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Do I need to EMC test a pre-approved power supply? – EMC Explained

One of the most common questions we get asked when we send an EMC Test Plan / quotation to our customers is along the lines of:

 

“Our equipment is powered from a pre-approved CE marked power supply so we don’t need to do any AC mains EMC testing… right?”

 

If a power supply has already been EMC tested (if it has a CE or UKCA mark you would hope that this was the case) then it is a fair question – why should we retest it?

Adding AC mains specific tests into the EMC Test Plan adds time and therefore cost, something that some of our customers would like to avoid. For smaller businesses, the cost of assessment for EMC might be one of the largest external costs incurred on a project.

The main assumption driving this question is that EMC emissions – the noise that is coming out of the power supply and either back onto the AC mains or radiated from the power supply – is the only EMC problem we have to worry about. It’s the main one, but not the only one.

The pre-approved power supply will have been tested for immunity, but only the immunity performance of the power supply itself, not the equipment that it is powering.

Some noise will get through the power supply and into the equipment being powered. How does your product respond to this noise?

Also, how low are the AC mains conducted emissions from the power supply? Have you seen a test report? How reputable is the vendor?

Testing is the most reliable way to find out.

 

Our Recommendations

We generally recommend to our customers that they perform all of the applicable tests to the product.

(What, a test lab recommending testing? I’m shocked!).

Firstly, the tests are called up in the EMC standards, and for CE/UKCA marking, testing to a Harmonised Standard gets you a “Presumption of Conformity” to the requirements of the Directives – a pass without any further Risk Assessment or justification on your part.

Deciding not to perform the testing puts the responsibility on you to assess the remaining EMC risks. If you needed us to do this assessment for you or advise on it, the cost of a few hours of consultancy time would be equivalent to just doing the tests in the first place.

Secondly, EMC performance is often dictated by parasitic capacitances and inductances, component values that are not on the datasheet or intentionally designed into the product. Even knowing their magnitude does not give a good understanding of how they will interact. Testing allows us to measure their interaction under standardized conditions.

 

 

Risk Assessment Factors

As discussed above, our recommendation is always to perform testing on applicable ports, the AC mains port included.

If you are worried about costs or time taken for testing, then you might decide to omit some of the specific tests. The below table outlines some of the factors you may wish to consider when making this decision.

The more items that apply from the Risk Increasing Factors column, the less strong your argument becomes for not carrying out testing.

 

Risk Reducing Factors Risk Increasing Factors
Class II power supply (un-earthed)

 

Class I power supply (earthed)

Especially if the DC negative of the power supply output is connected to Protective Earth in the system.

Power supply comes from reputable vendor (e.g. Meanwell, XP Power, Recom, Traco, TDK Lambda, Puls, etc) Power supply comes from cheap or from far east supplier
Power supply external to product Power supply internal to product
No analogue or sensitive circuitry Analogue circuitry e.g. audio, 0-10V I/O, 4-20mA I/O

Sensitive, low level signals e.g. thermocouple, RTD

No other long (>3m) cables connected to equipment One or more long (>3m) cables connected to equipment
Main use in Basic (residential, commercial) EM environment Flexible use, could be used in Light Industrial or Industrial EM environments

 

If you are at all unsure then you should test the AC mains port with your intended production power supply.

For the ultimate in performance, or if the equipment is for flexible use (could be powered from an AC/DC supply or from a distributed DC power supply) then we would recommend treating the DC power input to your product as a signal port with a length greater than 3m.

This would then call up Conducted RF Immunity (EN 61000-4-6) and Electrical Fast Transient (EFT, EN 61000-4-4) testing to the power port at the appropriate levels for the end EM environment (e.g. Basic or Industrial)

One step further would be to apply line-to-line and line-to-earth surges to the DC input, assuming that the design already contains a transient surge voltage suppressing element like a TVS diode or an MOV.

Let’s take a look at some of the technical justification behind the selection of these items.

 

AC Mains Port vs DC Power Port

If you typically derive your equipment power from an AC mains power supply, then it is unlikely that you will fall under the DC Power Port classification.

The term DC Power Port in EMC terms means a very specific classification of port. We discuss this in some length in this article.

 

Power supplies do not always meet the regulations

A scenario that we have experienced on several occasions: the power supplies that end up with our customers or in our test lab are not the same as the ones in the manufacturer supplied EMC test report.

 

Another customer had similar problems on  power supply that they had received samples of in that the EMC performance varied wildly. In this case the clue was that the weight of the two samples was significantly different.

 

 

These power supplies were almost identical on the outside but significantly different on the inside. Same manufacturer and model number, different components. Imagine the conversation:

“I’d like to order some HM-A132 power supplies please”

“Certainly sir, which ones?”

“Erm…”

 

This is mostly related to cheaper power supplies sourced from China. We often see significantly different results to those shown in the manufacturer test report.

The worrying thing is if changes like this are being made on the basis of EMC, what changes are being made that affect Electrical Safety that are going unchecked? We can check that for you as well.

 

Cable Routing

If your power supply is integrated into your equipment then there is the possibility of noise on the AC mains cable coupling onto other nearby cables.

It is also possible for noise to couple (both to and from) components connected to the AC mains and internal system components. This could be an emissions (noise getting out) or an immunity (noise getting in) risk.

 

This is particularly likely if you are using slotted trunking and mixing AC mains cabling in with other cables.

 

 

 

This is less important for an external power supply like a laptop type charger or a plug top power supply as the AC mains cable remains outside of the equipment enclosure.

 

 

Power Supply Common Mode Impedance

Electrical noise inevitably gets coupled onto the AC mains bus. Normally this noise is coupled onto the AC mains Common Mode. This means all the lines together in relation to a high frequency “ground” reference plane.

The noise current through the power supply and equipment will flow something like this:

The noise reaching the equipment will have been attenuated by the Common Mode impedance of the power supply and the currents diverted through the parasitic capacitance of the power supply relative to the HF ground reference plane used in the tests.

Crucially, some noise still gets through to the power supply and will flow through the product. The magnitude of this current can be estimated or measured but relies on electrical parameters that are not on the power supply datasheet.

