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Team that takes it to limits

PUBLISHED: 09:13 07 February 2009 | UPDATED: 12:58 03 July 2010

The C-Mac Microtechnology test house team

The C-Mac Microtechnology test house team

Miles Jermy

THE sheer force of nature and raw power of the physical world can test man's ingenuity to destruction.

Advances in science have made our lives more comfortable, but the inventions that make that possible often have to survive in the harshest of conditions.

THE sheer force of nature and raw power of the physical world can test man's ingenuity to destruction.

Advances in science have made our lives more comfortable, but the inventions that make that possible often have to survive in the harshest of conditions.

Extremes of temperature, air pressure and force are among

the environmental conditions harnessed at the C-Mac test house in Great Yarmouth.

A leading European facility, the test house at C-Mac Micro Technology's South Denes base exposes a range of hi-tech electrical and engineering products to the most rigorous of test conditions.

Amid the quiet hum of the laboratory, test equipment can create temperatures ranging from - 75C to 300C - replicating conditions everywhere from outer space to hundreds of feet below the Earth's crust.

C-Mac's head of quality Dave Lawn said: “Imagine a plane

taking off in the desert at Las Vegas and then flying in sub-zero temperatures. The sort of parts we test need to be able to withstand

a range of extreme climatic conditions within a short space of time. A sensor in a drill at an oil well will be exposed to temperatures of around 250C.

“The testing we perform can simulate these environments, and by increasing the test levels used we can accelerate many years testing into a few weeks.”

A highly skilled team of eight test engineers work in the centre,

used by hi-tech companies in the defence, energy, aerospace and telecommunication sectors in Britain and Europe.

One of the tests performed

in the centre's wet room is salt atmosphere, which simulates the sort of conditions seen in the North Sea, were a few hours testing can replicate many years of exposure to the elements on a

wind turbine or drilling rig.

What at first sight appears to

be a large tumble drier is, in fact, a centrifuge revolving at up to 20,000 rpm with a force of 40,000g; a

fighter pilot would black out

at 10g. It ensures that parts for

aircraft engine turbines do not suffer failure when exposed

to high levels of force.

Mechanical shock testing is also performed simulating the high level impact encountered by drill bit sensor operating down an oil well.

A room at the test centre is used

to house humidity chambers, recreating in the space of a few hours conditions over a period of

30 years in the Earth's tropical zones.

“The testing regime is tailored to fit the needs of customers; it is all very controlled and constantly monitored,” added Dave.

“As well as satisfying rigorous performance standards, the testing standards can be used as a marketing tool, for manufacturers to show their products have a high standard of reliability.”

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