Testing Standards

March 29, 2018

Industry testing standards have been developed and improved upon based on historical data. Wayne Tustin, founder and former president of the Equipment Reliability Institute at Santa Barbara, CA, notes that many vibration standards find their historical roots in the military. In many cases, these standards were “written around” shaker capabilities of the time.

Many original standards have a good foundation but are no longer valid. Nevertheless, many original standards are still in use. In the following anecdote, Tustin helps us to understand why some of the standards are still used today:

“Here is a non-vibration example: the standard US railway gauge (distance between centers of the tracks) is 4 feet 8.5 inches. Why? Because that was the gage of the earliest railway equipment, imported from England. Why? Because that was the gage of English tram cars. Why? Because that was the gage of English wagons. Why? Because that was the spacing of the ruts on early British roads. Why? Because that was the gage of Roman chariots, brought in by the conquerors. Why? Because that was the width of the rear ends of a pair of Roman horses” (Tustin, pg. 197).

Over the years, some standards have been updated to reflect the changes in new technology, testing ability, and industrial requirement. For example, MIL-STD-810 is used for testing a wide range of vibrations–from gunfire to transport shock–and is revised as weapons and transportation methods are changed.

Two organizations working to establish product testing standards are ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials) and ISTA (International Safe Transit Association). The two organizations have established numerous test standards for various situations; companies try to demonstrate the quality, safety, and reliability of a product by meeting or exceeding these standards. For example, in Canada, CCM® tests hockey helmets to meet the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) impact standards.

ASTM International was founded in 1898 by a group of engineers and scientists who wanted to solve frequent rail breaks in the railroad industry. Their work led to the development of standards in the steel industry that improved rail construction. Over time, ASTM International has expanded; the organization now develops standards for a wide range of industrial needs and has contributed to safer, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective products.

The development of standards ensures that industries provide safe and usable products for the market. A lack of standards could lead to poorly constructed products or, even worse, disaster.