Centurion-based Alaris Antennas recently took delivery of new environmental stress screening (ESS) equipment which will ensure that products leaving its factory are reliable and defect-free.
Alaris design and manufactures high-technology antenna solutions for defence and civilian use. Its South African-designed and manufactured products are used for communication in submarines, ships, aircraft and vehicles operated by homeland protection and specialist civilian organisations in North America, Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.
The new ESS equipment comprises a climatic chamber and two vibration tables built by Cape Town-based Scientific Technology, which specialises in the supply of testing equipment and quality inspection instruments. The 1,8m x 2m x 2m environmental walk-in chamber enables products to be subjected to accelerated climatic cycling with temperatures ranging from -40 to +80-degrees C, and has a strong temperature gradient. The latter means that temperatures in the chamber can be made to rise and fall very rapidly. Humidity tests within a 10-90% range are also conducted in the chamber.
The two high-frequency vibrating tables – one small and one large to enable products of different sizes to be tested – are designed to accentuate and amplify the stresses that a product would be subjected to over its operating lifetime. In this way, technical faults and design flaws that may only show up years later can be identified and rectified before a product leaves the factory.
“Our products are used in the harshest and most geographically remote environments,” says Braam Greyling, Chief Operating Officer at Alaris Antennas. “But organisations in homeland security and defence depend on them and so they must be extremely reliable and efficient at all times.
“There is also no workshop just around the corner where they are installed and where they can be repaired in the event of malfunction. Therefore, each product is subjected to rigorous ESS testing. This gives our customers confidence in our quality assurance process.”
He explains that, because products are custom-designed and built to highly specific client requirements, Alaris does not always have the benefit of repeatability and large-scale automation in its manufacturing operation. “We are a high-mix, low-volume manufacturing facility, which means we seldom do the same thing twice. This can create quality problems unless we are vigilant.”
According to Viktor Marinov, Head of Quality & Configuration at Alaris Antennas, having ESS facilities available on site enables product designers to do testing during the design phase and improve the product as they go. “Addressing problems and making improvements as early as possible in the design phase means that you save time and money in the long run,” he emphasises.
“We are proud to have designed and manufactured our complete ESS testing system for Alaris Antennas,” says Steve Thornton, Managing Director of SciTech Engineering. “As with all of our systems, it is unique and manufactured to the customer’s specifications within South Africa by a skilled, energetic and dedicated workforce.”