The first thing to say about Electromagnetic Compliance (EMC) and compatibility is that it is a complex subject. Compliance implies that manufacturers, importers, and distributors who wish to sell electrical and electronic equipment in Australia must test, certify, register, and label the equipment as compliant with Australian EMC standards.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regulates EMC compliance standards in Australia. They have a published list of standards titled the ACMA_Standards_List
The Australia/NZ standards are in large parts similar or identical to the European standards.
Complexity arises for Australian manufacturers who wish to export their products, and for distributors who import product for sale in the Australian market.
There are different standards and requirements for different products, and there are different standards for geographical areas like the United States, Canada Europe, and Japan.
The basics of EMC
All electrical and electronic circuits produce electromagnetism when powered; it is a fundamental law of science.There’s good news and bad news about this.
Without electromagnetism, the technologies we take for granted would not exist. Power stations, including the transformers and power lines that give us electric light, household appliances, battery and mains operated gadgets of all kinds all produce electromagnetism.
Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and compliance has to do with electromagnetic energy and how it may cause electromagnetic interference (EMI) or physical damage in the environment in which it operates.
A common interpretation states that “an electronic or electrical produce shall work as intended in its environment”, a fairly meaningless statement that makes no reference to standards compliance.
Radio and electronic transmissions are troublesome because of the inherent risk of interference with other electronic circuits.
What is EMC Compliance
Australian EMC regulations dictate that electrical and electronic equipment must be tested, certified, registered, and labelled as compliant to applicable standards. These standards vary between different categories of equipment.
A supplier should complete the following regulatory requirements before marketing or selling a product on the Australian market.
- Determine if the product is subject to EMC Compliance.
- Identify the applicable EMC standards listed on the ACMA database.
- Demonstrate compliance through testing conducted by an accredited testing laboratory. EMC Technologies is such a lab.
- Complete a Declaration of Conformity (DoC) that confirms the product complies with the applicable standard/s.
- Register the product on the national database.
- Apply a compliance label to the product.
The difficulty for suppliers is to correctly identify the applicable standards and there are many of them. The safest approach is to consult a NATA accredited test laboratory like EMC Technologies.
EMC Technologies is the largest and most experienced EMI/EMC/EMR and Safety testing facility with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and New Zealand. EMC Technologies is NATA accredited (National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia).
EMC Compliance testing
The ACMA database lists applicable standards for Australia and NZ. There are different standards for different products and too complex and comprehensive to list in this post.
In essence, testing is conducted in three main classes:
- Emission. The generation of electromagnetic energy and its release into the environment.
- Susceptibility. The tendency of electrical equipment to malfunction resulting in unintended operation.
- Coupling. The way in which emitted interference reaches a victim.
The Radiated Emissions Test is the most common EMC test in all countries. It measures the strength of the electromagnetic field unintentionally emitted by a product. Switching voltages and currents in digital circuits generate such emissions.
They can cause unintentional interference to mission-critical military or civil systems like navigation systems or landing guidance systems for aircraft.
Let’s consider two scenarios associated with EMC and a couple of examples that illustrate the concerns of risk and the victim: The examples illustrate the risk associated with electromagnetic emission, and the victim impacted by such emission,
- An announcement made to aircraft passengers to switch off their mobile phones, laptops, and tablets reflect the risk of electromagnetic emission from such devices interfering with sensitive electronic guidance systems located on the aircraft which ensures a safe landing.
- The ongoing research and debate about the risk of holding, carrying, or placing a mobile phone close to the head for prolonged periods.
In the first example, the victim is the onboard guidance system; in the second example, the user of the mobile device is the victim, a human being. Unless, of course, lack of EMC causes malfunctions in the guidance system and the aircraft crashes, in which case all the passengers become victims of collateral damage.
The regulations should convince Australian consumers to buy and use only certified products. The labelling requirements make it easy to identify such products. Australian standards mandate that compliant products must be labelled with the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) shown below.