5 Things to Consider When Selling Wireless Devices into Hazardous Areas
Are your devices certified for use in hazardous areas? Practically every wireless device manufacturer serving harsh industrial environments has been asked that question before. It is being posed more frequently than ever thanks to the IoT revolution. Process industries are increasingly adopting strategies for improved digitization across their sites and facilities. This naturally leads to questions about safety certification. If you are one of the few manufacturers who hasn’t been asked about safety-certified wireless devices already, don’t worry, it is only a matter of time.
A common misconception among buyers is that standard wireless devices can be easily certified retrospectively. This is rarely the case. Getting an existing device approved to standards required for hazardous areas is no easy process. It isn’t low cost or quick to do either.
Here we will run through some of the key points to consider before setting off down this path.
Does the wireless device meet the requirements needed for hazardous area use?
If you are looking to deploy a standard wireless device in a hazardous area, the likelihood is that it doesn’t hold the required certifications. That means a redesign or some form of engineering and investment to bring the product up to the level of compliance required.
IEC 60079-0 is the standard that all equipment must adhere to before certification can be granted. Your device will need to meet certain criteria specified in each section of the standard depending on the intended application zone.
For example: If you wish to deploy your wireless device into a zone 1 or Div 1 area you may consider the Ex d flameproof enclosure protection concept. The requirements for this protection concept are documented in EN / IEC 60079-0 (general requirements) and in EN / IEC 60079-1 for the “flameproof” (explosion proof)) type of ignition protection.
You may not require such a high level of Ex certification so you could opt for Zone 2 or Div 2 standards such as IEC 60079-15 the standard for type of protection “N” or commonly known in the USA as Non-incendive protection.
Finally, there are also dust hazards to contend with in some industries and these have a range of protection concepts to ensure an electrical product is not capable of causing ignition in these types of hazardous areas.
Have you got the time?
It is also worth considering how long the certification process is going to take. Certifying a wireless product to Ex standards can take over a year. This can be extended further depending on what it is you are trying to certify, and the level of changes required in your production and process management systems.
It is also worth considering the time investment required versus the volume of enquiries you receive per year.
Have you got the expertise to navigate the standards that govern Ex equipment?
IEC 60079 is the standard that governs Ex-certified equipment. Understanding the requirements stated in these standards requires extensive experience which can take years to gain.
If your business is not an Ex-certified manufacturer, the process can be a huge distraction from the key focus of your wireless business. It may require specialist training or additional expenditure to secure the knowledge needed to navigate the process.
Have you considered the ongoing costs?
Certifying the equipment is not the only cost you must consider for your business. There are also the ongoing costs associated with quality assurance. All Ex product manufacturers must also get their Quality Management Systems certified as well.
ATEX requires an Ex manufacturer to complete a Quality Assurance Notification or QAN as it is more commonly known.
The CSA Group define the QAN as follows;
The Quality Assurance Notification is therefore involved with the continued monitoring of systems and processes in relation to those Ex products. It involves periodic audit of the manufacturing process by a qualified auditor. For ATEX certification, this is called a Quality Assurance Notification (QAN)
Source: CSA Group website
For IECEx it is called a Quality Assessment Report (QAR) and for North American Certification they have a requirement for auditing the actual factory where the equipment is manufactured.
In addition, a certificate of conformity is required. The IECEx certificate of conformity (CoC) comprises of two elements. The first section if the assessment of product samples against relevant standards. The second part of CoC requires an assessment of manufacturers quality systems based on parts of ISO 9001:2008 and ISO/IEC 80079-34:2011.
It is also worth noting that certification aims to verify a compliant design, it is not intended to be the initial determination of compliance. Therefore, redesign or re-engineering can be quite common for products that were never originally intended for hazardous area use, further adding to the time and cost before certification can be assessed.
The certification process can cost upward of $50,000 to get approvals covering ATEX, IECEx and North American Certification and require significant changes to your existing quality processes. As a business you are subject to a yearly audit at an additional cost to maintain your certification. For North American certified products, audits are required four times a year at a much higher cost to the business.
What does a MET lab factory audit involve?
- The process starts with a Pre-Certification Factory Inspection (PCFI) at the manufacturer’s premises with the safety test report and the manufacturer’s quality system forming the basis of the audit
- Follow up audits occur biannually and are unannounced “surprise” visits
- Quarterly inspections occur for products intended for use in hazardous locations
- All inspections must be completed within a calendar year and typically last 1 – 1.5 hrs each
Source: Eurofins York
Partner with Extronics
Extronics specialise in developing and manufacturing ATEX, IECEx, and North American-certified equipment for use in hazardous areas and rugged industrial products for harsh environments. We serve customers around the world in industries such as oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, and mining.
We offer solutions that allow wireless vendors and manufacturers to easily deploy their products into hazardous areas. Our vendor agnostic approach means we can offer the flexibility required to work to your needs and the customers specifications at a competitive price.
Meet our Range of Hazardous Area Wireless Enclosure Systems
Extronics’ iWAP range of hazardous area wireless enclosure systems are perfectly suited for wireless networking installations in a range of process industry environments.
You choose your access point from leading vendors like Cisco, Aruba, Siemens, and Extronics make if suitable for use in hazardous areas.
Protecting against AC, DC, and dangerous transient faults, the iSOLATE501 makes RF outputs intrinsically safe. Working with sister product iSOLATE-CT, it allows you to use simple apparatus antennas in hazardous areas and hot swap them, too.
Fully assessed by Extronics engineers as ‘simple apparatus’ under intrinsic safety standards, the iANT range gives a wide choice of antennas for use with our iWAP series to suit multiple applications.
For more information, please speak to a member of our team by emailing us at email@example.com or calling us on +44 (0)1606 738 446.
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