New power rule could require
massive redesign of products
A new standard under consideration would set limits for power harmonics emitted by all types of electrical equipment into the public power grid. A European-dominated subcommittee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) drafted the guideline, IEC 1000-3-2. The Information Technology Industry Council strongly opposes it. Nearly all information-technology equipment uses modern, switched-mode power supplies that produce power harmonics. Meeting "unnecessary" limits proposed by the standard would require redesign of a vast array of products, complains Council President Rhett Dawson. "For the IT industry sector alone, this redesign will cost over $1 billion a year," he adds. Although IEC standards are voluntary, many countries routinely convert them into import-hampering regulations. Dawson maintains that the public power system of North America readily accommodates harmonics produced by modern electrical equipment.
Europe and North America reduce duplicate testing of goods
Duplicate certification procedures for products have long hobbled trade between North America and Europe. At long last, some progress is being made in erasing such barriers. It's seen in a Memorandum of Understanding reached between America's Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and Laboratoire Centraldes Industries Electriques, a product testing and certification organization headquartered in France. Under the agreement, a manufacturer may put the American UL mark, the Canadian C-UL mark, or the European NF mark on a product that has received the approval of either laboratory. The agreement initially covers only electrical equipment for information technology, laboratory, test and measurement, and medical uses. In another development, the U.S. and the European Union concluded a Mutual Recognition Agreement covering six export sectors. It provides for the mutual recognition of inspection, testing, and certification standards of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, pleasure boats, telecommunications, electromagnetic compatibility, and electrical safety.
Internet abounds with sites for standards community
The World Wide Web has become a major tool for those who must keep abreast of the complex, fast-changing realm of standards. The American National Standards Institute has added NSSN Enhanced to its NSSN Basic site. The new service provides detailed standards information, including abstracts and a list of equivalent standards. You can get details, as well as subscription rates, through the free NSSN Basic at www.nssn.org. The Standards Engineering Society, meanwhile, has established a home page at www.ses-standards.org. It includes links to standards developers and engineers, information specialists, and librarians. WebDEX of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) now carries what the society claims is a complete collection of current and canceled aerospace and ground-vehicle standards and aerospace materials specifications. WebDEX also has an index to SAE's archives and current listings of engineering and design resources. To subscribe, click on www.sae.org/WEBDEX. There is also a new source for information on international standards for environmental management at www.iso14000.net/.
Interface guideline simplifies mixing of sensors, actuators
A new standard promises to simplify the complex task of interfacing "smart" transducers into the more than 50 different types of proprietary networks deployed throughout industry. Smart transducers are combinations of digital sensors and actuators. The standard adopted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is IEEE-1451.2. Representatives of NIST and 25 firms developed it. Network-independent, the new digital interface provides a common bridge for reading sensors, setting actuators, and accessing key identifying and historical information on the devices. It could bring "plug and play" into control networks that monitor and adjust manufacturing.
Accreditation changes proposed for Fastener Quality Act
NIST seeks public comments to changes it proposes in the Fastener Quality Act, a national program to ensure that certain nuts, bolts, and other fasteners conform to specifications. One change would allow accreditation of manufacturing facilities that use quality assurance systems, such as QS-9000, for statistical control during processing. The regulation, due for implementation next May 26, currently requires that testing and approval for each lot of fasteners come at the end of the production line and only by an accredited testing laboratory. The auto industry has contended that online quality testing is much more effective than lot sampling and should be recognized under the act. An accredited testing laboratory still would conduct end-of-line testing, which is typically invoked to confirm the in-process statistical control system.