Our tour of Raymarine’s Environmental Test Centre concludes with drop testing, power supply testing and a range of procedures devised to establish a product’s resistance to radiated electromagnetic fields
When staff at Raymarine’s eye-opening Environmental Test Centre are told to ‘drop everything’, they take it literally! Products which have already endured brutal treatment in the thermal chambers, Wet Room, Salt Mist Room, Hot Room and Shaker Room are then subjected to the less sophisticated (but no less vital) procedure of drop testing.
Every Raymarine product is dropped in its packaging on all sides: this test ensures that products will arrive in perfect condition following shipping. Products are also dropped without any protection to simulate them getting bumped and mishandled during installation.
Following this brusque interlude, products are whisked to the EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) area, where IEC 60945 EMC testing is combined with in-house procedures including power supply tests to make sure that products will work over the voltage range they might experience.
These tests cover issues such as voltage drops, inrush current and surges. Interference from switching on other boat equipment can disrupt the shared power supply, so these tests ensure that products will continue to work.
Visitors to the test centre who might be reminded of Q’s high-tech workshops in the Bond films will have this impression heightened on entering the striking Radiated Immunity Chamber, its walls covered in pyramid-shaped material. Here, testing ensures that products can still operate efficiently when exposed to a powerful radiated electromagnetic field.
The absorbing material on the walls prevents reflections so that only the direct signal from the antenna is received, making it easier to produce a uniform test field. In this process, the transmit antenna is placed at the far end of the chamber while the test product is placed on a table in the pre-calibrated field and monitored to ensure it operates correctly under radiation, without failures such as lines of interference appearing on a video feed.
In a separate chamber, radiated emissions testing identifies the unintended release of electromagnetic energy. The chamber is a Faraday cage: to prevent interference from external signals the outer chamber is made from two layers of steel. Inside, a combination of ferrite tiles and blue absorber stops reflections.
By this point, it’s all anyone can do to refrain from applauding at the mind-boggling, head-spinning thoroughness of Raymarine’s test procedures. There’s more, though. There are also AIS simulators to test the AIS transceivers, DSC base station simulators for the radios, GNSS simulators, Wi-Fi simulators… It’s a massive investment; but worth every penny.