Isn’t it nice to get away from the office? The change of scenery, the change of routine… Ahhh, if only a trip to the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing lab could feel like this! In reality, few (if any) greet their first EMC lab visit with bright eyes and bushy tails, eager to foray into the complex and stress-inducing realm of EMC compliance.
An isolation chamber (also called an anechoic chamber) used to test a device's immunity to EMC interference.
If you’ve ever sat in an EMC testing lab, crossing your fingers and toes that the readings won’t spike above the limit (meanwhile paying for every minute you’re there), you know what I mean. And if you’ve had your finger on the pulse of digital innovation for long enough, you know that EMC compliance just gets more and more complicated as electronics become smaller and more ubiquitous.
Here’s the truth: Yes, EMC compliance is just as complex as you may have dreaded. Half of all products fail EMC testing the first time, and even the experts run into new challenges. That’s just a part of operating at the cutting edge of innovation. Things that worked before may not work this time, and new solutions will be needed.
The good news? You’re in great company. A lot of really smart, really good engineers and products fall into the 50% that fail their first round of EMC testing. They got through it, and you will, too. Whether you’ve already been through one round of testing or have yet to visit the EMC lab, it is my hope that this blog series will help prepare you and your product so that your next visit to the EMC testing facility can also be your last (at least, until the next product…)
I was an evaluation lab engineer. In my lane. Focused. Flourishing. But when my boss ran into an EMC issue, well, someone had to solve it—and that someone was me. I soon discovered that I actually enjoyed solving EMC problems… enough to learn more about it and eventually become an expert. I guess you could say EMC was not the career path I chose, but the career path that chose me.
After learning everything I could learn on the job, it was time to lay a more formal foundation, which I did by attending Dr. Henry Ott’s electromagnetic compatibility engineering course. Dr. Ott, a world-leading expert in the area, and my copy of his textbook (signed by the man himself!) became my EMC encyclopedia as I transitioned my new knowledge into a real-world setting.
Much as I may have admired Dr. Ott, his course was just the beginning of my EMC journey. There are many other valuable resources out there, and I’ve used many of them myself. In EMC, one must always continue learning to keep pace with innovation—or, as we like to say at Analog Devices, “ahead of what’s possible.”
Maybe you’ve already paid one visit to the EMC lab and come back with a badly hacked board that looks nothing like what you started with. Or maybe you’re at the beginning of the design process, hoping to skip the costly revision cycle by baking EMC best practices into your design from the start. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog series, I’m going to demystify the black magic of EMC and help you build the mindset, the skill set, and the tool kit to get your products through EMC testing—the first time.
What is EMC, anyway, and why do we need to follow all these rules? What happens in the EMC lab? What are the most common EMC mistakes that can increase your cost and time to market? If you’ve suddenly found yourself in the role of EMC guy (or girl, or any gender of expert) for your organization and don’t know where to start, I invite you to come along on this journey with me.
Subscribe for semi-weekly updates—and please, don’t hesitate to reach out and share any unique EMC problems you’ve encountered that you think I might have missed. If I’ve seen it before, I’ll share what I’ve learned. If it’s new to me, I look forward to solving it with you!
The EMC Guy