testing techniques.
HALT of circuit boards in one of DES’s HALT chambers
HALT can be effectively used multiple times over a product’s life time. During product development, it can find design weakness when changes are much less costly to make. By finding weaknesses and making changes early, HALT can lower product development costs and compress time to market. When HALT is used at the time a product is being introduced into the market, it can expose problems caused by new manufacturing processes. When used after a product has been introduced into the market, HALT can be used to audit product reliability caused by changes in components, manufacturing or suppliers etc. The bottom line is that HALT can reduce product development time and cost, reduce warranty costs, improve customer satisfaction, gain market share, and increase profits.
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