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EMC/EMI testing is a critical step in the design and manufacturing processes of electronic devices. Various regulatory bodies, including the FDA, FCC, and ISO, have set specific limits on the emissions that can be released from an electronic device. These EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) regulations provide improved reliability and safety for anyone using electrical and electronic equipment because they assure the device does not interfere with the operation of other equipment or fail to operate as intended due to interference from others emissions. Failing to pass EMC compliance testing can result in fines and product recalls.

So purchasing instruments that can spot potential EMC/EMI issues prior to EMC testing is worth the investment.

Though EMI and EMC are very similar, there are a few differences between the two.

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What is EMI?

Sometimes called radio frequency interference (RFI), electromagnetic interference (EMI) occurs when electromagnetic energy disrupts the operation of an electronic device. The source of EMI can be man-made, such as other electrical devices like switch-mode power supplies, personal computers, or naturally occurring, such as electrical storms, solar radiation, or even cosmic noises.

Sources of Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

What is EMC?

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is the ability of a device to operate as intended in an environment with other electrical devices or sources of EMI without affecting those other devices. A device is said to be EMC-compliant when it does not influence the electromagnetic environment to the extent that other devices and systems are negatively affected.

Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Graph

What is EMI and EMC testing?

To ensure compliance with EMI and EMC national and international regulations, many companies employ the services of a specialized testing facility. Since these tests are expensive—even if the product fails—several companies perform EMC pre-compliance testing in-house. If they have a sophisticated enough lab, companies may also perform EMC compliance testing in-house.

EMC/EMI testing setup

EMC/EMI testing is typically divided into two categories: immunity testing and emissions testing.

Types of EMC tests

When electronics are submitted to EMC testing labs, there are many types of EMC tests these labs run. Generally speaking, EMC testing is divided into two categories: immunity testing and emissions testing.

Immunity testing

Immunity testing is the process of transmitting RF energy onto a device under test (DUT) (also referred to as equipment under test or EUT) to determine if the DUT/EUT operates correctly when in such an environment.

Emissions testing

Emissions testing is the process of measuring the RF emissions – both radiated and conducted – of a DUT/EUT to determine if its emissions levels do not exceed the limits defined by the appropriate standard. Emissions testing includes both radiated and conducted emissions tests.

Radiated emissions

Radiated emissions are the intentional and unintentional release of electromagnetic energy from an electronic device. A radiated test is performed to ensure emissions emanating from the DUT or EUT comply with the applicable limits.

EMC/EMI testing for radiated emissions

Conducted emissions

Conducted emissions are the coupling of electromagnetic energy from a device to its power cord. Like radiated emissions, the allowable conducted emissions from electronic devices are controlled by different regulatory agencies and testing is performed to ensure emission levels are below the applicable limits.

EMC/EMI testing for conducted emissions

EMI/EMC testing applications and standards

EMI/EMC testing is part of the product development process and testing is mandatory in most markets. Though all electronic devices are subject to EMC testing, the following are some of the most common applications for EMC testing and standards that devices and equipment need to meet.

ISM MEDICAL Industrial, scientific and medical equipment CISPR 11 EN 55011 CFR Title 47 Part 18    
Medical electrical apparatus EN 60601-1-2
AUTOMOTIVE Vehicles, boats and internal combustion engines CISPR 12 EN 55012 CFR Title 47 Part 15(*)    
Components and modules on board vehicles CISPR 25 EN 55025      
MULTIMEDIA Sound and TV broadcast receivers CISPR 13 EN 55013 CFR Title 47 Part 15    
Information technology and telecommunications equipment (ITE) CISPR 22 (superseded by EN55032) EN 55022 (superseded by EN55032)
Professional audio/video/multimedia equipment CISPR 32 (replaces CISPR 13 and 22) EN 55032
APPLIANCES Electrical devices, household appliances and tools CISPR 14-1 EN 55014-1 CFR Title 47 Part 15    
LUMINAIRES Fluorescent lamps and luminaires CISPR 15 EN 55015 CFR Title 47 Part 15    
MILITARY Military equipment and systems       MIL-STD-461G DEF-STAN 59-411

Take the mysteries out of EMI/EMC test setup


A typical radiated test set-up with a Tektronix RSA500 USB spectrum analyzer.

EMI/EMC pre-compliance testing doesn’t have to be hard or excessively time consuming. Based on customer feedback, Tektronix developed next-generation software with ease of use and functionality in mind, to provide pre-compliance testing for radiated and conducted measurements.

