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DSM in Electrical & Electronics

Scientist Story

Rui Zhang - Technology Manager Electronics

Over the past five years, Rui Zhang has been working within DSM Engineering Plastics’s Comparative Tracking Index (CTI) testing competence, helping to create safer materials for the Electrical & Electronics industry. Here he explains how CTI testing is important for both DSM’s customers and the industry as a whole.    
Rui Zhang

What is your role within DSM Engineering Plastic’s CTI testing competence?

I’m the team manager for the AD Electrical & Electronics team in Europe, which specializes in application development for white goods connectors and components. I design tests to evaluate a component’s resistance to tracking, and then customize and adapt these tests to suit different applications.

What do you think is the most interesting thing about the way your field has evolved?

Testing tracking and arcing resistance in electrical components for large appliances and industrial equipment is already well-established. What’s new is that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now looking into this kind of testing for consumer electronics products. Recent innovations, such as component miniaturization, and increased power and voltage, can create serious tracking-related fire hazards.

In your opinion, what is the value of this testing for the industry and your customers?

Evaluating the tracking resistance in components helps DSM to understand the real safety hazards of our customers’ products. With this understanding, my team can work on developing the right aspects of each specific material to improve its performance in our customers’ products. We can also generate value for our customers by designing lab tests to deal with field failures. Linking field failures to lab testing is always a challenge, but our strong material knowledge and applicational know-how enable us to design the right evaluation methods for tackling issues in the field.

What was the most surprising moment you’ve had in connection with your work?

When we first started evaluating the USB Type-C connector, we doubted that tracking could cause any real damage at such low voltages as 20-30V. But in reality, it does! We found that insulation can be seriously damaged, and that the contact can short, which – given enough time – can cause a real fire hazard.

What do you think the most important thing is when supporting and collaborating with customers?

I believe our work is about generating value for our customers through technology, and about supporting them by helping grow their business. In the end, achieving both these aims brings “brighter living” to people – which is energizing for us all.

If you could snap your fingers and enable a “breakthrough”, what would it be?

That all OEMs would start treating electrical fire hazards seriously. Although the current industrial norms and regulations make the risk of fire low, homes and lives can be destroyed if they occur. As long as this can happen, we still have work to do.