Consumer Device Connectors Must Meet New Safety Standard
In 2021, the 62368-1 safety standard took effect, requiring that interconnects in AV and ICT equipment provide new levels of protection for users.
As digital technologies proliferate in consumer spaces, infiltrating nearly every aspect of life, product safety is a greater priority than ever. Standards are evolving to encompass recent advances made in consumer devices and the ubiquitous presence electronics has in our lives. Fire safety, electromagnetic interference, and increasing levels of power are among the factors designers must consider in consumer product design.
Product designers now need to also be cognizant of a 2021 change to safety certifications for certain categories of consumer products. Two previous certification standards, 60065, specific to audio/video equipment, and 60950-1, specific to information and computing equipment (ICT), were withdrawn at the end of 2020 and replaced by the single standard IEC 62368-1 / UL 62368-1, a coordinated global safety standard from IEC and UL. The new standard covers consumer and professional AV equipment, electronic musical instruments and accessories, information and computing equipment, communications devices, and other consumer products. In many instances, USB connectors and ports are also covered by the standard.
The 62368-1 standard is guided by hazard-based safety engineering (HBSE) principles for the physical protection of equipment users, which identify potentially hazardous energy sources and conduits by which energy can be transmitted to a user. “HBSE can best be described as a key component and building block of safety science, consisting of two components: inherent safety and functional safety. Inherent safety is safety related to the inherent design of the product where the safeguards against potential hazards are not relied upon for the correct operation of embedded functions. Functional safety is related to safety resulting from a loss or malfunction of a function, either within the product or in the overall system,” said Joe Antony, principal engineer – controls and components, UL. Following these principals, the 62368-1 standard proposes means to increase product safety both in normal use and under faulty conditions.
In the past, ICT and AV equipment had distinct differences that called for specific and focused safety standards. However, in recent decades, the power supplies, connectivity features, and wiring architectures in these categories have become more similar, and these categories have often merged in complex connected systems. A musician, for instance, might integrate an electronic keyboard, synthesizer, speaker system, and microphone to a computer and monitors — all linked by cables. A harmonized standard that would cover both the AV and computing categories was created to address these developments.
The IEC 62368-1 covers numerous consumer products, including:
- Computing and networking products, including servers, PCs, laptops, tablets, routers, and their power supplies
- Consumer AV electronics, including stereos, amplifiers, monitors, TVs, and digital cameras
- Telecommunication products, including network infrastructure equipment and phones
- Office equipment, such as copiers and fax machines
Any new products that would have been certified to 60065 or 60950-1 in the past must now be certified to 62368-1 instead. Sales of existing products in the United States are grandfathered in, but in Europe and much of the rest of the world, existing products must be re-certified to IEC / EN 62368-1.
Connector suppliers have been preparing for this new safety standard for years. They have re-certified relevant products in their portfolios and new products have been developed to meet the parameters of the standard. Distributors are also guiding their customers in the selection of compliant products. Digi-Key has a comprehensive guide on the design of safe power supplies for engineers working in the relevant product categories.
It is essential to purchase current components from reputable sources to be sure the product meets current standards. Ultimately, the correct use of all components must still be checked by the device designer in the final application for conformity with the standard.