Design characterization test (DCT) is a discovery process that identifies the hardware response, both environmentally and operationally, to selected individual types of forcing functions via a step stress testing methodology. DCT forcing functions stimulate the hardware, and the test item performance is measured, focusing on the test item operating and design limits, with emphasis on identification of the test item operating limit. This dynamic test process systematically identifies, diagnoses, and verifies the design changes that optimize the test item design early in the design phase where these changes are cost effective to implement. DCT improves the designed-in reliability, but does not identify all time- and wear-dependent failure mechanisms. Primary forcing functions are thermal, vibration, and electrical power. Properly applied DCT minimizes design risks prior to releasing a design to manufacturing.

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