Avoiding EMC compliance anxiety

| Environmental Testing

Devices on the Internet of Things need to conform to The Radio Equipment Directive

Jonathan Newell talks to Andy Lawson at TÜV SÜD Product Service about preparing for increasingly complex standards compliance.

For all its promise of convenience, efficiency, fun and even future necessity, the Internet of Things (IoT) brings with it the potential for device manufacturers’ compliance anxiety as the race to get connected is held back by the anchors of an increasingly complex regulatory compliance environment.

Recognising this changing environment, the standards bodies are striving for a simpler set of regulations to make it clearer to manufacturers and ease the process of gaining compliance but the standards which need to be met still depend on the technology within the product and the environment in which it will be used.

CE Marking

Gaining the CE mark is a requirement in the EU for electrical apparatus, which is any finished appliance or combination, it isn’t required for fixed installations such as electrical equipment that forms part of a factory production line, for example.

The CE Marking directive has three components which are applicable in the EU, including:

* 2014/30/EU – Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
* 2014/35/EU – Low Voltage Directive (LVD)
* 2014/53/EU – Radio Equipment directive (RED)

These replace the previously most recent 2004 directive. EMC doesn’t cover safety, which is now catered for in the LVD.

Additionally, the Radio Equipment Directive is an important addition which covers connected devices. This is the key element in gaining compliance for IoT devices and applies even to equipment that wouldn’t have been associated with the transmission or receiving of signals in the past, such as smart, connected watches, other wearables and even home appliances that are connected into the internet of things.

According to TÜV SÜD Product Service’s EMC Supervisor and Lab Manager, Andy Lawson, this is a new element of legislation to many who are not accustomed to dealing with RF equipment and can easily be overlooked.

“The Internet of Things is seeing all kinds of equipment that would previously not have been considered a communications device requiring compliance to RED,” he told me.

He went on to explain that anything electrical needs to be tested for EMC compliance and safety against the Low Voltage Directive for voltages up to 240v. RED is for anything with RF capabilities.

Environmental Standards

The compliance maze doesn’t end with the CE Marking requirements, there are also the product standards that need to be taken into account and these reflect the type of technology, the market in which it will be sold and the environment in which it’s used. In terms of EMC, there are dozens of such standards and it’s important to be clear what the appropriate requirements are before putting together a test plan. With IEC, ISO and EN standards for both emissions and immunity for different equipment such as road vehicles, scientific and medical equipment, IT equipment, power tools and many others, the possibilities almost seem endless.

There are also a variety of country standards that fall outside of the EU directives and need to be verified alongside other geographical standards. Countries falling outside the EU to the east towards Russia follow their own set of standards and the USA is also different so I asked Lawson how manufacturers can approach the task of ensuring their products conform to multiple standards across different regions without extremely lengthy and expensive testing programmes.

According to Lawson, there is some degree of harmonisation of standards with the IEC being the benchmark. It’s usual for IEC compliance to cover other national standards. “There’s no magic answer to being able to ship worldwide and meet all of the international standards,” he said.

CB Scheme

Some international markets can be accessed more simply using the “CB Scheme”. This relies on a recognised network of Certified Bodies being able to perform tests to IEC and other national standards and produce conformance reports that are accepted by other national regulatory authorities.

Not all countries have signed up to the scheme but major markets in the USA, China, Russia, India and other countries are accessible in this way.

To take advantage of this scheme, products need to be submitted to a certified body for testing and then submitted again to national test bodies in the appropriate countries along with the CB test report. Doing this smooths the way to certification in otherwise difficult territories.

Planning successfully for product testing

Lawson emphasised the point that in such an increasingly complex certification environment and the push for connectivity in new applications, there’s a lot to think about to achieve compliance and this planning should be done as early as possible to reduce overall costs and testing lead times.

Increasingly, TÜV SÜD Product Service is helping clients not only with EMC and other conformance tests, but also with product functional testing to ensure the product performs the tasks that it’s designed to do under different environmental conditions.

Wrapping all of these tests together can have significant advantages in maximising the efficiency of the tests and avoiding the iterative cycle of testing, failing, tweaking and retesting.

Single test profiles can also be built which encompass the requirements of different national standards as well. Two standards can be similar in most respects with slight variations in some parameters. In this case, one test under the range of parameters specified is simpler and less costly than re-submitting products for multiple tests that are similar.

“We can help at an early stage in deciding the best approach to both functional and conformance testing as well as advising on which standards need to be met based on the type of product, its function and the environment in which it operates,” Lawson explained.

The Internet of Things is going to see an explosion of new devices coming onto the market across the consumer, automotive and industrial sectors and the pressure will be on to gain compliance to standards that many won’t be used to. Getting advice from test houses on taking the right approach and following a few guidelines on test preparation will go a long way to reducing compliance anxiety.

It’s all in the prep

According to a presentation made by TÜV SÜD Product Service’s Senior Test Engineer, Matthew Russell, the potential difficulties of obtaining a compliance certificate can be substantially reduced with adequate preparations for the testing that’s going to take place.

Having the right product documentation, understanding the market requirements and the functional specification and preparing samples for tests are often overlooked or incomplete.

Equipment for testing must be adequately prepared to allow the tests to be correctly performed. Examples include:

* Supply spare batteries
* Include user instructions
* Enable all communication modes and frequencies so that cellular devices can be fully tested.
* Provide all support equipment
* Provide all the software needed for the device to function
* Supply multiple product samples for parallel testing

For a full list of all the requirements for product testing, seek early advice from a certified testing body.

Jonathan Newell
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