Sitting back and relaxing
Testing equipment is typically very standardized, as engineers try to keep their projects as simple as possible while making their way through the measurement and approval process. Rather than sitting back and relaxing while the latches are prepared for first article testing approval, our shop in Georgia started designing an entirely new product to test the performance of these latches in house.
The company was given free rein and encouraged to come up with its own concepts, creating latch testers that could be adapted to other products. The adaptability, special features, and future customer requirements were kept in mind from the start of the project.
The shop began the development process by pulling up old specification sheets and taking a close look at any drawings and directions that were available. Any references on the drawings were noted, and we quickly realized that additional research was necessary to better understand what this specific project entailed. Once we had a better handle on the project scope, we started designing our testers. Detailed structural and electric drawings, manufacturing specifications, and a parts list for two different latch testers was developed and built. In this case, the two latches we were trying to test had been modeled in KIHOMAC’s Utah facility, and group synergy was in full effect. Our team in Utah provided latch models, which were passed on to our senior technicians at KIHOMAC’s machine shop in Georgia. KIHOMAC’s latch models were recreated from scratch using local machine programming language to ensure everything fit together with the prototype.
While this was going on, we had various cast parts built by an outside vendor. These cast parts were a necessary component for building the latches themselves. To ensure progress was not impeded, the machine shop manufactured replacement parts to represent the long lead-time cast pieces. As we were waiting for the latch components to arrive, we began developing our latch testers to meet the testing requirements laid out in the initial drawings and specification sheets.
Setting it up and letting it run
The only real way to find out if a latch tester functions properly is to set it up and let it run. One of the latch testers we built utilized a simple switch and relay logic to go through the various steps of opening and closing the latch. For the second tester, we introduced the use of programmable logic controllers with touch screen capability. Logic controllers function like computers, allowing for more flexibility and control. Logic controllers can also count the steps, find out how long each step should take, and determine the average length of the process.
Once our latch tester is fully functional, our plan is to put one of the latches that we built in-house into the tester, start it, and let it run for 20,000 cycles. When the final testers are running full-time, implementation will be complete.
We are building two latch testers, one with basic switch and relay logic and another with sophisticated logic controllers. Use of creative test frames will allow for a seamless transition when our latch testers are reused for other projects. By creating testers that are adaptable with other units — rather than being unique to just one latch or platform — we have expanded the usefulness of a project that would have otherwise been very limited in scope. Our forward thinking in this design will give us the capability to benefit future customers who are looking for reliable testing solutions.