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Laboratory Testing

Wilhelm Isaac, Engineering Team Leader Laboratory at Chicago Pneumatic

The test lab ensures that our products are compliant, reliable and safe according to internal and international standards. Our test processes and equipment allow us to benchmark competitors’ tools and optimize Chicago Pneumatic tools to always be one step ahead of the competition. Another mission of the lab, my favorite, is to evaluate innovative concepts that are prototyped and see great ideas come to life

Wilhelm Isaac , Engineering Team Leader Laboratory at Chicago Pneumatic

Our high-end testing lab allows us to:

  1. check our products’ durability, safety, quality and ergonomics
  2. measure available products on the market, to get true performance data and position our products
  3. do some exploratory tests to improve our products and develop innovation

Check safety/quality

When it comes to our first mission, our lab’s primary objective is to double check that the tool delivers exactly what it was supposed to on the product requirement document.

Testing benches: pushing our tools to the limits

Testing benches allow us to test the tool’s performance by running up to 2000 hours of continuous and intensive use, replicating a product lifespan in a very short amount of time. A cycle follows three steps:
  1. tool running empty
  2. tool running loaded
  3. break time (or else the tool would overheat)
Test cycle and target lifetime vary from one type of tool to another, so every test is customized. Also, depending on the type of tool, we use different test benches. Most rotary tools are tested using a dynamometer (Magtrol), while impact and ratchet wrenches are tested using hydraulic load cell testers (Skidmore).

If the tool comes out of this test still running and performing, we can assure our customers that their tool will last and will not fail.

Noise and vibrations

At Chicago Pneumatic, we strive to design tools that are ergonomic, especially regarding noise and vibrations. Industry practice is to measure sound according to ISO15744 but often we go further than the ISO norms to deliver a better performing tool, with less vibration or noise, than what is currently available on the market. For example, there are many options to reduce noise beyond the ISO requirements. One of them is the implementation of a muffler (silencer), which is a very challenging task as the muffler has to:
  • be very compact
  • create a low pressure drop (in order not to penalize the tool’s performance)
  • work on a wide range of frequencies
  • be made in a material that does not get clogged up quickly

Developing this type of solution requires a lot of expertise and competencies to find the perfect fit, especially since this process varies from one tool to another.

Safety tests: no room for error

Safety tests
Our safety tests are really important and 100% guaranteed. We have no room for error when it comes to safety. Early in the project phase, we put our prototypes to the test in the field, which gives us the opportunity to anticipate situations that may arise later on and to improve the product with the end user’s feedback. Therefore, we have to provide them a 100% safe-to-use tool, even if it is still at the prototype level, this is a priority for us. The added value of field trials is to ensure that our products will perform in « real life » as well as they do in our testing lab. Plus, we believe it is key to involve our end users in the development of our tools as they are the ones who know them best!

Finally, our testing rooms - where we let our tools drop on concrete - give us insight into what needs to be improved or reinforced on the tool so that it will not break; no matter what happens to it in real life applications. We can therefore ensure its durability and robustness.

Once the product is manufactured, we execute a final test: the « customer test ». We put ourselves into our end users’ shoes and assume we are receiving the product and seeing it for the first time. This allows us to validate many touch points and materials to make sure the product and its collateral are up to the expected performance and service level. This is a double check before officially opening the sales of the product. Nothing should come up during this final check as all the points have been checked before production.

True performance

Our lab is a great resource to test our own products of course, but we also test the competition. Indeed, even though we have industry standards to measure noise, vibration and safety, nothing exists as a reference for calculating performance data.

Therefore, to make sure that Chicago Pneumatic products outperform others, we run the competition products in our testing lab to have actual performance data to compare to. Our testing standards and our quality requirements are extremely high so we always based ourselves on real-life testing data.

All our performance data are measured in our testing rooms and they are taken from the product production series once it is completely finalized, so that the performance data is as accurate as it can be for the user.

This testing laboratory is key in everything that we do. It helps us to be reactive and to understand our tools much better, as we can see them in action. Our marketing team finds it a real advantage as it gives them a fair comparison between our tools and the competition, so we can position new products versus what exists today and bring added value to our customers.

Experimental testing

Having these facilities also allows our R&D team to practice some simulation experiments to duplicate the tool’s real usage inside our testing rooms. This often leads to some great ideas.

Our current industrial grinders illustrate this perfectly. They have a safety screw to prevent the grinding wheel from spinning off in case of motor failure. This is the direct result of a simulation test.

Indeed, through close customer contact, we know that sometimes the motor just gets stuck (because of a bad airline, for example). So, in our lab, we simulated a motor’s sudden stop (of course the tool was run in a protective enclosure for this particular test) and tested different approaches to prevent this event from happening. Our engineers took on the challenge and developed a very simple yet durable solution for this problem. We validated it by adding a safety screw, which prevented the wheel from loosening in case of motor blade failure. Based on the test results, we decided to standardize this safety screw on all our industrial grinders, even though this is not a requirement under any current safety standard.

We never compromise where safety is concerned. Sometimes, we go even further than ISO norms require because our customers’ safety comes first.