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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Storms whip up safety concerns - the role of EN61010

21 September, 2014
It is said that that lightning never strikes twice. However, by the time you finish reading this sentence, the combined product of some 2000 storms raging at any given time around the world, will have produced in excess of 400 lightning flashes on planet Earth. Jez Watson, managing director of CD Automation considers EN61010 and how products should be tested to this international standard.

In the information age, the global population is now over seven billion, and the improving demographic transition of less economically developed countries, means that this is rapidly increasing, expected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century.


This population growth has highlighted the fundamental economic problem - of having seemingly unlimited human wants and needs - in a world of limited resources. This scarcity is becoming increasingly evident in traditionally prosperous countries, prompting people to search out and inhabit more geographically remote regions of the world.


Over the last few decades, this economic boom has fuelled the growth, development and industrialisation of previously unstable and climatically challenged regions. 


And therein is the problem. Although industrialisation has changed, product design and development, as well as the associated legislation and control, is still playing catch-up.


Products and electrical components designed for use in western countries have been traditionally optimised for moderate weather conditions. This is reflected in the narrow operating temperatures, minimal voltage fluctuation protection and low thermal shock tolerance.


As organisations internationalise, they are beginning to build manufacturing facilities in previously uninhabitable regions, which exhibit severe meteorological and geological activity, meaning modern components are required to face often harsh environments.


CD Auatimation has addressed this problem and recently launched a new range of Lumel-certified products, tested to EN61010 international standards.


EN61010 is broken down into four categories. CAT (I) looks at electronics such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. CAT (II) includes household and workshop equipment such as refrigerators and drills. CATIII is what we're interested in and CAT (IV) refers to utility level devices used on the mains power supply.


Under CAT III, customers can dabble in all industrial electrical equipment, from meters and analysers to transducers and controllers, resting assured that it has been tested to the highest standards.


Current industry practices are often risky, with CAT II rated devices being used in applications designed for CAT III ratings. This is often dangerous as underrated equipment may combust in application.


The legislation ensures that the equipment design and methods of construction provide adequate protection to the operator and the surrounding area against electrical shocks and burns, which can result from lightening strikes and surges, as well as protecting against mechanical hazards, excessive temperature and the spread of fire from the equipment.


The standards ensure that equipment is safe to be used both indoor and outdoor, at altitudes up to 2000m, and at temperatures between -5 and 40C. In addition to this, equipment must operate in humidity of 80% at 31C and 50% at 40C. 


The most significant protection offered for bad weather regions is the ability to tolerate mains supply voltage fluctuations of plus or minus 10% of nominal voltage, as well as minimising the effects of radiation from laser and ultrasonic pressure sources.


So the next time you're caught up in a storm and you witness the dramatic effect of a lightning strike, it's probably best that you don't stick around to find out whether it strikes twice. As long as your equipment is certified you don't need to worry!

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