Electromagnetic compatibility, or EMC, is a property of devices which produce and come into contact with electromagnetic fields. EMC testing indicates to engineers whether a device is compatible with its electromagnetic environment and determines whether the device will produce EMI, or electromagnetic interference. In a world without EMC testing, the risk of helicopters falling out of the sky, respirators going silent or your cell phone losing its signal would increase. All of these machines produce electromagnetic fields, and thus before entering the market need to fulfill requirements like IEC, CISPR and MIL-STDs (military standards) and achieve EMI compliance.
Steps of EMC Testing
Find the Standards. What standards apply to my product? is the first question you should ask yourself. Varying between product type and geography, standards can be difficult to define or pin down and missing an EMC standard can be disastrous for manufacturers. Contact an EMC test lab and determine what standards you need to meet before sending your product in or develop an EMC test plan yourself if you’re familiar with the requirements. To do your own research, visit ATEC’s standards page, which will give you detailed outlines of each standard, and call +1 (800) 404-2832 for any questions.
- Conduct Pre-Compliance Testing. You want your products to possess flawless EMI immunity and produce no more accidental energy than regulations require before they are formally tested. Test your devices in full-compliance test sites like anechoic chambers or RF shield enclosures. Rent full-compliance testers like EMI receivers. Depending on the product being tested, be sure to test for both the product’s immunity to EMI and the EMI emissions it generates, which are discussed in the sections below. Renting fully EMC-compliant test equipment from ATEC will save you money and time in the pre-compliance process—we are ISO-9001 certified and ISO 17025 accredited in calibration by the A2LA.
- Choose an EMC test lab. Be sure to choose an EMC lab that is A2LA 17025 accredited. EMC accreditation is essential to establishing the validity of your testing when placing products on the market. Because of this, though, EMC labs are busy. Book your appointment months in advance, and plan out your pre-compliance testing so you can avoid expensive rescheduling.
EMC testing is a critical step in the manufacturing of medical devices. If a medical device is unable to function well with the electrical systems around it, the device may pose a risk to patients. The FDA mandates that all medical devices are EMC tested according to IEC standards.
Everything from your iPhone to your laptop and Xbox undergo EMC tests, especially devices which connect to Wi-Fi and have the potential to emit far-reaching EMI. FCC standards call for comprehensive testing before allowing products to enter the marketplace.
Manufacturers of cars and other automotive machines require EMC testing for both their components, including parts like engines and radios, and the automobiles as a whole. BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen are just a few of the car companies with such standards.
Component testing is an expansive facet of EMC. Semiconductors in particular are utilized in nearly all computerized products, and due to their capacity for electromagnetic emission, require testing to ensure they don’t interfere with other devices.
Military equipment is subject to rigorous testing standards which call for electromagnetic susceptibility and emissions testing, among other requirements. MIL-STD-461 is a common standard for automobiles, aircraft, spacecraft and other vehicles and instruments which may be at risk of emitting or being affected by electromagnetic energy.
The aerospace industry relies on EMC testing to confirm aircraft will not be susceptible to EMI radiating from the digital meccas they may pass over, adhering to standards like DO-160 to ensure full compliance before the craft enters the market. This standard includes guidelines for commercial planes and helicopters as well.