Essential Safety Tips For Electronics Design

Make safety paramount in your electronics design facility and products. These key tips will ensure you maintain compliance with national and international safety regulations for electronics design and production.

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Make safety paramount in your electronics design facility and products. These key tips will ensure you maintain compliance with national and international safety regulations for electronics design and production.

Electronics Design Safety Tip 1 — Conduct Safer, More Accurate Tests  

In many instances design verification testing – DVT – and reliability testing provide only pass or fail results. These tests don't instruct in how to make improvements. Consider instead characterization, which examines operations in a variety of workloads and power sources. Characterization reduces the use of high voltage and remote control during testing, which increases worker safety and produces more accurate results.

Electronics Design Safety Tip 2 — Evaluate Components

You already know safety regulations determine how to arrange components. Find a balance between meeting market demand for smaller, cheaper components and adhering to requirements. Several types of components will have different standards. Consider this before selecting which to use in your electronics design.

Placement makes a difference in price and standards adherence. Minimum creepage and clearances depend on the capacitor type. For instance, X1/Y1 capacitors have a requirement of at least 8 mm. Though through-hole pieces cost less individually, they cost more for installation. Opt for surface mount capacitors instead.

Consider environment testing results when selecting components. The latest IEC standards for Grade III require components withstand 85 degrees C, 85 percent relative humidity for 1,000 hours. You have both leaded ceramic and film options for capacitors that fulfill these strict requirements.

Electronics Design Safety Tip 3 — Test EMC Before Compliance Testing

You may not be aware that half of all products fail their first electromagnetic compatibility – EMC – compliance test. Avoid this problem by conducting pre-compliance testing. Failing the EMC compliance test could prevent your products from going through customs. You may also incur fines for selling a non-compliant product.

Pre-compliance testing gives you the chance to make changes before your product fails its EMC compliance test. Compliance testing can be pricey and last a long time, but all electronics safety marks require EMC testing before approval. Pre-compliance testing prevents the loss of time and money. Don't let your products be among the 50% to fail the initial compliance tests. Pre-test to prevent the embarrassment of retesting for compliance.

Electronics Design Safety Tip 4 – Know the Required Certification Labels

The required certifications for your electronics depend on where they will be sold. In the United States, all products must undergo both EMC and electromagnetic interference – EMI – testing to attain Underwriters Laboratories -- UL -- certification. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires a UL label on all commercially used products. Products intended for consumer use have stricter EMC and EMI requirements than those for business.

Regardless of the end user, all electronics sold in Europe must bear a CE mark. Products destined for Canada must hold two labels, cUL and CSA. In Asia, Japanese electronics need both the Denan and the VCCI marks. Korean electronics need to adhere to IEC standards to gain the MIC label. Taiwan has the BSMI label, and China offers the CCC mark for electronics.

Most of these marks require IEC standards, but check with individual labels for any additional requirements. Attempting to sell non-compliant products could result in severe penalties. For instance, in Europe, items labeled as dangerous get placed on a RAPEX list that curtails their sale throughout the EU.

Always keep technical documents on hand. Many certifications require the manufacturer to keep technical documentation even after production of the item has stopped. These documents actually serve as proof of compliance in the EU, not the CE mark.

Electronics Design Safety Tip 5— Make Products Safer and More Valuable

Changing the designs of your products can improve consumers' ability to safely and efficiently use the items. Many changes to your electronics designs can create great improvements in these areas. For instance, adding labels to fuse blocks can make operations much faster for the end user. Indicating fuses are another option to make use and safety better. These light when a fuse is receiving power but not functioning, allowing for faster replacement.

Don't get so focused on electronics design that you forget how important product and facility safety are. By carefully evaluating components and pre-testing for compliance, the products at your facility can be made safer and more valuable for consumers and businesses.

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance STEM writer and blogger.

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