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LVD Voltage Limits are RMS + Thoughts on Marginal Voltages

The LVD a.c. voltage limits are defined in terms of rms. From 2014/35/EU

This Directive shall apply to electrical equipment designed for use with a voltage rating of between 50 and 1 000 V for alternating current and between 75 and 1 500 V for direct current

So that’s 50Vrms and 1000Vrms.

 

Example

A customer was asking about a low current (sub 1mA) 40Vac rms source and if the LVD applied.

This voltage is less than the 50Vrms threshold mentioned above so would be technically exempt from the LVD. Unless of course the equipment contained a radio module in which case the RED makes the LVD applies with no lower voltage limit.

I think that there is still a risk that needs to be assessed here.

Just because you are exempt from the directive doesn’t mean you are exempt from making your product as safe as possible.

 

Looking at the main table from 62368-1 for categorising shock risk, 40Vrms/50Hz means it is an ES2 hazard. The voltage source would have to be under this limit for normal operation, abnormal operation (e.g. blocked vent, stalled motor, controls set incorrectly) and single fault (open/short circuit) conditions.

 

This means, even though the LVD is not strictly not applicable, it would be wise to put in a Basic Safeguard between the user and the exposed voltage.

Additional: The provisions of the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) would apply to any product falling outside of any specific safety standard. The Harmonised Standards for this Directive include EN 60065 and EN 60950-1. Since both of these have been superseded by EN 62368-1 it would be reasonable to use this standard instead.
Thanks to Charlie Blackham from Sulis Consultants for the tip.

This safeguard could be an enclosure, insulation, an interlock or barrier.

Instructions or PPE aren’t sufficient as they are considered supplementary safeguards.

 

But what about the current limits?

That’s just considering the voltage source purely from a voltage perspective. If it can’t drive enough current into a 2000 ohm load for more than 2 seconds to form a hazard then that might change the classification.

This current is measured using one of the appropriate networks from EN 60990 such as the one below

 

 

But I know what I’m doing…

The requirement for safeguards depends on if you classify the user as a normal person or an instructed person

Skilled person > instructed person > normal person

3.3.8.1 instructed person
person instructed or supervised by a skilled person as to energy sources and who can
responsibly use
equipment safeguards and precautionary safeguards with respect to those
energy sources

3.3.8.2
ordinary person
person who is neither a skilled person nor an instructed person

3.3.8.3
skilled person
person with relevant education or experience to enable him or her to identify hazards and to
take appropriate actions to reduce the risks of injury to themselves and others

The level of safeguard required between the user and the ES2 hazard is defined in EN 62368-1

For a normal person we must use a basic safeguard

But for an instructed person we may use a precautionary safeguard

A Precautionary safegard (defined in 0.5.5.3) could take the form of instructions or training, but the addition of warning stickers, PPE could also be considered part of this.

 

Summary

This is why I like EN 62368-1 over some of the older safety standards (I’m looking at you, 60950)

Rather than a prescriptive “thou shalt use 2.5mm clearance or be smote verily” it helps and guides you through all the steps into understanding why or how a requirement is derived.

Also the companion EN 62368-2 explanatory document contains even more background and context. I wouldn’t recommend applying -1 without having -2 to hand.

Stay SAFE kids.

 

a roll of Wurth Elektronik copper tape - the scoundrels last resort?

So You Want To Be An EMC Engineer?

 

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”

– Sign above the door on any EMC lab.

 

I’ve been asked a couple of times for career advice in relation to EMC. How do I get into EMC in the first place? How do I progress, perhaps moving from testing to design? Where should I take my career?

I’m generally sceptical about people who offer career advice. Much advice tends to be parochial “do this and you will succeed”. It is based entirely on what the person giving the advice thinks you should do (even if they never did it themselves.

Everyone’s upbringing and experience is so different there is no “one size fits all” approach to any career.

I can only share what I have done.

Maybe it will help.

