Automated Test Application Development Made Easy with ATEasy

EFY Bureau

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Marvin Test Solutions’ ATEasy is targeted at people engaged in the development and use of automated test equipment. Here we discuss its features, hardware and software specifications along with its workspace environment, modules and applications.

EFY Bureau


ATEasy is a test executive and a software development environment for test and measurement (T&M) applications. It contains all the tools required to develop test applications for automated test equipment (ATE) systems and instrument control applications.

Fig. 1: Typical configuration of an ATE system
Fig. 1: Typical configuration of an ATE system
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ATE systems are used to perform testing on one or more electronic products called units under test (UUTs) such as components, boards and assemblies. Typically, these consist of a computer/controller, several test and measurement instruments and a test application designed to control system instruments in order to test the UUT.

The ATEasy integrated development environment (IDE) allows users to quickly develop automated test programs using a wide variety of hardware and software assets including PXI, PCI and GPIB as well as LabVIEW, C++ and .NET. ATEasy facilitates rapid application development but it is greatly focused on test development.

ATEasy has many built-in structures that are object-oriented and allow developers to focus on building a test without having to worry about certain detailed implementations such as log reporting. The ATEasy test executive provides a highly intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for executing ATEasy test programs. The ready-to-use GUI adapts to the test environment that it is linked to. It also frees the test developer from detailed implementation that he would typically need to develop from scratch when using other test platforms.

Why use ATEasy for automated test systems?
An automated test system, also referred to as automated test equipment (ATE), is a collection of instruments under computer control performing automated test functions. Fig. 1 shows the typical configuration of an ATE system. A computer provides control over test and measurement instruments by using hardware interfaces. The instruments, such as measurement, stimulus, switching, power and digital instruments, are connected to the UUT through an adaptor.

The most common computing tool used in ATE applications is the PC. Due to its relatively low-cost computing power and availability of hardware interfaces as well as computer programs, the PC has become the de-facto standard of the test industry. The PC supports numerous interfaces for controlling test instruments. These interfaces include IEEE-488 (GPIB), VXI, ISA bus, PXI/PCI bus, LXI/TCP-IP, serial communication such as RS-232/422/485 and USB. Software programs such as ATEasy allow the computer to control test instruments using any of these interfaces.

Test instruments include:
1. Measurement instruments to measure electrical characteristics
2. Stimulus instruments to generate electronic signals
3. Digital instruments to read and write digital patterns
4. Power instruments using power sources
5. Switching instruments to route electrical signals to different points

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Fig. 2: A workspace, its project file, program, system and driver modules
Fig. 2: A workspace, its project file, program, system and driver modules

The adaptor, also referred to as interface test adaptor, routes signals from the test system to the UUT, which is the target of the ATE. Under software control, the computer performs test sequences and procedures to determine whether the UUT is performing according to its specifications. The tasks required are controlling the test instruments, routing signals to various test points in the UUT, and measuring UUT responses. ATEasy provides all the tools required during the development, debugging and integration of test sequences and procedures.

Running on Microsoft Windows, ATEasy provides a familiar GUI combined with the flexibility of an object-oriented programming environment. Users of Microsoft Visual Basic or Visual C++ will feel right at home. Supporting any instrument, regardless of its interface, ATEasy develops an ATE application in a single integrated environment. With specialised features designed for testing and instrument control applications, it can also be used for data acquisition, process control, lab applications, calibration and any application requiring instrument control. ATEasy supports many instrument interfaces including VXI, GPIB (IEEE-488), RS-232/422, PC boards, PXI and LXI (TCP/IP).

ATEasy’s IDE is object-oriented and data-driven. It automatically selects editing tools according to the type of the object to be created or modified. This feature simplifies programming as you merely click an object and ATEasy automatically selects the appropriate tool.

Features
The ATEasy IDE includes tools for creating instrument drivers, user interface, tests, documentation, test executives, report generation and anything else you need to create T&M applications—all with point-and-click and drag-and-drop ease.

ATEasy contains a high-level programming language enabling test engineers, electronics engineers and programmers to develop and integrate applications of any scale—small to large, and simple to complex. The ATEasy programming language allows user-defined statements to be used along with flow control, procedures, variables and other common items found in most programming languages. It is flexible and powerful, yet easy-to-use and self-documenting.

