08 Jul What is EMI RFI Shielding and How Does it Work?
To understand what is EMI RFI shielding, it is firstly important to understand what it is shielding against. EMI and RFI stand for electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference. In our technology-dominated world, we are surrounded by sources emitting these electromagnetic and radio waves out in all directions, all the time. For certain electronics, having these waves interact with them can interfere with their functionality, causing glitches and sometimes all out system failure depending on the intensity of the waves.
Particularly for technology in the telecom, medical and transportation industries, EMI/RFI can pose serious safety concerns for those operating systems that are relied upon for daily functionality. EMI/RFI can also come from within the equipment itself and risk complications with other components susceptible to that interference. This is why shielding is not just a precaution but a necessity for those looking to protect valuable electronics and equipment from potentially crippling interference.
What is EMI RFI Shielding?
A good way to think of EMI RFI shielding is like a lightning rod, capturing and diverting a potentially harmful force away from vulnerable areas. This type of shielding comes in many forms, but at its core it is a metallic protective layer which either contains the source of EMI/RFI or protects electronics from outside sources.
Using the principles of a Faraday Cage, this shielding uses a conductive metal to absorb electromagnetic and radio waves that come into contact with it. These waves are then converted into a current which is redirected away from the vulnerable technology towards a grounding connection.
Types of Shielding Materials
Now that you have a better understanding of what EMI RFI shielding is, you should know that EMI RFI shielding comes in many forms, depending on the application it is needed for.
You may see a simplified version of shielding on some circuit boards, in the form of a simple metal box. Materials used vary from stainless steel to beryllium copper and nickel silver that could be combined, for example, with foam or silicone elastomers.
In larger iterations used on objects like machinery or server rooms, EMI RFI shielding can be applied in the form of an acrylic paint or spray. This acrylic coating contains extremely pure, fine particulates of metals such as copper, silver and nickel, which are evenly carried throughout the protective coating.
Types of Shielding Products
One of the characteristics of EMI RFI shielding that makes it so useful is its versatility. As technology is constantly evolving, the ways in which we protect it from interference and damage must also evolve and adapt to different needs. Here are some types of EMI and RFI shielding products available at The ID Group:
- Fingerstock Gaskets: Fingerstock gaskets are perfect for applications where something will be opening and closing frequently. These are a popular product for EMI and RFI designers in the industry, as they offer one of the best electrical spring contacts and a high level of mechanical strength. Using beryllium copper and stainless steel, these gaskets offer an extremely high level of attenuation as well as high compression tolerances, making them particularly versatile.
- Metalized Fabric Gaskets: As a cost-effective, highly flexible solution to EMI RFI shielding, metalized fabric gaskets are an ideal solution. Simply put, these are a length of polyurethane foam core which is then plated in nickel and beryllium copper. The foam core allows for flexibility when installing and a strong forgiveness to compression forces the shielding may be subject to over time. The metal plating is carefully bonded to the foam core itself, further enforcing flexibility and allowing for the gasket to be cut to size without damaging it. These gaskets typically come coated with a type of double-sided adhesive which offers more options for installation.
- Conductive Foam Gaskets: With a wide range of applications and a great deal of options for sizing and design, these gaskets are particularly suitable to technology such as routers, servers, computers, laptops, connectors, and access panels, to name a few. These consist of a polyurethane panel which is then covered in a nickel or copper plated polyester fabric. Conductive foam gaskets all have a UL 94 V flammability rating and are designed with X, Y, Z axis of conductivity for even current distribution. The foam is also compressible by up to 50% without damage.
- Conductive elastomers: There are high performance materials suited to a wide range of applications requiring EMI RFI shielding. Made with conductive rubber, silicon or foam, elastomers are not only able to provide sufficient shielding, but can also be used for environmental sealing such as fluid intrusion prevention and erosion prevention. These are also an extremely cost-effective and customizable solution, with countless options available for specific industry or product needs.
EMI RFI shielding has uses across any industry that utilizes technology for its operations, but prove to be especially useful in the telecommunications, medical and transportation industries. Here are some of the benefits for each sector:
- Telecommunications: In an industry built around sending and receiving signals, protecting equipment from unwanted radio and electromagnetic interference is essential for day-to-day functionality. Especially for servers or electronics built into antennas and other transmission devices, shielding solutions are a core component of any technology being utilized.
- Medical: The medical sector is extremely technology dependent when it comes to the equipment they use for testing and treatment. Equipment such as MRI machines or life support systems are costly and needed to perform constantly without fault. In the absence of EMI RFI shielding, these systems are vulnerable to serious damage or malfunctions which can have grave and costly consequences. Taking key steps to prevent these types of errors from occurring with proper shielding can save hospital staff unwanted issues as well as thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs.
- Transportation: The transportation industry is typically reliant on radio and navigation technology, sometimes operating over immense distances, in order to function. Often utilizing radio communication systems and sensors to coordinate complex shipments or supply chain operations, it is even more important that their technology is properly protected from unwanted interference. Taking the proper steps to shield equipment can avoid costly errors and system failures which might lead to confusion and shipment issues.
Finding the Right Solution for Your Needs
There is no doubt that EMI RFI shielding has become increasingly important over the years to ensure the proper functioning of electronic devices and components in various applications and conditions.
For the last 20 years, The ID Group has been providing its customers with EMI RFI shielding solutions which work to meet the exact requirements of each project. We take the time to work closely with clients to understand the unique challenges and needs of each contract. Our experience working across multiple industries has given us the expertise to deliver knowledgeable advice and carefully considered recommendations for EMI RFI shielding solutions.
Find out more about how The ID Group can help protect your equipment from EMI and RFI. Speak with one of our experts today or have a look at our EMI RFI shielding products now.