Designing and developing a product with electronic content is just one step in the process of going to market. Engineering courses and training can give you the math and design skills you need, but for products to compete in the real world of commerce, “more” is often required. And that “more” can sometimes be a customer’s indefinable sense of quality or security that comes from choosing a particular product.
This is where certifications and verifications can play a significant role – communicating the quality and safety of the final product in the marketplace. Two very important examples of this are UL (Underwriter Laboratories) and CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certifications.
Communicating this sense of quality and safety with a product can be enhanced through certification or listing with an independent testing organization like UL or CSA because these organizations have been doing this for a long time. These organizations provide testing that verifies if a product conforms to applicable engineering standards, and then sanction use of the UL or CSA marks or logos to communicate that fact.
Engineering standards are documents developed by active engineering, academic, and commercial professionals who work with standards organizations, like the IEEE or the ASTM, to publish consensus guidelines that cover manufacturing procedures, materials and the operation of products. The standards they produce help ensure that safety and performance metrics are achieved.
The worldwide recognition of the UL and CSA marks or logos on thousands of products not only imply a sense of quality and safety in the product, they also offer significant traction for these products in the marketplace. If you are buying an electrical outlet or an extension cord for your home, you are much more likely to choose one with a UL listing over one without.
UL and CSA certifications are not required by law, but last year about 14 billion products with the UL logo entered the global marketplace.
It’s safe to say that the UL mark is known by private and corporate consumers worldwide as an indicator of products that will safely function as expected. While we've been discussing UL and CSA specifically, there are other organizations and considerations that you can learn more about from one of our CircuitBread friends, Online Components, on their blog about certifying bodies at: What are UL and CSA Certifications and Do You Need to Worry About Them?
As an engineer, it is important to be aware of applicable engineering standards for the products you work on, particularly for public-facing markets like aerospace or automotive. Understanding in advance the audit processes of the certification companies, like UL and CSA, can also help you design and build products that will reach markets faster and be more easily incorporated in engineering drawings, specification sheets, and purchase orders.