Quality and reliability are becoming increasingly important these days as more complex technologies are coming into play and customer demand is growing. There are some industry sectors where quality and reliability are even more important because even a small failure could end up being catastrophic in terms of material losses and the loss of human life. This is especially relevant in the field of defence and aeronautical systems, where both reliability and safety are paramount. Part of the safety requirements dictates that the equipment should be environmentally certified. Let’s take a look at what this means in more detail here:
What is environmental certification?
The basic principle behind this type of certification is that it is not sufficient for products to meet a series of specifications on leaving the production line. They must also be able to prove that they can perform in all kinds of real-world conditions and environments, even at extreme levels.
Many devices used in defence will be exposed to the most diverse environmental conditions during their lifetime. It is therefore necessary to ensure that, in these instances, they are able to properly carry out their function. This is why all products must be subjected to a series of tests that simulate these extreme environments.
What kind of environments are we referring to? Well, some products may be subjected to strong vibrations and others to high altitudes and pressures. Some may also need to be capable of operating under strong solar radiation or the forces of an electromagnetic field, to name just a few examples. In all these scenarios, the equipment must be able to respond appropriately in order to ensure people’s safety and its own survival.
Why is it necessary to acquire an environmental certification?
These environmental certification tests are grouped under different standards, such as DO-160 or MIL-STD-810 (which we will discuss in more detail a little later). The purpose of these standards is to define what kind of resistance the equipment must withstand in order to prove its operational reliability, even under harsh environmental conditions.
Compliance with these standards is very important for the authorities and organisations that demand them, hence the possession of an environmental certification is essential for all organisations that intend to market this type of product.
The tests that are carried out can be very demanding but achieving this level of quality brings about a range of benefits:
● Reduction in collection costs, product repairs and warranties.
● Improved product designs.
● Improved quality control and detection of weaknesses within the manufacturing processes.
● Proof that the company is capable of meeting the high standards and regulations that are demanded of them.
Standards in the defence and aerospace sectors
There are two very widely-used quality standards in the defence and aeronautics sector which, although different, share many characteristics.
The document which defines the environmental certification tests for aviation equipment is DO-160 (Environmental Conditions and Test Procedures for Airborne Equipment), while for military equipment it is the MIL-STD-810 (Environmental Test Methods and Engineering Guidelines) of the United States Army.
DO-160 contains 26 tests while MIL-STD-810 contains 28.
One difference between the two test batches is that the definition of specific tests for military equipment only appears in the MIL-STD (firearms and acoustic tests). Also, DO-160 includes a test for electromagnetic interference (EMI), which is not included in MIL-STD-810.
Many of the other certification tests, such as pressure, high and low temperature, sand and dust, explosive atmospheres, etc., appear in both standards in a similar format.
The military standard MIL-STD-810
MIL-STD-810 is a US Army standard. Its purpose is to test the limits to which different types of equipment can withstand conditions that could be encountered in real-life operations or in transit. To carry out these tests, test chambers are used that replicate the effects of the environment on the equipment (rather than recreating the environment itself). This standard was originally created for military use but it is also used by some commercial brands to prove high levels of quality and resistance.
MIL-STD-810 testing includes a wide range of environmental conditions such as low pressure for altitude testing, exposure to high and low temperatures, exposure to different types of rain, humidity, fungus, salt spray, exposure to sand and dust, sudden accelerations, shocks, different types of vibrations, etc.
A remarkable feature of MIL-STD-810 is the so-called Tailoring, a process by which a supplier can make a modification in the test procedure or in some of its variables, according to the environment in which the equipment will be operating. MIL-SRD-810 actually encourages suppliers to do this, while all the time keeping in contact with the military procurement manager.
The DO-160 standard for airborne equipment.
The DO-160 standard governs the environmental conditions and test procedures for commercial airborne equipment. Like the previous standard, the purpose of these tests is to ascertain the performance characteristics of the equipment under environmental conditions similar to those that may occur in real-life operations.
These tests, like the military standard ones, include mechanical, climatic, fire, electrical, electromagnetic compatibility and lightning tests for avionic equipment. In total, the standard consists of 26 sections, 23 of which define the test procedures.
Other standards do exist but DO-160 is recognised as the international standard for assessing the compliance of avionics systems by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation regulatory bodies around the world.
Centum – Specialists in Certification
If your organisation wants to position itself as a military or aerospace contractor, it is essential to put a plan in place to pass these environmental certifications and ensure that your products meet all the necessary requirements.
Having a partner with the right experience in this process can make all the difference. Our specialist testing engineers will help you prepare your products and your test plan to put you in a better position to pass the certifications the first time. The sooner you pass, the sooner you can begin to profit from your products. If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.