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View from the Chalkboard

I would like to thank all those that took time to submit their comments in response to the questions I asked last time about what you wish you would have known years ago and/or what is your advice for people who are new to EMC.

As time goes on, I will periodically refer to your responses and hopefully we can all look for ways to make things better for those currently involved (or are considering) work in EMC, based on your comments.

This month I would like to share a note I received from Mr. David Britton (whom I met at an IEEE EMC Society Chapter meeting in Portland, Oregon, a few years ago). Mr. Britton has a unique combination of experience in industry, academia, and is currently an A2LA EMC Lab Assessor, so he is able to provide unique insight to the questions I asked (based on his 35 years of EMC experience)!

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How to Perform a Radiated Emissions Measurement

Radiated emissions testing is the measurement of the electromagnetic field of the emissions that are unintentionally being generated by the equipment under test.

Here is what Mr. Britton shared:

What do I wish I had learned in formal school?

  • I only attended college for a couple of years. It was a tech school and I learned EMC on the job. In tech school, I learned to address problems from different points of view resulting in multiple solution options. I wish that skill was one taught formally rather than learning it through experience.
  • Electrical engineers (EE) typically look for a component to add, Mechanical engineers (ME) typically look for a shield or wall to add, firmware (FW) people always ask if the requirements are correct, but it turns out FW can create data redundancy, dither clocks, turn off unneeded signals etc. so I have found them to be extremely valuable.

What is the most important thing I learned in EMC?

  • It is a Sherlock Holmes quote: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? “
  • I once found that the new stick on label on a power supply brick was the cause of my failing conducted emissions test. The new label was made of metalized mylar but looked like paper. When exchanging all the parts from one case to another followed the plastic case, no one believed it including me until we identified the material.

What advice do I have for someone new to EMC?

  • Network extensively. The best service you can do is to quickly identify root cause of an emission or susceptibility. The EE or FW guy will be far more adept at cost effective fixes than we usually are. (BTW, I think I have required the purchase of ~2B ferrites over the years proving my point)

What is the best professional development class you have done?

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  • Identifying and working with your strengths and befriending those blessed with skills in your weak areas.
  • How to network effectively.
  • The IEEE EMC symposium is the best for EMC training.

David Britton
IEEE EMC Society, Oregon and SW Washington Chapter
Communications Director 2014

Thank you, David, for your thoughtful and detailed comments. I think you have identified a number of important items for those with experience and the newcomer to EMC.

If any of you would like to add additional comments to what Mr. Britton has said – feel free to send me a note, I think these are topics that are always useful to consider.

author steffka-mark-2Mark Steffka is a Lecturer, an Adjunct Professor, and an automotive company Electromagnetic Compatibility Technical Specialist. Mark can be reached at msteffka@umich.edu.

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