 

Pre-Flight Check # 1: Make sure you are in the right career

Too many people are guided into careers like doctor, lawyer, engineer that might not be the best fit for them.

Make sure that engineering is right for you.

If you aren’t sure (and that’s OK) then writers like Tim Urban (career advice featuring the Yearning Octopus and your mum in disguise – long read but worthwhile) or James Altucher have lots of thought provoking advice for you.

I think being an engineer is more of a vocation than a job. If you cut most engineers through the middle it will say ENGINEER like a stick of Blackpool rock (a very British analogy). The chances are, if you are reading this, you are already in this category.

 

Pre-Flight Check # 2: Be honest about your reasons for wanting to get into EMC

Why are you wanting to get into the world of EMC?

Wanting something impressive on your CV? Think it might be a good way to get to that promotion you’ve been after? Probably will, but if these are your only reasons then you might be frustrated by the learning curve associated with the field.

One good answer is “it sounds really interesting.” If these are your thoughts then you are not wrong. I think it is one of the most fascinating fields of electronics.

In my case I was cheesed off with working in project management where I was spending less time with my soldering iron and more time in bullshit meetings. An opportunity for an EMC engineer came up in the organisation I worked for and without even thinking about it too deeply I said “I’ll do it”.

Best snap decision ever!

 

Pre-Flight Check # 3: You don’t have to be mad ^H^H^H enthusiastic to work here but it helps.

Whenever I solve an EMC problem I will generally do a little dance. It really floats my boat.

I’m lucky because I get to do what I love and people pay me. Most days I feel like I’ve won the lottery just for doing my day job.

If you don’t love the work (and it can be difficult) then its an excercise in frustration.

Try and follow what makes you want to dance in the middle of the lab. This is a fantastic lens for discovering what it is you are meant to be doing with your career.

 

General Skills: EMC is a Holistic Discipline

I spent the first 7 years of my electronics career working on…

  • power supply design
  • microcontroller coding
  • thermal CFD simulation and design
  • basic mechanical design
  • high speed digital design and test
  • system level architecture
  • cost sensitive design
  • project management

…before I became an EMC engineer. Before even realising I wanted to be an EMC engineer.

I still regularly use ALL these skills in my job as an EMC engineer.

Product design decisions made impact EMC performance.

EMC decisions impact product performance (and cost).

The two co-exist and cannot be separated.

Understanding the compromises of product design, the interaction between competing aspects (particularly cost!) is incredibly useful.

 

Go to the place least crowded / Leverage your existing skills

It might be that your team/employer/company has no EMC engineer. Take on that responsibility. This is what I ended up doing and now, 13 years later, I still love what I do.

Perhaps you have an EMC engineer colleague. Arrange to sit on their shoulder and talk to them. Ask lots of questions. Find out what area they don’t have time to work on or what problems they have. Work on that.

You are a member of an EMC team. Again, what areas do the team struggle with? What area consistently causes problems? No one is an expert on the finer points of widget calibration and the effects of temperature. Become that expert.

Find a niche (rhymes with quiche dammit) and fill it. You get to progress and inevitably find something else interesting to work on.

Follow your curiosity!

 

Get good at fixing EMC problems / make mistakes

Another fundamental truth of EMC is that There Will Be Problems.

Problems present a (usually) unique learning opportunity. Every problem I’ve solved has either taught me something or reinforced some piece of existing learning.

Spend a time in the test lab experimenting and getting an understanding of what works and what does not work.

All experiments are useful. Failed experiments or inconclusive data can help you refine your thinking.

This also leads on to mistakes. I make mistakes on a daily basis. They are usually small and easily correctable but sometimes they are bigger. Like the time I fried a piece of customers equipment by supplying 28V instead of 7.4V. Mistakes are hard teachers but you don’t forget the lesson in a hurry.

Importantly, people remember the mistake less than what you did to fix it. Own your mistakes.

 

Understand how HF current flows

In my opinion, this is the key to understanding EMC.

