During the manufacturing of parts of an equipment or the equipment itself, the product is put to thorough inspection process for identifying defects such as cracks, assembly, poor seals or poor fits. Traditionally, manufacturers often used batch leak testing methods to inspect for production faults. As these tests are performed at high speeds to meet the daily production quota, some of the faulty products may escape the controls and go to market unnoticed. This is undesirable as it negatively affects the company image and may result in product recalls.
To avoid the potential problems from occurring, manufacturers are seeking for methods to streamline the quality checking process. This may involve automated monitoring and assembly systems for testing the manufactured products. Checking for leaks is one of the popular methods used by manufacturers to identify machining errors and defective parts or identify missing parts or wrong positioning in assembly.
Leak testing is a non-destructive method to identify leaks in a component or a device and an important part of quality control process. The leak test is carried out by sealing any ports or holes the test product might have and introducing a test medium into or around the test piece. The medium is usually air, nitrogen or helium depending on the particular application situation on which leak is being tested. Several non-destructive leak testers for parts, components and assembly are already available in the market for carrying out automated inspection on manufactured products. They can do a wide range of testing such as leakage, flow, ramp, perm-fill, dump-leak, pressure and blockage test. When these devices are used correctly in the manufacturing process, it can bring considerable benefits to the manufacturers.
Leak testing not only leads to accuracy and reliability, but also significantly helps in improving the efficiency of the production line and reducing repair costs and warranty claims. When the manufactured products are reliably tested in the factory, it prevents defective products from being sent out to the customer. This avoids product recalls against a faulty product as well as prevents warranty claims and stained reputation which can incur financial loss to the company.
In the assembly, leak testing can also be effectively used before the assembly process to improve efficiency and productivity. If the components have been properly tested for leakages and blockages before the assembly process, manufacturers can avoid restarting the entire assembly process which may occur if defective parts are used in the assembly.
Leak test can validate the quality of the supplier’s component and test the reliability of the product. Many OEM suppliers conduct leak tests on their parts and components before the assembly to ensure that only high-quality products are used in the assembly line. This minimize the chance of leakage and defect in the finished, assembled product.
Often, the finished products are also subjected to leak testing before being packed and dispatched to customers as final validation. From the manufacturers point of view, having a consistent leak testing process for each and every assembly stage will help them in performing the root cause analysis in case of components failure. This will eventually reduce the amounts of tests they need to do in order to identify the cause of failure.
Leak testing is also commonly used for testing home appliances such as air conditioning, kitchen appliances, valves, consumer electronics as well as other devices in automotive or medical applications. These devices should be tested to the absolute precision as they may have a huge impact on health and environment. For example, even small defects in medical pacemakers is not tolerable as its consequences can be fatal should they fail. In the manufacturing of pipelines used in the chemical and process plants and storage tanks, a small leakage can expose these dangerous chemicals to the environment which can prove to be very dangerous. Components and equipment that are used in other high-risk areas that involve explosions, fire and operational hazards such as the oil and gas field, electrical equipment and automotive should always be subjected to leak testing.
During the leak testing of a component, a consistent leak-tight connection and seal for all ports and holes is applied to the test piece, regardless of the test method. The objective of providing this tight connection is to isolate the component for testing, which can only be accomplished when all of the test ports and holes are sealed and leak-tight. By creating a leak-tight seal, chances of detecting a false failure are reduced, which is caused by an improper connection or seal, which allows media to seep into or out of the test part.
There are various tools engineered to be used as a quick connection tool designed to create a repeatable leak-tight connection to a specific port, thread, tube or hole. These tools are available for different types of leak testing processes, whether manual, semi-automated, or fully automated, allowing users to safely make the necessary connections to run a proper leak test without a concern
Modern leak testing devices use high quality sensors and instrumentation as well as integrate with analytics platform to facilitate process improvement in industrial manufacturing. As the concept of Industry 4.0 gets familiar with the manufacturing industry, many manufacturers have started using leak testing data gathered in real-time to improve their manufacturing processes as a whole.
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