On Friday, Feb. 28, APPLIANCE magazine traveled to Lake Buena Vista, FL, U.S. to witness the unveiling of product-safety testing organization Underwriters Laboratories Inc.’s (UL) Test the Limits Lab in the Innoventions attraction at Epcot®, a Walt Disney World® Resort theme park.
The 3,000 sq-ft exhibit features five hands-on activities where visitors can act like UL engineers for a day, performing rigorous product tests such as smashing portable radios, "imploding" television screens, overworking vacuum cleaners, and dropping 55-gal barrels on firefighters’ helmets.
"It is about people testing for people," Don Mader, UL’s vice president of Public Safety and External Affairs said during the exhibit’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday. "The goal is to increase people’s awareness of product safety."
According to Stuart M. Paul, UL’s senior vice president of Sales and Marketing, although the UL Mark is familiar to many people, few know about the amount of testing and the types of processes products go through before the Mark goes on. "The Test the Limits Lab experience is not only about playing a UL engineer for a day. We hope guests leave with a better understanding of what UL does to help assure the public’s safety," Mr. Paul said during a press conference.
In addition to providing safety education, Mr. Paul said the exhibit will also build UL’s brand awareness among consumers, which in turn, provides value to the manufacturers whose products bear the UL Mark.
"Manufacturers benefit whenever we promote our brand on the consumer level," Mr. Paul told APPLIANCE at the press conference. "After experiencing the Test the Limits Lab, consumers will see more clearly the value of the UL brand; it will mean more to them, which may encourage them to actually look for the UL Mark when they purchase products."
Potential additions to the exhibit are currently being reviewed, but current features include:
Shatter Lab, where guests attempt to implode a television screen with a swinging rubber missile. This simulates UL’s real implosion test, where technicians strike a TV tube with a steel ball traveling with the same force as a baseball traveling 22 mph. UL tests more than 200 parts of a television set before assigning its Mark.
Torture Lab, where visitors put common household items such as vacuum cleaners and portable radios through rigorous testing. In UL’s real testing labs, a vacuum must pass a 7-hr severe-operations test and 2 hr of vigorous vacuuming before it can bear the UL Mark. In addition, vacuum cleaner hoses must survive being stretched 20,000 times.
Slam Lab, where guests jump on pads that repeatedly open and close a set of emergency doors. Real UL tests include open and closing fire doors 100,000 times and refrigerator doors 300,000 times. UL says that is equivalent to opening and shutting a door 25 times a day, 365 days a year, for more than 30 years.
Drop Lab, where visitors can view a simulation of UL engineers testing a safe. The UL test includes heating a safe up to 2,000°F, dropping it about 3 stories, and checking to make sure the safe’s contents were unaffected.
Impact Lab, where guests drop a 55-gal barrel onto a firefighter’s helmet to see if it can withstand the impact. At UL labs, technicians expose the helmets to extreme temperatures (-25°F and +285°F before dropping a sharp anvil on the helmets at a force of 850 lb per sq in.
Interactive Marquee, where visitors work together to solve an engineering puzzle using circuits, switches, levers, and buttons. Guest must find the correct combination to "spark" the marquee.
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