At UL in Northbrook, IL, Edgar works diligently testing toys for eight hours every day, five days each week. This is a very important responsibility, and he takes it seriously. UL has spent tens of thousands of dollars on sophisticated test equipment for this job, and Edgar is aware of the importance of his work. To him, this is an exact science.
One of the electrical toys is a game with a vibrating table. Electrical toys are tested in accordance with UL Specification 696, which includes assessing the possibility of shock through hipot, ground bond, insulation resistance, and leakage current tests. Edgar pays special attention to the plug/socket/cord test, using an automatic device to flex the equipment perhaps 60,000 times.
Will the toy topple easily? That is Edgar’s next test, followed by an accessibility check. Is there a place where a child can insert a finger, risking the possibility of shock or a burn? Next comes a check for sharp edges. One of the last things to evaluate is toxicity. Paint will be rejected if there is a potential risk. Finally, Edgar determines the user age rating that the manufacturer will use on the product.
In the nonelectrical category, a manufacturer has submitted a stuffed cow that makes the appropriate sounds when mashed. Actually, Edgar doesn’t care about the sounds but is interested in what happens when he drops it on a hard floor, twists the head and legs, and pokes the eyes. Additional testing evaluates paint toxicity. Finally, he opens the animal to see if an infant could choke on the pieces and to evaluate whether the stuffing is dangerous. All this is directed by ASTM Specification F963.
A few hundred miles from Northbrook in a quiet residential community, Evan also tests toys. His testing philosophy is quite different from Edgar’s. He doesn’t plan tests in advance and prefers to operate on a low budget rather than use expensive test equipment. There’s nothing wrong with high technology; it just doesn’t fit into Evan’s plans. To him, this is an art.
In testing an electrical toy, such things as hipot, ground bond, insulation resistance, and leakage current are immaterial to Evan. Does it shock him when he touches it with a wet hand? If not, it passes. The plug-and-socket test is another story. Evan flexes, pulls, and distorts the cord in every possible way. You can’t be too careful, he reasons.
The topple test is a standard routine for Evan. In fact, he tries several times. He is very thorough on the tests that really matter. What about accessibility? He inserts a small object in every conceivable nook and cranny to see if a child can be shocked or burned. Then comes the sharp-edge check. Finally, the paint. Is it toxic? Evan checks this the old-fashioned way-he licks it.
When testing the stuffed toy, Evan ignores the ASTM specification and gets right to the details. It makes that sound when he mashes it, but that isn’t enough. Evan steps on it, throws it on the floor, and sits on it to see if the noise is still there. Next comes head-twisting, poking here and there for weak spots, opening the skin to check the stuffing, and putting the leg in his mouth to perform the toxicity test. He knows his toy-evaluation routines.
Unlike Edgar, Evan doesn’t document his test results. There are two good reasons for this. First, he has more testing on the schedule, and record-keeping would delay the process. Second, Evan doesn’t read or write. He will in a few years, but he’s only two-years-old now.
This contrast between two toy testers is our reminder of why toys are tested by professionals in well-equipped laboratories. There are lots of Evans in the world, each of them testing every toy within reach. Edgar wants to make sure that the toys pass. Thanks, Edgar. Keep testing, Evan.
Published by EE-Evaluation Engineering
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