Why you shouldn’t skip Product Testing
In this article we are going to discover the main product testing for your invention and why it is important to assess the feasibility and readiness of your product.
What is Product testing?
Product testing is the series of tests and checks performed on your invention to make sure that your product meets the requirements and criteria set during your idea brief.
Will your product be exposed to water? Or to high temperatures? How many times does it need to switch on/off during its lifetime? All of these are possible requirements for your product. Those requirements are verified and validated through tests methods ideally defined in the early stages of your design.
Some tests methods come from industry standards and are broadly used, however your product may need some specific testing that is tailored to your particular needs. If available try to use standards so you don’t need to create test methods from scratch. When using third party companies to test your product they will most likely have the equipment required for those standard tests.
Why is Product testing important?
The main goal of performing testing on your product is to confirm with actual data that your product meets the requirements and needs that was defined for your product idea based on your market and product research.
By performing those tests you will get an idea of what is the status of your product. Are your users satisfied with the usability? Are you ready to move from your proof of concept? Are you ready to start production?
One of the most important aspects of product testing, apart from verifying your product performance, is getting feedback from your users. This is crucial and should be done frequently during the development. Use any initial prototypes and early samples to get users to test the product and find issues and potential improvements early on.
How to plan your testing?
Before going through the different type of testing I will touch on some important considerations to prepare for your tests.
The first thing is to make a test plan where you define at which stage will you perform your test, such as during the design, with the first prototype or with first production samples.
Next is the number of samples needed for each test. It is common to forget to plan for this and often times the amount of samples are significant, whether that is prototypes or pre-production samples. The amount needed will depend on the type of test but most of the times you will need a sample size big enough to have statistical significance. In some occasions 1 sample is sufficient, others require 20–30 samples per test.
Another point to consider is the equipment required to run the tests. If you are an inventor or start-up with a low budget, you probably want to use “simple” methods. Imagine that you need to simulate a drop of your product, which is normally tested at a standard height of 1m and dropped with an specific equipment. You can easily simulate that by dropping the product yourself by hand. Think about creative ways to test, but don’t stop performing a test just because you don’t have the right methods, any data is better than no data.
Lastly, if your product has specific regulations to meet, oftentimes this is performed but third party labs. Those aren’t usually that cheap and unfortunately you won’t be able to skip this if you want to sell your product. My suggestion, use any simple methods to check where your product stands before going blind to a third party lab and be at risk of having to repeat the test.
Did you do design checks?
Sometimes tests can be done really early in the development process and with low to no cost. That is design checks. You don’t need to build a prototype to check weight of your product, there are tools to estimate that in your 3D model in a couple of clicks.
Some other checks that you can easily do are:
- Check your product dimensions and volumes. You can also check other elements that will interact with your product, there are ready-to-use models of common products such as smartphones, tablets, watches, sunglasses, hardware items and many more.
- Check your product mechanism in CAD. Avoid clashes between components and make sure they move as intended.
- Perform simulations in CAD to understand if your product will support the loads to which it will be exposed to.
- Check your materials data sheets to know if the material that you are using will meet the product use.
Try to do as many design checks as possible since this is the quickest and cheapests way to verify your product early on.
How to test on Prototypes?
The next level of tests that you can perform is in the prototype stage. There are different types of prototypes and with each you will be able to test different aspects of your product. Use these tests as approximations to your final product. You should consider the main constraints of the prototypes but you can get quite a good guess of whether a particular design will work or not.
- Proof of concepts are good to reveal high level issues with your product concept.
- With “looks-like” prototypes you can perform usability tests with users and get feedback on appearance and feel of the product.
- “Works-like” prototypes can be used to test the main functionalities of the product and some basic endurance tests.
Decide beforehand which requirements you will be able to test on the prototypes with certain level of confidence so you can iterate at this stage where changes are easier and less costly to implement.
How I verify my product?
There are certain tests that can only be performed with production or pre-production samples. Generally those are endurance and environmental tests which require the use of the final materials and overall structure of the product to give real-life results.
Endurance testing covers extreme situations to which the product might be exposed during its life, such as drops from certain height, transportation vibration and shocks, product robustness, electronic burnout tests, electromagnetic compatibility, button life tests, switching cycling, lifetime ageing tests, …
Environmental testing covers resilience of the product to environmental conditions such as operational use temperatures, extreme high and low temperatures and humidity, sunlight exposure, water and dust protection, salt corrosion,…
Based on your product type and market you would have different regulatory requirements that your product would need to meet. Some of the most common are ROHS, REACH, CE, FCC and FDA. Some of the tests mentioned above are already part of those regulatory requirements, however the testing and reporting would need to be more rigorous, specially for medical devices and other products highly regulated.
Most of these tests are more expensive to run and require a significant amount of samples. Make sure you perform certain sanity checks during your design and prototype stages to get at least a sense of how your product will perform. In can get even more expensive if you need to repeat some of the above tests more than once.
What else to consider?
Now that you know what to test, I will point out some additional considerations for your Product Testing.
The first thing is about your product test results Make sure you write down the data of each of your sample tests and other information such as equipment used, date of the test and person who performed the test. You may think that this is too bureaucratic specially for single entrepreneurs, inventors or start-ups, but in the end you only need a simple spreadsheet with the results and ideally some images of the tests and brief description on the results. This will help heaps in the long run and will prevent from having to repeat some tests because the information wasn’t clear or incomplete.
Along with the reporting is the identification of the samples used. Make sure to label each sample clearly and specify a unique number that will be used in your report.
Another suggestion is to consider design changes and its implications in your tests. If design changes are made after some of the testing is performed, you should evaluate the impact and potential retesting required. This evaluation is commonly known as regression analysis and to put it simple it is an assessment of the changes and which tests should be repeated due to potentially affected performance as well as new testing to verify new requirements.
Lastly, whenever there is an incident with your product once in the market, you will probably want to go through your original tests to understand if the testing data reveals the cause of this incident or failure, or if some additional testing is required to assess the cause of the failure.
Product testing requires a lot of planning and knowledge on what is required for a particular product. Having a good test plan at the beginning of your product design is critical to be able to quickly evaluate the status of your product and make adjustments early on. Waiting until the end of the development to test your product only to find that you fail some requirements is a bad idea.
Abilista can guide you through the development of your product. Book a first free session to plan your idea, www.abilista.com/book