Test & Measurement: Exciting Times Ahead

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New human interface devices like touch, gesture and speech recognition will take centre stage this decade, making it possible to analyse data like never before

UMA BANSAL


CZZ_Keithley_Picture---4225-PMU-new
Keithley 4225 PMU

MARCH 2011: Test and measurement (T&M) instruments have remained the backbone of all manufacturing and service industries for several decades. But though they play pivotal role in most industrial segments, all the attention was earlier enjoyed by core industry devices. The scenario has, however, changed now. From being a less glorified performer, T&M instruments have come to be recognised as star performers.

In 2009-10, the T&M industry in India grew by 10.8 per cent. The total market size today stands at Rs 8 billion—up from Rs 7.22 billion of the previous fiscal year. Ever-changing technology, application needs, advanced industrial environment and growing demands are inspiring T&M manufacturers to keep in sync. As a result, the T&M industry has witnessed many changes in terms of technology upgradation, price competency and new products over the last few years.

Sectors driving the growth
Aerospace and defence, telecom, manufacturing, government and education sectors are the biggest growth drivers for T&M in India. These sectors need T&M and monitoring tools to help engineers accelerate the performance of computing and networking through high-speed serial technologies; apply digital RF technologies to create flexible wireless networks and mobile devices; incorporate embedded systems; and facilitate high-quality video through multiple digital formats and channels.

Apart from these traditional sectors, solar and LEDs are the prominent growth drivers today.

“The telecom sector needs instruments for high-frequency measurements. The defence sector needs high-reliability instruments and the educational sector needs low-cost instruments,” says Chandmal Goliya, managing director, Kusam Electrical Industries.

The growth of T&M in the telecom sector has been fuelled by the fast growing subscriber base and arrival of new technologies like 3G, WiMAX and LTE. “There is a large requirement for on-site installation and service of equipment in telecom,” says Manish Kwatra, CEO, Metro Electronic Products.

“For telecom applications which combine voice, video and data, devices such as protocol analysers, network analysers, volt/amp/watt meters, logic analysers and signal generators are in large demand,” adds Rajesh Suresh Joshi, manager-business development, Dynalog (India).

There is tremendous potential for T&M in the defence industry too. “India’s total spending on the defence industry is expected to reach $36 billion by 2013. For supplies to defence, it is mandatory that a certain percentage of these be sourced locally even in the procurement deals signed with foreign suppliers,” informs Neelam K. Kumar, executive director, Aplab Limited.

“The aerospace and defence sector would mostly be interested in high-end vector network analysers, spectrum analysers and signal generators up to 50 GHz,” adds N.V. Valsalan, head-test & measurement and broadcast, Rohde & Schwarz India.

The increasing automation in various industries, including automotive, food and beverages, and textiles, will need sophisticated test instruments at various check points of every stage to minimise repairs afterwards in the production lines.

Devices available
Gautam Awasthi, general manager (marketing), electronic measurement group, Agilent Technologies India, classifies T&M devices into two broad categories based on their usage: Advanced/application-specific and basic.

 

Major applications

1. Communications (cellular test, wireless and wireline tests, optical)
2. Aerospace and defence (surveillance, signal intelligence)
3. Research & development (digital, RF, microwave, etc)
4. Security (surveillance, military communications)
5. Core electronics (data acquisition, control, automation, semiconductor, component test, nanotechnology, RF and microwave)

—Gautam Awasthi General Manager (Marketing) Electronic Measurement Group Agilent Technologies India

Advanced or application-specific. Equipment such as network analysers, protocol testers, spectrum analysers, and cable and antenna testers cater to specific T&M requirements and therefore fall under application-specific category.

Cable and antenna testers measure cable losses, distance-to-fault functions, etc and are normally used in field installation and maintenance. Similarly, spectrum analysers are used in spectrum monitoring, checking the hopping and interfering signals in a particular band, and characterising any particular communication standard.

Basic. Equipment such as multimeters, power supplies, function generators, oscilloscopes and frequency counters come under basic category and can be seen on every electronics test bench. These instruments are normally used in general-purpose debugging of the device-under-test.

Recent trends driving innovations
Wireless. The combination of advanced technical capabilities brought about by digital RF and the increasing customer demand for more functionality and seamless mobility has led to a number of innovations in wireless communications. The latest advancements in T&M are mostly pertinent to WiFi test systems, SIM card tests and network testers.

“Latest technologies like LTE use MIMO antennae with 2×2 configuration enabling data rates of 100 Mbps in downlink and up to 50 Mbps in uplink. This means that today’s test equipment should be able to simulate such scenarios and also handle multiple radio access technologies to facilitate testing,” says Valsalan.

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