Plastics machinery sold in the European Union now is subject to harmonized standards established by the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive. Any machine that could emit electromagnetic disturbance or lacks intrinsic immunity from such a disturbance must conform with requirements laid down by the directive. The directive covers products manufactured within the EU and imported products. If your products have historically been in compliance with relevant Euro-pean national standards for electromagnetic compatibility, be aware that these standards will be withdrawn if they do not conform to the essential requirements of the directive.
Electromagnetic interference can be either conducted or radiated through the air. Inadequate or improper grounding may cause interference from industrial plastics machinery. Sources of interference from computers include controls, networks, and terminal equipment; interference from electrical equipment may be emitted by motors, electrical drives, and switches. The EMC Directive covers equipment in each of these and many other sectors, including telecommunications.
There are two ways your company can comply with the directive. One route is self-certification, in which the manufacturer or authorized representative established within the EU draws up a written declaration of conformity certifying that the product conforms to the harmonized standards published under the EMC Directive. The other avenue, to be used when the manufacturer has not applied the harmonized standards, requires maintenance of a technical construction file available to authorities for inspection. The TCF must des-cribe the machine, set out procedures used to ensure conformity, and include a technical report or certificate from bodies appointed by European national authorities. The European Commission publishes a list of these authorities.
The moment a machine reaches the EU market, it must comply. Though modular components sold directly to the end user (e.g. low-voltage fuses, transistors or condensers) are not subject to the directive, those used in the production of the machine are, and the manufacturer assumes responsibility for compliance.
Complex components to be sold directly to the end user (e.g. electric motors, circuit cards or thermostats) must also conform.
The requirements took effect Jan. 1. Many machinery manufacturers have already prepared to meet these requirements because they were optional during a transition period following the directive's 1992 enactment. If your company is importing machines directly into the EU or considering manufacturing there, you are encouraged to check whether your machines are covered.
Manufacturers that wish to self-certify should compare their machines with similar machines, determine applicable standards and their implications, implement accepted practices to overcome known or expected problems, and carry out simple tests.
Branand, principal of Robert Branand International of Washing-ton, is an international trade consultant.