I have a problem that's come up at work.
We are being asked to build a custom display light that uses off the
shelf electrical components that will be enclosed by a melamine box.
The customer wants the unit to have a UL approval sticker on it (This
product meets the UL962 standard for household and commercial
We'd be making several hundred of these and I have no clue of how to
estimate the time or cost of getting the UL approval.
Any of you guys have experience with this sort of thing?
I do recall hearing an inventor state some years ago that he couldn't afford to
get things UL approved because of the cost. Several units need to be supplied
for testing, according to him, and they are tested to destruction, which can
sometimes be a costly process.
"Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." Mark Twain
Getting "the bull" AKA: UL Label is a real PITA.
Not much in direct fees but ungodly amounts of documentation need to be
researched and submitted.
The time involved can be a great expense.
I'd tell the customer that a UL listing will add $1,500.00 per unit, with
payment of the UL premium due at time of order placement.
Might find the customers UL need magically goes away or at least is
S/A: Challenge, The Bullet Proof Boat, (Under Construction in the Southland)
I used to make adapters and mounting cabinets for high voltage breakers, in
addition to modification to the breaker themselves. They were always sent,
assembled with breaker, to be UL tested. They only required one to be sent.
They do not destroy them. The only reason they would be destroyed during
testing is if it would not do what it was meant to do. UL rating only
certifies that the device will perform as the manufacturer says it will. It
is only a certification that you are not making a false claim, not that it
will be safe. I have no idea how much it costs though. I just made them.
Correct. Depends on the standard. Just so happens everything I ever sent
to them had to comply with a flame spread standard and the only way to test
them was to burn them. Once that test was done, to maintain compliance you
had to certify that you used the appropriate material and be able to trace
back from finished product to the lot number of the material from our
supplier. This may or may not apply on the cases in question. Inspection
was every quarter. It could take five minutes, could take five hours.
Yes, I do. It is not easy. You have to submit items for testing (that YOU
pay for) meet certain design criteria, use only approved materials, etc. It
may entail quarterly inspection of the manufacturing facility to assure
compliance (that YOU pay for), lots of record keeping. I'm not familiar
with the particular listing you are looking for, but I don't know of anyone
that gets away with less than 10 or 20 thousand.
I'd pass on it.
You could point out that the fixtures you use will be UL approved and that
any cost incurred in getting the whole assembly UL approved will fall on
him. Also the delay in providing him with his units until the process is
I'd also make a point to inform him that the approval goes with the units
so, unless you have some sort of exclusive agreement with him, you will be
free to use the approval on like units you may make for someone else.
It's what I would do, but of course that depends on how much your company
needs the work and are willing to push
It is what you SAY you would do until you started the process. I've done it.
I'd turn the job down. It can run into tens of thousand of dollars on some
item and take up to a year to get it done. It will take hours of your time.
time that is better spent earning a living. If you are a multi-million
dollar company with employees that have the time, go for it. For a small
shop, forget it.
What about telling the customer to go get the design approved themselves?
You, the manufacturing house, build it to pass the spec - they own the
design and the cert burden. I think this is a more typical way of doing
business. Guess it depends on what they are looking for that sticker for,
if they even know themselves. These certs are usually pretty trivial to
understand and pass, especially when you are using standard componants and
materials, but not trivial to get the piece of paper proving you passed.
Not too familiar with UL, just CE.
| Not too familiar with UL, just CE.
UL certification is considerably more difficult to obtain than CE
It is a lengthy, complicated, time-consuming, and expensive process. If
your customer demands UL certification as part of the contract, make sure
you pass those expenses on to him. To require it as part of a fab run of
only a few hundred units is fairly inefficient. Perhaps if your customer
sees all the expenses he'll have to foot, and that they are beyond your
control, he'll relent.
As others have stated it's very complex. If your lucky, you can find a
manual from UL that states all the specifications required for your box.
By this I mean it's a product that already has a reputation like say a
new vacuum cleaner. Otherwise you will be on your own but they do
publish specs on the general stuff like cords, strain relief, heat, etc.
You will need many "samples" to provide them so they can destroy them.
