SAMSUNG, KOREA: Radio ga-ga in the testing labs

As you may already have read, I've been pretty impressed with the testing facilities in Samsung's main R&D labs here at Suwon, south of Seoul. But being impressed turned to dropped jaws when we were introduced to the company's deep testing stuff.

And that includes the chemical labs where they measure stuff like the presence of any harmful substances in products - vital for compliance with the RoHS (reduction of hazardous substances) regulations - and the emission of volatile organic compounds.

Those create the 'new product' smells you sometimes get with consumer electronics equipment, and they play a major part in what's known as 'sick home syndrome', where all those gasses make you feel a bit odd.

So all kinds of plasma spectrograph thingies and X-ray doohickeys are employed to check for this stuff, while big vacuum chambers allow the scientists to analyse the gasses coming off new products as they heat up in use. They also check the emissions of particles and ozone from computer printers, which is what they were doing while we were there.

And then they introduced us to this, one of their EMC (electromagentic compliance) chambers, and indeed one of the best in the world.

It's called a 'ten-metre' chamber, and what it's all about is measuring the electromagnetic output from products - in other words, the stuff that's likely to make whatever's on test interfere with other products in the home.

You know, like mobile phones can make that 'bababup bababup' noise come from your hi-fi, or old microwaves can make the picture on a nearby TV go all screwy.

But the 'ten-metre' chamber isn't so-called because it's ten metres long, or even wide: this huge space, one of the largest in the consumer electronics industry and designed to exclude external influences and control internal reflections in the electromagnetic band, is designed for measurements of emissions at up to ten metres from the product under test.

That's the industry standard for IT equipment, whereas AV products are measured at 3m, and it uses the large antennae seen here - one vertically polarised, the other horizontally. It can measure across a frequency range of 150kHz to 6GHz.

It's a hugely impressive facility - and this one isn't the only such chamber the company has, showing just how seriously Samsung takes all this research and testing.

Oh, and this much smaller room (above) does the opposite thing: it zaps test products with external radio frequencies, and measures their susceptibility to interference. TVs are bombarded with frequencies over a range of 80MHz to 1GHz, and they also test with GSM phone frequencies.

It all ensures your new TV or whatever shouldn't suffer break-up when all your home appliances are going at full chat, and again shows just how seriously Samsung takes its product testing.

Thanks to Florence Catel of Samsung France for the pictures.

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.