It is this noise current that we are interested in. How does it affect your product? The only way to find out is to perform testing.

 

Class I vs Class II Power Supply CM Impedance

The construction of a typical switch mode AC/DC power supply is broadly similar across a wide range of topologies. One of the main EMC variations results from if the power supply is Class I (earthed) or Class II (unearthed).

 

Class II

A Class II power supply relies on Double or Reinforced insulation between Live parts and user accessible secondary low voltage parts for Electrical Safety. There is no connection to Protective Earth. This kind of power supply is usually identifiable by:

  • the square-in-a-square double insulation symbol (IEC 60417 symbol # 5172)
  • a plastic earth pin on a UK mains plug (technical name is an ISOD or Insulated Shutter Opening Device)
  • An IEC C8 “figure-8” AC mains inlet socket with just two pins

 

Looking at the typical internal structure of a Class II AC/DC SMPS we can see that the components providing Common Mode noise attenuation are

  • the inductive common mode filter (Lcm)
  • the components across the safety isolation barrier, transformer Tx and class Y capacitor Cy

The value of parasitic parallel capacitance of the choke or transformer (or wanted series capacitance of Cy) will reduce the impedance ( Xc = 1 / [ 2 * pi * f * C ] ) and allow more noise current to flow at higher frequencies.

This capacitance is usually a low value to prevent too high a touch / leakage current to flow which would compromise Electrical Safety.

However, at EMC frequencies of MHz and higher this presents a much lower impedance allowing noise currents to flow through the cable.

 

block diagram of a class II power supply showing EMC immunity noise current through the power supply

 

Because current always flows in a loop, and because current always returns to the source, to close this common mode current loop we need to have return currents flowing. We usually think of these coupling capacitively onto a nearby metallic element like a nearby metal structure.

In the test lab we simulate this with a nearby metal plate but in real life this could take a number of forms (building steelwork, conductive cable trays, other wiring).

 

 

Class I (Or Class II with Functional Earth) Power Supplies

With a Class I power supply, the Protective Earth is connected to accessible metalwork for Electrical Safety reasons (prevention of electric shock). Basic insulation (or higher) is required between the live parts and user accessible secondary parts.

Possibly the protective Earth is also connected to DC negative somewhere in the system as well.

A Class II with Functional Earth power supply is similar from an EMC point of view but very different from an Electrical Safety point of view. In this case, the Earth is connected for functional reasons (reducing noise or EMC emissions) but the power supply still relies on Double or Reinforced insulation for safety.

This isn’t a very common power supply topology choice, so I was surprised to see it marked on my laptop charger power supply.

 

 

In both cases, when we apply common mode noise to the AC mains input (L+N+E) then the Protective Earth conductor allows the noise to bypass the common mode impedance of the power supply. It is for this reason that we view the use of a Class I earthed power supply as a higher EMC risk for immunity reasons.

 

block diagram of a class I power supply showing EMC immunity noise current through the power supply

 

 

How this noise couples into the rest of the equipment, its magnitude, and how it affects it depends massively on the construction of the equipment. Again, testing is the best way to determine this.

 

Conclusion

Power supplies and the equipment they power are not perfect and can have varying EMC performance depending on how you connect them and how the equipment is designed.

It isn’t always easy to estimate how likely EMC issues are, even for experienced engineers and problem like us at Unit 3 Compliance. It is for this reason that we would always recommend testing to characterize the unknown EMC performance.

If you do decide to omit some testing, then the Risk Reducing or Increasing Factors above should help with that decision.

Again, we hope that this guide was useful to you in some way. Get in touch with us if you have any thoughts, questions, observations, or (obviously) a need for EMC or Electrical Safety testing.

All the best!

 

 

 

sketch showing dc power distributed around a building on busbars to a vriety of loads, and with a battery bank. There is an AC/DC charger for the batteries.

What is a DC Power Port? – EMC Explained

Everyone knows what a DC power port is, right? It’s this…

sketch showing an ac/dc adaptor and a piece of equipment with a dc power input - this is classified as a signal port for emc purposes

It’s got DC power on it, and it is a port on the equipment. DC. Power. Port.

Not in the context of EMC I’m afraid. Despite the similar name, the EMC definition for a DC Power Port (from the IEC / EN standards) is very different.

The DC Power Port is unfortunately mis-named. A better term would be “DC Mains Port” to indicate how similar it is in construction and EMC requirements to its counterpart “AC Mains Port”.

In this guide we will refer to it in this guide as a DC power/mains port and look at:

  • The EMC definition of a “DC Power Port”
  • The EMC implications of classifying a port as a “DC Power Port”
  • Examples of a DC Power/Mains Port
  • Examples of NOT a DC Power/Mains Port

Any port that doesn’t meet ALL of the definitions of a DC Power Port is just classed as a Signal Port, albeit one that happens to carry DC power.

Those key parameters are:

Criteria Met?
Local supply in a site / building / infrastructure? ???
Flexible use by different types of equipment? ???
Supply independent from AC mains? ???

 

Definition

The definitions in the Generic EMC standards of EN 61000-6-1 (immunity) and EN 61000-6-3 (emissions) lays out what a DC Power/Mains Port is:

 

EN 61000-6-3:2007+A1:2011, Clause 3.8

“d.c. power network

local electricity supply network in the infrastructure of a certain site or building intended for flexible use by one or more different types of equipment and guaranteeing continuous power supply independently from the conditions of the public mains network

NOTE Connection to a remote local battery is not regarded as a DC power network, if such a link comprises only power supply for a single piece of equipment.”

 

Let’s break out the key terms to understand the definition:

 

“…local electricity supply network in the infrastructure of a certain site or building…”

 

This suggests something wiring that is built into or spreads around a large area. A good example is the way that AC mains wiring is distributed around a building. Imagine this carrying DC instead of AC.

Typical cable lengths are probably around 10m or longer. Longer cables means they can act as antennae for low frequencies (longer wavelength). So we need to be concerned with power supply noise from our equipment on these cables that could radiated from them.

Longer cables will also pick up lower frequency common mode disturbances (conducted RF and surge) and present a larger surface for capacitive coupling of fast transients (EFT).

