Certification as a passport for the global market - international certification and the meaning of logos on rating plates.
Those who develop popular products must address the topic of international certification. More than 30,000 standards regulate how products are designed, tested, used and disposed of. When taking IECEx and ATEX as examples, it becomes clear how international certification provides the basic conditions, the legal security and a solution for globalised trade.
Overview - Festo-relevant certification.
International certification and test symbols
CE stands for "Communauté européenne" and means European Union. With the CE marking of a product, the manufacturer indicates that all the EC directives concerning the product have been complied with. The product may be traded freely in the European Economic Community - EU, the EFTA States (Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein) and Turkey. EC directives are EU laws and therefore legally enforced specifications and not just technical guidelines or recommendations. The CE marking is also not - as is often assumed - a quality marking such as for example the German "blaue Engel" (Blue Angel) or the TÜV seal of quality.
How and where are EC directives developed
The General Directorate of the European Commission prepares the directives, which are then passed by the Council of the European Union. The EU member states are obligated to transpose the directives into national law. With the EC declaration of conformity, the manufacturer conforms that their product conforms with all the basic requirements from one of several EC directives. EC directives do not describe technical details. Instead, they define the basic requirements for a product. The technical details for design and product type testing - used to achieve conformity with the requirements from the directives - can be found in so-called harmonised standards. "Harmonised" means that the same technological status applies in all EU member states + EFTA + Turkey.
A summary of the EU directives relevant for Festo:
|EU directive||Concerns||Product examples|
| EU directive on equipment and protective systems intended for use in
potentially explosive areas – ATEX (2014/34/EU).
|Equipment with its own potential ignition source|| CPV|
|EC Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC)|| Defines generally-valid, basic safety and
health protection requirements. Concerns machines, exchangeable
equipment, safety components, equipment for lifting loads, chains, ropes and
belts, removable cardan shafts, incomplete machines
|EU directive Electromagnetic compatibility (2014/30/EU) including amendments|| Equipment which can cause electromagnetic interference or whose
performance can be influenced by electromagnetic interference.
|EU Low Voltage Directive (2014/35/EU), including amendments|| All electric and electronic equipment with input voltages from 50
to 1000 V alternating current or 75 to 1500 V direct current
|EU directive Simple Pressure Vessels (2014/29/EU)|| Reservoirs made of unalloyed quality steel with a relative
internal pressure over 0.5 bar, intended to contain air or nitrogen, not intended to be exposed to
|EU Directive on Pressure Equipment (2014/68/EU), including amendments|| Reservoirs with a relative internal pressure of 0.5 bar, made of stainless steel
North America UL, UL/CSA
In contrast to Europe, North America does not regulate the trade of equipment but its safe operation. In the USA the two primary sets of rules are: ANSI standards (American National Standard Institute) and OSHA standards (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The OSHA standards are issued by the state, and compliance is compulsory.
The development of ANSI standards, on the other hand, is undertaken by private organisations, and their application is generally not mandatory. However, ANSI standards are frequently included in contracts. In addition, ANSI standards are used by the OSHA. In addition, there is the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), which for example has developed the NFPA 79 as a pendant of the EN 60204-1. The legal basis in the USA can be considered as a combination of product standards, fire codes (NFPA), electrical codes (NEC) and national laws.
Compliance with and implementation of these codes is monitored by government through local government bodies (in each individual federal state).
In the USA, electrical equipment must be certified and approved by a notified body prior to operation. Safe operation of equipment is legally stipulated, but not its trade or placement on the market. However, for commissioning, the legislator demands certification through a notified body. An acknowledged testing laboratory must be able to verify conformity with the national safety standards.
The recognised test laboratory is the UL (Underwriters Laboratories); it has numerous testing laboratories for insurance companies. The UL conducts tests according to UL standards, which always incorporate national standards.
The following aspects are tested:
- Electrical products for any electrical and mechanical hazards.
- Housing materials and insulation materials for fire-protection.
- Valves, for example the bursting pressure test at 5x the rated pressure
- Quarterly inspections of production facilities by UL in order to ensure that the products correspond to the design in which they were originally tested.
- Control cabinets for safe wiring
"UL listed" --> Sensors, proximity sensors with cables and plugs, are ready-to-install products.
"UL recognized" -> For example, control technology devices are equipment equipment intended for installation.
Many Festo devices are certified as devices for “Class 2 Circuits”. “Class 2 Circuits” are energy-limited circuits with a maximum voltage of 30V AC or 42V DC, a maximum current of 5A and a maximum power rating of 100 VA. According to the UL definition, there is no danger of either electric shock or fire in these cases. UL certification is not required for plugs and cables. In the case of devices that are not rated as being designed for use in “Class 2 Circuits”, certification is required for the cables used.
UL is authorised to carry out certification in accordance with both US safety regulations (NEC) and Canadian safety regulations (CEC). This is indicated accordingly by the particular UL mark.
Products marked with the C-UL-US or the C-UR-US mark comply with both the Canadian and the US standards. The C in the UL mark indicates that certification according to CSA standards has already taken place.
Since 2003, the China Compulsory Certification or "CCC" has been valid in China as a marking and certification obligation. The certification system creates a uniform standard for selected products in the People's Republic.
