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.
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.
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.