Product Testing 101: The Cycle Test
Words Amalia Safran
At OXO, we do all sorts of testing—like drop testing, consumer testing, cycle testing, quality assurance testing, even testing on humans!—because we’re always working to make quality products and meaningful improvements.
We test well beyond what we expect consumers to do (i.e. we don’t expect consumers to continuously drop our products from different heights) but we do this to ensure our products will last in all possible scenarios. One of the most common testing we do is cycle testing, and we’re here to share a little more about the process.
What is Cycle Testing?
Cycle testing is the process by which we simulate how people use the products over time. Eddy Viana, OXO’s Lab Engineer, is the go-to person for constructing systems that allow for repetitive testing on a product. He puts together an intricate maze of wires, screws, bolts, etc. that all synchronizes together, like elves working in Santa’s workshop, to test how a product performs over time.
How We Cycle Test Products
Typically a product engineer comes to Eddy with an aspect of an OXO product they want to cycle test.. He receives CAD (computer-aided design) parts of the product or the whole product, and will then design a fixture that helps to hold the product steady while it goes through the cycle tests.
Creating the testing system is kind of like playing with an Erector Set (so basically any little kid’s dream-job come true). Eddy tests multiple products at once and primarily uses pneumatic (air-powered) cylinders that essentially either push or pull to trigger the product’s movement. This is controlled by an open-source electronic platform, and also attached to a counter that keeps track of how many cycles the tests go through. Tests aren’t cycled through just 5 or 10 times… they’re going through thousands of cycles because we want our products to last a lifetime.
Different product features are tested depending on the product. Products with seals, such as Smart Seal Containers, might be tested for how they hold up during airplane transportation, or a POP Container might be tested to see what happens when you use the push-button mechanism over and over again (because you can’t stop eating the candy in there). As products undergo testing, engineers work together to make recommendations on how to improve products based on the test results.
3 Examples of Cycle Testing
Transitions Straw Cup: We know how little kids work; we know that once they’ve transitioned from bottle to sippy they’ll be able to play with their sippy cup tops and we need to make sure the cups can hold up to that abuse, so the hinged cap of the straw cup was put to the test over 15,000 times in a stress test. This number is determined by multiplying how many times a day a kid would typically use their sippy cup (~10) by the amount of days the product is used (~2 years)… and then doubled, just to be extra sure. During this test, the sippy cup lid was screwed into place so the single movement being tested—the detents on the hinged cap, or in less mechanical terms, that “click” you hear and feel when the lid closes—could be the focus of the cycle testing. Of course with a tot product like this, there’s some extra wear and tear (like those moments when a sippy cup is thrown across the room) that we factor in and test in other ways.
Corer: Coring tons of apples for your cobbler or pie can be a tedious task for the teeth of the Corer. Eddy needed to take a look at how the material of the teeth fares over time, so the Corer was pressed into both a plastic and wood cutting board 10,000 times. Maybe you’ll never go through 10,000 apples, but we want to make sure that if you do, the teeth will work the same as the first day you used them. The material held up during the testing, ensuring the corer is up for any apple pie-making challenge you might have in your lifetime.
Impact French Press: Cycle testing is a quick way to test iterations of a design. There’s a small rubber tab with the OXO logo on the outer cylinder of the Impact French Press. On the original prototype, the inner glass carafe rubbed against the tab, which meant the logo would shear off after a couple hundred cycles. When we’re dealing with a coffee product, we know it’s something people use pretty much everyday, so it’s got to last for our consumers.
To mimic the movement of lifting the glass carafe up from the outer cylinder, Eddy set up a system that pulls the glass cylinder in and out of the plastic cylinder. When, or if, the tab fell off, Eddy sent pictures of the damage to the product engineer, so design changes could be made to prevent this from happening.
The Final Steps
As products go through cycle testing, engineers make necessary changes to make our products last when they are constantly being used. We study people—young and old, lefties and righties—interacting with products and thinkthrough all the possible ways and in all the possible environments that someone could use our product. With cycle testing, we know our products work well beyond everyday use.