The Roundtable - Test & Measurement Trends
Moderated by Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, the Roundtable is where industry players talk about market, technology, and industry trends.
This month's question is: What functionality and/or features will drive the next generation of test & measurement products? What will be the most radical emphasis? Lower cost, better accuracy, robustness, speed, the ability to function in hazardous environments? What are you looking for in your next test device? Our answers come from people at Honeywell, Rohde & Schwarz, and Texas Instruments.
Brian Duffy, Applications Engineering Manager, Test and Measurement Products, Honeywell Sensing & Control
Torque sensors. Radio operated, non-contact torque sensors are revolutionizing the manufacture of engines and transmissions, turbines, pumps, etc. for transportation, aerospace/defense, heavy equipment, wind energy, and industrial or factory automation applications.
If it rotates or spins on a shaft, spindle or axle, it creates torque that can be measured. Measuring torque is essential for the design and manufacturing of axles, drive trains, gear drives, and electric and hydraulic motors as well as gas and steam turbines.
For decades, slip ring and rotary transformers have been used to measure torque. However, those technologies are often not reliable, offer limited transmission speeds and provide lower resolution data. Mechanical in nature, they create friction and are subject to mechanical wear.
Instead, by mounting a radio sensor on the moving part and utilizing digital telemetry to transmit the signal from the sensor to a receiver, non-contact torque measurement provides easier installation and reduces downtime associated with bearing wear. Digital wireless telemetry systems also supply excitation power to the rotating sensor across the gap and support virtually unlimited testing capabilities.
Wireless design enables higher integrity of the torque data capture through higher resolution, higher sensitivity, and faster response, without mechanical interferences. The result is a more accurate indication of the actual torque being experienced, plus an increase in reliability.
Mike Schnecker,Business Development Manager, Rohde & Schwarz
One common trend is toward more automation in the oscilloscope marketplace. Complex measurements, such as jitter, and even standard compliances are being built into the instrument. Speed of both processing and acquisition rates are also becoming critical to future instruments. The latter is becoming necessary as signals become more complex to the point where simple repetitive measurements are not adequate and very long signal acquisitions of tens of millions of samples are needed.
An example of this is the long binary sequences encountered in serial data transmission, which has all but replaced the older parallel data transfer (PCI-Express vs. PCI for example). The need for fast acquisition and processing are pushing the development of more specialized hardware, such as ASICs, rather than general purpose programming in a CPU to implement oscilloscope acquisition, measurement and even triggering.
In addition to complex measurements, we also see the combination of parallel data, analog time domain measurement and frequency domain measurement in the same instrument. This is being met with improvements in acquisition technology (A/D converters) and fast processing hardware. Most new designs combine digital and RF technology, making this capability essential.
Mukesh Kumar, Test and Automation Marketing Manager, Multicore, Texas Instruments
Future test and measurement products will have to meet the needs of the electronic industry in a few ways that are fundamentally different from the current requirements. The integration of multiple disparate functionalities into the same end product is driving a need for multi-function testers.
For example, a smartphone now needs testing of features, such as high-definition audio and video, that were not even considered a functionality of a phone in the past. Though individual test equipment for audio and video has existed for quite some time, the need for a single system level tester, which can do traditional wireless physical layer testing and at the same time do multimedia testing and data network QoS testing, is increasing. This validates the strategy of some companies to develop chassis based architectures like PXI with a few different reusable hardware cards with different software for testing different functionality.
Reusable hardware and software upgradeability will become even more important to reduce capex as new features in end products are rolled out even faster with improved and enhanced features requiring change in the test harness. While the need for accuracy of measurements continues to increase, the ability to execute multiple tests in a time synchronized manner will reduce overall test time. Automation of the test setup is a big area of improvement and primarily the domain of advanced networking features and other software applications.