Testing Bang & Olufsen

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Testing the hard way

The tests that Bang & Olufsen products go through before a product is released onto the market are some of the most rigorous in the business. Nothing escapes the testers when products are bumped, stressed out, thrown around and even gassed!

Must be able to take 5000 bumps

A television or radio from Bang & Olufsen must be able to withstand the bumps and jars of being wheeled over doorsteps and other such small domestic obstacles. The consumer expects it. At Bang & Olufsen all sets receive 1000 bumps and bangs on the base, the sides, front and back. Five thousand in all: "And after all this, the set must still be intact or it’s back to where it came from," says Torben Jørgensen, the company's test manager.

A bumpy ride in a "Prairie Wagon"

Bang & Olufsen tests packaging and stresses components. The demands Bang & Olufsen makes of its products are the toughest in the business.

Everybody knows it as the "Prairie Wagon". It’s the test rig Bang & Olufsen uses to make sure its products will arrive safely in the hands of the consumer, no matter how far away.

When equipment is packaged up and loaded into the back of a truck, it is subject throughout its journey to a constant barrage of bumps and vibrations," says Torben Jørgensen. "We use the Prairie Wagon to simulate these truck journeys and determine whether this banging and crashing causes the packaging to leave any marks on the surface of the equipment it contains. After a six-hour "ride", the equipment is thoroughly tested and if there is the slightest mark, well that’s the end of the trail for that piece of kit," he guarantees.

Stress

But Bang & Olufsen equipment is shipped in vehicles other than trucks. Transport by train or ships is common. And Bang & Olufsen is using a special vibrating machine to simulate these too. The packaged equipment is shaken by vibrations varying between 10 and 400 cycles per second. "What we’re trying to do here is to stress the components," says Torben Jørgensen. "At the end of the test, we try all the functions. And no matter how tough we’ve been with them, they must function correctly in every respect. Otherwise they won’t meet the expectations the user has of them."

The business has promulgated accepted tolerances of what equipment should be able to withstand but Bang & Olufsen has set its own requirements. "And they are much more stringent than the general standards set by the business as a whole," emphasises Torben Jørgensen. "And they must be met in every detail or the equipment doesn’t leave the factory."

Bang & Olufsen TVs smoke up to 120 cigarettes a day

Thorough testing prevents the effects of smoke and dust and cut down on the need for consumer cleaning. Bang & Olufsen’s AV 9000 television set had to get through 120 cigarettes a day for ten days - a forced inhalation of 1200 cigarettes - before shipment to the user. It’s all part of the company’s efforts to test its products’ ability to resist smoke and dust. "We subject the equipment to the smoke and dust they will encounter in their future homes," says Torben Jørgensen.

On most modern TVs there is a glass plate in front of the picture screen and if smoke or dust manages to get behind this, then the picture tube itself will get grimy and dull. As the coating builds up, the picture deteriorates and the plate has to be removed every so often and cleaned if the picture is not to become worse and worse.

"The easiest thing for the user, of course, would be that the plate didn’t need cleaning at all. Furthermore, between the plate and the picture tube on our sets there is a certain amount of sensitive electronic gadgetry that shouldn’t be touched," says Torben Jørgensen. "So we have set the goal that our sets should be so airtight that smoke and dust can’t get in there in the first place. That saves the consumer a lot of problems.”

"Admittedly 120 cigarettes a day for ten days is pretty heavy smoking, but if our television sets can take that, then they will also be able to take the more normal levels of smoke and dust found in the domestic environment," concludes Torben Jørgensen.

Televisions thrown around

50 centimetres: that's the drop a TV set from Bang & Olufsen - in its package - must be able to take without blinking before it arrives in somebody’s sitting room.

"We simulate one of the traumatic events a television set may encounter on its perilous journey from the factory to one of the subsidiaries, a dealer’s showroom or a domestic viewer," says Torben Jørgensen. "There is ample opportunity in that process for somebody to drop it and if it can’t take the shock, then it doesn’t go anywhere."

A heavy set has a lower drop-height than its lightweight cousin. "This has nothing to do with the punishment the two sets can withstand. It’s simply a question of how high they can be lifted and you don’t lift a heavy set as high as a small one."

Bang & Olufsen’s Hi-Fi sets, however, have to take the real rough stuff. A 10kg set has to take a drop of 86cm. And just to be on the safe side, 30cm is added to the specified tolerance limits. They are dropped onto the tops, bottoms, sides and corners.

Torben Jørgensen adds, without a trace of sadistic pleasure, that other Bang & Olufsen equipment, including loudspeakers, is subjected to the same unkind treatment.

Wax & fix

The weight of the Avant’s wide screen picture tube called for new thinking in terms of construction. High density fibre board turned out to be as solid a solution as it is environmentally healthy. To disguise its low tech appearance, it is treated to a high quality two-component lacquer of the same type as is used at the upper end of the car industry. It will not scratch easily, but should this happen, a minor scratch can be polished away using liquid silicone car wax.

Motorised stand of the Avant

The motorised stand of the Avant is rigorously tested. It's built to be able to turn through an arc of 70° at least 20 000 times. If the TV was turned on and off 5 times a day, the motorised stand should perform flawlessly for more than ten years. In its tests, B&O stopped after 80 000 turns. A painted iron base plate, an aluminium top plate which carries the entire weight, with the actual turning mechanism of a 36 ball bearing race between them is how the stand is made up. Tests such as dropping it several centimetres directly onto the rim of the bottom plate ensure that the stand has many years of life in front of it.

Such is the life of a test product at Bang & Olufsen. Knowledge indeed that it's received stringent tests before the product graces your living room!

Created: 10th January 2007
Modified: 5th February 2007

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