The National Computer Quality Supervising Center (NCTC): A Core Chinese Global Capability (Part 3)


2013-01-15 by Dr. Xin Song, Leonard Zuga, and Professor Michael Pecht

General Lab Services of the NCTC

The NCTC provides various lab services, including electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing, safety testing, environmental reliability testing, server room / data center inspection, IC card testing, RFID testing, quality and performance testing, semiconductor component (SC) and printed circuit board (PCB) testing, software evaluation (SE) testing, consulting, and training. There is significant overlap with this organization and the 5th Institute (CEPREI Calibration and Test Center), headquartered in Guangzhou.

The following sections describe the general lab services of the NCTC.

Electromagnetic Compatibility Testing

The Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) lab was founded in 1989. Since 1999, the NCTC has invested about RMB10 million in test facilities, including one anechoic chamber and more than 100 other types of advanced EMC equipment imported from RS in Germany, Schaffner and EM Test in Sweden, Agilent in the US, and Noiseken in Japan. All the operators and technicians in the lab are well-trained and experienced, having passed the required qualification tests.

The EMC lab in NCTC is capable of conducting the CCC certificate test, the production license confirmatory test, the European Conformity (CE) certificate and test, product quality inspection, and government, industry, and customer-entrusted spot checks.

The EMC lab also provides technical diagnostics and improvement advice and plans. The major products under inspection include computers, computer peripherals, computer network equipment, IC card applications, domestic appliances, fiscal cash registers, finance and tax control machines, RFID readers, and financial terminals. Customers of the EMC lab include TPV, Founder, Lenovo, BOE, Hisense, Thunis, Daewoo, Siemens, and China Great Wall Computer Shenzhen Co., Ltd.

The primary services of the EMC lab include inspection of product quality for hardware, software, and systems; spot testing of product quality authorized by the government; product permit inspection of IC card and IC card readers, tax cash registers, fiscal cash registers, and satellite TV receivers; product quality certification testing, such as CCC and CE certification; and technical diagnostics and improvement advice and plans for computers, computer peripherals, computer network equipment, IC card applications, domestic appliances, fiscal cash registers, finance and tax control machines, RFID readers, and financial terminals.

Safety Testing

The electrical safety testing lab contains nearly 100 pieces of testing instrumentation and equipment used to perform compulsory inspections of IT equipment, China Quality Certification Center (CQC) voluntary certification tests, CE certificate tests, entrusted tests, and diagnostic tests. Products subject to safety testing include IT equipment, audio and video equipment, communications and telecommunications equipment, measurement and control equipment, laboratory electrical equipment, household consumer appliances, automatic controllers, IC card readers, and electronic tag reading and writing equipment.

The National Computer Quality Supervising Center is a critical information technology infrastructure component of the dual-use electronic components and systems industrial base of China. It is a key element augmenting Chinese competitiveness and ability to penetrate the global supply chain. 

Environmental Reliability Testing

The environmental lab is 300 square meters (m2) in size and has one operator with a master’s degree and two with bachelor’s degrees. The lab works on more than 500 test projects with more than 10 publications annually. It provides technical support for product design, component screening, intermediate testing, and acceptance testing.

There is a wide range of customers from industries such as electronics, telecommunications, and mechanical manufacturing, and companies such as Siemens, Ericsson, Tsinghua Thunis, Tsinghua Granville, Lenovo Group, Founder Technology, and the Chinese military. An environmental reliability test chamber can be used to run temperature cycling tests, temperature shock tests, constant or alternating temperature and humidity tests, salt spray tests, vibration (sinusoidal, random) tests, shock tests, bump tests, drop tests, and noise tests.

Server Room and Data Center Inspection

Currently, server room acceptance in China is conducted through a consensus of customer, supervisor, and construction units. Because of their different perspectives and insufficient knowledge, the Chinese government has invited third parties, such as the NCTC, to carry out project acceptance.

The result is that the NCTC will provide a consultant prior to construction to provide advice on topics such as site selection, determining whether the physical environment conforms to regulations, and safety supervision of the design, construction, and support of facilities in order to minimize the construction risk for the client.

The inspection standards include the following: 1) GB/T 2887, “General specification of the computer site”; 2) GB 50174, “Computer room design specification”; 3) GB 9361, “Computer site safety requirements”; 4) SJ/T 30003, “Construction and acceptance of computer room”; 5) GB 50303, “Construction quality acceptance of electrical engineering”; 6) GB 50343, “Lightning protection of the buildings of electrical and electronic systems”; 7) GB 50243, “Quality acceptance of the ventilation and air conditioning engineering construction”; 8) SJ 20455, “General specification for military computer rooms”; and 9) GB 8702, “Electromagnetic radiation protection.”  It is clear from these key specifications that there is a dual-use component to the consulting and analysis conducted by NCTC.

IC Card Testing

Since 1998, the NCTC has been entrusted by the government, industry, and enterprise to supervise the inspection and quality testing of IC cards (contact and contactless). The testing checks the physical characteristics, including card size, warping, stability of dimension and warpage under temperature and humidity conditions, contact surface profile, contact position, bending toughness, dynamic bending stress, dynamic distortion stress, contact resistance, static magnetic fields, opacity, static electricity, peeling strength, alternating electric fields, alternating magnetic fields, mechanical strength, block adhesion, reliability under environmental testing, read and write distance, field strength, chemical resistance, coating thickness, card plug life, printing speed, and flame resistance.

