What is Accelerated Life Testing?
Traditional life data analysis involves analyzing times-to-failure data obtained under normal operating conditions in order to quantify the life characteristics of a product, system or component. For many reasons, obtaining such life data (or times-to-failure data) may be very difficult or impossible. The reasons for this difficulty can include the long life times of today’s products, the small time period between design and release, and the challenge of testing products that are used continuously under normal conditions. Given these difficulties and the need to observe failures of products to better understand their failure modes and life characteristics, reliability practitioners have attempted to devise methods to force these products to fail more quickly than they would under normal use conditions. In other words, they have attempted to accelerate their failures. Over the years, the phrase accelerated life testing has been used to describe all such practices.
As we use the phrase in this reference, accelerated life testing involves the acceleration of failures with the single purpose of quantifying the life characteristics of the product at normal use conditions. More specifically, accelerated life testing can be divided into two areas: qualitative accelerated testing and quantitative accelerated life testing. In qualitative accelerated testing, the engineer is mostly interested in identifying failures and failure modes without attempting to make any predictions as to the product’s life under normal use conditions. In quantitative accelerated life testing, the engineer is interested in predicting the life of the product (or more specifically, life characteristics such as MTTF, B(10) life, etc.) at normal use conditions, from data obtained in an accelerated life test.