 

“…for flexible use by one or more different types of equipment…”

 

Use of the word flexible implies ease of use and simple connection to this power distribution system. Perhaps a common power connector (similar in nature to an AC mains plug) is used, or an agreed connector standard.

A DC Power/Mains bus that requires tools and time to connect to (example a fire alarm wired with Mineral Insulated Copper Clad (MICC) or “pyro” cable) might not meet the definition of “flexible” in terms of “ease of connection”. Nevertheless it would be flexible in terms of connection of different types of equipment (sounders, detectors, etc.)

 

“…guaranteeing continuous power supply independently from the conditions of the public mains network…”

 

The likely scenarios here are:

  • A “DC UPS” system where a bank of batteries are kept topped up by an AC mains charger
  • A DC micro-grid system where power is generated from sources like solar power

 

Importantly

1) Any port that doesn’t meet ALL of these definitions is just classed as a Signal Port, albeit one that happens to carry DC power.

2) Any piece of equipment connecting to this DC power supply is classified as a “DC Power Port” regardless of whether it supplies or consumes the power

 

EMC Tests Required for a DC Mains/Power Port

The classification of a port as a DC Power/Mains Port invites extra EMC testing to be applied.

 

Port Length Conducted

Emissions

EN 61000-4-4

EFT

EN 61000-4-6

Conducted RF

EN 61000-4-5

Surge

DC mains/power Any YES YES YES YES
Signal (with DC) <3m NO NO NO NO
Signal (with DC) >3m and <30m NO YES YES NO
Signal (with DC) >30m NO YES YES YES

 

Almost inevitably, unless the equipment has been explicitly designed as a DC Mains/Power port, there will likely be EMC test failures.

Conducted emissions invariably fails the limits. Usually the first system component after the input power connector are a series of DC/DC buck converters to change the input voltage down to levels that are needed in the system.

Buck converters suffer from noisy input nodes because of the high dI/dt requirements of the switching transistors. This needs to be mitigated through good quality high frequency decoupling and can cause noise at 20MHz upwards. Common mode chokes in the DC input may be required to mitigate this noise.

At lower frequencies, there will be current draw from the supply at the switching frequency of the DC/DC and at it’s harmonics. Unless low impedance electrolytics and a differential mode filter (usually an inductor in the 2.2uH to 10uH range forming a pi-filter) are used, the emissions from the port will fail the average limits in the 150kHz to 1MHz range.

DC Mains/Power also requires the addition of the surge test in both line-to-line (DC+ to DC-) and line-to-earth (DC+ and DC- together relative to Earth) coupling modes.

The line-to-line surge of 500V (commercial/light industrial EM environments) or 1kV (industrial EM environments) with a 2 ohm source impedance is capable of damaging the first switching transistor it comes across on the DC line unless a Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS) is employed between DC+ and DC-.

The line-to-earth test with a series impedance of 42 ohms (not the 12 ohms as used for the AC mains port test) tests the insulation of any isolated power supply and depends heavily on how (or indeed if) a Protective Earth connection is made within the system.

 

Examples of A DC Power/Mains Port

The sketch below tries to capture a typical DC Mains/Power port application

sketch showing dc power distributed around a building on busbars to a vriety of loads, and with a battery bank. There is an AC/DC charger for the batteries.

 

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? Yes
Flexible use by different types of equipment? Yes
Supply independent from AC mains Yes

 

Specific examples include:

 

Telecoms

48V distribution around telecoms switching / data centers to power the equipment and to provide low levels of power to handsets in a Plain Ordinary Telephone Service (POTS)

 

Computing Data Centres

Large data centre and cloud computing providers like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are moving away from traditional DC>AC UPS systems and towards DC power distribution (380V, 200V, 48V depending on standards) to servers and other electrical loads.

The efficiency savings from not having to convert from AC power to DC in every load, multiplied by the number of loads makes for significant energy efficiency savings and heat reduction – some of the biggest costs for such facilities.

In addition, the DC to AC conversion loss in the UPS from battery DC voltage to AC voltage is removed. Instead there are just the batteries connected to the DC power bus.

 

Electricity Substations

Battery Tripping Units (BTU) are used to power monitoring and control equipment in electricity substations. The LV AC mains supply to the substation equipment (derived from the HV or MV feed) is considered to be an “auxiliary” supply. Control of the equipment is a requirement even if this power is not present. Common DC voltages are 220V, 110V, 48V, 36V, 24V.

 

DC Micro-Grid

Local power generation from renewable sources like Solar PV might be distributed around a power generating plant or a local area.

 

Emergency Lighting Central Battery Units

There is a requirement in Building Regulations to have fire exit emergency lighting powered separately so that in the event of a power cut the building occupants can find their way out of the building safely.

In smaller buildings this is usually achieved using emergency lighting with independent battery backup. However in larger buildings, a Central Battery Unit is used to provide power (and often control / monitoring functionality) to emergency lights spread throughout the structure.

The combination of data and DC power blurs the lines between a DC mains/power port and a Wired Network port. Both call up conducted emissions tests and similar levels of immunity.

 

Fire Alarm System

DC power is passed to different critical components of the fire alarm system (e.g. smoke / fire detectors, displays, alarm sounders) in a loop system from a central control panel.

sketch showing the connection of fire alarm components to a central panel - emc dc power port example 2

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? Yes
Flexible use by different types of equipment? Yes [1]
Supply independent from AC mains Yes

 

[1] May be difficult to connect to and reconfigure but certainly flexible in terms of variety of equipment that could be connected

Interestingly, the EMC product family standard that deals with fire, security, and social alarms (EN 50130-4) only focuses on emissions from the AC mains port with no mention of DC power outputs. Since other standards address EMC requirements for DC Power Ports, including the Generic EN 61000-6-x series mentioned above, we have a path to bring in these requirements to the EMC Test Plan as part of the EMC Risk Assessment.

If using MICC / pyro cable, whilst the joints are required to be fireproof, there is no requirement for quality of termination for EMC purposes. Reliance on the shielding formed by the outside of the cable is contingent on a low impedance electrical termination which is not necessarily guaranteed.

