Circuit Board HALT Testing Case Study

HALT Test Setup on Circuit Boards

HALT Test Setup on Circuit Boards

Customer Goal

A customer approached DES looking to perform Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) on a new circuit board design.  DES and the customer agreed to test the circuit boards using DES’s traditional HALT test procedure which calls for hot/cold temperature steps followed by rapid temperature ramping, vibration steps and combined temperature and vibration stresses.  HALT testing on electrical componentry is quite common across industry to expose design weaknesses; both mechanical and electrical (What is HALT and Why Perform HALT?).  Typical failures include poor solder connections, overheating, component failure, etc. (What Kind Of Failures Occur During HALT?)

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Rapid HALT – A Cost Effective Alternative to HALT

Rapid Highly Accelerated Life Testing or Rapid HALT is a reliability test method that is used to expose product weaknesses.  A Rapid HALT procedure is a modification of a Classical HALT procedure.  For more information about Classical HALT procedures, refer to the following blog articles:

A Rapid HALT is an abbreviated HALT, typically one day of tests, making it a great cost-effective solution for those seeking faster qualitative results.  Exposing a product to a Rapid HALT early in the design process can help reduce product development time and cost by enabling manufacturers to identify flaws or areas of improvement before it’s too late.

Rapid HALT’s are a good tool for assessing the reliability of different suppliers of components but can also be used to assess the reliability of less complicated products.  For example, DES has performed Rapid HALT’s to evaluate the reliability of different suppliers of power supplies, cooling fans, and LED’s.  DES has also performed a Rapid HALT to study different fastening methods in order to determine which was more robust.

DES Rapid HALT Profile

Figure 1. DES Rapid HALT Profile

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Cooling Fan Reliability Testing Case Study

Fan Reliability Testing Case StudyCustomer Challenge

A customer approached DES looking to find an accelerated test solution for an AC powered cooling fan used in one of their products.  The product had been established in the marketplace and the company was now looking for ways to reduce cost by looking at different cooling fan suppliers.  Most fans, however, have a mean life rated for over 20,000 hours, so a typical accelerated life test would require a significant amount of time and money.  Continue Reading Cooling Fan Reliability Testing Case Study

What Kind Of Failures Occur During HALT?

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.

Relevant Failures

Figure 1 - Failure of Improperly Designed Mounting Tabs

Figure 1 – Failure of Improperly Designed Mounting Tabs

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What Equipment Is Used For HALT?

HALT Chambers

Figure 1 - DES’s HALT Chambers

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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What Is A Typical HALT Procedure?

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

Figure 1 – Stage 1 Temperature Steps

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What Is HALT (Highly Accelerated Life Testing) And Why Perform HALT?

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 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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Delserro Engineering Solutions Featured in Desktop Engineering

Delserro Engineering Solutions (DES) was honored to be featured in a recent article discussing the capabilities of engineering testing companies. The article highlighted the benefits, in terms of both design and cost, of adequately testing designs, preferably as early in the process as possible. It also discussed the ins and outs of partnering effectively with a reliability testing facility.

The goal of this article was to teach product developers how to get the most bang for their testing buck; a goal that aligns perfectly with DES’s philosophy. No matter what your testing needs are, be they HALT, HASS, or other environmental or stress tests, DES is able to help you design and implement the most comprehensive and accurate test possible. As always, our client’s success is the source of our satisfaction. Continue Reading Delserro Engineering Solutions Featured in Desktop Engineering

How a HALT Test Shows The Future

Circuit Board HALT

HALT of Circuit Boards

Highly Accelerated Life Testing Procedures

Speeding up the process of device or circuit failure requires extreme inputs, those that are unlikely to occur during real-world use by customers regardless of the environment. Three common testing inputs are high and low temperatures, rapid cycling of the same and vibration along six-axes. In some cases, a highly accelerated life test (HALT) will incorporate combined temperature and vibration stresses. These inputs can result in component failure in the span of days, hours, or even minutes compared to months or years of typical usage.

 

Benefits of HALT Testing

While the percentages of failure based on the stress applied to a product can vary significantly, highly accelerated life testing can typically expose weaknesses faster than other means of testing. For example, of the above inputs, roughly two-thirds of failures will only come after the introduction of vibration alone or combined vibration and temperature tests. This means that during the product development process, a significant number of potential flaws would not be identified through testing that did not include these two stresses. Continue Reading How a HALT Test Shows The Future

Sinusoidal and Random Vibration Testing Primer

The most common types of vibration testing services conducted by vibration test labs are Sinusoidal and Random.  This primer is an explanation of the typical requirements found in vibration test specifications and the parameters used to control the vibration tests.  Both types of vibration tests are used to evaluate products for ruggedness, durability and to expose vibration defects.

See Sinusoidal Vibration Basics to learn more about vibration fundamentals.

See Sinusoidal Vibration Testing to learn more about the different types of sinusoidal vibration testing.

Examples of vibration test videos can be found on our YouTube page.
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