There is a dark, even destructive, force within electronics. You can't see it, you can't touch it, but every electronics engineer needs to worry about it. This nemesis is electromagnetic interference.
Electromagnetic interference can be the biggest headache of any electronic design. An engineer must take care to ensure that a design does not generate unwanted interference that might affect other devices and, at the same time, is immune to interference from outside. Clever design of electronic devices, along with adequate shielding, can help address both problems. However the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words, the only guaranteed way to make sure the design has succeeded is to make one and test it!
Image: Rainford EMC Systems
Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing is quite an involved task. It requires a testing chamber that isolates the equipment from oustide interference and some quite sophisticated kit to measure the results. These test chambers aren't too common and time within them can be quite expensive. Plus what if the test fails? A return to the drawing board and yet more testing time. This potentially endless cycle of re-design and re-test can become incredibly expensive and time-consuming. But there may be another way...
I have recently found out about a virtual EMC simulation service. KEC Limited in the UK have spent over 30 years providing high-performance shielding devices to the industrial, defence and research industries. They have just completed a two year project with the University of Reading to create a simulated environment to allow virtual EMC testing of cable harness systems which connect electronic systems together.
Image: KEC Limited
The service that KEC offers is aimed at these external connections that devices need in order to link to the outside world - often a weak-point in any EMC system. But simulation can only be a usable tool if the simulated results mirror the real world. KEC are continuing to evolve the system and are currently interested in finding partners to broaden the range of their results. If you have something you can offer, or a particularly thorny EMC problem you need to solve, drop us a line. You may be able to contribute to a new revolution in testing techniques...
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