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The bathtub curve is a type of model demonstrating the likely failure rates of technologies and products. Over a certain product lifetime, the bathtub curve shows how many units might fail during any given phase of a three-part timeline. The first downward portion of the curve is called an “infant mortality” phase and shows how a number of units would quickly fail due to defects or other issues. The second part of the curve is the “normal lifetime” or “useful lifetime” segment with a low failure rate. The third part is an end-of-life increasing failure rate. Together, these three segments look like a bathtub with two steep edges and a flat bottom.
One function of the bathtub curve is to show the likelihood of initial failure with products. Companies try to eliminate the first infant mortality phase by refining products and engineering to eliminate “dead on arrival” products. There is a sense that products that fail quickly will turn away customers. Companies might use specific tasks like a highly accelerated life test (HALT) or a highly accelerated stress test (HAST) to try to promote the engineering of more durable and long-lasting products. Technology experts may talk about eliminating the causes of “infant mortality” failures. All of this is part of specific product development and quality control in the enterprise world.