What do small scale open hardware projects do about RF interference compliance testing? I’ve been looking into selling assembled versions of a few of my projects like the Backwoods Logger, to people without the time or skill to build their own. If I’m lucky, I might sell a few hundred such units, through a dedicated store web site, or just a page attached to the BMOW blog here. I would want to do this right, which means complying with any applicable certification requirements for consumer electronic devices. In the United Sates, that means FCC Part 15.
After searching for information about FCC requirements, it appears that anything operating at frequencies above 9 kHz requires FCC verification testing, which costs several thousand dollars. This is true for both intentional radiators (WiFi modules, Bluetooth, remote controls, etc) and unintentional radiators whose emissions are accidental. By that rule, everything from an Arduino clone to a data logger to a robot control board requires FCC testing. You don’t actually need an FCC ID, but you do need to perform the testing and keep your certificate of compliance on file, should the FCC ever ask for it. And your product must include a phrase like “This product complies with FCC requirements for a Class B device.”
I looked for information about how the “major” hobby electronics vendors handled FCC testing, and found that this is a topic no one wants to talk about. It’s like a dark family secret. Discussion threads get responses like “we can’t legally comment on this” and are then locked. Reading between the lines, it seems that while FCC testing is required for virtually every electronic board and module, almost no one actually does it. But because the penalties for non-compliance are worse if you knowingly sell an untested electronic product, nobody is willing to admit that they didn’t perform the tests, or even discuss the subject at all. I’m not going to name any specific vendors, but if you have any circuit boards on your desk that contain a microcontroller or USB chip or other interesting gizmos, check to see if it was FCC tested.
Have you ever sold an electronic product that you designed yourself? Have you ever taken a product through FCC compliance testing? What was your experience? Leave your feedback in the comments.Read 11 comments and join the conversation