HP Labs: the Science of Technologyby Jarred Walton on July 1, 2014 6:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- IT Computing
- Mobile Workstation
HP Environmental Lab
Here's where things started to get fun, as the Environmental Lab has a variety of "torture chambers" that are used to test hardware, packaging, components, etc. in extreme conditions. What sort of extreme conditions and testing are we talking about? Let's first start by noting that the Environmental Lab tends to use destructive testing – so things are actually tested until they break. Destroying thousands of dollars of hardware a day can't help but be entertaining, right? I think one of the HP engineers stated that the labs destroy over $5000 of hardware a day in their testing. It's not just destroyed for laughs, of course – when a product does eventually fail, they then look at how and why it failed and determine if they can improve/fix the product to avoid a particular type of failure, or if the point at which the product failed is actually in the "safe" zone.
Testing included shock tests, where products are subjected to repeatable drops using heavy equipment; vibration testing basically had a gigantic subwoofer that would shake the products (usually for hours at a time). Another test area had a large metal compress that could be used for testing the durability of product packaging – so HP knows how many boxes/pallets they can stack on top of each other. Temperature, altitude, and humidity chambers could torture devices with extremes of heat/cold, altitude (pressure), or humidity. Most of these chambers were somewhat smaller in nature, designed to test individual products; we'll see other larger chambers in some of the other labs. There were also a variety of drop tests – ranging from a device to test how laptop hard drives would respond to shorter drops (with different drive cage material) up to larger tests for dropping products or packaging from several feet above the ground.
Of course not all of the environmental testing is destructive. One area of the labs was a moderate sized semi-anechoic chamber used for noise testing. (It's only "semi-anechoic" as the floor is still a hard surface, but the walls and ceiling all have noise-absorbing materials.) I've seen photos of anechoic chambers before, but this was my first time actually stepping inside of one. It's a very cool experience, and when everyone stopped moving/talking it was amazingly quiet – even with the noisy vibration testing machinery just a short walk down the hallway from the chamber! The level of silence was almost oppressive, and even talking in the room things sounded weird, as we're normally used to hearing reflections of our own voices bouncing off the walls and ceiling.
The chamber itself is of course used to conduct noise testing, and it's large enough to handle up to full server racks if needed. HP uses anywhere from one microphone (e.g. for an operator seated in front of a laptop) to as many as a dozen or so microphones for their noise testing. There are markings around the room for where microphones need to be located for specific types of testing, and the equipment is capable of measuring noise levels well below 20 dB, which is less than what most people would normally notice. There was a second smaller semi-anechoic chamber for testing noise emissions from smaller devices as well (e.g. smartphones and tablets), but we didn't spend much time in there as it could only hold a few people and we had already experienced the larger room.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
blackmagnum - Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - linkPlease consider whether the pictures should accompany their relevant paragraphs to give the article a more attractive reading layout?
gostan - Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - linkThis tour shows you why HP is struggling. Look at those products! And of all the clips in this world, they picked Meg Whitman's interview!!??
aaronjgoodrich - Thursday, July 3, 2014 - linkExplain your comment please? I can guess why you responded like you had.. but I would not like to assume. I need to hear you out first.
HardwareDufus - Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - linkThese guys work in Little dungeons... tiny Little isolated cubes... it's difficult to interact with each other... They need to open those spaces up in the Multimedia Lab and Software Testing Lab..
vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - linkI know the software validation ain't that great as I was stuck with an Elitebook 850 G1 for 6 months that could barely operate after hibernation/sleep. Called HP for support and they were useless.
ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softpaq//sp66001-66500/sp6611... Is the issue/fix in detail, long after HP had told me again and again it was on my side. Kinda shameful I wasted so many hours on trying to fix that or that a bug that large actually exists. HP used to be such a great engineering company!
aaronjgoodrich - Thursday, July 3, 2014 - linkWait, so a software fix which was readily available but not applied to your system is "HP's" engineering issue? I think that's a common sense issue there. No hardware was failing. It was a software issue. Plain as day from the link you provided. Maybe you hadn't applied all the hotfixes/patches to the system you were working on? "Synaptics TouchPad/ForcePad Driver " isn't a problem with engineering of hardware. Synaptics isn't HP. Think again.
NikAwesome - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - linkThey should be responsible because they chose that part. The whole "experience" should be tested and guaranteed by HP because it is their product. They care about HW and SW, that's why Apple has an enormous satisfaction customer ratio (at the cost of being proprietary and not-open, they are control freaks)
NikAwesome - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - linkEdit: They should be responsible because they chose that part. The whole "experience" should be tested and guaranteed by HP because it is their product. They SHOULD care about HW and SW, that's why Apple has an enormous satisfaction customer ratio (at the cost of being proprietary and not-open, they are control freaks)
vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Thursday, July 31, 2014 - linkThe issue existed for 5 months. I was able to repeat it on other hardware. HP refused to look into it. That is a breakdown in engineering AND support.
"No hardware was failing. It was a software issue."
You do realize that HP encompasses both sides of the spectrum, right?
"Maybe you hadn't applied all the hotfixes/patches to the system you were working on?"
I had, of course. That is newb 101 tech stuff to try, dude.
""Synaptics TouchPad/ForcePad Driver " isn't a problem with engineering of hardware. Synaptics isn't HP. "
One wonders why HP would allow faulty software to come with their hardware? Dual edged sword. HP lost quite a bit of revenue based on their response to this one issue. Engineering (improper validation for basic functionality) and support (Customer couldn't possibly be right on this one) fail.
Samus - Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - linkComing from the family Tandy 1000SL 8086, my Dad knew I needed a new PC, one to myself, and one day he came home with a Compaq Prolinea 4/25s. My first PC.
After a SoundBlasterCD kit to add audio and CD-ROM, 8MB memory upgrade and a 500MB Maxtor hard drive to upgrade the 120GB Quantum, it had seem to reach its limits.
Until I got a 486/75MHz overdrive chip for my birthday.
And what was really facinating about this upgrade was a jumper on the motherboard that selected between 25MHz and 33MHz. Curiously, I moved it to 33MHz, and all the sudden, I had a 486/100MHz Overdrive (something the PC wasn't, on paper, capable of.)
My first "overclock" and on an OEM system. That was a great PC. Eventually I ran OS/2 Warp, then Windows 95. Around the time Windows 98 came out, I built my first PC with an ASUS motherboard and an AMD K5 chip, which I also mildly overclocked to 120MHz from 100MHz. It wouldn't run 133MHz without eventually freezing ;)
Good times. Ever since, I've been a big fan of Compaq "enterprise-grade" hardware, which today we know as HP Proliant servers, the best selling servers in the world. They're annoyingly proprietary with their drive rails, Softpaq drivers, and torx screws, but having owned a Prolinea 20 years ago, I've been used to that since.
I'm glad to know a lot of the engineers that evaluated my first PC are still at HP. Because I found it at my parents house a few years ago and fired it up, and it booted right to the Windows 95 desktop with Rise of the Triad, Warcraft 2, and Big Red Racing for good measure.