Consumer products get all shaken up

Robert Lancaster, a senior mechanical engineer at Thomson Consumer Electronics (Carmel, IN), loves the sound of breaking glass. He is in charge of Thomson`s product-protection laboratory--where products are systematically destroyed, results analyzed, and product re-design suggestions made. "Determining how and why a product fails is important, because it shows how the problem can be corrected. One alternative is to improve the packaging to isolate the product from impact and stress. But in most

Consumer products get all shaken up

Robert Lancaster, a senior mechanical engineer at Thomson Consumer Electronics (Carmel, IN), loves the sound of breaking glass. He is in charge of Thomson`s product-protection laboratory--where products are systematically destroyed, results analyzed, and product re-design suggestions made. "Determining how and why a product fails is important, because it shows how the problem can be corrected. One alternative is to improve the packaging to isolate the product from impact and stress. But in most cases, it is more efficient to make the product more rugged by changing its design."

To determine why specific products fail, Lancaster shakes and drop-tests televisions and VCRs, capturing the images of destruction at high speed. He uses a Model 1000HRC motion analyzer from Kodak Motion Analysis (San Diego, CA) that records color images at up to 1000 frames/s. Each frame is stored as a 200-kbyte digital file, and images can be viewed on a color monitor at freeze-frame to 500 frames/s play-back speeds. The analyzer is supplied with 682 frames of on-board storage that lets it store 0.68s at the imager`s top speed. Optional memory allows more than 5000 frames to be stored.

"The imager constantly feeds digital image data to the analyzer`s processor," Lancaster explains. "Recording is precisely triggered so that only a fraction of the 680 frames available are required. For a shock pulse of 20 ms, 60 frames show the product before the pulse, then follow the products reaction to the pulse until it appears to be at rest again."

Analysis of the event can be performed instantaneously. Images can be viewed while they are stored in RAM or after downloading to optical disk. The motion analyzer provides a color image that allows chassis information to be differentiated from other components of the product tested.

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