Ensuring LED Product Safety for Machine Vision Applications

Manufacturers of products that comprise of LED lights are conscious that governments around the world have directed that these products must undergo certain safety tests. These tests have to ensure that the output of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light does not cross beyond the safety levels stipulated in IEC62471.

However, many manufacturers are uninformed that products bearing national marks—for instance, UL, CCC, CE, and others—which lack documented evidence of IEC62471 compliance, will mostly be seized and banned from sale, accompanied by a potential fine to the manufacturer.

Owing to a higher rate of efficiency and lower operating costs when compared to gas-discharged and incandescent lamps, the performance of solid-state lights—also called “light-emitting diodes” (LEDs)—has improved radically over the last 20 years.

LED vs. Ballast Lights

LED lights are intrinsically sturdier than filament- or ballast-based lights as these products are designed with a monolithic semiconductor material. Consequently, these lights provide an appealing option to industrial markets where uptime is a huge concern. Finally, LED lights can be engineered to create any kind of color or wavelength of light from the UV via the IR spectral band.

The majority of the LED lights that are manufactured currently begin as a blue LED with an additional coating of phosphor, which creates a broadband white light source. The result of this is the development of increasingly brighter blue LEDs.

However, an unfortunate result of the growing popularity of white LEDs is the increased risk of UV damage to the human eyes. UV, IR, and visible light above specific luminosities can cause significant photobiological damage to the eyes. Consequently, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), together with the IEEE and other industrial groups, has prepared an international standard called EC62471 “Photobiological Safety of Lamps and Lamp Systems.”

This international standard was put together in 2009 and aims to protect people against the photobiological damage induced by LED light. According to this standard, the outputs of all lamp designs such as LEDs and luminaires should be tested and documented by a qualified laboratory between 200 and 3000 nm.

This is carried out to determine that the light does not go over the safety output thresholds established by a specific luminosity at a specific distance. On account of these tests, LED lights are categorized into one of the four risk groups and must be then labeled accordingly (refer to the tables given below).

Europe, Canada, and some regions of Asia have directed that all lights should be tested and documented according to the IEC62471 standard. Regrettably, a good number of manufacturers are not aware of this obligation. Assuming that their products follow all applicable standards, CE marks are regularly applied by these OEMs for products to be sold in Europe, for example.

However, if a lawsuit or issue crops up and the OEM does not possess the certified test documents, the products will be removed and forbidden from sale. This also carries a possibility of fines, even if the product, in fact, adheres to the IEC62471 standard.

In other words, undertaking testing and procuring the appropriate documentation with regards to “safe for sale” marks in a majority of the developed markets globally is not an option, but a stipulation.

The IECEE Scheme and What It Means to Users

While compliance with the IEC62471 standard is mandatory in several countries, each of them has the right to alter the regulation as it thinks necessary. A Certification Body (CB) Scheme has been prepared by the International Electrotechnical Commission for Electrical Equipment Safety (IECEE) to assist international manufacturers seeking for ways to conform to different requirements.

In the CB Scheme, joint recognition of IEC62471 compliance certificates and LED test reports are acceptable in 53 different countries. These countries include Australia, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Belarus, China, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Ireland, Israel, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Mexico, Malaysia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and the United States.

After a two-year process of procuring equipment and demonstrating competency, in September 2013, Smart Vision Lights began to test its own LED products so as to legally apply the conformity marks, for instance, Europe’s CE mark, to its products for operation and sales in the countries mentioned above. The company currently solely designs and produces LED lights that fully adhere to the photobiological damage standard IEC62471 and other IEC standards.

A new Gooch & Housego Spectroradiometric system is equipped within Smart Vision Lights’ LED testing lab. It has an OL 750-M-D double monochromator with integrating sphere that comprises of germanium, lead sulfide, and silicon high-sensitivity detectors, which perform extremely accurate measurements of optical radiation.

Intertek periodically calibrates and checks Smart Vision Lights’ test equipment to meet the minimum accuracy requirements stipulated in CTL Decision Sheet 251B–Measurement Accuracy.

Thanks to this newest equipment, lab operators from Smart Vision Lights can autonomously establish and confirm the IEC62471 data, including both radiance and irradiance of optical radiation between 200 and 3000 nm wavelengths.

What Does This Mean to LED Customers?

For LED customers, IEC62471 adherence means that any product or system they build using LED lights that are compliant with this standard is safe to use as well as market in any country globally.

Large companies and government agencies are acquainted with the condition to comply with IEC safety standards, even if not every international company is conscious of the stipulation of IEC62471 compliance.

Lately, one of the biggest customers of Smart Vision Lights, Cognex Corporation (Natick, MA), was able to obtain a contract based on presenting IEC62471 documented compliance of Smart Vision Lights’ LEDs to be used in a future system for sorting post. Anyhow, whether or not customers and regulators are conscious of the standard is immaterial, as ignorance of the law is not an appropriate defense.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Smart Vision Lights.

For more information on this source, please visit Smart Vision Lights.

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