Test & Measurement: An Innovation A Day!

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The T&M world is innovating at a rapid pace, to keep in step with the developments taking place in its client industries, ranging from communications and computing to aerospace and defence. Radar technologies, 3-D imaging, increasing precision, unbelievable speeds, network convergence, wireless capability, video tests, virtual instruments—catch a glimpse of all these and more trends in T&M

Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram


JUNE 2010: If there is one factor more important than innovation, it is probably quality. The competitive environment in every industry has ensured that customers never have to compromise; they can choose the best and ignore the rest. To be the best, a product has to be designed, developed and manufactured not just fast but also perfectly—a task that is impossible without the latest test and measurement (T&M) equipment.

Consequently, engineers and manufacturers want the best equipment, be it for compliance testing, communication testing solutions, machine vision and inspection, and so on. “Compliance testing, communication testing and aerospace/aviation/defence equipment have the highest demand in India, though almost all the sectors have their own requirements and demands. This is because these segments have been developing at a rapid pace and significant technological investments are happening in the Indian aerospace, aviation and defence sector,” comments Sai Venkat Kumar of Tektronix’s Asia-Pacific Marketing Group.

Today, as we know, the business equation is more than just ‘demand→supply.’ It is now ‘demand→innovation.’ This has led the T&M industry to come out with instruments that are not only more precise but also imbibe all the latest trends ranging from wireless networking to three-dimensional (3D) imaging. Here is a small sample of the latest technology available in the T&M space.

Green T&M helping to go green
Considering that green is the colour of the day, let us begin by looking at how the current generation of test and measurement equipment aids engineers in designing and developing eco-friendly, energy-efficient electronic products.

To be able to design products that consume less energy, engineers must be able to measure the energy consumed at not only the system level but also at the component level, because every milliwatt matters. This is a high-precision T&M task. For example, when working with components such as light-emitting diodes and power semiconductors, engineers need low-level measurements such as forward and reverse voltage and forward current. They use source-measure units to provide excitation voltage or current, and measure voltage and current in components.

Innovative Products Launched Last Year

EFY Bureau team member spoke to the leading T&M companies in India to get an idea about their most innovative launch last year. Here are the chosen ones…

Fluke 233 DMM with Detachable Display

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One of the biggest challenges in some of the measurements is that the point of measurement is at a location where you cannot conveniently view the readings—say, underneath an automobile. Detachable display is a perfect solution for such measurements.

Fluke’s 233 wireless remote display multimeter is world’s first such device that allows you to be 10 metres away from the measurement point. By simply sliding the wireless display out of the meter body, the user can place the display where it can be seen most easily, while putting the meter in the best position to take measurements.

This multimeter uses a 2.4GHz ISM band wireless transmitter to immediately send measurements to the detached display. Designed for both convenience and safety, it makes it easier to take measurements in hard-to-reach places, or make measurements in machines and panels that are physically separated from a limit or isolator switch. (Distributed in India by TTL India (www.ttlindia.com))

Apart from enabling the design of green electronics, T&M equipment themselves are becoming green of late. For example, some companies such as Chroma ATE have found ways to recycle energy from tests that involve charging and discharging of batteries. The energy released by discharging batteries is fed back into the system’s direct current (DC) power grid. The testers also use DC-DC converters instead of power metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) to reduce the power consumption from 12W to less than 4W.

Chroma ATE’s EnergyStar-certified 66202 digital power meter
Chroma ATE’s EnergyStar-certified 66202 digital power meter

Machine vision: Powered by X-rays, LEDs and 3-D
X-ray vision has been used in T&M equipment for a while now. However, fully automated X-ray inspection systems have just started gaining popularity, especially in the food and drugs industry, and surface-mount technology (SMT) production.

 

Innovative Products Launched Last Year

Adtron PC-based DSO

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Oscilloscopes have traditionally been bench-top equipment. But recent developments in personal computers have benefited many, even the T&M equipment. Adtron Technologies’ PC-based digital storage oscilloscope (DSO), PCO40, is a high-performance, wide-bandwidth (40MHz) oscilloscope with low power consumption. While being very competitively priced, it is USB 2.0 compatible, requires no external power supply (as it is bus powered by USB) and is extremely convenient to use. Compact size makes it ideal for field technicians for calibration and troubleshooting on the site.

The equipment is designed using digital signal processing algorithms that provide accurate data record and various data format processing. The PC-based feature enables you to save output waveform and signal values in MS Word or Excel or graphic files—helpful for future analysis and sharing. (For details, visit www.adtronindia.com)

Agilent 32GHz Real-time Scope

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The Infiniium 90000 X-Series oscilloscope is claimed to be the world’s fastest real-time oscilloscope by Agilent Technologies. It features 32GHz real-time/true analogue bandwidth, and is said to offer breakthrough performance with the industry’s lowest noise floor and lowest jitter. As the data rates extend beyond 10 Gbps, the high-bandwidth oscilloscope will help engineers to capture fast, single-shot events and make critical measurements like jitter while ensuring compliance to industry standards for interoperability.

The design of Infiniium 90000 X-series is based on a proprietary indium phosphide (InP) integrated circuit process to enable high-frequency capability. Custom aluminium nitride packing technology combines five InP chips in the front-end multi-chip module that incorporates unique noise shielding and heat dissipation techniques. (For details, visit www.home.agilent.com/upload/cmc_upload/All/clp_ID.1877137_eng.html)

 

Innovative Products Launched Last Year

Anritsu VNA with S-parameter Measurement

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The VectorStar vector network analyser (VNA) from Anritsu breaks the radio-frequency (RF) barrier by spanning from 70 kHz to 70 GHz in a single connector. For applications ranging from 70 kHz to 2.5 GHz, a mixer-based receiver with bridges for directional devices is used. Above 2.5 GHz, a harmonic-sampling receiver is incorporated, with traditional couplers for directional devices. VectorStar features a completely new VNA platform that uses an innovative architecture.

Using this equipment, you can perform S-parameter measurements of RF, microwave and millimetre-wave devices. It provides a powerful measurement tool for performance analysis of devices ranging from transistors in an on-wafer environment to communication systems in commercial or defence applications. (For details, visit www.us.anritsu.com)

VTI High-density Signal Switching System

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TFor test, product validation and systems engineers who are responsible to automate the functional testing of complex electronics systems, here’s a high-density multifunction signal switching sub-system. Up to 576 channels of voltage or temperature can be measured in a single-rack 1U mainframe, with additional capabilities including DC to 26.5GHz RF switching, isolated analogue outputs, arbitrary waveform generation, digital input/output (I/O) and edge detection. The LXI Class A communications interface (as claimed by VTI) can be used to create a highly synchronised, distributed measurement system that performs data logging, monitoring and control.

The equipment provides measurement support for all thermocouple types, RTDs and thermistors with built-in cold junction compensation. It has a powerful inbuilt Web-based graphical user interface (GUI) that provides virtual monitoring and control of all switches and instruments without the need for third-party software. An integrated 6.5-digit digital multimeter increases the test throughput. (For details, visit www.vtiinstruments.com)

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