Product testing helps EMC Integrity make waves
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Technician Casey Lockhart makes adjustments in a testing suite at EMC Integrity Inc.’s Longmont facility. The company tests products for “electromagnetic compatibility” as required by a variety of national and international governing bodies.
Vince Greb, founder of Longmont-based EMC Integrity Inc., stands in the company’s 10-meter testing room, one of the region’s only large-scale chambers for testing electromagnetic emissions.
EMC Integrity Inc. is in the business of testing products for “electromagnetic compatibility,” or EMC, meaning the generation and reception of electromagnetic energy and its negative effects on manufactured products. Testing for EMC is required by a variety of national and international governing bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission, much in the same way that products are certified for safety or energy efficiency.
Nestled in a state-of-the-art, 17,200-square-foot facility in the Vista View commercial center, EMC Integrity operates a multi-million-dollar testing facility that includes one of the region’s only large-scale chambers for testing electromagnetic emissions.
“It’s basically a shielded enclosure that keeps outside radio frequencies out and inside radio frequencies in,” said Vince Greb, who formed the company in November 1993. His field of expertise is broken into three areas: emissions, or what electromagnetic energy is coming off a device; susceptibility to external energies or interference; and coupling, the mechanisms by which electromagnetic energy travels between sources.
The company’s seven testing facilities include two enormous 10-meter chambers (referring to the distance between the sensing apparatus and the target), each lined with futuristic-looking “anechoic” materials, which dissipate radio frequency radiation. Armed with these high-tech ferrite panels and carbon cones, these chambers can reduce the electromagnetic noise in the room to the point that the company’s engineers can perform very accurate tests to the latest EMC standards.
“When these standards were first devised, the standard was open-area test sites,” Greb said. “Because the only interference at the time was radio and television — no cell phones or HDTV transmissions — you could do this testing outside. As the spectrum has become more cluttered, the only effective sites are up in the mountains. The advent of these new materials allows us to line our chambers so they behave like an open-air site, but with no contamination. We can put it anywhere.”
The company tests products from a wide variety of industries and manufacturing arenas including medical devices, military and aerospace interests, scientific and industrial manufacturers, and information technology. The devices they test can range from small medical devices to large-scale data storage systems and the Mars Rover. Costs vary from a few thousand dollars for a hand-held device to many thousands for a large-scale product such as a data storage system or an automobile.
“It varies widely depending on how complex the product is,” Greb said. “The big variables are the complexity of the product, the standards to which we need to test, and how many different economic areas a manufacturer wants to sell to.”
Competitive pricing and strong relationships with industry experts have allowed EMC Integrity to become the region’s leading provider for EMC testing. With 17 full-time employees and two part-timers, the company has been successful enough to warrant a 6,500-square-foot expansion two years ago that included the addition of a second 10-meter chamber.
The firm also enjoys a symbiotic relationship with a nearby company, Cascade Tek, which does environmental testing on similar products. EMC Integrity also benefits from its partnership with The Nemko Group, a Norwegian organization that supervises safety testing for electrical equipment manufacturing.
“We focus a lot on customer service, and we market ourselves in a technical way,” said Guy Dodds, who heads up business development. “It’s amazing how many people call in without knowing what they want us to do. They know they have to meet these national and international standards but they don’t know how to go about it.”
To that end, the company regularly organizes educational seminars and other learning opportunities for professionals who need to access their expertise. A recent seminar focused on issues surrounding Asian markets, while an upcoming two-day session in April will provide an introduction to the field of electromagnetic compatibility with EMC Integrity engineer Ken Wyatt.
“A lot of the education is informal,” Greb said. “Typically, people don’t want to know how to do the testing; they just want to know that we know how to do it.”
One of the company’s biggest advantages is its expertise. While many similar facilities simply offer pass-or-fail EMC testing, EMC Integrity is committed to providing troubleshooting, mitigation and consulting services to its clients.
“We had been on the product development side, so we knew how frustrating it is to simply be told, ‘Well, you failed,’ ” Greb said. “A lot of our clients don’t have the size or the staff or the expertise to access someone who specializes in EMC challenges. Our advantage is in being able to offer engineering solutions and design fixes, which distinguishes from testing labs across the nation.”
With a strong base of customers from Pueblo to Fort Collins, EMC Integrity also plans to use its expanded capacity to pursue a wider base of customers, while continuing to enjoy the fruits of operating in the Front Range.
“Colorado is a great place to do business because there’s a lot to offer,” Greb said. “We enjoy the lion’s share of the business in Colorado but it still makes a nice backdrop to running this incredible lab.”
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