Both products manufactured in China and imported products must be certifed. Certification takes place exclusively in China.
The "China National Regulatory Commission for Certifications and Accreditation (CNCA)" is responsible for management and coordination of the certification and approval activities. After the product testing has been passed, an on-site tour of the production plant is conducted by Chinese inspectors. Then the CCC certificates are issued.
The products subject to inspection are currently divided into 22 categories. The categories 1-6 are relevant for Festo. They consist of electrotechnical equipment such as low voltage devices, cables, switches and fuses. However, only devices with a nominal voltage higher than 36V are subject to certification. Products which are subject to individual certification are no longer subject to certification after installation in a machine.
Currently not subject to certification:
- Solenoid valves
- Handling systems
- Fittings and tubing
- Service units
Reservoirs designated for the Chinese market must be qualified according to the Special Equipment Manufacture Licensing. Since 2007, the "Regulations on Safety Supervision of Special Equipment" apply for the export of reservoirs with an internal diameter ≥ 150 mm; the products affected by this are the standard reservoirs VZS and the CRVZS 5, CRVZS 10 and CRVZS 20. Festo is not able to provide the manufacturer's license required for import into China.
Reservoirs with an internal pressure < 10 MPa, an internal diameter < 150 mm and a volume < 25 litres are excluded from the regulation.
Explosion-proof electrical equipment is tested and certified in China by the NEPSI (National Supervision and Inspection Center for Explosion Protection and Safety of Instrumentation). The basis for the approval is the European ATEX certification, although the process deviates slightly. The process of harmonisation with the international standards of the IEC and the national standards of the NEC in the USA is in progress, but not yet completed.
Safety components, reservoirs and products for the ATEX zone must be approved in South Korea by the KOSHA (Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency). KOSHA is a member of the IECEx scheme, and the IECEx certification is recognised in South Korea. During the approval procedure, additional national regulations must be taken into account. Certification takes place via a notified body approved by South Korea.
The market in Brazil is of increasing importance to Festo. Here, INMETRO undertakes the certification of explosion protection products. Electrical and electronic products and components are tested. The classification into zones corresponds to the European ATEX directive. INMETRO accepts certificates that are already available (quality management, type tests) if they have been issued by a body recognised by INMETRO. The IECEx certification is also recognised, but the approval procedure also requires the compliance with some special national regulations. Declarations of conformity, issued under the manufacturer's own responsibility, are not recognised.
The C-Tick certification indicates conformity with the Australian EMC legislation. The EU declaration of conformity for the European EMC directive provides the basis for the C-Tick certificate, and has been directly adopted. Festo is able to use the EU declaration of conformity as the basis since the requirements are the same as those in Australia. Above all, the Australian authorities insist on a contact in Australia.
International explosion protection certification
The IEC-Ex CB.scheme is intended to provide an international and uniform approval procedure. Certificates issued in accordance with IECEx can only be obtained after successful product type testing by a notified body and the verification of an appropriate quality management system. As a certification scheme, IECEx creates a global framework for the independent testing and certification of equipment and services in the field of explosion prevention and protection. Around 30 nations are currently involved in the IECEx scheme. All over the world, though, countries have their own national approval procedures, such as for example the ATEX directive in the European Union, or national certification in the USA (UL, FM). Certification according to IEC-Ex is an expedient basis for most international explosion protection certification. It is recommended that an IEC EX certification is procured at the Federal Standards Laboratory/UL. This is the least complicated method of obtaining certification for Brazil, the USA, Canada, Korea, Australia, Europe, South America and China.
Numerous special regulations apply for products which are used in industry sectors such as the food and beverage sector or in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals production. These include standards such as: design, material, cleaning and disinfectant resistance, corrosion resistance and IP protection.
Festo has developed a wide range of products especially for these industry sectors, such as the clean and hygienic product range. This comprises valves and terminals, tubing, cylinders, sensors and other equipment for sensitive environments. The product portfolio complies in part with the strict national and international hygiene standards, such as the EC directive 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, and the EU directive on food hygiene 93/43/EU.
The rules by international authorities and consortiums such as the FDA (Food and Drug association), the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) or the EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group) are also taken into account.
Increased transparency and safety should in future be provided by a manufacturer's declaration which is to be integrated into the parts lists of products for the food industry and for other relevant industries. This lists the materials which come into contact with food, their material designations and the standards with which they comply. In this way, conformity with the above EU directive can also be confirmed.
The TÜV seal is a quality marking and therefore is not legally stipulated, but should not be underestimated as a sales argument. The TÜV seal indicates that the product complies with the common standards and requirements and that its production is subjected to regular monitoring. These inspections, which are usually annual, include inspection of the quality management and end product testing. TÜV-certified Festo products are
- Service units
- OL sealing rings
In general, the time and cost factor relating to the certification of products should not be underestimated. In some regions, certification procedures can last for several months. Changes to already approved products always involve repeat tests and the costs of these.
Individual countries also insist on compliance with national regulations when products are imported, and refuse to acknowledge any other certification even as a basis. In each individual case a decision has to be made on how to deal with circumstances such as these.