Is Your Product Ready for Certification? Highlights of Electronics Certification in the US and EU.
Before a company can sell anything in a market, it must prove that the product complies with the local government regulations by going through a certification procedure. That includes most electronic devices, so hardware developing companies have to consider this matter when developing new products.
Today, we are going to talk about electronic certification in the United States and European Union and discuss why it’s important to consider these requirements long before mass production.
As to what consumer electronics require certification, here we can divide all products into two large categories.
Intentional radiators are devices that intentionally emit RF waves to perform their main function. This includes such goods as cellphones, wireless microphones, walkie-talkies, IoT devices, etc. These products almost always require certification.
Unintentional radiators also emit RF waves but do it as a side effect (unintentionally). As a result, the requirements for this category are less strict. Nevertheless, many of them must be certified as well.
In general, certification is mandatory for IoT devices, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled equipment, remote control systems, drones (as they use remote control), audio and video transmitters, GPS trackers, smart wristbands, etc.
Common Consumer Electronics Certifications Required in the US and EU
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent US government agency responsible for making sure electrical goods don’t interfere with wireless communication because of the RF emissions they produce. FCC falls under the 15th section of title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which requires that all electronics items that oscillate at 9 kHz or higher must be tested and certified to be manufactured and/or sold in the United States.
Conformité Européenne (CE) is the health, safety, and environmental protection standard of the European Union. It is mandatory for goods manufactured, imported, or sold in the European Economic Area. If you compare FCC vs CE requirements, you will see that they are very similar. As a rule, if a product is successfully certified by FCC, getting CE certification won’t be difficult, and vice versa.
Underwriters Laboratories is a certification company founded in 1894. Nowadays, it tests and certifies products, as well as sets standards for various industries. Its primary objective is to ensure new goods are safe to use, meaning they will not start a fire or explode, for example.
Strictly speaking, UL certification is not mandatory in the US. However, manufacturers should understand that UL is an internationally recognized symbol of safety and reliability. In other words, if you try offering a new product that doesn’t comply with any UL regulation, most retailers will simply refuse to take it. For example, Amazon requires UL testing for certain categories of products. Also, note that UL listing requirements vary by state.
Most consumer electronics certifications require at least two testing types.
Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing will prove that a device doesn’t cause electromagnetic interference effects on other equipment when functioning. Authorities also typically require electrostatic discharge (ESD) immunity tests to prove that a device can withstand ESD without breaking.
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is required in the European Union as well as the State of California. It verifies that electronic devices do not contain hazardous materials in quantities exceeding the established threshold.
Consumer electronics require this certification because many electronic components contain hazardous substances, particularly lead. So, companies must prove their products comply with the REACH directive. Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals is a European Union’s regulation applied to potentially dangerous substances that may be present in consumer products sold in the EU. Similar to RoHS, the regulation’s objective is to ensure products contain hazardous materials in quantities that do not exceed the set limits.
Steps to Make Certification Easier?
Electronics certifications are complicated procedures that involve costly testing, but prices are not the only (nor the most serious) problem here. Few products manage to pass the tests on the first try, and companies usually have to make more or less minor changes in the product design anyway. However, when manufacturers don’t concern with certification requirements until the last moment (usually right before mass production), they risk having to completely overhaul their prototype, which can be much more expensive and time-consuming than the certification.
That’s why it’s important to take certification requirements into account during the whole development process.
1. Determining the market. First off, companies must determine which market they want to enter and, consequently, which laws and regulations their product must comply with.
2. Studying the regulations. At this point, companies must determine what category of product their device falls into and which standards are applied. Remember that the same device can fall into several product types and, therefore, must comply with several standards.
3. Product design. Companies proceed to design the product with all the requirements in mind. Prototypes rarely pass the tests on the first try. Nevertheless, a device designed in accordance with the regulations will require fewer changes in the case of failure.
4. Testing. Depending on what type of certification companies want to obtain, they may be able to conduct the tests with their in-house equipment. Otherwise, developers will need to hire third-party laboratories to do it. In the case of failure, companies will have to make changes to the prototype and take the tests again.
5. Certification. Finally, if successful, companies will need to submit the required documentation to the appropriate authorities that will issue the corresponding certificate.
Ignoring certification requirements until the last moment can cause serious financial losses and lead to time-consuming changes in the product design and manufacturing process. To avoid these consequences, one must know what regulations are applied to their goods, what tests need to be carried out, how much certification can cost, what bodies can draft the certificates, and how to make the procedure faster. To learn all that, read the article on electronics certification on Integra Source’s blog.