At Product Safety Consulting Inc. our job is helping designers and manufacturers bring products into compliance with applicable safety standards. We often explain how to use appropriate components. It’s one thing to use UL Recognized Components, but are you using them correctly? All components come with Conditions of Acceptability ( CofA’s). In our test lab expert consultants check the CofA’s for products, packaging, and other consumer-related items.
Newcomers to product design often confuse two marks they see on items already on the market: the UL Listing (UL in a circle) and the backwards UR (UL Recognized Component). Though both marks indicate levels of testing, they are not the same. The UL goes on a finished products: a computer, lamp, TV, or any other consumer item or product that can stand/operate alone. This product could have several components, but the mark means the completed product, and its individual components, comply with all applicable requirements of the end product Standard. The backwards UR is for the Recognized Components that go into a product: switches, wires, transmitters, enclosures, packaging elements, or other parts. Though each component might already be tested, and certified to comply, when using them in your end product you must follow the CofA’s designated by UL for that particular component.
For example, one claim we hear constantly at PSC is: “All of my components have been tested and are UL, so my product must be fine.” Though this logic often proves true, it can just as easily be false. To find out which, you have to test the completed design and check the CofA’s of all components. You may have designed and built your product using a power switch that’s been tested to 2 amps. When you bring it to us the switch has worked well enough for your purposes, but our job is to test the whole product. Our tests might show you need a switch that can take up to 5 amps. If your product doesn’t comply with this CofA, it won’t get Certified.
To design and build a safe product you need to know the Conditions of Acceptability of each component. You can usually get this from the component’s manufacturer or your supplier in a list of engineering CofA’s. This will provide all the conditions that must be followed for the component to be considered UL. Some common CofA’s are: the component must be enclosed, must pass electric strength testing, must follow certain pollution degree levels, must be used within its electrical ratings, or must be fire resistant. There are many factors like these.
One of a designer’s most essential tools is the UL set of IQ Databases and Online Certification Directory. Once you learn how to use this you can search for manufacturers, suppliers, company names, locations, and so much more. If you need a part that’s tested to meet specific CofA’s you can usually find it here. Say you want to use a certain polymeric material for an enclosure. This directory will show whether the material has been tested in particular thicknesses and colors for specific temperature levels. If you find what you want, you can also learn where to get it.
In the end every new product needs testing to earn Certifications for safety. The more attention designers give this, the more likely their products will pass the first time we test them. Even if a product doesn’t reach every Standard, if the designer has kept CofA’s in mind throughout the process, there will be fewer problems once our tests begin and you’ll get to market quicker.