I recorded a presentation which might help your understanding but others have written about it before me and better (Henry Ott for instance).

Once you can visualise this you can understand the WHY behind so much of EMC.

 

Cultivate a Tolerance for Frustration

I would describe being an EMC engineer as alternately frustrating and elating.

You get better at dealing with the frustration of a problem and at solving it quicker.

Sometimes the scope of a problem is outside of your remit of available tools or skills to fix. Learn what you can and try and figure out a way forward.

 

Learn to automate

One of my favourite articles is Don’t Learn To Code, Learn To Automate.

EMC is no different to any other job, there will be repetitive tasks to perform.

Automating tests frees you up to work on other things and makes your work more consistent. Plus it gives you an opportunity to make a cup of tea whilst running a test. Maybe even a biscuit.

Automation doesn’t always go to plan or work out to be time efficient so pick your targets carefully.

 

Study Widely

Attend courses, webinars, lectures, presentations. Eventually some of it will sink in.

Sometimes you aren’t ready to grasp a piece of knowledge because you don’t have the existing framework for it to the idea to fit into.

Be wary of accepting everything at face value. Specific examples are sometimes presented without context or as globally applicable.

 

The learning never stops

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the intricacies of Power Distribution Network design, LabView coding for test automation and how antennas really work.

 

Share knowledge

Give a presentation to your colleagues about an EMC topic.

Explaining something complex to others in a simple fashion is the best marker as to how well you understand it.

I always spend lots of time on any talk I’m giving to try and make it as simple to understand as possible whilst still being useful.

 

Professional Accreditation

You may have the option of working towards accredited engineer status like the Chartered Engineer path through the IET here in the UK for example.

There are also the independent iNarte certifications which are particularly relevant for our field of work.

Some industry sectors or larger corporation might prefer you to have these qualifications. It certainly shows that you have achieved a certain level of competence and have been vetted to a certain extent by a 3rd party.

Find out what is expected or in your industry sector

I have no strong feelings either way on these professional qualifications. I investigated both whilst I was establishing Unit 3 Compliance and decided that I didn’t have the time to commit to them whilst I was setting up the business.

For me, there’s always something more impactful that I can be doing for my business than getting a piece of paper that might only make a small difference to one or two customers. I want to make a big difference for all my customers.

 

Connections and Groups

People to follow on LinkedIn

Groups on LinkedIn. Both of these are fairly active with some knowledgable members.

Other groups to join:

  • The IEEE EMC-PSTC email reflector is excellent with lots of good questions and answers on the subjects of EMC, safety and general compliance
  • IEEE EMC Society of UK and Ireland have bi yearly meetings
  • If you are in the UK, ICMA-TEL have a good email reflector with a diverse range of content including EMC, global market, safety, ROHS. Monthly meetings, mostly in the south of the UK.

 

Bonus: Copper tape is the scoundrel’s last resort

Useful as a diagnostic tool or emergency patch but not as a long term solution 😉

 

Fin.

Thanks for reading this far. If you have any ideas for what else could be included then drop me a mail.

That’s it from me. All the best on your journey.

.James

 

 

 

radiated emissions plot

RS-232 to USB Converters – EMC Problems Part Two

A while ago, I wrote about EMC immunity problems with USB to serial converters and how it was easy to fix with a small 100pF capacitor to ground on the TXD and RXD lines for a bit of filtering. Well, now I’ve found the opposite problem of EMC radiated emissions failures caused by these periodically problematic products.

In this case it appears to be harmonics of the 48MHz internal clock of a SiLabs CP2102 being conducted out of the converter on the TXD and RXD pins.

These little boards are generally used as development tools in a laboratory setting but there’s nothing to stop this IC or module being integrated into a product where these problems would manifest themselves.

