Arctic cold

STORYnov 30, 2022

Arctic cold. Challenge accepted.

Rohde & Schwarz environmental test lab verifies product functionality under extreme conditions

For a ship to navigate the Northwest Passage, it first has to follow the lonely west coast of Greenland for several hundred nautical miles. Even in this environment, Rohde & Schwarz ensures reliable radio contact. To ensure that all of its products work under extreme conditions, such as those present around the North Atlantic Ocean, the technology company has invested in its own, highly professional environmental test lab. Cold, heat, humidity, water, vibration – in addition to all these standard environmental factors, the lab also leverages the company's extensive expertise in electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). The lab is capable of a broad spectrum of possible tests, and the range of benefits is equally broad.

Greenland is the world’s largest island with around two million square kilometers. With just 57,000 inhabitants, it is also one of the least populated areas on Earth. Greenland has an arctic climate with average temperatures never exceeding 10 degrees Celsius even in the warmest summer months. In winter, temperatures fall well below zero. But despite all the ice and snow, shortwave technology from Rohde & Schwarz still ensures reliable radio contact. The high-tech company subjects all of its equipment and systems to in-depth testing in its own environmental test lab to ensure everything functions properly – even in the harshest of conditions.

Johann Fuchs, Head of Environmental Test Lab
"Our daily work involves checking that we meet legal requirements and standards. But things get really exciting when we’re involved in product development or individual customers come to us with unusual testing requests. We then suddenly become pioneers and inventors ."
Johann Fuchs, Head of Environmental Test Lab

Extreme conditions call for extreme solutions

From extreme temperatures in the climatic chamber to vibration tests on a shaker and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing in futuristic anechoic chambers – Rohde & Schwarz offers a wide range of testing capabilities. Quality control experts simulate realistic environmental conditions in the lab so that they can reliably predict the availability and failsafe performance of their own equipment.

Temperature and humidity, as well as quick changes of either, can seriously impact the function and lifetime of electronic equipment. And not just when it is switched on. Even if a product has been packaged perfectly and is just waiting in the warehouse to be shipped, it is not immune from climatic fluctuations – not to mention global transport routes through different climate zones.

Tatacoa desert in Colombia

Tatacoa desert in Colombia

In contrast to Greenland's icy winter, the rocky Tatacoa desert in Colombia is located near the equator. Temperatures regularly reach 45 degrees Celsius in summer. The desert is in a double rain shadow, meaning that even in the rainy season, it often does not see any water at all. Can antenna systems from Rohde & Schwarz withstand even these most adverse weather conditions? Spoiler: yes, they can – and do.

Climate chambers

Climate chambers

The environmental test lab allows experts to perform various tests in climatic and temperature-shock chambers from minus 70 to plus 180 degrees Celsius. But the walk-in climatic chamber is the star of the show. Its size means there is even enough space for large products and systems like security scanners, which are now used in airports all around the world.

Shaken, not stirred

When customers come to see the high standards of quality control at Rohde & Schwarz headquarters for themselves, the shaker in particular turned out to be a major crowd-puller. The electrodynamic vibration system simulates the physical forces that equipment and systems are subject to during transportation and extreme operating situations.

The spectrum ranges from Greenland's ice tracks to antenna installation in the Colombian desert. From high-performance TV transmitters on top of One World Trade Center in the heart of New York city to the destroyed roads, bridges and railway lines in the event of a disaster.

Road in African savanna

Road in African savanna

Rohde & Schwarz is helping improve network coverage in rural areas by performing measurements in several African countries . But challenging road conditions as shown here in the middle of the African savanna are a tough task even for the best off-road vehicles. So how do we ensure the sensitive equipment for quality measurement and network analysis of mobile networks will cope?

Vibration testing

Vibration testing

In the environmental test lab, the shaker can simulate different vibration types. Weighing about eight tons, it is heavier than a fully grown African bull elephant. And it sounds just as impressive as it looks during vibration tests. With frequencies up to 2,500 hertz, it gets pretty loud and the ear protectors hanging next to the lab door are there for a reason.

Extensive EMC expertise

Smart watch, smart home, smart city. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere or the icy, uninhabited vastness of Greenland, one thing is certain: we are living in an increasingly digital reality. Targeted electromagnetic compatibility measures ensure that the countless electronic and wireless products around us don't interfere with each other. That is the only way that our societies, industries and authorities can benefit from digitalization.

And the same applies to the Rohde & Schwarz product portfolio. Whether for signal generators, handheld oscilloscopes or security scanners, electromagnetic compatibility is a must. And the T&M specialist from Munich has the home advantage in two ways. On the one hand, it is a world leader in EMC. And on the other hand, the company’s internal test lab works closely with R&D departments to detect the need for adjustments early in the development process, making product development more efficient. Flexible planning, short distances and concentrated in-house testing expertise provide additional synergies.

Hong Kong city at evening

Hong Kong city at evening

More and more connected devices are coming into contact with each other in urban spaces. Tomorrow’s vision of mobility sees autonomous cars and smart infrastructure communicating wirelessly. In increasingly smart scenarios, EMC test solutions from Rohde & Schwarz ensure the electromagnetic compatibility of other devices. Appropriate EMC standards also apply to the electronic equipment of the test solutions themselves.

EMC chamber

EMC chamber

EMC measurements are performed in electromagnetically shielded chambers. Absorber elements on the inner walls, ceiling and floor create a futuristic look and feel. These elements make sure that only emissions coming from the equipment under test are measured. Moving the lab required a lot of patience and perseverance, as all four EMC test chambers had to be completely taken apart and then put back together again in new rooms at headquarters – with around 400,000 individual parts in each chamber.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

Rohde & Schwarz has been testing its products and systems under extreme environmental conditions since the 1960s. After starting out with climatic tests, the lab's activities now include legally required electromagnetic compatibility and electrical safety testing.

Today, the range of services also encompasses acoustic measurements and thermography in order to determine the heat distribution on electrical modules. The company performs all tests required for the declaration of CE conformity in-house. External specialized laboratories are only used for complex testing such as exposure to salt fog, desert sand or fungal infestation.

"Whether it’s autonomous driving, quantum or 6G, new technologies always come with new standards and test requirements. And for us in the environmental test lab, that means one thing: challenge accepted. We use the testing expertise we’ve built up over five decades to help the company grow sustainably – for our colleagues in product development and all our customers."
Johann Fuchs, Head of Environmental Test Lab