Product certification – case Asqella
Nowadays more and more products contain electronics and maybe some kind of wireless technology.
People do not always realize that all electronic devices must be certified, in other words checked, tested, and approved, before the sales of the product can start.
Products have to be certified according to many different norms and standards. These include national and international norms, so the requirements can differ between countries and continents. Norms and standards also change continuously. Things that need to be monitored in all electronic devices include their use of frequencies and their electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), i.e. immunity to and generation of radio-frequency (RF) interference.
European countries have gradually adopted EU-wide regulations and norms.
Instead of a type approval of products, the EU makes use of declarations of conformity by manufacturers, who thereby declare that their product complies with EU regulations. The declaration is based on a technical file and test results, and it allows the manufacturer to attach the CE logo to the product.
So the system is based on the manufacturer’s product liability.
The manufacturer has to determine which certifications and technical requirements the product has to comply with. There are many norms, and the device’s classification is not necessarily obvious right away. In fact, this may sometimes be very difficult to determine.
In designing and manufacturing a product, it is necessary to know exactly in which markets it is going to be sold. The EU and North American certifications and testing are accepted in many countries, but many countries also demand additional tests.
Certification is no walkover. For example, in the case of a product for the EU, one has to first determine which directive is applicable. And there are many directives. Next, one has to find out which standards apply to the product and whether they are harmonized standards.
When the correct standards have been identified, these have to be studied to see which measurements and tests have to be done, for only these can give the manufacturer certainty that the product fulfills all requirements.
Even if a product uses already certified modules or parts, this does not necessarily eliminate the need for testing. For example, if a transmitter module has been tested with a certain antenna, it has to be retested if a new antenna is used.
Already the task of identifying the applicable directives and standards can take a lot of time for a person not familiar with them. Therefore it makes sense to get help from a certification expert.
Espotel’s certification experts can assist in this process efficiently and comprehensively. Depending on the difficulty of the task, this can take from a few hours to several months. This lets the manufacturer focus on their core business and provide an overall cost-effective solution.
From design to certification
It’s good to have the certification experts included already in the design stage so that the standards and requirements of different countries can be taken into consideration right from the beginning. This ensures that the product is quickly and cost-effectively certified for exactly the markets that are needed.
The experts can determine the technical and legal requirements for the certification, test the product, and procure the official documents from the EU and other countries necessary for the declaration of conformity. They can also send the required test reports to the authorities when needed. In the best case the product owner only needs to provide information about the product and a list of the market areas where it is to be sold.
Espotel’s test lab often plays a major role in the certification measurements. Espotel also offers a comprehensive service that provides assistance in all stages from product design to development to production.
The biggest problems in the certification process are usually RF and EMC issues. Espotel’s RF Center of Excellence in Jyväskylä has solid expertise in this field and can deal with problems that may appear during the certification process and can design necessary changes.
Case Asqella – “The best part was the turnkey service“
The Finnish high-tech company Asqella has used Espotel’s certification service and is extremely happy with it.
“The best part of the whole certification project was Espotel’s turnkey service. It was a big help to have only one contact person, who then contacted whoever was necessary”, says Head of Production Mikko Leivo.
Asqella is commercializing passive THz imaging technology that is based on technical and scientific breakthroughs. The technology enables standoff (remote) detection of concealed objects. There is demand for rapid new security screening methods, for example for inventory shrinkage prevention and security checks of public buildings.
Asqella’s imaging technology detects concealed objects completely safely at a distance of 5 to 15 meters and enables walk-by detection. Since the screened people are not exposed to any radiation, there are no health risks and no invasion of privacy.
Picture: Asqella THz imaging system.
“Espotel’s certification service was a cost-effective solution”, Leivo confirms. “Since we couldn’t really do the tests required for the CE marking ourselves, it would have been necessary to outsource them in any case.
“Espotel recommended a testing company in Germany that was very flexible and competent, and the price was even reasonable compared to that of its competitors.”
According to Leivo, the cost-effectiveness was the result of good preparation together with Espotel.
“Espotel knew from experience what to do and where. Having a familiar partner also made things easier for the testing company.
“A second or third round of tests for some trivial reason would have been very expensive. Due to good planning, all the tests succeeded on the first try, which saved time and money.
“Asqella is a young company and we’re commercializing a completely new technology. We knew right from the start that we need help getting through the jungle of standards and norms. Without experience, certification can fail due to very simple reasons.
“We first chose the geographical regions where we want to go. Espotel’s experts then determined the requirements of the relevant countries, on the basis of which the test plan was set up.
“Our device being the first of its kind produced some additional work. We had to decide ourselves what tests needed to be done and what the certification authorities might require.
“Certification involves a huge amount of paperwork and documentation. Fortunately we got a list of the necessary documents from Espotel. That was a big help, for certification seems like a complicated and maybe slightly chaotic process when starting from zero. With the help of Espotel’s expertise right from the start, there was no risk of forgetting anything important, so we could focus on what we do best.
“Our product passed the certification with flying colors, and we are happy with the whole process. It turned out to be surprisingly straightforward, especially considering that our product is special and challenging.”
Product design should pay attention to certification requirements
Finally, Mikko Leivo wants to stress that it doesn’t usually make sense to finish designing a product before knowing what certifications are required.
“It’s not a good idea to freeze a product’s design before starting discussions about certification. The certification process can change things fundamentally unless one is already well informed about what it requires. Traditionally, certification is indeed the last stage of product development, after which production can start.
“Since we knew about the standards and norms through Espotel, the last stage of product development was easier.”
For more information contact:
Ph.D., Co-founder, Head of Production at Asqella
mikko.leivo (at) asqella.com
Read more about Espotel's laboratory services here: http://www.espotel.com/en/web/guest/testing-and-certification.