Will Safe Consumer Electronics Actually Do a Good Job?

As the festive season approaches, parents, spouses, grandparents and friends are contemplating what gifts they will give their loved ones. Presents are meant to bring fun, excitement and joy to their recipients. Nevertheless, they must be safe and free of toxic and/or hazardous materials. The safety and toxic contents of materials are controlled through a range of mandatory requirements and tests. For example, the CE mark ensures that products have been manufactured in accordance to relevant standards and regulations. But what about a product’s quality?

Enter Fitness for Use

Quality is defined through safety, functionality, ease of handling and durability. As safety is tested in accordance with applicable legal requirements, the tests for the remaining product characteristics rely on a different approach. This is where the Fitness For Use (FFU) concept comes into play. FFU was introduced for the management of quality testing of various types of electrical and electronic equipment, including household appliances and video and audio equipment. All types of equipment are manufactured in accordance to their relevant standards, which also include performance testing requirements. However, passing all applicable performance tests cannot provide a complete picture of a product’s quality.

FFU testing implies testing products to ensure their ‘fitness for purpose’. In order to certify quality as well as durability, the number of testing cycles is adjusted to the assumed life span of a product. The load applied during testing will be increased as well, to ensure the product is strong enough to handle forces of normal usage as well as foreseeable misuses without incurring any damage, malfunctions or even discontinuity. Test programs are developed in relation to available standards, performance requirements and targeted fitness for purpose.

Common sense, flexibility and creativity are also used for developing adequate FFU test programs. Information gained from tests performed by various consumer protection agencies can also impact the set up of FFU test program.

FFU in action: Headsets, Earphones

FFU testing for headsets and earphones will cover various factors related to the intended use, such as the bending capability of cables. The flexibility of the headband is also tested and additional checks will measure whether or not the headband can be worn comfortably after a prolonged use. Drop tests are performed in order to evaluate the behavior of headsets when accidentally dropped. Additionally, as headsets are often worn outdoors, FFU must include tests performed under different weather conditions, such as cold, hot and humid environments.

As part of the Fitness For Use measurements, instruction manuals are also tested to ensure product promises given therein are kept, and that the instructions are easily understood. In addition, necessary markings and labels are checked on the packaging, the item itself and in the instruction manual. The evaluation of FFU tests results is performed on a scale, and the final verdicts are: very good, good, satisfactory and poor.

Through its global network of Electrical & Electronic testing labs, SGS can offer manufacturers highly customizable FFU test packages for most types of consumer electrical & electronics, in facilities located closed to all major manufacturing regions.

Once all the FFU tests, including those stemming from mandatory requirements, are passed and the evaluation result is at least ‘satisfactory’, products tested by SGS will receive the “SGS Performance Tested” quality mark. The SGS mark provides retailers the reassurance that the consumer electronics they sourced will quickly gain access to most markets around the world and will pass any potential market surveillance checks.

Moreover, the end consumer can rest assured that the products they are giving as gifts are safe to use for the product’s entire lifetime.

Harry Bentlin
Senior Technical Services Manager
SGS Hong Kong Limited
t: +852 2204 8338

ABOUT SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.