Smart, safe and reliable

Electronic components of the highest quality through IECQ testing and certification

By Claire Marchand

Inventions of past centuries have paved the way for today’s technological innovations. This is the case for many of the electronic components that we use so liberally today. The Leyden Jar, for instance, is the ancestor of the capacitor. Just look at any technology timeline and you’ll have the complete sequence of events that leads to the tiniest components and ever smarter devices that connect everyone and everything.

Osram high-power LED chip High-power LED chip (Photo: OSRAM)

One type of electronic components in particular plays a major role in this world of connectivity and smartness: sensors. Again, sensors find their origin in an invention of the 19th century. According to a website dedicated to explaining sensors in layman’s terms, “the first thermostat came to market in 1883, and many consider this the first modern, manmade sensor. Infrared sensors have been around since the late 1940s, even though they’ve really only entered the popular nomenclature over the past few years.” 

Sensors, a key technology

Sensors come in many shapes and forms: vision, flow, fibre optic, gas, motion, image, colour, light, pressure, infrared, photoelectric and so on. 

Sensors and sensor systems are a key underpinning technology for a wide range of applications. They can be used to improve quality control and productivity in manufacturing processes by monitoring variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and composition. They help ensure the environment is clean and healthy by monitoring the levels of toxic chemicals and gases emitted in the air, both locally and – via satellites – globally. They monitor area and regional compliance with environmental standards. They enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace through their use in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detection and surveillance equipment. They play a major role in medical devices, transportation, entertainment equipment and everyday consumer products. 

Technological innovations have brought a new generation of tiny sensors, such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). These are smaller, smarter and can be integrated into fixed and portable devices. 

But whatever the size of the sensor, the device has to be accurate and reliable. Whatever it measures, the measurement has to be extremely precise. A defective sensor can have serious consequences, even putting human lives in jeopardy. 

Safety, reliability and cost-effectiveness

Sensor manufacturers and suppliers all over the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components. Established in the early 1970s, the System grew with, and adapted to the technological developments in the electronics industry. The emergence of smart devices and the internet of things (IoT) in the 21st century was also a good time for the System to reorganize: rationalization of the Schemes, review of the documentation, alignment of the Basic Rules with those of the other CA Systems, and a new website with the Online Certificate System. 

IECQ Schemes

As the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards. 

In addition, there is a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ Schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers. 

IECQ operates industry specific Certification Schemes:

A Scheme for the automotive sector

The IECQ AQP provides the automotive industry with a standardized and cost effective way to ensure that the components they are buying meet expected quality, safety and reliability requirements. This way, automotive manufacturers know how the performances of components compare. IECQ AQP helps automotive manufacturers avoid multiple second-party assessments, tests and related costs. 

Shedding light on LEDs

The new IECQ Scheme for LED Lighting, established under the umbrella of the generic IECQ AC Scheme and operational since 2015, issued its first certificate in September 2016 to a Chinese company. 

The Scheme can be applied to certify manufacturers and suppliers of electronic components, modules and assemblies used in the production of LED packages, engines, lamps, luminaires and associated LED ballasts/drivers. It provides a standardized approach for evaluating suppliers and is used as a powerful supply-chain management tool when assessing and monitoring the various tier-level providers. 

This removes the cost burden of monitoring and controlling the supply chain by reducing the number of second-party assessments and audits, from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to their suppliers, while also protecting the OEM brand name in the market. This also helps prevent poor quality LED systems from entering the market. 

During its April 2016 meeting, the IECQ Management Committee finalized and approved for publication the new Rules of Procedures and Operational Documents addressing the certification of manufacturers and suppliers of components used in LED lighting systems. 

Targeting hazardous substances

In May 2017, IECQ issued a new edition of its publication IECQ QC 080000, Hazardous Substance Process Management (HSPM) System Requirements. The specification and its requirements are based on the strong belief that the provision of hazardous substance-free products and production processes can only be achieved by integrating management disciplines fully. It specifies how organizations establish and implement key processes to manage their hazardous substances other than focusing on the removal and avoiding restricted substances in products. 

The new edition of IECQ QC 080000:2017 is available in English, French, Korean, simplified and traditional Chinese and Russian. 

Passing of an icon

Unfortunately 2017 also bore sad news for the IECQ community, with the passing of David W. Smith, the former chair of IECQ and architect of the re-invention and re-engineering of IECQ. 

With a career spanning more than 40 years in the electronic component sector, Smith had acquired an invaluable experience. Since the 1970s, Smith had also been involved in standardization and certification activities, first in the UK, then at the European and international level. At the helm of IECQ since 2003, Smith ended his 10 years (three three-year terms + one extra year) as Chair of the IECQ Management Committee on 31 December 2013. 

In 2012, Smith was one of the laureates of the IEC Thomas A. Edison Award

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automotive pressure sensors Automotive pressure sensor applications (Photo: Merit Sensor)
motion sensor Motion sensor (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Versatile Techno)
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Osram high-power LED chip High-power LED chip (Photo: OSRAM)