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The value of In-house EMC Pre-compliance Testing

Updated: Apr 9

INTRODUCTION - WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT EMC?


Let’s consider a scenario, as depicted by Figure 1, where an autonomous cleaning robot is cleaning in a hospital hallway moving past a room full of MRI machines that are in operation. In this scenario, let’s consider what would happen if this product was not designed to be robust enough to mitigate possible electromagnetic energy interference being radiated from the MRI machines. What are the risks? What is the product reputation impacts if something goes wrong with the robot in this customer’s application? The last thing any Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) wants to hear is that their product caused damage to a customer’s facility, or even worse, someone got hurt. This scenario paints a good example of why it is important, and required, to meet various product standards to sell a product globally. The reverse is also true if our product during operation emits or radiates high levels of electromagnetic energy that can cause interference with other customer devices. In this instance, customers will not want to buy those types of products. For our commercial applications, EMC testing has become of further importance to ensure our products are robust to operate in multiple application environments in a safe and reliable manner. The challenge is that EMC testing is not traditionally a quick process during the product development life cycle, since testing is usually done off-site at a third-party lab, where their schedule dictates the timeline of completion.


Scenario Depiction of Possible EMC Product Interference from MRI Machines

Figure 1 - Scenario Depiction of Possible EMC Product Interference from MRI Machines


WHAT IS THE VALUE OF EMC PRE-COMPLIANCE TESTING IN-HOUSE?


Most new products under development usually fail some sort of EMC testing the first-time products are tested, more accurately, radiated emissions (or EMI). The problem is most EMC testing at an off-site third-party lab is considered expensive. Typically, EMC testing off-site costs anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 per day, depending on the type of testing being done. Usually, this product testing occurs over at least one week, which means a company is spending around $15,000 for the week. Also, it is important to keep in mind, lab costs do not typically include the company’s engineering time or the time to ship this company’s product between their R&D facility and the EMC testing lab. 


In order to better investigate the possible cost impacts of a scenario where all EMC testing, including pre-compliance testing, is done at an off-site third-party lab versus having in-house EMC pre-compliance testing, we need to first define the typical workflow for a product that is 90% complete with development, and ready to start EMC testing. 


So, let’s define two scenarios for this workflow, scenario 1, where all EMC testing including pre-compliance testing is done off-site at a third-party lab, and scenario 2, which includes having in-house EMC pre-compliance testing before doing off-site EMC testing. These scenarios are depicted below by Figures 2 and 3. 


Now, let’s paint a typical picture with a product under development where the product has failed EMC testing three times. In this case, your development team is stuck in the 1st loop shown in Figure 2, which is preventing you from launching your product to sale in order to generate revenue for your business. Not to mention you are spending a lot of money and losing market share, and your schedule has now slipped by multiple weeks. Past experience has shown that it is extremely difficult to recover in this type of scenario. 


If your engineering team has some EMC pre-compliance testing available in-house, the possible scenario flow is depicted by Figure 3. In this case, the team is given agility and flexibility to address the unknowns. With the robots being very complex, the engineering team cannot design everything. In those cases, it is possible to sometimes integrate other third-party products. When in-house pre-compliance testing is not an option, a lot of time is lost trying to resolve issues outside of the team’s control. Alternatively, with in-house pre-compliance testing, issues with third party suppliers and EMC problems can be addressed and mitigated at a very early stage in the development cycle. This can also give one more time to find a new supplier. In other cases, with EMC pre-compliance in-house, there is an ability to test early in the development cycle. 


With any new product development effort as part of the development life cycle, you always have schedule risks and product development unknowns. The question is, how do you build agility and flexibility into your organization to address those unknowns?