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Professional programmers will appreciate ATEasy’s programming language offering DLL calling, ‘C’ header file import for DLL function prototyping, OLE/COM/ActiveX control support, .NET assemblies, LabVIEW virtual instruments or their libraries, function panel instrument driver files (used mostly by LabWindows/CVI), multi-threading, exception handling, and many more software components and standards for developing complex applications in a truly open system architecture. ATEasy’s programming language also contains many built-in programming elements to simplify programming, allowing non-programmers to easily use ATEasy for application development.

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Fig. 3: Main window of the IDE with callouts to individual windows

The unique design of ATEasy provides a structured and integrated framework for developing reusable components and modules that you can easily maintain and debug. These components can be reused from application to application, reducing the time and effort of developing and maintaining applications. The developer is given a framework that is especially designed for a T&M application. The framework contains predefined components designed for interfaces (such as GPIB), instruments control and drivers, system configuration, test requirement documents and test executives.

In addition, the ATEasy IDE provides a way to write, run and debug applications in very short cycles as required by instrument-based applications. The object-oriented environment makes editing of common tasks or objects displayed in the IDE very similar to other object-oriented environments. The similar functionality greatly reduces the learning curve for ATEasy.

With ATEasy, multiple users can edit the same file representing a driver system or a program. Files contain version information that allows users to keep track of, and document, the changes. In addition, all ATEasy documents can be saved to a text format allowing comparison and merger of changes between multiple users and tracking of changes using version control software in a better way.

Workspace, applications and modules
ATEasy applications are developed in the IDE within a workspace file. Workspace file contains the programming environment and the last saved layout of the IDE. It is not a part of the application.

ATEasy applications are Windows executable files created from project files containing one or more modules. Typically, a project file contains a system, one or more programs, and one or more drivers. The system, program and driver are called ATEasy modules. Each module contains sub-modules such as forms, commands and procedures, and is stored in a project file, which may be inserted or moved between projects so that it can be reused by other ATEasy applications.

Fig. 2 shows a workspace, its project file, program, system and driver modules. The workspace file and its image in the IDE contains a list of files or documents and the state of IDE windows and their content. The IDE can load only one workspace at a time. Typically, the workspace file contains a list of one or more project files loaded by the IDE.

Installing ATEasy
Insert the EFY DVD in the DVD-ROM drive. The Setup program runs automatically if your drive is set up to auto play. If Setup does not run automatically, select ‘Run’ from ‘Start’ menu and when prompted, type:

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[drive letter]:\AExplorer

where [drive letter] is the letter assigned to your CD-ROM drive. For example, type “D:\AExplorer” if letter ‘D’ is assigned to your CD-ROM.

A window showing several options will be displayed. Select ‘ATEasy Software’ and then ‘Install ATEasy’ to start ATEasy setup program. A Welcome screen is displayed. Click ‘Next’ to continue. The next screen shows the licence agreement. When you finish reading it, click ‘Yes’ to continue (answering ‘No’ exits the Setup program). Enter your name and company name, and click ‘Next’ to continue.

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Enter the folder where ATEasy should be installed. Click ‘Browse’ to set up a new folder, or click ‘Next’ to accept the default entry of ‘C:\Program Files\ATEasy.’ Select the type of Setup and click ‘Next.’ Select the program folder where the icons and shortcuts for ATEasy are to be stored. Click ‘Next’ when finished. The program will now start installing.

During the installation of ATEasy, Setup may upgrade some of the Windows shared components and files. If prompted, restart Windows. Setup may ask you to reboot after installation completes. Reboot in order to ensure complete installation.

You can now start ATEasy by double-clicking the ATEasy icon on the desktop or by selecting ATEasy from the Start→Programs→ATEasy menu.

Licence, registration and support
To use ATEasy, you must purchase a licence from Geotest. Three types of licences are available:

Single licence, network licence and hardware key (USB or LPT version).

If you do not have a licence, you can activate a 30-day trial version of the ATEasy software. The trial licence contains full ATEasy functionality for 30 days.

The licence can be set up from ‘ATEasy License Setup’ dialogue box. This dialogue is displayed when starting ATEasy with no licence installed or from ‘About ATEasy’ item under ‘Help’ menu when you want to change the licence. If you have purchased a subscription plan, you must register to activate the plan. Subscription plan entitles you to free upgrades and unlimited customer support. If you don’t have a subscription plan, you may register to receive free ATEasy newsletter, product service packs, updated drivers and examples.

You can go through the books available online for more information on how to register the product and set up a licence.

For information on how to go about your first project on ATEasy, and create your own application and your first test program, commands, modules and external libraries, refer to the PDF manual ‘Getting Started With ATEasy’ available here.


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