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The testing of electrical and electronic systems and devices for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) has been around for more than 100 years. Yet, surprisingly, many innovative start-up companies are unaware of the critical role of EMC testing in bringing safe and reliable products to market or the reasons why they should undertake EMC testing of their products.
In a world in which electrical and electronic systems and devices are an essential part of our everyday lives, the presence of high levels of electromagnetic interference (EMI) can have significant adverse effects on other equipment. In some cases, EMI can even affect the operation or performance of mission-critical systems and devices. EMC testing is intended to help ensure that your device does not generate high levels of EMI due to radiated or conducted emissions, and that your device also continues to function as intended when exposed to EMI generated by other devices.
Here are six key reasons why you should test your product for EMC:
1. To meet regulatory and legal requirements
Regulatory authorities in most countries worldwide mandate that manufacturers of electrical and electronic products demonstrate compliance with the requirements of internationally accepted EMC standards before placing their products on the market. While the specific frameworks for demonstrating EMC compliance can vary from country to country, regulators are generally empowered to levy fines and other penalties on companies who import or sell products that do not comply with applicable EMC requirements. In addition, non-compliant products that are imported may be seized by border authorities to prevent them from being placed on the market.
2. To satisfy procurement specifications
In many cases, the EMC requirements and specifications imposed by buyers of your product may exceed those embodied in applicable regulatory requirements. More stringent procurement requirements specific to EMC may be based on efforts to meet specific needs or requirements of your buyer’s customers (for example, equipment used in special environments) or achieve higher customer satisfaction levels.
3. To enhance reliability and performance
In some jurisdictions, regulators may only require testing for EMI attributed to radiated and conducted emissions to demonstrate compliance and achieve market access. However, despite this less restrictive approach, you may choose also to test your product for electromagnetic susceptibility (EMS), also referred to as immunity, from other sources of EMI. In such cases, more comprehensive testing can contribute to improved brand image and customer satisfaction while also reducing the likelihood of technical support or warranty claims in connection with your product.
4. To identify design issues early in the process
One of the biggest EMC challenges that device manufacturers face is finding EMC-related problems late in the design process. This can lead to unexpected delays in bringing new and innovative products to market and increased design and testing costs. Instead, testing for EMC early in the design process can help facilitate the timely identification of emissions or immunity issues and allow for design changes that do not adversely impact your development schedule. And changes to address EMC issues can often result in improvements to your product’s performance in other areas. For example, reducing the emissions profile of audio equipment often results in a higher quality audio output.
5. To avoid the “CE + CE does not equal CE” conundrum
Although individual components may be compliant with EMC requirements in the European Union (EU) and other countries, the integration of multiple compliant components in a single end product is likely to create unique EMC emissions and immunity profile that may no longer meet regulatory requirements (the “CE + CE does not equal CE” conundrum). Also, using an approved product under conditions that differ from its original intended use environment may require additional testing to determine compliance. For example, ITE equipment used in a healthcare setting is subject to different, more rigorous EMC requirements.
6. To reduce the likelihood of unexpected field problems
Finally, EMC testing is often based on the assumption that compliance with emissions and immunity requirements will reduce the risk of EMC in actual use. However, the standard suite of EMC testing may not address all the potential EMI-related issues that might occur, or the impact of EMI in various use environments. In such cases, more comprehensive EMC testing can help proactively identify potentially problematic or costly issues and provide an opportunity to address those issues before a product is placed on the market.
As this list of reasons clearly illustrates, the potential benefits of comprehensive EMC testing far outweigh the time and cost involved. Further, EMC testing early in the new product design process can not only preclude unanticipated problems late in the design cycle but result in improvements in the quality, safety, and performance of your product. Whether yours is a start-up company with an innovative product idea or a well-established developer or manufacturer of electrical or electronic products, EMC testing is a win-win proposition!
Daniel is an experienced EMC Compliance Test Specialist and currently a Laboratory Manager with more than 20 years of testing experience and a demonstrated history of working in the international trade and development industry. He is skilled in product development, electrical engineering, troubleshooting, global...