Quality is our #1 priority, the Wingman is a life saving device and we don’t take that responsibility lightly and never will. Continue reading below to learn about the steps we’ve taken and our ongoing processes for ensuring you receive the highest quality product.
The Wingman is USCG approved, the highest certification for water safety products in the United States. The process to obtain the certification is incredibly comprehensive and explained below, this offers a glimpse into the processes we performed to determine that the Wingman was market ready.
US COAST GUARD TESTING OVERVIEW
The test lab places the testing types into two different categories. Category one is in-water performance/human subject testing and category two is mechanical testing aka stress testing. Listed below are a few examples of the tests performed, the list is not comprehensive.
In-Water Performance/Human Subject Tests
Donning Test: This validated that the Wingman is simple enough to thoroughly don, or put on, within 60 seconds to mimic an emergency situation where one has to abandon ship by either a lifeboat or direct entry into the water.
Water Entry Test: This test evaluated the overall integrity of the Wingman. Subjects leap into the water from different heights, “What we’re validating during this test is that the device does not come off or injure the user when the subject impacts the water,” says Chris James, the USCG’s Principal Engineer for Flotation Devices.
Flotation Stability Tests-Freeboard, Face-plane and Torso: This test measures the subject’s lowest point of respiration from the surface of the water. While the Face-plane Test measures the amount of head support and the Torso Test measures the amount of body angle, both tests determine the flotation angle of the subject. The importance of these tests is to validate that the user does not need to perform additional actions to keep their airways above water and spot potential rescuers.
Turning Tests: Two evaluations are performed to determine the turning ability of a life jacket; will it right an unconscious wearer from a face-down to face-up position; and can a conscious subject quickly turn themselves from a face-down to a face-up position? The test is performed in one of the two following manners:
1. The subject is placed into a horizontal position that resembles a face-down unconscious user. The USCG tester will hold the subject’s feet until his/her face is in the water and then quickly release the hold to demonstrate the turning capability of the device.
2. The subject is instructed to perform three slow breaststrokes and simulate a face-down unconscious user at the conclusion of the third breaststroke to demonstrate the turning capability of the device.
It is also very important to validate that the device has adequate buoyancy distribution so that a conscious user can turn from a face-down to maintained face-up position. This is done by having the subject place themselves into a face-down position. The USCG tester will then have the subject turn themselves. The subject must be able to turn themselves within five seconds.
Water Emergence Test: This test evaluates the subject’s ability to exit the water onto either a life raft or an elevated platform.
Rearming/Repacking Test: Once an inflatable has been used, the device needs to be rearmed and repacked. An untimed event, the subject must be able to correctly rearm and repack the device per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Mechanical Test/Lab Tests
Mechanical testing is the process of applying forces, pressures, heat pressures, heat or similar stressors to verify a product’s performance and design. With life jackets, the test team wants to verify its ruggedness and ability to hold up to simulated stressors that could interfere with the life jacket’s ability to perform during an emergency.
Buoyancy Test: The device is placed under 50 mm of water and maintained for 24 or 48 hours (based on the performance level of the device). Before the test can start, the device is agitated to remove all entrapped air from the device. At the conclusion of the test, the buoyancy is calculated by taking into account the temperature of the water and the atmospheric pressure.
Overpressure Test: This test validates the devices seams and overall integrity by applying an overpressure to the device.
Tensile Test: A tensile test determines the life jacket’s overall strength and is used to evaluate the durability of its webbing, fabric, thread, hardware, seams, inflation systems and shoulder constructions.
Rotating Shock Bin Test: A device is placed into a rectangular shaped box (shock bin) and rotated for approximately 25 minutes (6 revolutions per minute). This test recreates the possible damages that could occur when a life jacket is being stored or relocated. After the test, the device is examined for damage.
Puncture Resistance Test: Water can be naturally filled with debris that could puncture and deflate an inflatable life jacket. This test evaluates the fabric strength and seams of a fully inflated life jacket and its ability to withstand a pointed probe.
Perpetual Third Party Quality Control Audits
The initial USCG approval testing serves to validate that the product as designed can perform all of its necessary functions and can withstand extreme forces. The next part of the USCG approval is our ongoing quality control program to ensure we have consistency in our manufacturing and that units are manufactured to the pre-approved specifications.
After passing the USCG approval tests, the USCG sent an audit team to our factory for an initial factory inspection. This inspection confirmed that all equipment, materials, manufacturing processes, testing equipment, and ongoing sampling procedures adhere to the USCG requirements. The team also inspected our first manufacturing run of finished goods to confirm that the process operated correctly and the finished units adhered to the approved manufacturing specifications.
The USCG audit team continues to visit our factory on a regular basis (multiple times a year) to audit our processes and ensure that we continue to manufacture to the highest standards.
Though we are a young company, our manufacturing facility in Thailand has decades of experience and is the world leader in neoprene production, assembly and PFD manufacturing. They manufacture the wetsuits for all of your favorite outdoor brands (yes they all come from the same factories). Our partnership with them and their manufacturing expertise has allowed us to push the limits of PFD design while still falling within the approvable USCG standards. We have toed the line between radical design innovation and USCG standards to ensure that our customers get the most innovative and functional designs while still ensuring the product is USCG approved for their needs.Production ability isn’t our only concern when choosing a manufacturing partner however, we also required a partner to use fair labor practices, safe working conditions and a commitment to environmental responsibility. After all, if this product is truly a “good” product in every sense of the word it’s critical that it enhance the community where it is produced and the lives of the workers. We are proud to say that the factory checks all of these boxes by committing to the well-being of their employees and achieving Bluesign certification for their environmental practices.