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Accelerated Life Testing of Portable Consumer Products
Keywords: Portable Consumer Products (PCPs) , Accelerated Life Tests (ALTs) , Telecommunications
Over the past decade, progress in Portable Consumer Products (PCPs) has revolutionized telecommunications, information engineering, and entertainment systems, and has become an essential part of everyday life and business. PCPs make possible vastly enhanced lifestyles - from basics such as reading, note taking, or listening to music, to crunching numbers, watching videos, and following news and sports events while on the go. Todays PCPs include cellular phones, personal digital assistants, digital cameras, portable media players, and iPODs. Some devices provide built-in organizers for shopping lists, scheduling and appointments, phone numbers, address books, customer contacts, even games and video display. Both hardware and software are equally important in the design, use and reliability of these devices, which should be easy to handle and operate, and last a long time. Reliability of PCPs, both on a short- and long-time scale, is an important issue for PCPs. At the same time, because many PCPs are based on newly developed or invented concepts, more or less well established qualification specs simply do not exist for such products, and accelerated life testing is the only trustworthy way to make a consumer device into a product. Accelerated life tests (ALTs) are aimed at the revealing and understanding the physics of expected or occurred failures. Another objective of the ALTs is to accumulate representative failure statistics. Thus, ALTs are able to both detect the possible failure modes and mechanisms and to quantitatively evaluate the roles of the phenomena and processes that might lead to failures. Adequately designed, carefully conducted, and properly interpreted ALTs provide a consistent basis for obtaining the ultimate information of the reliability of a product - the probability of failure. ALTs can dramatically facilitate the solutions to the problems of cost effectiveness and time-to-market for PCPs. ALTs should play an important role in the evaluation, prediction and assurance of the reliability of PCPs. In the majority of cases, ALTs should be conducted in addition to the qualification tests, if such specifications exist. There might be also situations, when ALTs can be used as an effective substitution for qualification tests. We discuss the objectives, attributes, challenges, pitfalls, associated with the use of ALTs for PCPs. We emphasize the role that the ALTs should play in the development, design, qualification and manufacturing of PCPs. The case of a solder joint interconnection in a thermally matched assembly is used to illustrate some of the concepts addressed.
Dr. Ephraim Suhir, Professor
University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, University of Maryland and ERS Co.
Los Altos, CA

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