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Improving EMC awareness

11 Jun 2008

TRAINING: Engineering institutions seek to encourage their members to take part in continuing professional development to keep them up to date in their respective subject areas. One discipline that particularly lends itself to tailored training is electromagnetic compatibility.

Chris Marshman,Managing Director, York EMC Services Ltd, University of York, UK

EMC may be touched upon in university electronics courses. In practice, however, it is a subject many engineers need to understand in greater depth.

EMC confronts engineers working across several sub-disciplines. Electrical and electronics engineers need to be aware of the sources of electromagnetic interference so that they can mitigate against its effects. This may involve separating signal cables from power cables or control electronics from power electronics or switchgear - and so the mechanical engineer becomes involved in the implementation process. Equally, many installations comprise electronic systems integrated from a multitude of sources, and so the systems engineer needs to be familiar with EMC, whilst project managers will need to ensure that the overall aim of achieving EMC is met for their entire project.

On the ground, EMC needs to be demonstrated by appropriate documentation in order to satisfy safety, reliability and legal requirements. This is particularly relevant to the harsh electromagnetic environment often encountered by railway engineers. To give one example, the use of inverter or chopper traction drives can introduce harmonics into the overhead line or conductor rails, or the magnetic fields produced may be directly coupled into S&T systems. Here the engineer's prime concern is to prevent a red signal turning to green.

Last year, EU Directive 2004/108/EC on EMC became law in the UK, with far-reaching effects for the railway industry. York EMC has responded by collaborating with the Institution of Engineering Technology and the Electronics Knowledge Transfer Network to provide a one-day workshop to assess its impact, which was due to be held on June 4.

In addition, York EMC Services, a subsidiary of the University of York, presents a range of courses and workshops to provide an appropriate level of understanding, skills and awareness for the breadth of engineers likely to be involved in EMC. These can be presented as in-house training to meet the needs of a particular organisation, or as an intensive three-day umbrella course on EMC in railways.