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A test engineer performs quality testing to facilitate quality assurance on a device or product designed for production by a company. This can include electronic equipment, internal computer components, automotive devices, and just about anything else that needs to be tested to ensure it can handle the potential duress caused by typical usage. A test engineer will usually have a background in electronics and computer science, with knowledge of one or more programming languages being typical, as he or she usually works on a wide array of devices to see how they can be broken or disrupted.
Most electronics and computer components go through extensive periods of design and testing. The work of a test engineer is to ensure that as a product goes through various phases of the design process, it is properly tested for a variety of potential problems or flaws in the manufacturing. Some businesses begin this sort of testing early during the design process to try to catch potential issues as soon as possible; other businesses may wait until later in the design phase to begin testing. This can often save money up front, but may require more extensive changes toward the end of development that can ultimately cost more money in the long run.
A test engineer is tasked with the responsibility of not only testing the quality of a product, but also with devising which tests to conduct and how to conduct them to ensure proper reliability out of the product. These types of tests can include “burn in” testing, “highly accelerated life testing” (HALT), and a number of other forms of product testing. Burn-in testing is a process by which devices, such as electronics, are put to use to ensure continued reliability.
These tests are usually used with products that have a higher failure rate early in usage, but once past this point are reliable. A test engineer using burn-in testing will use a device for a period of time to go beyond the early failure rate period, and then release the product for use once it has passed this time. HALT is conducted by a test engineer by exposing a product under testing to repeated uses to simulate how the product may be used over the course of several years.
This is a form of stress testing used to see if a product can handle extended use and give a sense of when it will break down. Although the actual testing itself is important, test engineers are also responsible for extensive documentation of tests conducted, results found, and communications made within the company. Since product failure can be a potential issue with customers, manufacturers typically need to be able to demonstrate due diligence regarding product reliability.