Electronics are becoming more like computers every day and almost every new television or receiver connects to the Internet to report bugs, or to download the latest new app or firmware update. To support this functionality, the internals of these devices contain their own microprocessor brains and have architecture approaching that of a PC. With these developments, software has become just as important as hardware in terms of safety, and to address this, a new standard called IEC 62368-1 was put into effect at the beginning of 2021.

 

IEC 62368-1 replaces two existing standards, IEC 609501, Information Technology Equipment Safety, and IEC 60065, Audio, Video and Similar Electronic Apparatus Safety Requirements. Most electronic devices are covered by these two standards, however, as the line between IT equipment and other electronics further blurs, a new standard covering both is necessary.

 

What is the IEC?

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is an international organization that publishes standards covering electrical products and electronic devices. IEC standards encompass almost all technologies, including consumer and commercial electronics, power generation and distribution, fiber optics, solar energy, batteries and more. IEC standards are widely adopted by other certifying bodies internationally, such as UL and ANSI/INCITS in the United States, BSI in the United Kingdom, DIN in Germany, and Standards Australia.

 

What types of devices does IEC 62368-1 cover?

IEC 62368-1 covers a wide range of electronics, including:

Consumer electronics such as digital cameras, game consoles, music players, and home theater.

Network and computer products such as PCs, laptops, tablets, servers, routers, tablets, and their power supplies.

Display units including televisions, computer monitors, and projector systems.

Telecommunication equipment like phones, cellular phones, fax machines, and other network infrastructure equipment.

Office appliances, such as printers, copiers and document shredders.

 

Hazard-based Standard Engineering

Up until now, safety standards have generally been “incident-based”, that is, an incident, like a device catching fire, triggers the development of a new requirement. IEC 62368-1 is “hazard-based” and draws on the principles of hazard-based standard engineering (HBSE), which establishes that safety is not dependent on the product, but on the energy sources within the product.

 

Any potentially harmful energy sources in a device are identified, as well as the mechanisms by which energy could transfer to the user, either in normal or fault conditions. In IEC 62368-1, the severity of the damage or harm is divided into three classes.

 

Energy Source

Effect on the body

Effect on combustible materials

Class 1

Not painful, but may be detectable

Ignition not likely

Class 2

Painful, but not an injury

Ignition possible, but limited growth and spread of fire

Class 3

Injury

Ignition likely, rapid growth and spread of fire

 

If the energy source is Class 2 or 3, a safeguard must be placed between the energy source and the body. “Safeguard” is defined as a device or scheme that protects from a particular energy source, and includes measures such as protective grounding, electrical enclosures, fireproof enclosures, insulation and other protective features. Safeguards protect against pain or injury and prevent electrically caused fires that could result in injury, death, or property damage. Under IEC 62368-1, the effectiveness of safeguards is also analyzed.

 

IEC 62368-1 recognizes that there might be users of different skill levels using the equipment, and divides users into three distinct categories, with different safeguards for each:

 

Ordinary person

Users of the equipment, or people who have access or in the vicinity of the equipment

Instructed person

Person instructed and trained by a skilled person

Skilled person

Person who has training and/or experience with the equipment technology. Able to identify the energy sources that main cause pain or injury and take precautions to avoid contact

 

Compared to the old rigid approach, where standards were created or amended after a product was shown to be dangerous, the hazard-based approach gives designers much greater flexibility in choosing and testing safety methods for their products. Additionally, the need for amendments to the standard is greatly reduced, making it more future-proof and less likely for national/regional equivalents to be amended to the point where they are completely different from each other.

 

Compliance

As of December 20, 2020, North America and Europe have transitioned to the new standard (UL62368-1 in the U.S., CAN/CSA C22.2 No.62368-1:19 in Canada, BS EN62368-1 in the U.K., and EN62368-1 in the EU). Old standards have officially been phased out and all new submissions for certification are now investigated against the new standards. Other countries around the world are also adopting IEC 62368-1 and releasing their own versions; in the next few years, most electronics worldwide will be certified with this new standard.

 

IEC 62368-1 Approved Products

Newark, Farnell, and element14 have partnered with many different suppliers that offer products that are IEC 62368-1 certified.

 

XP Power - AC/DC DIN Rail

PSU (60W, 15V)

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Artesyn Embedded Technologies -

AC/DC Open Frame PSU, Medical

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Traco Power - Isolated Chassis

Mount DC/DC Converter

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Recom Power - Non-isolated

POL DC/DC Converter

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Rohm Semiconductor - Eval Board,

Isolated Flyback Converter

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Schurter Electronic Components -

Unfiltered IEC Power Entry Module

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Neutrik - speakON

Loudspeaker Plug

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