 

 

 

Examples of NOT DC Power/Mains Ports

AC/DC Power Adaptor

sketch showing an ac/dc adaptor and a piece of equipment with a dc power input - this is classified as a signal port for emc purposes

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? No
Flexible use by different types of equipment? No
Supply independent from AC mains No

 

In this event, the power bus with long cables is the AC mains interface that our AC/DC power supply plugs into (for non-UK readers: that is a UK AC mains plug).

The AC mains has all the EMC characteristics discussed above: long cables that can radiate noise (emissions) or have noise coupled onto them.

One question we get a lot is along the lines of:

“My product is powered from a pre-approved / CE marked power supply, so we don’t need to do any EMC testing on it… right?”

We’ve written a separate article to cover this interesting question.

 

DC power distribution around a typical DIN rail electrical cabinet

sketch showing typical dc power distribution around a DIN rail equipped electrical cabinet - again this would be classed as a signal port

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? No
Flexible use by different types of equipment? Yes
Supply independent from AC mains No

 

In this example, the Load represents the equipment we are interested in. There is the probability of noise coupling onto the DC power cable from other equipment inside this cabinet. For example a large industrial machine would typically have contactors and large Variable Frequency Drives running close by.

If we think this could be the case then we would recommend testing Conducted RF immunity (61000-4-6) and EFT (61000-4-4) regardless of the anticipated maximum length of power supply cable.

This would form part of the EMC Risk Assessment for the equipment, an important part of the decision-making process for what EMC tests to apply. If you’ve not considered EMC Risk Assessments before then get in touch with us and we can help!

 

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

sketch showing an example power over ethernet distribution - these are classed as Wired Network Ports under EN 55032

 

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? Yes
Flexible use by different types of equipment? Yes
Supply independent from AC mains No [1]

 

[1] Depends on the power source for the switch, it could come from a UPS for no-interruption requirements like security or network infrastructure.

Supplying DC power over an Ethernet cable is a thoroughly good idea. High speed data, enough power to run a simple device, all over cables approaching 100m in length? Sounds great!

Each port in a PoE switch will have power provided from a dedicated isolated power supply. This provides isolation (both in terms of EMC emissions and immunity) between different segments of the PoE network.

Despite the potentially long cables, it still doesn’t quite meet our criteria for a DC power port. However similar EMC requirements for a DC power port are called up by other standards:

  • EN 55032 (emissions of multimedia equipment) calls up a requirement for conducted emissions on wired network ports
  • IEEE 802.3 specifies a voltage isolation between Ethernet cabling and the circuit at each end of 1500Vac. This will often help (but not completely resolve) with the surge requirements
  • The surge test of EN 61000-4-5 is not applied line-to-line as the Ethernet lines are considered to be “symmetrical” in the language of this Basic standard. The tight coupling between the pairs in the cable and floating / isolated nature of the signaling means that coupling onto these cables generating line-to-line surges is considered unlikely. Only line-to-earth surges are applied.

 

Daisy chain of DC powered devices all running from the same bus

sketch showing a daisy chained series of DC powered loads - classified as a signal port

Criteria Met?
Local supply in site / building / infrastructure? No
Flexible use by different types of equipment? Yes
Supply independent from AC mains No

 

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide has cleared up some of the confusion about DC power ports in the context of EMC.

If you are unsure about whether your equipment falls into this classification then you can always contact us if you need help.

We generally advise that if you aren’t sure if your equipment could be used in this fashion then you should design and test your product as if they do apply. It is easier to “not-fit” or link out unwanted components than to try and add them in later.

 

MPS Presentation on DC/DC Converter Myths

I wanted to share this excellent and useful presentation by Francesc Estragués Matamala from Monolithic Power Systems.

This addresses many myths about DC/DC converter layout and I love tackling EMC myths!

I’ve been wanting to do a study like this for a while now so thanks to MPS for doing this.

Make the time to watch this.

 

 

Low Frequency, Common Mode, Conducted Emissions

Here is an interesting problem I had working on piece of industrial equipment. The customer had some conducted emissions failures at another EMC lab and needed some help resolving them.

The lessons from fixing this problem was that the first thought is not always the correct one, and that sometimes, all you need is a bit of green-and-yellow earth wire!

 

Outline

A block diagram of the system is shown below with the major components shaded.

An industrial power supply feeds power to the controller (a custom PCB connected to a Raspberry Pi) and to the power measurement board (measures the power consumed by the load).

 

 

Conducted emissions on both the Ethernet port and the AC mains port on the power measurement board were both dominated by a low frequency hump around 700kHz.

 

AC Mains

Ethernet

Notice how the shape or profile of the emissions is almost identical. To my mind, this points towards a single component in the system causing the same noise to be seen everywhere.

 

Simplify First

The first thing I wanted to do was to simplify the test setup as much as possible. I replaced the industrial power supply (often designed for Class A emissions performance) with my trusty Thandar TS3022S adjustable linear bench supply.

The idea here was to eliminate the industrial power supply from my inquiries.

 

 

Wow, what a big difference!

 

So the conclusion here is that the industrial power supply DC output is very noisy, that this noise is propagating through the system, and manifesting as conducted emissions on the outputs via a variety of coupling paths.

 

Differential Mode Filtering

Because conducted emissions noise in this lower frequency range tends to be differential in nature (+ve relative to -ve), my first thought was to implement a differential mode filter on the output of the power supply.

 

 

I’ve got a little filter prototype board that I use in situations like this. This pi filter was made up from two Panasonic FC series 470uF, 25V on either side of a Wurth 33uH iron powder inductor.

 

 

Unfortunately it did nothing to the emissions!

 

Could it be Common Mode?

This sounds like a obvious question to ask in hindsight. Most EMC problems are common mode in nature, I’m just used to thinking about LF conducted emissions as a differential mode problem.

Let’s try a common mode mains filter on the output of the power supply to see if this is indeed the case.

 

 

That’s much better! It looks like the problem was common mode noise after all.