Cost is also in the multi $K just to get them to test.
It would be easiest (and cheapest!) if you could equip the insides with
UL approved devices (like a complete lamp assembly versus individual
components) and make your box have the clearence/material requirements
stated for use by the maker of the lamp assembly. Your client wont get
the UL sticker on the outside but you will have made a product that
meets the UL "spirit".
I think they are crazy.
However, Off the shelf parts can be UL approved (mentioned in another post).
and if the box meets certain temperature standards (like the bulb wont'
cause spontaneous combustion of materials surrounding it) you should be
safe. Honestly I think this is an odd request.
"Violin playing and Woodworking are similar, it takes plenty of money,
They may be crazy, but the have the check book. It is probably a case of CYA
in case of a lawsuit.
For the past 18 years I've been involved with meeting either UL or some
other third party certification. Hours of record keeping is required "just
in case' and there has never been a case. Marking, tracing of materials,
inspections, audits, are all part of the game. Spend a half day or more
with a twit that has no idea of your business, but is checking to see if you
are in compliance. And you are paying for him to bug you as part of the
After a year I just recently completed this with a third party company so we
can comply with our customer's request, but they are a million dollar a year
customer and hope to be for many years to come. You don't do that type of
thing on a one shot contract for a few hundred pieces. Want to see the
procedures we must follow? It is about 100 pages.
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Was associated with it (albeit on the periphery) about 15 years ago when I
was an 'njuneer on a blood analyzer. Saw the $$ and paperwork involved and
wondered (out loud) if it was so 'spensive because we were a medical device?
The response was "Nope - UL is a PITA!"
My nickel says the requestor either foots the bill or you build enough of
them to amortize the expense.
Getting a UL listing can be complicated and expensive, but doesn't
have to be. My employer routinely gets this for the product we build.
We wouldn't be in business without it.
That said, have UL listed componentry inside has already gone a long
way. For that enclosure, you'll need the yellow card for the material
it's made of and have to follow required clearances and the like for
the kind of product it is. Some products get a lot more testing done
to them than others.
To name a particular amount this will cost is speculation, but it's
surely in the thousands. Maybe a lot of thousands. Only UL will be
able to say after they look at what you have and what it's going to be
IMHO, a couple of hundred units doesn't seem to make much sense to go
through that expense. Does your customer plan on reselling them? The
portion of the product price attributed to UL listing could make it
Maybe you could get a clue on making a safe product by just talking to
the UL guy. Check with your customer if they really want to go all
the way and make them pay for it if they do.
Is there a difference between a UL listing, and a UL approval?
In the (north american) telecomm world, there are several differing levels
of certification for equipment. Does an analogous situation exist here?
I was going to comment somewhere about this and you've provided the
It's long been my understanding that there is no such thing as "UL
approval." Items submitted for testing are run through a rigorous
series of examinations (destructive testing, too, as someone pointed
out), and if they pass the tests, they are added to a list of products
that meet the requirements; thus becoming "UL Listed."
This is way out of my field of expertise; I just remember reading
about it years ago, and I may not have it all right, but that's the
gist of it. I also seem to recall that the standards are set by a
consortium of insurance companies.
Anyway, I always bristle when I hear (see) someone talk about UL
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
First, UL doesn't approve anything. An item can be either UL recognized or UL
listed. Typically, UL listings are for complete assemblies (a lamp for
example) while UL recognitions are for components that go into a listed item
(the wires in the lamp). I never needed any special records for our UL Listed
inverter systems, the UL safety auditor would once in a while come in and check
to see that we had everything in the cabinet that we said we did. Depending on
the product and its application, the costs vary widely from a few hundred
dollars to thousands. If you use only UL recognized components in your
assembly, the listing process is much less expensive. If you're custom
building the item without UL recognized components, the process is much more
expensive and involved as every component will require safety testing at UL's
labs. I suggest you contact UL directly and talk to them first.
(I've only dealt with UL for the past 15 years or so).
E-mail me offline and I can give you some phone numbers and names to contact.
Mattatuck Astronomical Society
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