Torture Testing Ultrabooks to Benefit Consumers

Ultrabook product testing influences design of 4th generation Intel Core processor.

In a space no larger than a one-car garage, Russ Brown, an Intel engineering technician, puts electronic devices through hell. Torturing Ultrabooks is monotonous and noisy work — mechanical shock testing, for example, can mean several months of repeated banging to simulate a 3-foot drop onto concrete. But as Brown will attest, it makes for better computing devices.

Intel engineer Russ Brown tests Ultrabrook for mechanical shock

Intel engineer Russ Brown tests an Ultrabook for mechanical shock. He is bracing a device that will crash down from a hydraulic platform to simulate a 3-foot drop onto concrete.

“It’s loud and repetitive, but that’s part of what it takes for better-designed and more durable products,” he said. Brown is part of a corporate quality network that punishes Intel-powered devices to collect data for the company’s product and technology development teams and OEM partners.

“Our teams are eager to know how different customer designs can affect the reliability of Intel products,” said Jagadeesh Radhakrishnan, a reliability engineer. “It also helps Intel understand how to design the next-generation product better in order to survive the growing expectations of new form factor designs such as convertibles and tablets.”

Data collected from testing has influenced product design of systems based on the upcoming 4th generation Intel Core processor, formerly codenamed “Haswell.”

“Evaluation of ‘Ivy Bridge’ Ultrabook models told us about printed circuit board size, thickness and component density,” Radhakrishnan said. “This data helps us understand the cost and design implications involved in reducing the Ultrabook form factor thickness when launching ‘Haswell.’

Findings from the “Ivy Bridge” tests also influenced the chassis material being used for initial 4th generation Intel Core systems.

“The information gained also helps define the next-generation package technology that our SoC [system-on-a-chip] CPUs will need as we go even thinner and lighter with each new generation of Ultrabooks,” Radhakrishnan said.

Ultrabook Tests Mimic Real-World Scenarios

Intel tests products for long-tern reliability as well as for survivability during normal use. In other words, Radhakrishnan said, “We want to ensure that Intel products can reliably operate for 3 to 5 years within a typical laptop or Ultrabook design.” That’s why putting products through torture is necessary.

“We have all had a clumsy moment with our precious high-tech gadgets — dropping our phone while trying to pull keys out of our pocket or a moment of carelessness flings the tablet on the floor,” said Maharshi Chauhan, an Intel customer quality manager.

Simply carrying a laptop or tablet can cause damage to it over time, which is why Intel performs a stress test that simulates the slight amount of twisting often borne by such mobile devices.

Ultrabook testing equipment twists device

Test equipment slowly and slightly twists an Ultrabook to assess the device's ability to withstand the type of bending that often occurs when being carried.

“We subject Ultrabook models to mechanical stress for what we call low-cycle fatigue, in which a typical user could twist the device with his hands just by carrying it,” said Brian Long, a reliability engineer. “We collect strain data to see what risk is done to the chipset, processor and overall chassis. For example, knowing if or why LCDs crack is valuable to customers for producing higher-quality products.”

Long uses a specially made machine to test the amount of give in Ultrabooks models. Meanwhile, on the other side of Intel’s Folsom, Calif. campus, his colleague Brown is seeing how well similar devices hold up when dropped onto a hard floor. He and a teammate recently completed an eight-month project in which more than 30 Ultrabook models were tested for mechanical shock. Each was secured in a vice on top of a hydraulic platform and dropped in six different orientations — first bottom down, then top down, followed by right down, left down, front down and finally rear down. Three drops were performed for each orientation, making for a total of 18 drops per unit, or, in auditory terms, about 600 loud bangs.

“The data shows impact along with the motherboard response,” said Brown, who did not divulge how the systems fared due to the proprietary nature of his work.

Test Results Inform Ultrabook Design

Brown’s manager did share that the team is using a new testing methodology that can help OEMs quantify the leeway of a given design for testing criteria rather than provide basic pass/fail information.

“The new methodology uses strain gauges during mechanical shock testing in order to quantify the reliability margin of our products in our customer designs,” Radhakrishnan said. “A design that passes or fails a test condition doesn’t help our customer assess the design’s marginality. If it passes, did it barely pass or was there a huge margin that was adding to the cost of the design? If it failed, did it just fail by a small margin or was the design so poor that the design needs to be changed fundamentally?”

Being able to quantify with a number or other data helps Intel and OEMs assess the design for reliability, according to Radhakrishnan.

“Some of the OEMs don’t perform this testing yet, whereas such customers as Asus, Lenovo, HP and Dell have started to embrace this methodology as part of the product qualification,” he said.

