Since it first began, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components (IECQ) has been gaining worldwide recognition as the international system for providing independent verification that electronic components, related materials, and processes comply with appropriate standards and specifications.
What would a world without IECQ look like?
Electronic components play an ever-increasing role in our lives. At home, at work, on the road, in the air, whatever we do, wherever we are, we rely on electronics to make our lives easier and safer, provide better communication, and operate in a world that has become global and interconnected.
Imagine if the components in electrical devices did not work consistently. Equipment would fail or operate intermittently, communications would be unreliable, and repair shops would grow exponentially. IECQ helps to ensure that electronic components and associated materials, assemblies, and processes work dependably.
Dave Smith, Chairman of the IECQ Management Committee, says that if IECQ had not been formed there would be no international certification system for components and no model for other such systems.
‘It was a first and it was created because nations and their industries wanted IECQ to facilitate trade.'
In the beginning
In the early 1970s, electronic devices were just at the outset of their development. The Atari and the Merlin Handheld Game were marketed and people seemed fascinated by moving lights and little beeping sounds. Electronic calculators went from being heavy, large, and boxy items that lived on the desks of the most affluent to smaller and more affordable items. Apple II was launched in 1977 and by the 1990s; the personal computer was a standard item for most middle-income households.
In a world in which electronics industries were growing and starting to flourish, Dave Smith says there was a need to have a global electronic component certification system.
‘At the time when IECQ was being developed, there was a European system for electronic components but there was nothing on an international level. IECQ was trail blazing.'
In those early years, from 1971 to 1974, the IECQ Provisional Management Committee prepared the Basic Rules and Rules and Procedures of the organisation. In September 1974, the IEC Council agreed to form IECQ. By 1976, IECQ had also developed a management committee, known as the Certification Management Committee, which was open to all IEC National Committees that chose to join the System.
IECQ was officially operational on an international basis as of 1 January 1982.
Five IECQ Schemes
The work of IECQ is based on its five Schemes and their programmes.
The IECQ Hazardous Substances Process Management Scheme evaluates equipment manufacturers’ and related organisations’ processes for compliance with QC 080000, which is an IECQ specification. It provides the requirements used to demonstrate to the international market-place that the organisation has developed, documented, and implemented processes for managing the production, selection, and use of electronic components, assemblies, processes, and related materials in accordance with customer, local, national, and international hazardous substance-free requirements for its scope of activity.
IECQ Independent Testing Laboratory Approval is available to independent testing laboratories required to carry out tests in support of IECQ activities within the IECQ System. The approval covers the type of tests, the component ranges to be tested, and the facilities available, and exceeds the relevant requirements of the standard for general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories (ISO/IEC 17025). To gain approval, an independent testing laboratory must demonstrate that its organisation and facilities comply with IECQ requirements for the competence of staff and adequacy of testing facilities, and for performing their functions under the IECQ System.
The IECQ Avionics Scheme is designed to evaluate commercial, military, and aerospace (avionics) equipment manufacturers’ and related organisations’ processes for compliance with IEC standards.
The IECQ Approved Component Scheme may be applied to electronic components, products, related materials, and assemblies for which a technical standard or specification exists or a client specification has been accepted for use in the IECQ system. Organisations with IECQ Approved Components Certification demonstrate to the international marketplace that their organisation and facilities, through testing and other verification criteria, comply with the requirements of the IECQ System and the relevant technical standards and specifications for their scope of activity.
The IECQ Approved Process Scheme may be applied to any process that affects the conformity or compliance of electronic components that relate to assemblies or services. Additionally the electronic components industry relies on, as a part of its manufacturing infrastructure, a supporting industry of organisations providing a wide range of specialised services, processing, and manufacture of piece parts and material. This Scheme permits such organisations to certify their specialised services or processes under the IECQ Approved Process Scheme.
IECQ future certification opportunities
The IECQ Schemes help facilitate trade, reduce industry costs, and eliminate duplication of assessments because certificates are recognised globally in the member countries. This means that once a device is tested under a recognised certification body the certificate is valid everywhere, making it highly valuable. It also provides those components, processes, and materials that are certified with potential to access international markets.
Today, IECQ is expanding its offerings through Counterfeit Avoidance Programme, Automotive Qualification Programme, and an expansion of the Avionics Scheme. In the future it is possible that IECQ will have an AQP-equivalent for railcars or that other existing Schemes will be allowed to include components that are not used in electronic devices.
Summarised from an article in IEC e-tech by Aliyah Esmail.