FOX is on a never-ending pursuit of progress and competition is how we get there. Constantly pushing ourselves to go further, to go faster, to be first. Because winning is woven into our core, driving everything we do. As we continue to pursue what’s possible, we redefine impossible. Bicycles. Motorcycles. UTVs. ATVs. Trucks. Whatever it may be, we do it all for the same reason: to push potential further. And we do this by testing.
Kent Persson is the Powered Vehicles Group (PVG) Director of Test Engineering at FOX in Scotts Valley, California where he’s worked for nearly six years. A native of Sweden, Persson spent nearly seven years in the engineering department at Volvo and 3-1/2 years at Öhlins Racing. We asked him several questions about why testing is a major portion of FOX’s product development.
FOX has been an engineering- and race-centric manufacturer since the first days with Bob Fox and motocross. How many test engineers do we employee around the world, and what is the importance of lab and real-world testing?
Kent Persson: We have three locations with test teams: Scotts Valley and El Cajon, California plus Braselton, Georgia. The test team is responsible for product performance and durability. We currently have 33 test employees who support all customers, whether in Australia or the US. It’s almost an even split between test engineers and engineering technicians. Real-world testing and lab testing complement each other.
The focus of real-world testing is on product performance, ride quality, and data acquisition. We head out to the test location and test the vehicles with different valving to reach the vehicle’s performance goals. Due to the technology level of most of our shocks, we use data acquisition to reach the performance goals quicker.
This data is also used to create more severe conditions and accelerate lab testing compared to real-world testing. In the lab, we can make sure the shocks can deal with those oh sh**! moments without having to risk damage to a vehicle.
Who sets the testing protocols and standards for FOX?
KP: The test team sets FOX test requirements based on the data we have of the different applications. FOX will always run internal durability and performance testing before we bring a product to market. When we work with OE customers, they may have additional requirements that we add to our testing.
Walk us through the new testing machines being installed at several FOX facilities: when did the process begin, how custom are the machines to FOX, and how many were ordered?
KP: We started to plan for our new lab capacity in 2018 and kicked off the project with Servotest in 2019. As our shocks got larger and able to deal with higher forces, our test equipment could not keep up. We wanted equipment that could do the job without having to consider compromises, no matter if the application is a Ford Raptor or a Trophy Truck.
We outlined the performance we wanted, and Servotest was able to meet our requirements. What makes our equipment unique is the combination of high forces, high speeds, and long strokes. In addition to the dyno performance, we can also apply environmental loads to the shocks to make the testing more severe and comparable with the real world.
Our goal was to make the machines as versatile as possible as our applications are very diverse. We can run a slow friction test of a snowmobile shock on the same machine that can be used for testing the limits of a sport UTV shock. We currently have five Servotest machines, and we have another two on order. All told, FOX has nearly 40 test actuators.
What is the typical lifecycle of a new FOX product, from concept through development, testing and final production?
KP: That’s a hard question as it depends on technology level and application; it ranges from months to years. In many cases, we follow the development schedule of the vehicle manufacturer. Our aftermarket products are usually the quickest as we are fully in control of the lifecycle.
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