A Look Inside the MPS EMC Lab
Monolithic Power Systems recently opened its European EMC Lab in Ettenheim, Germany.
I had the chance to interview Jan Spindler, who is the manager responsible for the Electromagnetic Compatability (EMC) laboratory, and Julian Meier, the marketing manager for Monolithic Power Systems (MPS) in EMEA. They introduced the process of setting up this state-of-the-art facility and the idea behind this project.
Moscheik: Please introduce yourselves briefly. What are your responsibilities at MPS and the EMC lab? How long have you been at MPS, and what did you do before?
Spindler: I am the head of the EMC lab in Germany, as well as the new MPS location in Ettenheim, Germany. I started at MPS in 2019 with this project, so I have been involved in every step of the project, from planning the building and the lab to starting operations in June 2021. Previously, I worked for an automotive manufacturer in Stuttgart; in particular, I worked with antenna development and EMC. Overall, I have been involved with EMC since 2009.
Image used courtesy of Bodo’s Power Systems [PDF]
Meier: I have been with MPS since April 2021 and, as marketing manager, I am responsible for all marketing activities in EMEA. This includes cooperation with publications and magazines, marketing activities with our distributors, and anything else that concerns marketing. I studied business administration and electrical engineering at the Technical University of Munich, and I most recently worked for a Dutch/Chinese semiconductor company before joining MPS.
Moscheik: What was the reason for building this facility in Germany, and what are the goals for this facility?
Spindler: MPS has been pursuing EMC strategies and how to build our own locations for different markets since 2018. It started with the construction of our laboratory in Hangzhou, China. For the US and European markets, we developed plans for Detroit, USA, and Ettenheim, Germany. The goal in each case was to build state-of-the-art laboratories and boost our testing capacities.
Moscheik: What can you say about the equipment in Ettenheim? What tests and services are available?
Spindler: Currently, we have 10 people working at our lab, with 4 of them working purely in the laboratory. These individuals work on EMC measurements and conduct other electrical tests, such as those required for certain automotive and industrial standards. The remaining employees belong to the application, sales, and field teams.
We have about 600 square meters of available EMC and electronic laboratory space. This extra space means we can explore application engineering and have the capacity to support internal as well as external projects. The technical equipment includes 3 EMC chambers:
- SAC3 for emission and immunity testing for automotive, industrial, and consumer electronics.
- CISPR25 cabin for emissions and immunity testing for automotive electronics, specializing in the whole CISPR25 and ISO automotive field.
- Shielded chamber for conducted emissions and immunity testing for automotive, industrial, and consumer applications.
In addition, there are workplaces for pulse and electrical testing, which gives us a significant amount of flexibility and room for creativity. At the same time, there are still plenty of reserves in the building for further growth. Our management said right at the beginning, “You mustn’t think so small. We have a vision. We have a goal.”
Meier: It must be emphasized that the 600 square meters of laboratory space are supplemented by almost 1200 square meters of office space and seminar rooms. Both the EMC laboratory and the office space are designed to accommodate additional employees in the future. MPS as a company has grown significantly, especially in recent years, and we expect this trend to continue. We have already hosted some events and workshops with customers and distributors. The location in Ettenheim is perfect for us to train our customers and build strong relationships with our partners.
Moscheik: You have internal clients as well as external ones, so how do things look in terms of capacity and utilization at the moment?
Spindler: Normally, EMC problems are not mentioned in the project schedule. It is the same for our internal projects and for our customers. Our midterm planning is quite conservative, which allows us to have time slots for unexpected problems. Within this setting, we can work efficiently and still have the capacity to respond on short notice. If someone has a problem, we want to help quickly, not in 3 months. Right now, we can usually offer appointments within 2 weeks.
In addition, we support the entire European market from Ettenheim. Our product lines and field teams use our laboratory to analyze customer applications and support them in the event of questions and failure analysis.
Every market is somehow different, and even though we collaborate with the labs in China and the USA, the time difference can be a problem, especially with acute problems. Efficient communication and locality lead to faster solutions.
Moscheik: Your website says that you offer “independent lab services.” What is meant by this?
Spindler: In addition to our internal orders and external customers, we offer companies that are not (or are not yet) MPS customers the opportunity to use our services and our expertise in the EMC field. In this way, we would like to demonstrate the importance that the market in Germany and Europe has for us. Products are becoming more and more complex and the time pressure in development is constantly increasing. Sometimes there is hardly any time left for the engineer to deal in-depth with the power tree, for example. The equipment required is also becoming more extensive, and for some companies, it is simply uneconomical to keep all the necessary measuring equipment on hand. In this case, we would like to be the partner who supports and helps with solutions.
Image used courtesy of Bodo’s Power Systems [PDF]
Moscheik: A full-service offer to everyone, so to speak?
Spindler: Exactly! We want to get away from pure product sales, which is often, “Buy this IC and then leave me alone.” In principle, we really do offer a whole package behind it, as in, the whole solution. That means we don’t just develop the IC — we develop within the application, and we support the customer throughout the entire development process. With the possibilities created here in Ettenheim, we can offer these solutions much more intensively. We talk to customers at eye-level and go beyond offering a product that works; rather, we are a partner for the project. It was very difficult to convey that with technical sales alone. Now I can invite customers to the lab and show the processes live. That is a very big advantage! We have also installed an MPS Now lab in Ettenheim, so our engineers can virtually support our customers in real-time. More information can be found on our website.
Meier: I would like to mention that at this point when the lab is still very new, our focus is on our existing internal and external customers. But for sure, the EMC lab will help us make a good name for ourselves when building up new customers.
Moscheik: Did these possibilities influence the decision for Ettenheim?
Spindler: In the past, MPS started with a sales structure in Germany. We then reached a point where we said, “We now must do more.” We need more technical capabilities — simply because the demand is much greater — and we want to be more efficient. That’s when the question came up: where do we go? In Munich, we already have a location/sales office, but we could also go somewhere else. Being an international company means we are not necessarily tied to Munich.
Ettenheim is located between Basel and Karlsruhe, near to the autobahn A5, Switzerland, and France, and you can reach international airports within 2 hours via train. Within the city of Ettenheim, we found an excellent infrastructure and the land to fit our overall concept. As a starting point, we already had a good customer base and network in this region. It is a very green region and a great foundation as we grow.
This article originally appeared in Bodo’s Power Systems [PDF] magazine.