You’ve invested months of work and incalculable resources in the design and development of your innovative electronic device. But just when you anticipate that the hard work is over, testing for compliance with electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements identifies some critical problems with your device that you never anticipated.
So, instead of preparing to launch your new product on the market, you’re now facing additional weeks (or months!) of product redesign to meet those requirements, and another round of testing. Ugh!!!
Designing a product that meets EMC testing requirements takes planning and forethought. In that way, you can identify EMC-related issues early on and design your device to address those issues. So we’d like to share with you seven tips that you can apply to your product development process to help ensure successful EMC testing the first time around.
1. Define the intended use and use environment for your device
EMC requirements can vary significantly between an electronic device intended for use by consumers in the home and one that will perform critical functions in a healthcare environment. Similarly, some intended use environments, like industrial settings where highly explosive gases are used, require devices that meet far more rigorous EMC criteria to minimize the risk of explosion or fire. Proper EMC design begins with determining where and how your product will be used.
2. Identify your target markets
Once you’ve defined the intended use of your device and its intended use environment, the next step is to determine where you want to market your product. EMC regulations in the European Union (EU), the U.S., and other major jurisdictions can differ in small but important ways. Understanding the similarities and differences in applicable regulatory requirements can help you to design a single product that meets all of these requirements, instead of developing different models for individual countries.
3. Integrate testing early in the development process
Testing and testing requirements should be integrated into product development efforts as early as possible in the process. Ideally, this includes developing a testing plan that allows you to evaluate various component parts and designs for EMC compatibility in the prototype stage. Early testing can help you to select the right components for your device and replace those that are either non-compliant or that compromise the overall EMC integrity of the completed device.
In some instances, an electronic device will radiate electromagnetic radiation at varying levels, depending on the mode of operation. Early testing enables you to identify such variations in EMC radiated and conducted emissions that are directly attributable these different modes, and to determine the extent to which emissions in such modes may exceed permissible limits. This information can then be used to limit or prevent the use of the device in such modalities.
5. Be present when formal testing begins
Even at a time when many of us are working remotely, most testing laboratories can provide you with virtual access so that you can witness the testing in real-time, ask questions of the testing professionals, and identify potential fixes that can bring your device into compliance. Whether you are witnessing the testing in-person or remotely via your computer, your presence during the testing process helps to ensure that you are obtaining the greatest value for your testing investment.
6. Prepare for testing failures
In our experience, the rates of EMC testing failure can be as high as 80% for certain types of devices. But test failures are exactly the point of conducting testing in the first place. After all, test failures show you what’s not working and help you to better understand the potential compliance issues that could serve as a roadblock to your plans. It also gives you the opportunity to explore different solutions, some of which may actually result in significant improvements in device functionality or lower your costs.
7. Promptly address non-compliance and other issues
Similar to the previous tip, take action to address as quickly as possible any non-compliance issues and other concerns identified during EMC testing. Doing so can help speed the retesting process and provide a path for a smooth and successful regulatory review and approval.
EMC testing can be an expensive and time-consuming process. And preventable issues identified during testing can derail your go-to-market plans and require making significant additional investment of time and resources to address. But, by following the tips we’ve outlined here and integrating EMC considerations early in your planning process, you can reduce the likelihood of unexpected EMC-related issues.