There are many benefits to semi or fully automated electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) emissions and immunity tests. Product developers and test facilities alike are always looking for ways to improve their data collection and test processes in order to reduce the time it takes to fully develop and test new products or make changes to and re-certify old ones. Faster, more efficient, more consistent, more accurate, more repeatable, less labor-intensive, better documentation and easier to use, are just a few of the factors driving EMC emissions and immunity test automation.
Because of these factors, there’s a lot riding on the decision to automate and also on the software that is ultimately selected to do so. Not fully considering all of the aspects involved, nor asking the right questions during the selection phase, could mean that specifiers and users end up with a less than ideal solution that does not fully meet all of their needs. Working with a software tool that meets all of our needs also makes our lives easier. Working with a software tool that doesn’t exactly fit our needs is not only frustrating but almost always guarantees the data obtained from these systems is in error. An example of such a situation is when the actual measurement situation is different from the scenarios for which the software was designed. The software lacks flexibility to adapt to non-ideal test scenarios.
Because selecting software for EMC emissions and immunity testing is a big endeavor and one that shouldn’t be taken too lightly, specifiers should follow some form of formal and structured process that they develop on their own. Following a structured process will ultimately lead to selection of the best possible automation software that fulfills all testing needs.
One article2 provides a structured method for selecting commercially available EMC test software. Other than this one article, there aren’t many other resources (articles, books, standards, etc.) available that can help specifiers develop their own structured software selection process, i.e. one that will ensure they select the best software for their unique EMC emissions and immunity automation needs. This article was written to help fill this void. It provides a short informational checklist that any interested party can refer to and use in their own unique software selection process. The questions can be tailored to fit into any situation.
Items to Consider When Selecting Software for EMC Emissions & Immunity Testing:
- Is software easy to learn and to use? Avoid if a high degree of expertise is needed in order to run EMC emissions and immunity tests.
- Is the measurement process flexible enough to allow some customizing of the test procedure without jeopardizing the integrity of the test results or consistency of the reporting?
- Are common repetitive tasks such as maximizing signals, applying correction factors, and generation of test reports performed automatically?
- Is measurement data presented in a manner such that further corrections are not required?
- Can results be stored in a central database or other electronic format for future use and reference?
- Is manual interaction with the test system possible at all times, or after completion of certain steps, in the automatic measurement procedure? This capability is especially helpful when troubleshooting test failures. Avoid if manual interaction is limited or difficult to initiate.
- Is it easy to edit test parameters (frequency ranges, limit lines, cable and transducer calibration factors, etc.)?
- Is the data format compatible with a database program and (if applicable), acceptable to regulatory authorities?
- Is it easy to implement or modify test profiles?
- Is it easy to create new test profiles from scratch?
- What are the report generation features?
- Is report generation automatic?
- Does report generation work with the latest document processing software?
- Is software validated that it is appropriate for use and that it meets accreditation requirements (if applicable)?
- Is validated software controlled so that it meets accreditation requirements (if applicable)?
- What specifications/standards are included in the software package (MIL-STD-461, FCC, EU, IEC/EN, Telecom, Automotive, ISM, etc.)?
- Does the software support all specifications/standards that are applicable to your product, now and in the future?
- If/when standards are updated, can the software easily adapt to these changes?
- How is the software upgraded?
- How often is the software upgraded?
- How are upgrades made available?
- What is the price?
- Does the price include both emissions and immunity tests?
- What equipment drivers are available?
- Are drivers readily available?
- Is it possible to add libraries without hardcode changes?
- What is the process to add drivers if they are not yet available?
- What are the requirements for the computer that will run the software? This includes type of OS, memory requirements, plug-in boards, I/O communications, GPIB, etc.
- How many years in business does the software provider have?
- What is the software provider’s commitment to ensuring the software is of high quality?
- Are there sufficient resources dedicated to continued maintenance and development of the software?
- How is interaction with software developers achieved? Is it through direct contact or some other (less than ideal) means?
- Do software developers know the standards and are they aware of planned updates to them?
- Is there a willingness to evolve the software based on customer requests?
Software used for EMC emissions and immunity testing should increase the quality of testing while reducing overall test times. By following a structured process and asking the right questions, selection of the best software available is guaranteed.
References and Further Reading
- ANSI C63.2-2004, American National Standard Guide for Automated Electromagnetic Interference Measurements, 22 December 2004.
- McFadden, Jack. “The Turtle Method of Selecting EMC Commercial Test Software.” In Compliance Magazine, April 2015. Retrieved from https://incompliancemag.com/article/the-turtle-method-of-selecting-emc-commercial-test-software/
- Lawrence, Flynn. “The Benefits of Automation and Control Software for EMI/EMC Testing.” EMC Live, Interference Technology, 2016. Retrieved from https://emc.live/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Interference_Technology_EMC_Software_Presentation_FlynnL-1.pdf