QUALITY CONTROL 5 testing methods that mobility electronics manufacturers should know
An AI-powered robot makes final solders on a circuit board before it’s installed into a control module. It’s programmed with software before being fitted into a vehicle. But is it working correctly? Here’s how electronic components are tested for quality control and why it’s important.
Mobility options are being developed and improved regularly with advancements announced almost daily. Unlike personal vehicles from decades ago that were almost completely mechanical in nature, technological developments today are almost purely electronic.
Why test for quality
There are two main reasons that any mobility electronics need to be thoroughly tested for quality control. Primarily, testing is to ensure safe use and operation of the vehicle. Whether that’s an electric car, an autonomous vehicle, a scooter, electric wheelchair, or anything else, safety is always the primary goal. The NHTSA acknowledges that AVs have the potential to reduce crashes due to human error, the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths.
The second reason for testing relates to consumer confidence. As mobility advances, new features tend to cause anxiety and mistrust among users and potential adopters. Should a system fail, that elevates the level of mistrust and can repel many future adopters.
Which parts must be checked?
As it relates to mobility options, QC checks are encouraged for convenience features. However, it’s the safety-related functions that must be checked for quality before implementation and routinely afterward.
Any systems that affect – or could potentially affect – the vehicle’s throttle, braking, or steering must be inspected and tested to ensure virtually no possible failure today or in the future.
Quality control processes frequently used
For electronics in mobility, five testing methods are commonly used to identify flaws or irregularities in electrical components, sensors, and motors.
Tight tolerances and precision machining are commonplace for many components in mobility. Larger components may appear visually perfect but can have flaws only detectable by precision tactile scanning. For example, the housing for a high-RPM electric motor needs to be flawless to reduce noise and ensure longevity. Microscopic deviations can be detected with a tactile scanner.
Practices to determine shortcomings in manufacturing often involve a visual check. Optical testing can be as simple as a trained human eye inspecting parts off an assembly line but can also be highly precise. For example, a non-contact optical laser scanner can be used to inspect the tight tolerance requirements of a battery tray. Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are also checked in a variety of ways including an optical inspection. An e-motor stator is measured for quality using 2D cameras, 3D laser scanners, and white light sensors – all optical testing modes.
Many electrical components can be tested for compliance compared with stringent manufacturing standards A coordinate measuring machine is often the best tool for the job in that regard. It can take a three-dimensional object and determine if there are any inconsistencies. It can use a probe, white light, cameras, lasers, or any number of testing media.
Some of the most delicate components are minute electrical parts. Testing is possible without damaging the part using X-ray technology. Electrical connectors and PCBs can be analyzed with X-Ray to visualize defects in any of the connections. It’s especially useful for small and contained items that need to be analyzed.
With massive amounts of data generated and transmitted, semiconductor integration is growing quickly. Specialized testing is required to map the semiconductor’s functions and test its quality. An electron microscope is the ideal method for inspecting semiconductors whether for use in an EV or any other mobility solution.
Manufacturers are also responsible for real-world testing. Mobility solutions are continuously and rigorously tested to ensure they function as designed in actual scenarios. Any flaws or unexpected results are taken back to the development stage to determine a corrective action.
NVIDIA also developed the NVIDIA DRIVE Constellation AV simulator for developers to test AVs for billions of miles prior to rolling them out.