The most important pre-tests for electric products

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  Posted by: electime      7th January 2020

Bringing an electric product to market can be tough. It requires having a great idea, a great engineer (or team) and a lot of planning. Part of this planning is, of course, pre-testing. The reasons for this are obvious; even if your product has a current of only 5mA, a mishap can give the user a disturbing shock and potentially even cause strong involuntary reactions. If you’re selling a heavy-duty product, well, that’s a little more obvious. A shock from 50mA can cause extreme pain, respiratory arrest and potentially death, while anything over 1000mA can cause the rhythmic pumping of the heart to cease, making death likely.

When is safety testing needed?

Safety testing for electrical products is needed at the point of manufacture, which is way before the product becomes available to the user. Those who manufacture electrical products have a duty to ensure that there are no shock hazards in the form of voltages or currents to the user.

Different tests

Products hence need to be tested to ensure they suit electrical safety standards. These involve tests for different possible shock hazards from each type of equipment, as well as testing product insulation systems to ensure they meet the very minimum requirements. For international products going to America, these need to be done by agencies like the Underwriters Laboratories, and the manufacturer must test 100% of the products that it produces to conform with pre-testing regulations. Accurate records of product materials and production processes are needed and may be tested on a regular basis to ensure that there is no chance that an anomaly might cause a breach of compliance.

The UL 60335-1 is a specific test used for household and similar electrical appliances, the sort of appliances that the average citizen uses several times a day. These might have to be dry or wet-tested, depending on the use (e.g. a coffee maker needs to be tested so that it doesn’t increase electrocution chance if wet on the commonly wet areas).

Battery or mains IT equipment need to pass the UL60950 tests, which is one of the most common electrical pre-tests used today.

Common methods

Some of the more nuanced tests include:

  • AC and DC Hipot test
  • Leakage current test (earth, enclosure and patient)
  • Insulation resistance tests
  • Ground bond tests

These tests signify to the pre-testers if there are safety areas that need improvement.

One more…

There is one more type of test that’s crucial for the launching of a product, but often not given equal consideration to safety tests. Field tests are crucial to ensure that a) the appliances or products can actually be used with common sense, and b) so that you know how to sell the electrical product. There is a great variety with this depending on who you seek to sell to. If you’re launching on a digital platform, you need to make sure that the digital buyers will respond to your brand, which is pretty important for the electrical industry as typically hardware stores were the main point of contact. Now, it’s online, so companies need fieldwork council to advise how they position their product to a digital audience. Hobbycraft and other similar hardware or hobbyist stores use companies like Angelfish Fieldwork to test how their very physical products come across on the non-physical internet.

All these tests are equally important. Safety tests are needed to reduce the risk of hazards coming from the products that are being sold, but if nobody will buy the products, nobody will use the products and all the work that has gone into product development will be wasted.