The design of environmental test rigs

  • Keith J. Butler

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Product reliability and its environmental performance have become critical elements within a product's specification and design. To obtain a high level of confidence in the reliability of the design it is customary to test the design under realistic conditions in a laboratory. The objective of the work is to examine the feasibility of designing mechanical test rigs which exhibit prescribed dynamical characteristics. The design is then attached to the rig and excitation is applied to the rig, which then transmits representative vibration levels into the product. The philosophical considerations made at the outset of the project are discussed as they form the basis for the resulting design methodologies. It is attempted to directly identify the parameters of a test rig from the spatial model derived during the system identification process. It is shown to be impossible to identify a feasible test rig design using this technique. A finite dimensional optimal design methodology is developed which identifies the parameters of a discrete spring/mass system which is dynamically similar to a point coordinate on a continuous structure. This design methodology is incorporated within another procedure which derives a structure comprising a continuous element and a discrete system. This methodology is used to obtain point coordinate similarity for two planes of motion, which is validated by experimental tests. A limitation of this approach is that it is impossible to achieve multi-coordinate similarity due to an interaction of the discrete system and the continuous element at points away from the coordinate of interest. During the work the importance of the continuous element is highlighted and a design methodology is developed for continuous structures. The design methodology is based upon distributed parameter optimal design techniques and allows an initial poor design estimate to be moved in a feasible direction towards an acceptable design solution. Cumulative damage theory is used to provide a quantitative method of assessing the quality of dynamic similarity. It is shown that the combination of modal analysis techniques and cumulative damage theory provides a feasible design synthesis methodology for representative test rigs.
Date of Award1986
Original languageEnglish


  • design
  • environmental test rigs

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