Early in my engineering career I learnt the value of rough and ready testing from atomic physicists I was working with at the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford. They would quickly test hypotheses using a stabilised optical table paired with duct tape and Blu Tack. In essence, it is the fail fast approach where “sub-optimal” ideas are discarded quickly.
Where possible, physical testing is used to validate FEA work and any assumptions made when modelling the real world. Rough and ready testing has become a useful and routine practice at Blender. It supports further technical testing where we might need to validate a design before utilising independent agencies – as is sometimes required for designs specified to a standard.
The setup and time for third party testing can be onerous and costly therefore it is prudent for us to undertake preliminary testing in house to confirm our designs. Independent testing can then be used more as the seal of approval rather than part of a continuing development cycle. This is where ordinary items such as bathroom scales or bags of concrete mix can become valuable as test equipment.
At Blender, this testing approach is carried out regularly. We have lifted half a ton of concrete from machines we have designed, tried to tear components bolted to a tilt slab using a block and tackle and drilled numerous holes in concrete blocks to test anchors. We have bounced on boats, put our designs underwater and attacked them with a garden hose.
These endeavours give our designs one of the best attributes possible: confidence. In the world of product development, this reassurance and confidence in the design allows for constructive iterations that culminates with the creation of quality products that not only stand up to the test of time but also enhance user experience.