 

This Time It Was Actually A Good Idea…

Common mode noise in this instance is current on both the DC output lines together. But, as I point out in one of my talks, current flows in a loop and always returns to the source. So where is this common mode current returning to? What is it’s reference?

Our common mode emissions measurements are being made in relation to the metalwork of our screened room test setup which is connected to the AC mains Protective Earth (PE).

The AC mains line to each LISN contains a PE connection and, inside the LISN, this is connected directly to the floor of the chamber.

Logically then, connecting the DC negative to the PE on the power supply will provide a shorter path for this common mode noise from the power supply.

 

 

Will this have the desired effect on emissions?

Yes. Yes it does.

AC Mains

Ethernet

 

Conclusion

Ooooooh, bloomin’ common mode noise. Not just for the higher frequencies but lower ones too!

This was a fun half day project fixing this particular problem. Much nicer to be able to recommend a low cost cable assembly than £$€ 20 worth of filter block.

If you’ve got any EMC problems then give me a call, I’d be happy to help.

 

 

By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34056919

Ventilator Projects and EMC Testing (EN 60601-1-2:2014)

Summary

If you haven’t already, check out part 1 of this blog Part 1: Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator (RMV) Projects and EMC Regulations

We’re going to take a look at the EMC requirements for RMVs, consider some of the risks posed by EMC and propose some methods of mitigating them.

Probably the biggest EMC risks are Radiated RF Immunity and ESD due to their higher than normal test levels.

If you need any fast turnaround design support and testing services for your Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator project then get in touch.

Background

As noted in the MHRA RMVS specification on page 24:

“EMC Testing (TBC): Must comply with IEC 60601-1-2:2014, Medical electrical equipment — Part 1-2: General requirements for basic safety and essential performance — Collateral Standard: Electromagnetic disturbances — Requirements and tests”

So lets take a look at a the EMC tests that might be required for a typical Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator project.

This is with the view of meeting the Essential Performance / Basic Safety requirements of EN 60601 whilst addressing the highest risk items first. This is prioritising speed of testing instead of performing a belt and braces, test everything approach that would be the common approach for Medical Devices.

Emissions

These ventilators are going to be used in a hospital / clinical care environment under medical supervised use and not in a home environment.

60601-1-2 classifies a hospital as a Class A emissions environment for Radiated and Conducted emissions. This means that less time needs to be spent fighting to get the emissions below Class B.

Risk items to radiated emissions could include any brushed DC pump motors as these are notoriously noisy. Ferrite cores may be required around motor cables to mitigate this noise.

Following the design guidelines further down this article for any PCBs is recommended and will greatly assist with reducing EMC radiated emissions.

Most RMVs will be using an off the shelf power supply already approved to EN 60601 for Safety and EMC. AC Power conducted emissions should therefore look after itself and won’t be a significant worry for testing.

For Harmonic Distortion and Flicker, there is an interesting note in EN 60601-1-2 in Annex A

“It is assumed that ME EQUIPMENT and ME SYSTEMS used in hospitals (and large clinics) are not connected to the PUBLIC MAINS NETWORK.”

If this is the case, then Harmonics and Flicker requirements and tests need not apply as these only relate to the public mains network.

Immunity

Overview

Most ventilator systems have no external electrical ports apart from the power supply. They are mostly self contained units. This greatly speeds up and simplifies the testing, and reduces the risk of problems with Signal Input / Signal Output Ports (SIP/SOP Ports in the standard, analogous to a Signal Port from other EMC standards).

Mains borne interference (EFT, Surge, Conducted RF) should be handled by the EN 60601 pre-approved power supply without issue. It will still need checking but ultimately the risk is low.

Dips and Interrupts and the hold up time of the power supply is something that would need considering at the Risk Analysis level to derive the correct immunity criteria for each of the individual tests.

If this needs improving then selecting a slightly larger power supply than nominally required could help. More likely, additional bulk decoupling on the main power rail (e.g. 1000uF) will help maintain the system DC voltage under these conditions.

Immunity Performance Criteria

Caveat: This section is me thinking aloud as I have no domain specific knowledge for Risk Management and Medical Devices. I’m trying to approach this from a common sense perspective to aid anyone working on a RMV.

The function of the EMC Immunity tests for Medical Devices is to ensure that the Essential Functions continue to operate and that Basic Safety condition is maintained.

Normally the immunity performance criteria would be based on the type of EM phenomena being simulated in the test. This is normally Criteria A for continuous phenomena (radiated or conducted RF immunity) or Criteria B for momentary phenomena (ESD, EFT, Surge, Dips/Interrupts). Criteria C only tends to crop up for longer duration power interruptions.

In the case of a Medical Device, maintaining the Essential Performance is the key parameter. If a momentary EM phenomena causes this to happen then this is a major problem.

Therefore immunity performance criteria must be considered for the key function of the device as well as the duration of the EM phenomena.

Based on this thought process, a sensible starting point for the immunity criteria is:

Assume criteria A (unaffected performance) for:

  • Key function of assisting patient breathing for all tests. This includes momentary EM phenomena tests = ESD, EFT, Surge, Dips/Interrupts.
  • Non-critical functions under continuous EM phenomena tests = Radiated and Conducted RF Immunity

Assume Criteria B for:

  • Key function performance for this means that there should be a function in the RVM firmware that remembers its last current operating state and settings and that it starts up in that state from a power cycle. This creates a requirement for programmable non-volatile memory (some kind of EEPROM) in the RVM.
  • All momentary EM phenomena tests for non-critical functions e.g. display readout may temporarily distort or flicker so long as it recovers

Assume Criteria C for:

  • Non-critical functions from momentary power loss e.g. screen/display readout or setting

Immunity Risks

There are two big risks to the immunity performance: Radiated RF Immunity and ESD.

Radiated RF Immunity

Test Requirements

The basic requirement for radiated RF immunity is a flat 3V/m from 80MHz to 2.7GHz. So far so good, this is a fairly easy test to meet.

