Verifying compliance with the Low Voltage Directive, RoHS, EMC Directive, RED and other EU electronics compliance requirements require lab testing. In this guide, I share my experience with electronics lab testing – including cost examples, failure risks, using supplier test reports, and much more.
Is lab testing mandatory for electronics in the European Union?
Yes, lab testing is mandatory in the sense that importers and manufacturers must verify compliance with the various electronic products directives – which in turn outline certain compliance requirements. Below follows a few examples:
All of the listed directives are ‘CE marking directives’ which in turn require that you issue a Declaration of Conformity. In turn, the DoC requires that you specify the directives and standards to which the product conforms.
Without any testing whatsoever you cannot know if your electronic product is compliant. Hence, you have nothing to base your DoC and technical file on.
Can we handle the tests ourselves?
Some directives may not explicitly state that you must use the services of a third-party testing company. Still, most importers and manufacturers don’t have the expertise and equipment to carry out the necessary lab testing procedures.
How much does EU electronics testing cost?
The testing cost ultimately comes down to the number of tests needed for your product. This in turn depends entirely on the type of device. This is explain in the table below:
|Directive||Applies to||Cost Example|
|Low Voltage Directive (Electrical Safety)||All electronic products with an input or output voltage of between:||$1500|
|EMC Directive||All electronic products (inherently benign equipment are exempt)||$500|
|Radio Equipment Directive||Radio enabled devices (e.g. WiFi, Bluetooth, 5G)||$1200|
|RoHS Directive (Chemicals & Heavy Metals)||All electronic products||$300|
Example A: WiFi Enabled Robot Vacuum Cleaner
- Low Voltage Directive (Electrical Safety): Yes (+$1500)
- EMC Directive: Yes (+$500)
- Radio Equipment Directive: Yes (+$1200)
- RoHS Directive (Chemicals & Heavy Metals): Yes (+$300)
Example B: USB Fan
- Low Voltage Directive (Electrical Safety): No
- EMC Directive: No
- Radio Equipment Directive: No
- RoHS Directive (Chemicals & Heavy Metals): Yes (+$300)
As you can see above – the cost differs radically depending on which directives apply, which in turn decides the lab testing necessary to verify compliance.
Does the lab test have to take place in European Union?
In most cases, electronics lab testing doesn’t have to take place within the EU. Intertek, TUV, SGS, and many other European testing companies already have testing facilities in most major electronics manufacturing hubs – such as Taipei and Shenzhen.
There are also many Chinese and American companies offering lab testing services corresponding to European Union electronics standards.
How do I know which testing standards apply?
My recommendation is that you contact a testing company to help you assess all applicable directives, EN, and IEC standards that may apply to your product. This is something testing companies already do when they determine which tests they need to include in their quotation.
You can also find information about the various directives on the official EU website. Keep in mind that the actual testing process is done according to EN, IEC, and other standards that cover the technical compliance requirements outlined in the directives.
- EN 50106 – Safety of household and similar electrical appliances
- EN 60947 – Low-voltage switchgear and control gear
- EN 61995 – Devices for the connection of luminaires for household and similar purposes
- EN 61204 – Low-voltage power supply devices
Can we obtain a lab test report from our supplier?
My experience tells me that it’s relatively rare to find OEM and ODM manufacturers with existing EU lab test reports for their products. At best, you’ll find that your supplier can provide a limited number of outdated test reports for a fraction of their SKUs.
Further, lab test reports for existing products cannot be applied to a new OEM electronic product. It’s also very risky to use existing lab test reports for factory-designed products, as you may not be able to verify that the product you ultimately order is made using the exact same components – and wiring.
As such, third-party lab testing is necessary when importing electronic products.
That being said, you may be able to make use of lab test reports for certain components. Large brands like Samsung and TDK are sophisticated enough to ensure that their products are tested and documented.
In some cases, using test reports applicable to specific components can reduce your testing costs as you could (at least sometimes) avoid a re-test of the same component.
Still, electronics compliance requirements ultimately apply to the “system” rather than individual components. A collection of component test reports can therefore not substitute a product-specific lab test report.
What happens if our product fails testing?
A failed test result means that the product is non-compliant with one or more testing standards. The table below covers some possible explanations:
|Low Voltage Directive (Electrical Safety)||The device is not safe by design. Hence, it is inherently non-compliant by design (e.g. materials, components, construction, PCB schematic, firmware, or wiring diagram).|
|EMC Directive||The device interferes with other electronic equipment. Testing failure indicates that the product is inherently non-compliant by design.|
|Radio Equipment Directive||The device interferes with other radio signals. Testing failure indicates that the product is inherently non-compliant by design.|
|RoHS Directive (Chemicals & Heavy Metals)||The product contains one or more components which exceeds the limits on certain phthalates and heavy metals.|
There is normally no way to “fix” a non-compliant electronic product.
At what stage should electronic products be lab tested?
It’s crucial to verify compliance before you enter mass production. Otherwise, you run the risk of mass-producing an electronic product that is inherently non-compliant by design. Hence, electronics testing is often done on pre-production prototypes.
Further, it’s not unusual that the testing process is part of the prototype development. It may turn out that the first iteration is not fully compliant, in which case you’ll need to go back to the drawing board a few times before you can enter mass production.
This also makes lab testing more than just a quick ‘compliance verification’ procedure, but an integral part of electronics product development.
What can happen if we don’t have a lab test report?
As mentioned, you cannot issue a Declaration of Conformity without a lab test report to support it. The DoC is mandatory for essentially all electronics imported to and manufactured in the European Union.
Further, it’s also in your interest to verify that the electronics you sell are actually safe.
How long does the process take?
The testing process normally takes somewhere between 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the scope and complexity of the testing process.
What are some companies offering electronics testing services?
Here are a few examples:
- TUV Rheinland
- TUV Nord
- TUV SUD
- Underwriter Laboratories (UL)
- CMA Testing