Model the Complexity
Redefining sound and vibration testing for innovation
By Jane Wade
Sound and vibration are part of our everyday lives, much goes unnoticed, but certain sounds or frequencies can be extremely irritating and even dangerous. Think the noisy motorbike exhaust as it accelerates, the start-up of garden machinery or using a hammer-drill for long periods. It is not just loud noises that make us uncomfortable, it can be the pitch or tone, the onset, or the frequency and the subsequent vibrations. Something as quiet as a fridge, when the compressor kicks in, can cause a moment of annoyance or worse still ruin a good nights’ sleep.
What are consumers demanding? Consumers want quality and performance, what is the best product for the money I can spend? Consumers have access to online reviews, product information from the manufacturer and in many cases also factual data on sound and vibration performance. Many countries have requirements for energy consumption and sound power levels to be available at point of purchase. For items used in the workplace, think hand-held tools or heavy equipment regulations are also in place to control sound and vibration to protect the users. Consumers are in control of information to make informed choices far more so than in the past; will they choose your product?
What is the challenge for manufacturers? Manufacturers must strive to deliver performance products and seek an advantage over other products available, across many variables, price, quality, reliability, output, power usage or sound and vibration impact. Sound and vibration optimization is complicated with increased product variants and ever more complex products. So, manufacturers are seeking to deliver on these demanding consumer requirements and comply with serious industry and regulatory constraints.
Manufacturers operating successfully in this market need to make safe, reliable, and near-silent products, but they need to develop them quickly and ensure that the finished item complies with regulation and certification relevant to the target market. This requires an agile approach, to go faster whilst still exploring many parameters involving mechanical and electrical components. Let us start with considering the backdrop, what is different for manufacturers today compared with a decade ago?
Increased living standards Truly a multi-faceted challenge, we are living in more open plan homes, working in more open plan offices, and living in more densely populated buildings and cities. A noisy dishwasher in an open plan living space can be a major disruption to an evening in front of the television, the fan on your laptop or the rattle of the printer can all create a challenging environment for working and impact on personal wellbeing. Skilled workers using noisy equipment, such as pneumatic drills or hammers need to be protected but also work for longer without fatigue or physical damage.
What is loud?
Environmental Legislation in a Global Market Across the globe different countries have certification for acceptable levels on noise and vibration covering many product types, primarily with user safety in mind. Many markets also demand noise and vibration levels are explicitly mentioned on product data sheets at point of purchase.
To compete in a global economy, manufacturers not only need to be able to sell products that comply with local legislation they need to be able to bring relevant products to the market quickly. Requirements will vary from one economy to another, depending on local product usage and legislation. Compliance in one region may not mean compliance in all. How quickly and easily can that certification be completed? Manufacturers cannot have product releases derailed late in the development process.
Mass Customisations With a large catalogue of product configurations ensuring that each variant complies can be particularly challenging and expensive. Consider a washing machine, on the same line there might be up to 15 different variants, each with different cycles, spin speeds or design features. Manufacturers must be sure each variant delivers the expected customer experience; it is not manageable to have each individual customisation tested especially with the need to release to the market faster.
Redefining sound and vibration testing for innovation There is a well-established continuum for improving sound and vibration levels: BLOCK, FIND, UNDERSTAND and SHAPE. We will talk briefly about them here, but the goal is to get to UNDERSTAND and SHAPE to truly deliver a world-class product. You can read more about this process in this article.
To master this process an in-house testing system which covers certification and troubleshooting is essential but only the beginning. The beginning is the reactive part of the process ensuring products are fit for purpose, that they comply with the necessary legislation and offer acceptable levels of sound and vibration comfort. To move from reactive to proactive, sound and vibration engineers need to seek genuine innovation in their product performance. This opens the opportunity for increasing market share and entering new markets.
Sound engineering for greater product satisfaction To achieve the highest level of sound design, leading manufacturers invest in in-house labs that enable them to adopt smart sound and vibration strategies. The market demand for speed means there is not time to go through the continuous cycle of outsourcing to third-parties, incorporating the findings, reworking the product, and then sending back for testing, so having the capabilities in-house increases agility and decreases costs.
An efficient in-house system should include task-based software for certification and troubleshooting alongside advanced measuring methods to further the development process and to avoid last-minute reconfigurations. All data remains within the manufacturers systems, ready to be accessed for new product lines in future development schedules.
Hilti, a leading tools manufacturer are taking sound engineering to the next level. They need to develop top-quality, durable construction tools and equipment, whilst safeguarding operator health and safety. They also have a reputation to protect, they are renowned for their high-quality equipment. Releasing sub-standard products risks damaging that reputation. This is a competitive market, with manufacturers across the globe operating with different constraints and cost-bases.
To maintain brand position as a high-quality manufacturer they must ensure they follow stringent test procedures to obtain fully validated component design and given the competitive nature of the market they need to do that quickly. Hilti have achieved the pinnacle of sound and vibration shaping using Simcenter hardware and software. They can deliver seamless test preparation, execution, and results analysis that not only supports their brand position, but also ensures validated component design resulting in greater durability and higher quality. Simcenter solutions have facilitated the development of vibration reduction technologies that have increased permitted daily use of demolition hammer by 300 percent, in addition to rapidly certifying the tool and meeting relevant vibration standards. The full story is available here
Briggs and Stratton have also taken sound and vibration beyond compliance to develop products that are smoother and quieter, tools that give the user an easier and more pleasant experience. Taking a proactive approach and building NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) goals up front in their design process working with a future-proof system, they are building best-in-class garden machinery. By analyzing sound and vibration together, they better understand the correlation and save time on testing later in the design lifecycle.
Delivering world-class products for better user experience To follow the lead of Hilti and Briggs and Stratton, you need to develop an innovative sound and vibration approach built on solid data and in-house testing. A seamless system that can offer certification, troubleshooting and enable deeper engineering insight to deliver that outstanding end-user experience. A systematic approach avoiding guesswork and costly re-spins results in faster go-to-market, ensuring you stay ahead of the competition. Not only because the approach is better but also having a single system, start-up and training time is minimized.
Achieving this level of engineering excellence is a challenge, staying at the forefront of the market and consistently delivering better products means the approach also needs to be future proof. The system deployed by Hilti and Briggs and Stratton ensures their operators can complete certification or repetitive tasks using predefined templates, but they also investigate designs fully to obtain detailed engineering insights. Those insights that allow them to develop products that keep them at the forefront of their markets.