Now the bad news. Table 9 gives a list of spot frequencies to be tested to simulate close range exposure to common wireless technology standards. The table is summarised here:

Frequency (MHz)ModulationTest Level (V/m)
38518 Hz pulse, 50%27
450FM +/- 5kHz dev.
1kHz sine
28
710, 745, 780217 Hz pulse, 50%9
810, 870, 930 18 Hz pulse, 50% 28
1720, 1845, 1970 217 Hz pulse, 50% 28
2450 217 Hz pulse, 50% 28
5240, 5500, 5785 217 Hz pulse, 50% 9

As you can see, this has testing up to 28V/m, a significantly higher field strength than 3V/m!

Risks to the EUT

This test loves to mess with analogue sensors. In the case of ventilators, the pressure sensors used frequently have an analogue output to a DAC on the CPU. This presents two risk areas:

  1. Demodulation of noise inside the pressure sensor amplifier. This takes the small transducer signals and amplifies it up to the output voltage. Noise demodulated here would cause the carrier to be superimposed on the pressure readings.
  2. The input of the ADC could be susceptible to noise picked up on the analogue voltage from the pressure sensor, even if the pressure sensor itself is unaffected. This will affect the readings.

Since the airflow and pressure sensors are a key component to the operation of the ventilator, these must be protected at all cost.

Design Recommendations

Design ideas to mitigate this interference include

  1. Keep traces/connection as short as possible between sensors and ADC
  2. If you can mount them all on the same circuit board then do so
  3. This circuit board will have one layer dedicated to a solid ground plane fill over the entire plane. All ground pins

    Check out my video presentation on PCB grounding and HF current flow.
  4. Cables = antennas that are good at receiving the interference. Minimise use of cables where possible.
  5. Figure out what your minimum bandwith requirements for airflow are and filter the signal appropriately. You probably won’t need to sample the airflow faster than 10kHz so put a low pass filter right next to the ADC input. Something like a 4k7 and a 1nF will give you a 3dB of 34kHz. This will reduce the risk of RF noise being demodulated by the ADC input.
  6. Decouple the supply lines to the pressure sensor well
  7. Add a small filter to the pressure sensor input, perhaps another RC filter as shown above. This will help prevent the pressure sensor from being affected by the test.
  8. It is possible that the pressure sensor will be directly affected by the radiated noise picked up by the sensor body itself and not by the traces. It would be prudent to provide a PCB footprint for a shielding can near the sensor. I have seen this effect on gas sensors in the past.

Risk Analysis

Assuming that the advice above is followed, the risk to the EUT is manageable.

One of the interesting features of Radiated RF Immunity testing is that of the Problem Band where most issues occur.

radiated rf immunity susceptibility characteristics

Most of the time, the problem band is in the 100MHz to 300MHz area (I’ll cover this in more detail in a future article). Cables tend to be the best antennae at these frequencies and, hopefully, our ventilator only has one cable of interest – the AC power cable. This has plenty of filtering for conducted emissions reduction which should handle this noise.

Probably the two biggest problem frequencies from the spot frequencies above are going to be 385 MHz and 450 MHz.

Then we are into the realms of direct pickup on internal signal cables and PCB traces at higher frequencies. If we’ve laid out our PCB well as highlighted above (short analogue traces, filtering, good ground plane, shielding provision) then this will help mitigate our risks.

ESD

Overview

The levels of ESD testing are almost twice that of the regular EMC standards with a requirement for 8kV contact and 15kV air discharges.

ESD is very good at upsetting digital systems and it has a particular fondness for edge triggered pins e.g. reset lines and interrupts.

Design Recommendations

If the reset line for the CPU controlling the RVM is shared with other digital circuit blocks or supervisory controllers then an RC low pass filter at the input to the CPU is highly recommended. This helps prevents unwanted resets.

Checking can be implemented in the Interrupt Service Routine to ensure that an interrupt condition actually exists, effectively de-bouncing the input.

Thankfully the Ingress Protection requirements for the RVM of IP22 and the requirement to provide flat, easily cleanable surfaces will probably dictate the use of some kind sealed membrane keyswitch panel. These have good ESD immunity as no direct contact discharge can take place on an switch where the plastic covering remains in place.

Whatever user interface technology the RVM employs, this will be a key risk area for ESD. If this is on a separate PCB to the main controller, all interfaces will need some kind of filtering. A small capacitor to ground on each of the lines that goes to the keypad would be a good idea. 0603, 100pF usually works well here.

Lastly on the mechanical design, keeping the electronics well away from the enclosure seams will also reduce the risks of creepage of any discharge into the circuit board.

Summary Test Plan

Emissions

  • Radiated Emissions, Class A, 30MHz to 1GHz (EN 55011)
  • Mains Conducted Emissions, Class A, 150kHz to 30MHz (EN 55011)

Immunity

Text in bold is highlighted as a risk item.

  • ESD, (EN 61000-4-2), 8kV contact, 2/4/8/15kV air. Test to connectors as well.
  • Radiated RF Immunity (EN 61000-4-3)
    • 80MHz to 2.7GHz @ 3V/m
    • Various spot frequencies at up to 27V/m
  • EFT (EN 61000-4-4), AC Mains Port, 2kV
  • Surge (EN 61000-4-5), AC Mains Port, 1kV line-to-line, 2kV line-to-ground
  • Conducted RF Immunity (EN 61000-4-6), AC Mains Port, 3V/m (6V/m in ISM bands)
  • Dips and Interrupts (EN 61000-4-11), AC Mains Port, various

Conclusions

Not only has this article identified key EMC risks to Rapidly Manufactured Ventilators but also provided some design guidelines to dealing with the problems that might arise.

Some of the guidelines within might be useful to anyone designing a Medical Device. We haven’t covered the requirements for Patient Coupled Ports or SIP/SOP ports from an EMC perspective as they aren’t of too critical a concern for an RVM.

We can see how looking at the standard and pulling out the required tests can help us understand the risks involved in the design.

Experience of knowing how the tests will typically affect the EUT is the key to unlocking good design practices. In my case, this comes from having worked on many designs with problems and the learning that comes from fixing the issues that crop up.

Remember EMC test success comes from good EMC design. For a time critical RVM there is one chance to get it right – no do-overs!

I hope you found this article useful. See you when all this has calmed down.
All the best,
James.

