Three Reasons to Care About Electromagnetic Compatibility Testing

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

With few exceptions, if you and your brand design, manufacture, ship or sell products with electronic components, you need to care about electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing.

Chances are, anyone that deals with electronic products as part of their business has heard this before, but they might not know why. Here are three reasons why EMC testing is so important:

1) Safety (Liability)

Safety is one of the major reasons EMC testing is needed, as there are numerous situations where proper testing can mean the difference between life and death. For example, in the late 1960s, a US aircraft carrier was almost sunk, and over a hundred sailors were killed, because electromagnetic interference (EMI) caused a jet's missile to fire inadvertently. In the 1980s, Blackhawk helicopter crashes were happening because of EMI from high intensity radiated fields (HIRF). In the late 1970's and early 1980's, cars with anti-lock brakes had severe braking problems when passing by certain radio transmitters on the German Autobahn. While most interference may initially seem simply inconvenient, think about all the electronics you deal with on a daily basis, from your cellphone to your car, and what would happen if some of those devices malfunctioned due to EMI, and it becomes obvious why EMC testing is necessary.

2) Product Performance & Reliability

If you manufacture, design or sell electronic equipment, the quality of the product you produce or sell is important. It's very simple; if your product malfunctions regularly when consumers use it, they will stop buying your products. Immunity testing to make sure your device won't react negatively to external electromagnetic noise, and emissions testing to make sure your device doesn't't generate too much electromagnetic noise, are absolutely necessary to keep EMC phenomena under control. The proper functioning of an electronic product can be affected by both external and internal EMI. An example of an internal EMC issue would be if there was too much noise coming from an internal power supply, it could adversely affect the overall functionality of the equipment. Disturbances from external RF noise are common as well, and can come from a number of sources, including radios, TVs, and mobile phones. Without proper EMC testing, your equipment could be affected in an almost unlimited number of ways, from data corruption to measurement accuracy and much worse.

3) Penalties and Fines

With EMC certifications being mandatory in most markets, including the US, Europe, China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. If you put a non-compliant product out on the market the fines and penalties range from somewhat minimal to six figures and harsh actions. While enforcement has been ramping up in recent years, most violators are discovered through customer complaints and competitors notifying authorities. Even if you are strictly a retailer and haven't had any part in the design or manufacturing of the electronic device you are selling, you can still be exposed to potential fines that could total more than $100,000 for ongoing infractions if the devices you are selling are in violation of the applicable FCC authorization requirements. Beyond retailers, designers and manufacturers must be aware of applicable EMC requirements, and take them into account as early as possible in their respective design processes

While there are many reasons to care about EMC testing, this article takes a look at three of the main reasons. There are companies, such as Com-Power Corporation, that sell quality test equipment to accredited test labs, and consumers, that can ensure your product is EMC compliant. With the FCC constantly adjusting its rules to meet new needs, make sure that you do your due diligence in understanding the current requirements.

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