How to Choose an EMC Test Lab: 6 Things To Consider
Choosing an EMC test lab is a highly important decision for any designer, developer, manufacturer, or distributor of electronics. Going with the wrong testing lab can result in several problems, including:
- Incorrectly performed tests
- Delays to market for your products
- Added overheads
- Not able to sell your products in specific countries
Wherever you are based, there are compliance standards that must be met, and choosing the right EMC testing services will ensure that you do this while avoiding the above problems. The electromagnetic compatibility Directive (EMC directive 2014/30/EU) sets out the EU harmonized standards for EMC testing for EU member states. It makes sure that all electronic and electrical equipment neither generates nor is affected by electromagnetic disturbances. The EMC directive offers a framework aimed at limiting electromagnetic emissions from machinery.
What else makes a good and trustworthy EMC test lab? Here are six key elements you should consider when looking for the right EMC test lab for you:
Before we look at the features of EMC test labs, it’s worth noting that EMC testing can be costly. Consequently, it could be expensive and inconvenient if your products fail. For this reason, it’s worth performing pre-compliance testing internally before going to the test lab.
Any EMC test lab that you consider should be an accredited testing facility. This means that a qualified external body has evaluated the equipment, staff competency, technical documentation, and processes of the lab (e.g., NATA or A2LA).
It’s worth remembering that accreditation doesn’t guarantee the quality of a test lab, but that it has met baseline credentials and has been able to show that it can perform successful EMC testing.
While accreditation guarantees a baseline standard of testing, you’ll want to make sure that the engineers performing the tests are highly skilled and experienced. It is relatively easy for an EMC test to be ruined by using the wrong settings or the use of incorrect equipment by inexperienced staff. If you choose a facility that holds a more experienced team, they are less likely to make a mistake. This will prevent you from losing money as a result of damaged components or incorrect testing methods.
Also Read: Why Manufacturers Can’t Ignore EMC Testing
Ideally, you’re looking for an experienced team of specialists not only from a testing perspective but from a design perspective as well. This means that they will be able to offer high-quality and in-depth advice if alternations are needed. Overall, this reduces the likelihood that you’ll need to call in another external expert, saving you time and money. When it comes to EMC testing, hiring experienced experts is best.
Different EMC labs will offer various services. The first thing you should do when you find an EMC test lab is to check that they provide the services that you need for your specific products.
Should you go with a one-stop-shop for your electronic products? Some testing labs will offer complete packages that include a vast range of tests for EMC, wireless, safety, environmental testing, SAR, and more. If a lab indeed provides experience in all of these testing services, then it can save you money on test costs and help you get products to market quicker. However, specific EMC labs are likely to host higher degrees of expertise in particular areas or for specific types of products. You may prefer to work with a particular EMC test lab and engineer from one company and go elsewhere for the other safety tests.
Facilities and Equipment
The right service provider for your EMC testing will naturally have all of the test equipment necessary to test your products and provide certification. Therefore, you should check what test equipment is required with the engineers at the lab.
The same goes for facilities. Does their lab host all of the facilities that are needed for testing your products? You can find out directly from the lab under consideration. Do they use semi-anechoic chambers for radiated emission testing? Can they check the levels required for immunity? Find out before you book in.
Convenience and Lead Time
For EMC testing, you must go with a lab that provides the right levels of accessibility for you. For some people, the lab must be nearby in case the testing uncovers something that needs correcting. With a convenient location, your engineers and designers will easily be able to fix it.
For others, cost overrides the location, and you may choose an EMC testing lab that is further away – or even in a different country. When considering these options, you should think realistically about what will happen if the products fail their testing. Does the lab under consideration provide competent staff for debugging, or will someone have to travel to the lab? How do shipping costs factor in? These can all affect the actual price of going with a lab that is further away.
You might also find it useful to check the lead times of any EMC test labs that you are considering, as these can vary wildly. Some labs might offer you same day bookings, while others can take up to several months, depending on the lab size and their schedule. If the lead time they offer you is too large, you might want to reconsider. This is not only because it might not fit conveniently with your schedule, but also because if your products fail the testing, it could take them the same amount of time to fit you in again.
Choosing the right EMC testing lab can save you a lot of hassle down the line. It can help you get your products to market quicker and ensures that all relevant compliance standards have been met. Remember, the key points to take away when choosing an EMC test lab are:
- You should opt for an accredited service provider that can provide you with the relevant technical documentation and certifications
- They should offer the right level of technical expertise and experience
- They need to provide the right kinds of test and services pertinent to your product(s)
- They should have the required equipment and facilities available – so check what these are
- You want a lab that is conveniently located and offers a turnaround time that fits with your timetable
- Comply with EMC directive standards
We understand that cost can be an essential factor when it comes to EMC testing, but you shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to proving to save money. Inadequate EMC testing can cost a lot more in the long run – so try to find the right balance of quality and cost. Keep these tips in mind to make finding an EMC lab quicker and less stressful!