Off The Shelf and Non-Compliant Power Supplies (from Amazon)

A customer had purchased some power supplies from Amazon UK to get started with the development on their product. And why not? There are lots of cheap products available and everyone has a budget to meet. The chances are that they’ll get damaged, lost or broken anyway.

They were happy with the (perceived) quality of the PSU so approached the manufacturer directly for bulk pricing for volume production. However, the Amazon sample made it’s way to Unit 3 Compliance for EMC pre-compliance testing is where the fun began…

infographic comparing two power supplies

Externally, the only way to tell the difference between the compliant and non-compliant versions is a slight difference in the length of the barrel connector and a slightly different shape of strain relief grommet.

These devices are being marketed as the same device on the outside and yet are completely different on the inside!

I’ve not been able to subsequently find this exact power supply on Amazon but there are similar looking variants still available.

 

A Real Problem

Crucially, it’s not just EMC that is being sacrificed. This “race to the bottom” of extracting every last penny from products has more serious consequences.

More dangerously for consumers, electrical safety is also being compromised as shown in this study from Electrical Safety First on Apple chargers.

At a previous employer, an inspection was performed on 50 power supplies (again, bought from Amazon) that one of the project teams had purchased for powering various development platforms within the company. This revealed some serious safety problems (creepage and clearance) resulting in the entire batch being quarantined and scrapped for recycling.

Another aspect to consider – if the manufacturer has two different, almost indistinguishable products then how does your supply chain guarantee that you will receive the correct one? What is to stop the manufacturer from swapping out the more expensive compliant power supply halfway through production?

The principle of caveat emptor still applies. Disingenuous product markings are being used to falsely indicate compliance.

 

What To Do?

The obvious way round this is only to buy small quantity power supplies from trusted suppliers. I know from working with other customers that suppliers like RS and Farnell / Element 14 take compliance seriously. Buying from these sources is more expensive financially but what price do you put on your own safety?

If you are relying on buying a pre-approved power supply always ask for the EMC and safety test reports and the Declaration of Conformity. A supplier who cannot readily supply these readily should be disregarded.

Compare the details in the reports with the physical sample in front of you. Especially for safety reports, photos of the unit are generally included, inside and out. Look for any differences between the two.

Differences in EMC performance are not obvious. The only way to be sure of the quoted performance is to perform some quick tests, conducted and radiated emissions being the two main ones.

 

How We Can Help.

Here at Unit 3 Compliance we can give you some peace of mind that your power supply isn’t going to cause you any issues. Some of the things we do include:

  • Provide full EMC testing for all off the shelf products
  • Electrical safety analysis and testing
  • Help you understand the technical and financial compromises between units
  • We can review test reports and compare to physical samples with an experienced eye
  • Every incoming customer power supply is given a HiPot test as standard to help catch any problems

Please get in touch to reduce your stress levels.

 

Simple RF Current Transformer for EMC / EMI Investigation

This post contains some background info related to the video I posted on YouTube on how to make a simple RF current transformer, a great tool for debugging EMC / EMI issues such as radiated emissions from cables, or tracing conducted RF immunity noise paths.

RF current transformers (or probes) are commercially available products from places like Fischer CC or Solar Electronics and they work really well, have specified bandwidth and power handling characteristics, built in shielding, robust case, etc.

They also cost a few hundred £$€ each which, if you are on a budget like most people, represents a significant investment for a individual or small laboratory. However, this one can be built very cheaply; most labs will have a development kit with some clip on ferrite cores, if not the core I used only costs £5 from RS.

DIY Current Probe

I’m a big fan of making my own test adaptors and equipment as its a great way to really understand how things work and the compromises in any design. As such I decided to share how I go about making this kind of really useful tool.

It’s primary use is for A-B comparison work; measuring the current, performing a modification and then measuring the current to see the improvement.

It is to be stressed that my version is a crude but effective piece of equipment and does not replace a well designed commercial product. There’s a time and a place to invest in quality equipment and one should use engineering judgement on when that is. For instance, measuring the RF current accurately is definitely a job for a properly designed and characterised device.

If you want to explore RF current transformers in more detail then there is plenty of info on Google, but these links are useful places to start.

Some of the design compromises involved in this low cost approach include:

Core Losses / Insertion Loss

The ferrite material in these cores is specifically designed to be lossy at the frequencies of interest, which will result in a lower reading than a higher bandwidth core and a reduction in the amount of noise on the cable downstream from the noise source. This can in some cases mask the effect you are trying to measure. The commercially available products use low loss, high bandwidth ferrite cores.

A high insertion loss also makes these parts more unsuitable for injecting noise into circuits for immunity testing. they can be calibrated for this task using a simple test setup (to be covered later)

Secondary Turns

Number of secondary turns controls sensitivity but the more you add, the inter-winding capacitance increases, decreasing the bandwidth of the tool. I generally use 5 or 6 turns to start with but I do have a 20 turn part made with micro coax on a solid core which also helps to deal with…

Capacitive pickup

From the cable under test to the secondary winding. Normally a split shield (so that it doesn’t appear as a shorted turn) is built in to commercial products. Guess what, that’s easy to do on this with a spot of copper tape or foil.

Not as Robust

Although a well designed product, the plastic hinges and clips on the cores are not designed for repeated opening and closing. The Wurth Elektronik system of a special key to open and close the core is much more robust at the expense of having to keep a few keys to hand for when they inevitably go missing. However these parts are so cheap and quick to make that a broken clip on core is no real obstacle.

Future Videos

I’ll be following this video with some hints and tips on how to use these devices effectively for finding radiated emissions problems and for looking at conducted RF immunity issues. Stay tuned.

Video and Construction Errata

The sharp eyed of you will have spotted that I originally assembled the BNC connector on the core so that it covered the key-way to open the clamp. I rectified this but didn’t film the change.

Also, you can wrap the wire round the core without removing it from the housing but that means you don’t have a nice flat surface to affix the BNC connector to. It does make it easier to close the clamp however so make your choice.

