A new EMC test facility recently opened in the UK with new capabilities and reduced EMC and RF test times
The recently opened “Octagon Hub” is a £2.88 million state-of-the-art UK EMC and Radio Frequency test facility measuring 22,000 sq/ft. Based at TÜV SÜD’s Hampshire headquarters, the Octagon Hub’s three semi-anechoic EMC and RF chambers have been added to five pre-existing ones, increasing both capacity and capability.
The highly advanced automated test facility has significantly increased TÜV SÜD’s test capacity and delivered the capability to provide a 24-hour test service. All Radiated Emission chambers in the UK use EMX, TÜV SÜD’s bespoke radiated emission automation software. This allows partial or full EMC testing automation and requires only minimal input from test engineers where a product can be controlled remotely. The ability to control a customer’s product and cycle it through the different technologies during testing provides a faster and more repeatable service.
TÜV SÜD can now customise its service to provide the most efficient route to market and complete tests more quickly. This will help manufacturers achieve a shorter time to market and fulfil launch timescales for products which integrate RF modules, including technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the new 6E frequency bands.
State of The Art Test Equipment
TÜV SÜD is seeing strong growth in the marketplace, particularly with module integrations. Also, as industry increasingly adopts IoT (Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0 methods, a growing number of products are being developed to take advantage of wireless connectivity and this increased complexity necessitates more testing.
Octagon Hub’s test equipment includes:
* Two five-metre semi-anechoic radiated emissions chambers
* A three-metre semi-anechoic radiated emissions chamber
* Three EMX chamber automation systems – in combination with TÜV SÜD’s switching units which allows fully automated testing with compatible products
* An AR Multi-Tone RF Radiated Immunity System 10kHz – 6GHz – this is four-times faster for radiated immunity testing, compared to the industry standard, traditional way of performing the testing.
* A Keysight 220GHz high frequency measurement system – which has increased TÜV SÜD’s highest measurement range from 40GHz to 220GHz.
As well as automating the test process, EMX also files test results in real time so that test reports can be automatically compiled. The automation of EMC test reports has become essential due to the complexity of today’s products and the sheer volume of results that are now taken during tests. An automated system such as EMX not only allows the entire process to be completed faster, it also reduces the human error factor when dealing with a massive volume of data.
Radiated spurious emissions traditionally have quite a high level of measurement uncertainty. Much of this can be attributed to the requirement for setups and the positioning of measuring equipment to be changed by engineers during tests. As TÜV SÜD’s new EMC test chambers are integrated with EMX, its bespoke radiated emissions test software, this creates a fully automated solution that minimises disturbance of the device under test once it has been configured. The high level of automation within Octagon Hub is also enhanced by the new five-metre dual antenna chambers, which ensure minimal or no physical interaction within the chamber as there are no antenna changes or setup changes required for switching between low to high frequency ranges during tests.
The EMX switch box has integrated all filters, attenuators and relays into one PC-controlled box that sets up the correct path for each test for the engineer. In the past, some of the filters had to be connected manually. This is now all fully automated. The EMX software drives the spectrum analyser, switching box, chamber masts, alongside the customer’s sample (where possible). This has created a “dark chamber” that is completely automated – a first for TÜV SÜD.
This means that measurements have a high level of repeatability and accuracy, helping to ensure that testing is completed on time and that lead times are minimised. In cases where the customer’s equipment can be remotely commanded, this will offer the benefit of increasing the amount of testing that can be completed with minimal disturbance.
Further improvements planned
The new facility also offers the space and platform for further investments, which TÜV SÜD expects to be more than £8m over the next few years. Phase two planning is already underway, with the following additions planned:
* Two 3m SAC Emissions Chambers
* ETS Lindgren AMS-8900 OTA Measurement System
* Two 5G NR FR1 Anritsu MT8000A
* Two 3G/4G Anritsu MT 8821C
* AR Multi-Tone RF Radiated Immunity System 80MHz – 6GHz (TÜV SÜD’s second unit. The first system is already available at the original Octagon House site)
TÜV SÜD will become the only independent test lab in the UK to offer over-the-air (OTA) capabilities and one of a limited number of laboratories with 5G signalling units. During Phase 2, the addition of 5G Anritsu signalling units will also see TÜV SÜD enter the 5G module integration market. A new OTA chamber will also allow TÜV SÜD to perform antenna performance measurements in greater detail and at faster speeds.
Measurements during tests will be able to better simulate real world performance by encompassing hands or body parts that are in close proximity to the device antennas. This new capability will allow customers to better understand their antenna performance and tune their device to extend range and sensitivity, as well as increase battery life on portable units.
Automated Mass Testing with AI
A new artificial intelligence capability is also being developed to verify the WLAN/BT test results generated by the automated systems and reduce the occurrences of human error.
Phil Evans, Business Development Director for Connectivity at TÜV SÜD, says: “Octagon Hub represents the next generation of automation for testing and sample control, and is a real game-changer for high-end products integrating WLAN/BT with multiple antennas, such as VR/AR headsets and routers.
“Our new facilities have been specifically designed to deliver automated mass testing that reduces test times significantly. What would typically take two-to-three weeks is now down to as little as four-to-five days. This will allow manufacturers to minimise time to market for products that are bound by legal requirements, such as those mandated by the FCC in the USA, and for the European Union’s Radio Equipment Directive.
Another new advantage is that our EMX software is designed to tune the output power for the customer to meet the output limit within regulatory standards across all frequency bands, modulations and bandwidths. This means it can cover every possible combination of output. As EMX does this automatically, it saves a massive amount of time and allows customers to fine-tune multiple times. This is particularly relevant if any hardware changes have been made, such as antenna changes, etc. For example, our customers might want to tune output power on each MIMO antenna to increase range and receiver sensitivity and achieve the best possible product performance.”