Is Your Test Equipment Due for an Upgrade?

November 12, 2021

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test equipment upgrade

After investing five, six, even seven figures into designing and building test equipment, it’s natural to want that equipment to last as long as possible.

“I work with systems that run from $30,000 up to a couple of million,” ACS Senior Mechanical Engineer Rob Pape says. “With preventive maintenance and upgrades, there are systems I integrated in 2000 that are still operating just fine. It’s always a pleasant surprise to walk into a facility and see a piece of equipment I worked on 20 years ago.”

Careful attention to preventive maintenance can extend the life of any machine. But even the best mechanical care won’t keep test equipment from becoming obsolete.

“Today, specs can change every six months,” Pape said. “Companies can’t afford to sit on their hands; they have to be proactive. Don’t expect to get full depreciation out of equipment before you spend new capital or you’ll find yourself behind your competition.”

Fortunately, many of the problems experienced by older test equipment can be solved with upgrades that don’t require replacing the entire machine. Here are three issues you can usually work around by upgrading your existing system.

  1. Specifications change. You can’t get optimal performance out of equipment doing jobs it wasn’t designed for. When the specs change, you need to upgrade test equipment to keep up. When making these upgrades, it’s advantageous to keep the test equipment backwards compatible, Pape said. The equipment should still be able to run its old tests and processes even as new functions are added.
  2. Vendor changes affect compatibility. When vendors change their products or your company switches vendors, you may need to upgrade your test equipment to support the change. This typically affects software updates, but may occasionally require hardware to be upgraded, too.
  3. Regulations change. Sometimes it’s an outside agency telling you it’s time to upgrade. Equipment upgrades may be required to stay compliant with evolving rules like emissions standards and safety codes.

Remember that an effective test process requires an integrated system. Before upgrading a single part, look at how that change impacts the rest of the process. Upgrading an integrated system holistically yields far better results than replacing parts piecemeal.

When it comes to safety, it’s critical to play devil’s advocate and ask what could happen that shouldn’t, and how both the equipment and the operator will respond if it does. Learn more in this article from Industry Week – “Five Red Flags that Safety Equipment is Compromised.”

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acs senior mechanical engineer rob pape

A:  I’ve seen systems implemented in that – with preventative maintenance and periodic upgrades – are still running.

– Rob Pape – ACS Senior Mechanical Engineer (wearing a vintage ACS shirt)

“Companies have to be proactive. Don’t expect to get full depreciation out of equipment before you spend new capital or you’ll find yourself behind your competition.” Rob Pape

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