Anyone who has championed UL certification for a new electronic product knows how challenging this process can be. After you’ve figured out how the product should function, you get to pay a testing house big bucks to consult you on how to design it so that it behaves the way UL says it should. Then, you get to pay UL even bigger bucks to verify your prototypes behave the way UL says it should.
After all that, something fails. Hopefully you were assigned a good UL project engineer who will help you get your product compliant. But it doesn’t end there. Once UL approves and issues your product file, they send an inspector to audit you. The nerve!
With all the challenges of electronic product development, UL certification can be especially difficult as it is largely outside of your control. So, it’s a good idea to learn as much about the UL process as possible to start. Here’s my advice on a couple UL myths I’ve run into along the way –
Myth: I can rely 100% on a 3rd party test house to get me through all my UL requirements.
While 3rd party testing laboratories are a valued and necessary resource, you must not make the mistake of allowing them to vet out all your product specifications to ensure UL compliance. You must have a mini-product expert working on your behalf, preferably the program manager authority who works either for the development or manufacturing team, who has read the applicable UL standard, and understands how it relates to your product.
Myth: Labels are a minor issue and don’t need to be prioritized as a critical item for the UL audit.
Incorrect labels can and will get written up in a Variance Notice Report every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Product name different from UL file? Flag. Not a UL qualified physical label or ink? Write-up. Read the UL File and make sure all your t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. Literally.
Myth: I can’t make any changes to the product once the UL file has been released.
There are specific elements of both the electronic and mechanical construct that UL is interested in. These will be documented in the product’s UL file. Changes to these items can be made, but they must first go through an Engineering Resolution process with UL to ensure compliance.
Myth: Electronics Manufacturing Services firms don’t get involved with product compliance support.
While many EMS firms are build-to-print only, there are many who specialize in a total program management approach from engineering to production, including UL certification.
Myth: Compliance Testing is expensive.
OK, this one’s actually true. Expect compliance testing and/or consulting to cost around $225 per hour, often with 4 hour minimums. Make room for this in your budget.
For additional info on starting the certification process with UL, check out the Submitting Products FAQ on their website.