The below plot shows the radiated emissionsbefore (light blue) and after (red). This module was connected to it’s host by 10cm unshielded wires, not an unreasonable application by any means.

radiated emissions plot

And what was the fix? Yep, you guessed it, some 0603 100pF capacitors on the output pins to ground. I bet that would help with immunity too! 😉

conducted rf immunity calibration impedance and measurement voltages

When is a Test Level Not a Test Level?

Answer: When you don’t read the standard properly!

I was verifying my EN 61000-4-6 conducted RF immunity test setup after the construction of some new test adaptors and acquisition of some new equipment when came across something that left me scratching my head. I figured it out eventually and updated my calibration procedure with a note but it did have me puzzled for an hour!

Like most conducted immunity signal generators, the one I use combines a signal generator and modulator with a power amplifier and some front panel controls/readouts for performing the basic functions. It also has an RF Input for calibrating Coupling/Decoupling Networks (CDNs) which measures the voltage at the 150/50 ohm calibration adaptor and sets the output voltage of the generator to the correct level. My generator has a LED bargraph display showing the level which provides a reassuring visual confirmation that everything is OK.

 

Confused by Conducted, Stumped by the Scope

Having calibrated my new CDN at 3V, since I had a scope within reach, I decided to run the test but monitor the output of the calibration adaptor with the scope to make sure it was all working OK.

I did not see the expected 3V level, instead the RMS measurement on the scope was 0.5V and the pk-pk was just over 1.5V. I checked my 50 ohm thru termination on the scope input and even swapped it for a different one. My second scope also read the same voltage so it clearly wasn’t the scope. Puzzling.

I swapped the CDN for one that had been previously calibrated CDN and the lower than expected output voltage persists. Try turning up the generator voltage to 10V and I can’t even achieve 3V on the scope. Yet when I swap the connection from the scope to the RF generator it proclaims that yes, that is indeed the level that the generator says it is outputting.

Putting a BNC T-piece in series and monitoring the voltage with the RF input terminating the signal still achieves the same result. Is the generator RF input broken and reading the wrong voltage?

I checked the operating manual of the generator – the cal setup I’ve been using for years is correct. Then I carefully read the standard, focusing on the section that deals with calibration of the test adaptors. All became clear…

 

Open Circuit Voltage vs Loaded Voltage

EN 61000-4-6 specifies the test levels in terms of Uo, open circuit voltage. However the generator level setting part of the calibration is based on a measurement of Umr, the measured output voltage. This is a slightly simplified version of Figure 9 from the 2014 version of the standard showing the impedances of each part of the system.

conducted rf immunity cdn calibration impedances

Tucked away at the bottom of the calibration section is the formula that links the two together.

Uo = Umr / 6

Which yields the following values that the input of the generator or the scope should be looking to measure:

Test LevelUo (Vrms)Umr (Vrms)
110.167
230.5
3101.67

For the measurement, the impedance of the decoupling part of the CDN is big enough that the termination of the AE port is not significant to the measurement, making most of the current flow through the EUT port network. You should be able to open or short the 150 ohm AE port termination and not see the measured output voltage change significantly.

By simplifying the above image and a bit of Ohms law you can clearly see that Umr is 1/6 of Uo.

conducted rf immunity calibration impedance and measurement voltages

Of course these are RMS voltages. If your scope that you are measuring with doesn’t have an RMS function then you’ll probably be measuring the peak to peak voltages. The conversion factor is:

Vpk-pk = Vrms x 2 x sqrt(2)

Which when added to the above table makes life a bit easier.

Test LevelUo (Vrms)Umr (Vrms)Umr (Vpk-pk)
110.1670.467
230.51.4
3101.674.67

 

Panic Over

Armed with this new knowledge I revisited my calibrations to find that yes, everything was measuring correctly. The RF generator, being designed specifically for conducted RF immunity testing, takes care of the divide by 6 in it’s calculations.

As an ex-colleague was often heard to remark “every day is a school day” and today’s lesson was a good one. I hope this article saves you a bit of head scratching next time you are verifying your conducted RF immunity test setup.