Electromagnetic Compatibility testing costs can vary between testing laboratories and there is usually a reason. The age-old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ can also ring true for the standard and quality of compliance testing. When you complete and sign your Declaration of Conformity of compliance (DoC) you’re stating that you have taken reasonable steps to ensure that your product meets the applicable product-specific standards.
With this in mind is it cost-effective to potentially be audited and have to demonstrate or produce your RCM, FCC or CE compliance evidence only realise that you’re testing was incorrectly conducted, performed or documented? This could result in having to repeat the entire testing program again and possibly having to test three samples as opposed to one sample which is typically required. It could also affect your ability to legally distribute and sell your product and may result in legal action and possibly jeopardise your company’s reputation.
So the next steps will help you to ask the testing laboratory the correct questions?
Does the EMC or Radio compliance testing need to be conducted at an accredited testing facility or laboratory?
Many of the mandated standards used to show compliance with certain regions require accreditation, but not all. Accreditation indicates the testing laboratory has demonstrated the ability to correctly test a product in accordance with the particular standard and report the results accurately in accordance with a minimum standard of quality. Under mutual recognition agreements, accredited testing is usually accepted without as much scrutiny as non accredited test reports. Some countries such as North America for certain products require the testing laboratory to be accredited by an accreditation body that is recognised by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), this includes certain product types for FCC Part 15B (non-intentional radiators) and also all FCC Part 15C (intentional radiators). For more information on the FCC site requirements and accreditation changes that occurred in July 2017 please refer to our blog ‘FCC Testing Part15B and 15C in Australia’.
Some testing for different regions and/or for certain types of products may be performed simultaneously i.e. one test to cover many regions and standards, with test reports generated for each of the required regions. This can dramatically reduce the overall testing and associated cost to show compliance with multiple or global compliance requirements. This could greatly reduce the overall RCM, FCC, ICES and CE compliance testing costs and charges.
Is the laboratory accredited for the testing of your products?
A testing laboratory may be accredited but may not be accredited to issue an accredited test report! How does that work? Let’s look at the accreditation and what it means!
ISO 17025 accreditation means that the laboratory has demonstrated that they satisfy the requirements of ISO 17025, which is the standard for the “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories”.
This does not mean that the laboratory is accredited to do any EMC testing! This accreditation can be applied to many fields of expertise, not just Electromagnetic Compatibility testing.
So how do you know the testing service you require is accredited?
Ask to see the scope of accreditation. Typically this can also be found on the website of the accreditation body. In the case of EMC Bayswater, our accreditation details can be found on our website with links to the website of our accreditation body i.e. National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA).
On our site, you may notice both the ISO 17025 and also EMC Bayswater’s NATA accreditation testing scope. Within the scope, it includes the entire product-specific testing that we are accredited for. It also includes any exclusion that may apply, some of which may not affect the ability to produce a full accredited compliance test report.
Always check with your testing laboratory if they are actually accredited for all the testing services that you require.
Does the test equipment including equipment such as an EMI receiver, antenna or even test site meet the technical requirements of the referenced standards?
Many of the product standards refer to other standards that include the required technical characteristics of test equipment. Typically the cost to purchase the fully compliant required equipment is high. As such many smaller laboratories choose not to go for accreditation as they know that they would not be able to demonstrate that they perform the testing up to the required standard to achieve accredited status. Test sites are usually the biggest individual cost to a testing laboratory. A classic example is product standards (such as EN 55032 / AS/NZS CISPR 32 for multi-media and Information Technology (IT) equipment) that reference measurement standard(s) that have specific requirements on the type and characteristics that a radiated emissions test site should conform too. If you are performing testing using a test site that may have different non-conforming characteristics, how would you know that the product actually complies with the radiated emissions limits? It would be a reasonable presumption that it would be advantageous to use a testing service where the entire measuring system complies with the requirements of the standards. Why get cheap EMC testing if the result you pay for may be brought into question and may cost you even more at a later time? Another good example is that EMI receivers are expensive to purchase but are critical to the measurement process as this device is used to investigate the spectrum to ensure emissions comply with the emissions limits. Fully compliant EMI receivers require the correct measurement detectors which typically you would not find on a spectrum analyser. Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) are a top end manufacturer of EMI receivers. We incorporated Rohde & Schwarz EMI receivers as standard along with the R&S compliant emissions software for emissions testing. Sometimes lack of knowledge or care means that simple but very very important factors may be overlooked, a good example of this is the table material for radiated emissions. Different materials have varying dielectric properties, this can significantly influence the measurement result, for more information please see our blog; Effects of Table Material on Radiated Field Strength Measurement.
Does the test equipment including equipment such as an EMI receiver, antenna or even test site meet the calibration requirements?
To maintain accreditation it is important that the testing company keeps up with regular in-house checks and maintain suitable internal or external calibrations and schedules. Some of the internal calibrations may take days to complete such as the full calibration of our 3m indoor Open Area Test site (iOATS) that we use to perform our accredited radiated emissions testing. This radiated emissions test site along with the measuring equipment is compliant with the ANSI C63.4: 2014 or CISPR 16-1-4: 2010 + A1: 2012 test site requirements. Typically critical and complex measuring equipment such as EMC antennas, EMI receivers, spectrum analysers or reference sources/instrumentation is required to be calibrated by a traceable typically accredited calibration testing service. At EMC Bayswater we tend to use external calibration suppliers that can provide traceable accredited calibration service, this ensures the equipment is fit for purpose and independently calibrated. The financial cost is significant but the positives outweigh the alternative, of not being able to provide the level of service, quality of testing and accreditation scope that we currently can provide.
Does the laboratory have experienced engineers to assist with compliance issues?
Sometimes experience counts, in some cases a quick look from an experienced engineer can save countless hours of trying EMI modifications in order to achieve a compliant product. Our staff are experienced and have seen most of it before, so they are always willing to suggest solutions if the need arises. As an EMC/EMI testing service, we strive to pass on our knowledge to our customers to help them in their future projects as well as the task at hand.
Does the test report include all the required information?
You have finished the testing and supplied the EMC test house with all your product information, now what! Now you should be receiving your test report in the next few days or weeks and it should be complete with all the required information. The technical test report information required is usually included in the product-specific EMC standards. Without owning the EMC standard this may be hard to verify as a customer. The testing laboratory should be able to assist and hopefully, all the information is recorded in the results and test report and documented correctly at the time of testing.
EMC Compliance testing cost mitigation Vs integrity, traceability and quality
As per many other walks of life, you get what you pay for. If you use an accredited laboratory you minimise the risk. Check the lab’s scope of accreditation for your product or generic EMC testing standard. Always ask to ensure that the testing laboratory can actually perform the testing and what (if any) deviations from the standard they will note in their test report. Deviations from the standard may include test sites not conforming to the requirements of the standards, inappropriate test equipment, out of calibration equipment or the use of insufficiently calibrated equipment etc. Ask the testing laboratory if their equipment including the EMI receivers or Radiated emissions test sites meet the required standards such as ANSI C63.4: 2014 or CISPR 16-1-4: 2010 + A1: 2012, if not the testing may not be performed correctly. When signing the declaration of conformity or compliance be confident that you have taken the time and correct steps to select a suitable testing facility capable of testing your product correctly and producing compliant EMC compliance test reports. Also, check out why compliance testing is actually good for your product!