20 Sep 2013

Understanding the fundamentals of lighting product safety testing and certification processes is critical.

As solid-state lighting technology continues to evolve, the growth of LED lighting products into new applications and global markets is increasing, presenting manufacturers with significant business opportunity. However, before these opportunities can be realized, manufacturers should first understand the fundamentals of the product safety testing and certification process.

Safety testing and certification can be broken down into four key steps. First, a Construction Review of the product’s design and construction is performed, including evaluation of: the bill of materials, applicable ratings of individual components and wiring, product design drawings, and spacing and dimensional requirements. From the review of all submitted samples and documentation, the applicable product and region-specific standards are determined, as well as the testing needed to satisfy the requirements outlined in the applicable standard(s).

Product testing is then performed by experts in controlled environments in accordance with the requirements of the applicable standard(s). Testing may include mechanical, electrical, dielectric, temperature, strain relief, environmental (i.e. wet location), and photobiological factors, among others.

Once the product has successfully completed Construction Review and Testing, step three includes the creation of a formal Test Report and the issuance of an Authorization to Mark (ATM), which grants a manufacturer permission to label products with the applicable safety mark from the accredited or recognized certification body, such as the ETL Listed Mark from Intertek.

The final step is ongoing manufacturer participation in a certification body’s Follow-Up Services. This typically involves an initial audit of the manufacturing facility, and then ongoing facility inspections on a monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual basis to ensure the products maintain consistent design, production, and labeling. Your certification partner also will notify you of any revisions to the standard(s) or new standards which apply to your product to ensure that your product and files remain compliant.

Here are 3 things manufacturers can do to navigate the product safety process more efficiently:

  1. Design new products with compliance in mind. This action means involving your certification partner during the R&D and design phases. Designing for compliance in the early stages of product development can eliminate re-design and re-testing setbacks, saving time and money on your path to marketability. During design, be mindful of the main safety concerns with LED lighting, which include the risk of electric shock, risk of fire, and biological hazards.

  2. Identify as many product variations as possible at the outset of the design process. Products of similar design and construction can be organized into “family groupings,” which will help to minimize the total number of samples required to be evaluated and tested, and in turn, decrease testing and certification costs.

  3. Consider and identify ALL of your target markets early in the design phase. Understanding global standards is a crucial consideration for companies sourcing components from, and selling products to, a global market. In some cases a small design change or a single additional test could open up whole new markets; in other cases meeting regional requirements may be cost-prohibitive. Your global certification partner can help you identify efficiencies with a strategic market access plan, including testing for multiple markets concurrently to significantly reduce your go-to-market time and costs.

As LED technology continues to rapidly evolve, so do product safety and certification requirements. To keep pace with the market, take advantage of the educational resources available through industry events, standard development committees, trade publications, and online webinars, white papers, and other resources. Contact us for suggestions of resources in your area or specific to your products.

Visit our Lighting webpages or share your thoughts below on ways to make testing and certification more efficient. One of our technical experts will get back to you.

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