Setting up EMI/EMC pre-compliance testing starts with SignalVu-PC. This latest version of SignalVu-PC now comes with an additional option called EMCVu. EMCVu features an easy-to-use setup wizard, built-in standards and accessory setup with push-button selection capabilities. Whether you are setting up an Open-Air Test Site (OATS), or testing in your lab, EMCVu streamlines the capture and removal of ambient noise from your measurements to increase the accuracy of your pre-compliance tests without an anechoic chamber.

To learn more about using EMCVu with real time spectrum analyzers and accessories to perform pre-compliance tests for radiated and conducted emissions, download the application note here.

If you’re interested in trying a free 30-day trial of EMCVu, please click on the button below.

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EMC testing labs

EMC-compliance tests are commonly done off-site prior to the production of a device. Open-air test sites, or OATS, are the reference sites used for most standards. They are especially useful for emissions testing of large equipment systems. However, RF testing of a physical prototype is more often carried out indoors, in a specialized anechoic chamber. Types of chambers include anechoic, reverberation, and the gigahertz transverse electromagnetic cell (GTEM cell).

EMC-compliance Testing Labs

EMC testing procedure and average pass rate

Roughly 50 percent of products pass their first EMC compliance test when pre-compliance isn’t considered, so it’s essential to understand the process and standards a device is tested to in order to increase your chances of success.

  1. Know your standards

    There are a variety of EMC standards that specify test procedures and limits for radiated and conducted emissions. These vary by country and type of equipment under test. The first step in testing is determining which standards apply to your product, and researching the testing procedures and limits required for compliance.

  2. Conduct pre-compliance EMC testing

    EMC compliance testing can take up to two weeks to complete—not including the time it takes to get your product into the test queue—and can cost up to $20,000 per submission. A failure in EMC compliance can result in expensive redesigns and product launch delays. And since nearly 50 percent of products fail their first EMC compliance test when pre-compliance isn’t considered, it’s likely that you’ll need to repeat your visit to the test house, multiplying costs over time.

  3. Find an EMC testing lab

    Once a product has gone through pre-compliance testing and passed the test with a sufficient margin, it needs to be formally certified by an EMC testing lab. Accredited labs are the gold-standard for EMC testing and choosing an accredited lab is always recommended—though not necessary—to ensure your device is ready to go to market. There are, however, some instances that require certification from an FCC-accredited lab, including devices that fall under the 'certification' authorization procedures.

How to pass EMC compatibility testing

EMC pre-compliance testing is a fast and affordable way to ensure products pass EMC tests the first time In the early development stages, design-for-EMC techniques are combined with diagnostics to build products with low susceptibility to both external and internal interference. Later in the development cycle, pre-compliance testing is used to catch compliance problems and improve the probability of a successful first pass of full EMC-compliance testing.

Additional benefits of pre-compliance EMC testing, include:

  1. Detects errors early, fixing potential issues
  2. Lowers testing and design costs
  3. Projects become more agile
  4. Lowers risk of failure and leads to assured compliance
  5. Addresses both over and under design and engineering

For a better understanding of how a Tektronix pre-compliance testing setup compares to an EMC testing lab, watch this short video.

Setting up a pre-compliance EMC test lab

When selecting a test site, rural areas, conference rooms, and basements are good options because they minimize external signals that might mask the DUT emission levels you are trying to measure. Other considerations for improving accuracy include having a good ground plane and reducing the number of reflective objects around the test area.

EMC/EMI testing products

EMI and EMC testing products

The goal of EMC pre-compliance testing is to mimic the compliance test set up within an acceptable margin to uncover potential problems and reduce risk of failure prior to the expensive compliance test. EMC pre-compliance testing typically involves:

EMC testing resource center


EMC/EMI pre-compliance test setup accessories

EMC/EMI pre-compliance test solutions

Learn more about Tektronix EMC/EMI pre-compliance solutions and how to assemble a pre-compliance test setup, and get troubleshooting tips.


Affordable EMC pre-compliance testing set up to minimize more expensive compliance test facilities.

Financial benefits of EMI/EMC pre-compliance testing

Get an estimate of EMC testing costs and the saving you can realize when you set up an in-house pre-compliance testing solution.


Eggtronic case study using a Tektronix real-time spectrum analyzer to ensure their products adhere to EMC/EMI test standards

Fast 3D EMC/EMI scan with Detectus scanning system and Tektronix real-time spectrum analyzers

Download this customer case study to learn how the fast-growing start-up Eggtronic used a Tektronix real-time spectrum analyzer to enable an extremely fast scan procedure to ensure their products adhere to EMC/EMI standards.


Troubleshooting EMC/EMI test issues with Tektronix EMCVu

Troubleshooting EMC/EMI issues with Tektronix EMCVu

Download this application note to learn how to address common design failures early when the costs of a re-design are minimal.

Find the right pre-compliance EMC testing solution for your operation today.

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