The NCTC also conducts tests on IC card systems, such as tax control cards and Sinopec fuel cards. Furthermore, the NCTC consults and trains on areas related to the standards, testing methods, and testing plans.

RFID Test Center

The RFID Test Center was built in 2006, under the permission of the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China, to be a professional third-party testing organization related to advanced RFID technical applications and the protection of the Chinese RFID industry.

The RFID Test Center provides technical support and consultation for the following: typical applications and product acceptance of RFID techniques; tender documents; standards for the implementation and application of RFID products and equipment; inspection, simulation, and verification of RFID techniques; specifications of RFID products and equipment; and testing for procumbent acceptance, spot checking for process quality, and routine testing commissioned by enterprises.

Past projects of the RFID Test Center include the following:

1) research-phase inspection and system validation of the highway traffic identification system in Henan Province;

2) product procurement and system testing for the declaration of electronic guidance systems, authorized by land border ports of the AQSIQ, Shenzhen Bureau;

3) project evaluation of the road and bridge toll systems in Wuhan, Hangzhou, and Harbin;

4) evaluation of the feasibility of vehicle plate management in the Shanghai Expo as an RFID application model;

5) system testing for the “branch know” smart card;

and 6) quality inspection of animal ear tag products, electronic customs locks, logistic labels, INLAY products, RFID tickets, and RFID readers and writers. The tests conform to ISO standards, such as ISO/IEC15693, ISO/IEC 14443, ISO/IEC 18000, ISO/IEC 11784, ISO/IEC11785, ISO/IEC10536, and ISO/IEC 18047.

Product Quality and Performance Testing

Commissioned by the Department of Justice, the Department of Technical Quality Supervision, and insurance companies, the NCTC has carried out product quality arbitration inspection, covering well-known servers and network devices, desktop/laptop computers, computer peripherals, IC card equipment, and other information technology products, with a total product value of RMB 50 million. The following paragraphs describe examples of typical quality inspection cases that were made public.

In one case, a batch of computer servers was exposed to rain during transportation, so the buyer refused to accept the products. Entrusted by one of the local courts of Xiamen, diagnostics of these off-line but powered servers was conducted. Performance failures were found in 10 out of 12 server machines. The cause of failure was determined based on the appearance, integrity, humidity conditions, and performance.

In another quality inspection case, a customer reported a non-functioning Toshiba Duo laptop. Authorized by a police station in the Haidian district, Beijing, the NCTC found that this was a counterfeit and was actually a used PC manufactured in 2000 in Japan. The configuration was a Mobile Intel Celeron CPU, 500 MHz, 64MB RAM, and a 2.1G hard disk. The “XP, ATI, and Core” marks on the PC did not match the actual configuration. The XP screen display and the record of the hard drive capacity, CPU speed, and memory capacity were modified manually. Several similar cases were found in IBM ThinkPad laptops sold in Beijing.

The NCTC has also helped solve disputes between laptop users and sellers by diagnosing causes of failures.

For example, in one case, a battery could not provide power to a laptop, although the laptop worked when plugged in. The laptop customer service found that the charge and discharge performance of the battery was normal, and therefore assumed the failure was due to mis-operation by the customer. However, it was determined by the NCTC that there was a fault in the power supply parts on the motherboard and that it was not user error.

Semiconductor Component and PCB Testing

The NCTC claims to be a pioneer in ICs, and, in particular, very large scale integration (VLSI) test technology with applications in both consumer and military electronics. They also have more than 120 pieces of test equipment and many experts.

The semiconductor component (SC) and PCB test units conduct tests on the environmental reliability and electrical, physical, mechanical, and metallographic properties of different varieties of components and circuit boards.

The testing products include the following: liquid crystal thermography circuits, including resistors, capacitors, inductors, and other resistive, inductive, and capacitive devices; devices such as diodes, transistors, MOSFETs, thyristors, and IGBT rectifier bridges; analog integrated circuits, including positive and negative pressure fixed/adjustable voltage regulators, operational amplifiers, voltage comparators, sampling holders, voltage followers, precision voltage references (PVRs), time base circuits, and optical coupling; digital integrated circuits, including 74/54, 74/54LS, 74/54F, 74/54ABT, 74/54HC, 74/54HCT, CD4000, H000, interface circuit 8000, communications interface circuits, and memory and single-chip VLSIs; mixed analog–digital integrated circuits, including AD/DA, integrated circuits, and audio circuits; other electronic components, including relays and power supply modules; and multilayer printed circuit boards and copper-based and copper-clad laminates.

Software Evaluation Testing

Software testing evaluates information application systems and software. Major tests include evaluating product functionality, performance, reliability, safety, adaptability, and feasibility.

About the Authors:

Dr. Xin Song, the primary Chinese linguist for this research, is a hydrogeologist and environmental engineer. Dr. Song graduated holds a Master degree in Environmental Science from Tsinghua University, Beijing and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park.

Leonard Zuga is an analyst of emerging technologies, technology transfer, and industrial base development in the context of the global political economy.

Professor Michael Pecht is the founder and Director of CALCE (Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering) at the University of Maryland, which is funded by over 150 of the world’s leading electronics companies at more than US$6M/year. The CALCE Center received the NSF Innovation Award in 2009.

Editor’s Note: The report on the NCTC will be published in four parts and then available in a single downloadable report after publication of the final part.