Case Study: AC Mains Input EMC and Safety Troubleshooting

Many of the customers I deal with are technically savvy and extremely good at designing innovative and clever devices. I’m always learning something new every time I get a different product through the door. Unfortunately it isn’t practical or possible to be good at everything and EMC expertise, especially when it comes to fault finding and problem solving, can be hard to come by. This is where I come in.

I’ve been helping a good customer on a product that they’ve been working with that had some EMC troubles on a prototype design. It had originally been taken to a different test lab where they had performed a mains conducted emissions measurement showing a clear failure at low frequencies. There were a couple of other hard copy scans supplied where a capacitor value had been adjusted to try and improve the emissions but with no effect.

In need of some expertise, they got in touch.

Mains Conducted Emissions Testing

I received the product and quickly set it up in our screened room to perform some EN 55014-1 conducted emissions measurements. Below you can see the first scan result, showing a failure of up to 10dB on the Quasi Peak detector. There’s clearly some room for improvement so let’s analyse the problem and see what we can do.

mains conducted emissions - before

Our starting point for the improvement work

Lower frequency mains conducted emissions are not uncommon and are usually caused by differential mode voltage noise. This is generated by current flowing through the impedance presented by the primary side bulk decoupling and switching circuit. The switching frequencies of the power supply controller are usually in the 30 kHz to 250 kHz range putting it (and it’s harmonics) right in this lower frequency (sub 1MHz) range for this test.

Improving differential mode noise can be done in a number of ways. Removing the noise at source is the approach I advocate, in this case this can be achieved by reducing the impedance of the rectified mains bulk decoupling capacitor. A review of the BOM showed that the units had been built with some general purpose electrolytic capacitors with a relatively high impedance. So the first thing that I did was to swap out these parts for ones from the Nichicon PW series of low impedance electrolytic capacitors.

after fitting low impedance bulk decoupling

Changing the electrolytics to a low impedance variety

The result: a big improvement on the QP measurements, bringing some of them down by around 10dB. The improvement on the Average detector readings was less pronounced, especially around 550 kHz where only a 3dB improvement was registered. It is likely that the HF impedance of the decoupling capacitor is still a problem. One option is to apply a suitably rated high frequency decoupling capacitor in parallel with the bulk decoupling capacitor. The other option is to improve the filtering on the AC mains input to prevent the noise from escaping back down the line.

Filtering for differential mode noise can be provided in several ways. The most common method is to make an LC filter from the leakage inductance of a common mode choke paired with a Class X safety capacitor between Live and Neutral. The leakage inductance is in the tens of micro-Henries whereas the common mode inductance is often a couple of magnitudes larger up in the tens of milli-Henries. Simplistically (there are other effects to consider) a 10uH leakage inductance paired with a 470nF capacitor will roll off frequencies above 100 kHz. Well, let’s try that!

now with added class X cap

Now with an additional 470nF Class X capacitor soldered across the mains input terminals

Performance is improved by around 5dB across a wide range of frequencies; indeed the improvement can be seen up to 15 MHz. This leaves a margin of around 2dB to the average limit line which is perhaps a bit close for comfort and I would generally recommend looking at a little more filtering to bring this down a bit further to allow for variations in production and tolerance of components. Options for further improvements could include a second Class X capacitor to form a pi filter but because of the low impedance of the differential mode noise this approach might not be as effective. Adding some inductance to form an LC filter with the bulk decoupling capacitor is another approach.

However this proved the case to the customer for a PCB redesign to make space for the larger bulk decoupling capacitors and at least one Class X capacitor.

Surge and Safety

Following on from this work, at the customers request, I carried out a full suite of EMC tests on the product to EN 55014-1 (emissions) and 55014-2 (immunity). One thing that I noticed was the sound of an electrical breakdown during the application of a differential mode surge test. Taking off the outer casing, I managed to catch the below arc on camera during a 1kV surge event.

Arcing caught on camera

Snap, crackle and pop.

The arc appeared around the resistor; desoldering and removing it from the PCB showed a couple of points where there was arcing between the resistor body and the trace running underneath it.

Arcind damage to the PCb to surface

Arcing evidence on the PCB

This problem has occurred because the resistor R1 is in series with the Live phase and the trace underneath is connected to the Neutral phase. When mounted flush to the PCB normally, the resistor has only its outer insulation between live and neutral. Reviewing the relevant electrical safety standard for the product requires a minimum clearance (air gap) for basic and functional insulation is 1.5mm. This can be achieved by standing the resistor up on spacers to keep it away from the PCB but then it starts to approach VDR1 and Q4 meaning a considered manufacturing approach is required. This was another incentive for redesigning the PCB.

The take-away lesson from this finding is to consider the Z axis / third dimension when reviewing a PCB as it can be easy to see things purely in two dimensions!

I hope you found this case study useful and that it has given you some tools with which you can improve your designs.

If you need some EMC fault finding expertise then get in touch: I’d be happy to help and I love a good challenge!

Unit 3 Compliance anechoic chamber

Recent Work: Medical Laboratory Equipment EMC Testing and more

It has been an good couple of weeks here at Unit 3 Compliance with some very interesting products to work on.

Firstly, I received confirmation from a previous customer that their product has passed the required EMC certification testing at their accredited laboratory with the modifications that we incorporated during our problem resolution work. This is excellent news for all concerned!

Then things started off with some radiated emissions EMC testing and fault finding on quite a complex and clever piece of medical laboratory equipment with multiple interconnected boards, display, motors and servos. A few problems were identified and feedback given to the customer about potential improvements.

Noisy DC motors were again the theme in some more radiated emissions testing, requiring additional suppression on the motor terminals, made all the more challenging by the tight mechanical constraints of the product. Differential mode suppression on the terminals using ferrite beads to reduce the brush noise is the most effective solution but without a well defined RF return path to the brushes any noise reduction will ultimately be a compromise. More testing is being performed with some small filter PCBs mounted right on the motor terminals.

Lastly, our screened room test facility is almost completed and is being used for some mains and DC port conducted emissions testing with buck converter switching noise providing a challenge.

“Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back!” 

Unit 3 Compliance anechoic chamber

Radiated emissions fault finding and pre-compliance in the Unit 3 Compliance fully anechoic chamber