Torture Testing Ultrabooks to Benefit Consumers

Ultrabook product testing influences design of 4th generation Intel Core processor.

In a space no larger than a one-car garage, Russ Brown, an Intel engineering technician, puts electronic devices through hell. Torturing Ultrabooks is monotonous and noisy work — mechanical shock testing, for example, can mean several months of repeated banging to simulate a 3-foot drop onto concrete. But as Brown will attest, it makes for better computing devices.

Intel engineer Russ Brown tests Ultrabrook for mechanical shock

Intel engineer Russ Brown tests an Ultrabook for mechanical shock. He is bracing a device that will crash down from a hydraulic platform to simulate a 3-foot drop onto concrete.

“It’s loud and repetitive, but that’s part of what it takes for better-designed and more durable products,” he said. Brown is part of a corporate quality network that punishes Intel-powered devices to collect data for the company’s product and technology development teams and OEM partners.

“Our teams are eager to know how different customer designs can affect the reliability of Intel products,” said Jagadeesh Radhakrishnan, a reliability engineer. “It also helps Intel understand how to design the next-generation product better in order to survive the growing expectations of new form factor designs such as convertibles and tablets.”

Data collected from testing has influenced product design of systems based on the upcoming 4th generation Intel Core processor, formerly codenamed “Haswell.”

“Evaluation of ‘Ivy Bridge’ Ultrabook models told us about printed circuit board size, thickness and component density,” Radhakrishnan said. “This data helps us understand the cost and design implications involved in reducing the Ultrabook form factor thickness when launching ‘Haswell.’

Findings from the “Ivy Bridge” tests also influenced the chassis material being used for initial 4th generation Intel Core systems.

“The information gained also helps define the next-generation package technology that our SoC [system-on-a-chip] CPUs will need as we go even thinner and lighter with each new generation of Ultrabooks,” Radhakrishnan said.

Ultrabook Tests Mimic Real-World Scenarios

Intel tests products for long-tern reliability as well as for survivability during normal use. In other words, Radhakrishnan said, “We want to ensure that Intel products can reliably operate for 3 to 5 years within a typical laptop or Ultrabook design.” That’s why putting products through torture is necessary.

“We have all had a clumsy moment with our precious high-tech gadgets — dropping our phone while trying to pull keys out of our pocket or a moment of carelessness flings the tablet on the floor,” said Maharshi Chauhan, an Intel customer quality manager.

Simply carrying a laptop or tablet can cause damage to it over time, which is why Intel performs a stress test that simulates the slight amount of twisting often borne by such mobile devices.

Ultrabook testing equipment twists device

Test equipment slowly and slightly twists an Ultrabook to assess the device's ability to withstand the type of bending that often occurs when being carried.

“We subject Ultrabook models to mechanical stress for what we call low-cycle fatigue, in which a typical user could twist the device with his hands just by carrying it,” said Brian Long, a reliability engineer. “We collect strain data to see what risk is done to the chipset, processor and overall chassis. For example, knowing if or why LCDs crack is valuable to customers for producing higher-quality products.”

Long uses a specially made machine to test the amount of give in Ultrabooks models. Meanwhile, on the other side of Intel’s Folsom, Calif. campus, his colleague Brown is seeing how well similar devices hold up when dropped onto a hard floor. He and a teammate recently completed an eight-month project in which more than 30 Ultrabook models were tested for mechanical shock. Each was secured in a vice on top of a hydraulic platform and dropped in six different orientations — first bottom down, then top down, followed by right down, left down, front down and finally rear down. Three drops were performed for each orientation, making for a total of 18 drops per unit, or, in auditory terms, about 600 loud bangs.

“The data shows impact along with the motherboard response,” said Brown, who did not divulge how the systems fared due to the proprietary nature of his work.

Test Results Inform Ultrabook Design

Brown’s manager did share that the team is using a new testing methodology that can help OEMs quantify the leeway of a given design for testing criteria rather than provide basic pass/fail information.

“The new methodology uses strain gauges during mechanical shock testing in order to quantify the reliability margin of our products in our customer designs,” Radhakrishnan said. “A design that passes or fails a test condition doesn’t help our customer assess the design’s marginality. If it passes, did it barely pass or was there a huge margin that was adding to the cost of the design? If it failed, did it just fail by a small margin or was the design so poor that the design needs to be changed fundamentally?”

Being able to quantify with a number or other data helps Intel and OEMs assess the design for reliability, according to Radhakrishnan.

“Some of the OEMs don’t perform this testing yet, whereas such customers as Asus, Lenovo, HP and Dell have started to embrace this methodology as part of the product qualification,” he said.