Testing Laboratory Follies

Even the best testing laboratories are prone to make errors in their reports.

Today's Example:

I just saw a report for a flexural test conducted on a product that was only recently brought to market. The product is made of porcelain, a material that is relatively weak in tension. However, the back side of the porcelain was laminated with a fibrous reinforcing to give it tensile strength.

As a composite product, the flexural strength of the product is likely to vary, depending on which side of the test specimen was "up" in the test apparatus. Tested in one configuration, the fibers would be in tension and the composite would have a high flexural strength. Tested in the other configuration, the porcelain would be in tension and would fail at a lower value.

The test report did not indicate the configuration used for the testing.

The test was conducted by a respected lab affiliated with a national trade association. I do not question its integrity. However, tests like this are typically performed by a technician, then written up by another member of the lab -- neither of whom may know what is being tested nor the intended use of the test.

Testing is an investment. Make sure to review your product test reports carefully, and hire a consultant if you lack the in-house technical expertise to interpret the result.