Scenario 1 - Design Flow with EMC Pre-compliance not In-House - Testing Off Site

Figure 2 - Scenario 1 - Design Flow with EMC Pre-compliance not In-House - Testing Off Site


Scenario 2 - Design Flow with EMC Pre-compliance Testing In-House

Figure 3 - Scenario 2 - Design Flow with EMC Pre-compliance Testing In-House


Now, let’s also define our R&D development timelines and EMC testing costs, to assign to each of the two defined scenarios. These estimates are shown in Table 1. The costs shown are arbitrary to provide the model of how to do the calculation. In each company it is possible that these costs could be very different. The concept of this model is that any company can change the costs and apply this model specifically to their case. With that being said, it is understood that engineering overhead rates could vary from $100 per hour to over $200 per hour, depending on the organization and the location. 


Table 1 - Estimated R&D Development and EMC Testing Costs

ENG Overhead Rate @ $80/hr - 40 hr/wk

$3,200

Est. ENG travel Costs per Week

$1,500

EMC Testing Lab Daily Fees

$2,500

EMC Testing Lab Weekly Fees

$12,500

Product Shipping Costs to EMC Lab (1-way trip)

$200


Table 2 - Scenario 1: EMC testing and Development Timeline


Table 3 - Scenario 2: EMC testing and Development Timeline

Table 3 Notes:

  1. Troubleshooting in-house as well as designing a solution is inherently easier and faster to resolve, since the team is already engaged actively in the EMC testing effort.


Tables 2 and 3 depict estimated timelines and the incurred R&D Development and EMC Testing Costs to iterate through the above-mentioned scenarios three times before completing EMC testing. In these instances, we can see in scenario one that the costs for all estimated engineering time, engineering travel costs, shipping costs, and EMC testing is around $91,000. Whereas for scenario two, these costs are less, around $43,000. Also, there is an EMC testing effort completion timeline difference of six weeks between both scenarios.


In order to take a bigger look at the overall impact on revenue lost on the business side from not having EMC pre-compliance in-house, let’s define some sales and product revenue estimates, which are shown below in Table 4. Similarly to Table 1, the numbers shown in Table 4 are arbitrary. Referring to Figure 4, we see that the six-week delay in product launch has occurred due to all EMC testing being conducted off-site, which leads to a $1.9 million loss in revenue. That is significant! In this case we could have supported another project development effort with that lost revenue, not to mention the possible impacts of lost market share on the company’s product in comparison to other competitors.


Table 4 - Product Sales and Revenue Estimates

Costs to Build Product

$2,500

Product MSRP (50% margin)

$5,000

Product Unit Revenue

$2,500

Est. Sales Volume per Month

500 units

Est. Weekly / Monthly Sales Revenue

$312,500 / $1,250,000

Est. Total Yearly Sales Revenue (52 wk)

$16,250,000


Revenue Estimates Scenario 1 vs. Scenario 2

Figure 4 - Revenue Estimates Scenario 1 vs. Scenario 2


CONCLUSION AND FINAL POINTS


In summary, with the complexity of electronics in products today there are always unknowns in new product development cycles. The question that needs to be asked is how should your engineering team prepare, to be agile in developing these complex products?


When EMC issues occur during product development efforts, in-house EMC pre-compliance testing can provide a more accelerated and agile method, to mitigate these issues. In-house EMC pre-compliance testing is the best way to be prepared to handle these challenges.


We know that EMC product testing is expensive, and when delays occur, your yearly revenue could be significantly impacted to resolve EMC issues. Having an in-house pre-compliance testing setup is more affordable today than ever. Further, in-house EMC pre-compliance testing can save costs for recurring product lifecycle efforts or product feature updates, as well as have a huge payback on your R&D development efforts with ROI being immediate.


If you're not comfortable with doing in-house EMC pre-compliance, or your project schedule needs to be back on track, Signal Edge Solutions can help you. Our mobile EMC lab comes to your facility to help you meet your design and launch schedule. Our setup is ready to go in minutes so you can keep your schedule on track. We can even ship a test engineer to your facility to support you directly.


If you're interested in learning more about the EMC products Signal Edge Solutions offers then check out our store at the link below.


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