I am starting a business idea I've had for years, which combines technology and hardware. I had some hardware developed in China for my first prototype and so far the people I've presented it to have shown a lot of interest. My biggest concern right now is that I don't know how to test my hardware prototype to see if it would last a long time? Any advice?
There are pretty standard processes for this. A few random thoughts below:
a) Based on the industry you're in and the markets your targeting there are standards out there for safety, emissions, and immunity that you'll be subjected to, so you need to ensure you pass these. There are tons of labs out there that can help with this and they range all over the place price wise, so getting someone knowledgeable in the space who can navigate the various standards and manage the costs would be a great first step (they should be able to look over the design and catch any obvious stuff BEFORE you test if possible). This level of testing is regulatory and mandated by the market(s) you're targeting.
b) Reliability (which you allude) to is very important in some industries (automotive, aircraft, space, etc..) and in some high-volume products (where the cost of a recall or brand damage is critical). However, many products don't have extensive reliability design/testing.
c) Reliability is driven largely by the design, which will involve component selection, manufacturing processes and the circuit design itself.
d) Reliability modelling. There is an entire field of modelling concerned with estimating reliability and likely failures in the field. In some industries (automotive for example) the failures are classified by risk and likelihood and complex metrics and tables (FMEA analyses) are built to estimate the reliability of a product.
d) Reliability testing doesn't drive reliability into a product it used merely to estimate the reliability of a product via metrics like MTBF (mean time between failures). Various tests like HALT (highly accelerated life testing) can be run (product run at accelerated temperature until failure) to estimate what the likely lifetime of the product might be under normal operation (there is a lot of expertise and history in these estimates, but it depends somewhat on he product too). There are also drop tests, vibration tests, etc. which can give a sense of how the product will react to shipping and some abuse... again this can be highly product specific.
e) Some products require specific testing for the product or portions of the product (think batteries, or lasers) for these there are specific tests and criteria typically concerned with safety (and these are typically regulated in section a) above).
f) Finally, there are some products that require calibration or adherence to customer or industry specifications. Though if that's the case you surely are already aware of it and have already addressed that.
A little long winded for an answer. I think the best course of action would be to hire an outside person (ideally with experience in your industry or market) to do a design review of your product and point out any shortcomings they see and advise you on navigating the regulatory process and ideally putting you in contact with good resources to accomplish that (that by itself could more than offset whatever you end up paying for the design review).
All the best and good luck with the product, always exciting (and a little nerve racking) when you're first sending your children out into the world, hoping they do well and are well received.
Access HQ (https://www.accesshq.com) is a comprehensive testing centre that includes (or at least did), reliability testing. So they're in Australia, but you might see who they know in your area. Caveat: I used to work for their parent organization.
Don't over think it. My business is in manufacturing but I also have about 18 years experience in Design Assurance and Quality Testing. You would be surprised out crude even the big companies test labs can be.
Yes their are many times standard things have to/ should be tested too. But in my experience, even many of the test houses like UL have a joke of a test method Seriously, I've seen it.
My advice is to not over think it. Research what standard might apply to your product in both the markets you intend to sell and other markets. Such as UL, TUV, CE, FDA, etc. If one tet house doesn't have something, perhaps one of the others will.
Then just start building your own apparatus test equipment. I've built many of automated mechanical cycle test machines and countless official fixture out of spare parts from Home Depot and had UL and TUV approve of the method.
Once you get bigger sales, you may want to start getting those third party houses to actually certify your product. But that can be spendy for you at this stage.
Another avenue I usually go down is a lot of times the factory already has test certifications for their part of the product. Maybe it's material annalysis, CE, TUV, etc. For everything that doesn't have that, just sit down and dream up your own way to test it. Take a lot of pictures and record as much info as you can. Simply having that data can really help mitigate risk if something where to happen in the field. Then you can show that you tested at the best of your ability at the time at the very least. Exposing your intention on safety in the eyes of the court instead of what the prosecutor would try to claim your intentions are.
To determine life span (when will the unit wearout) you would run a HALT (Highly Accelerated Life Test)
To determine if the product meets the requirements, you run a DVT (Design Verification Test)
To ensure that a unit from the population does not contain any manufacturing defects, you run a HASS (Highly Accelerated Stress Screening)
Any competent product development company can run these test for you.
Just give the prototype to someone you know that knows anything about what you are doing. Then ask them for feedback and see if it's something worth selling.
For all of those in the world frustrated with cheap crap, no small amount from China, please please please don't put another thing on the market that breaks! :) Depending on what it is, give it to a kid or teenager. If they can break it in a couple weeks, find a better manufacturer or design! Shoot me a message, if you think it could utilize Texas funding, as I am in Texas as well.
some people are not creative, nor hardworking, not great academic record but they got high payment ..that a secret