What to expect in the coming years
The development of new instrumentation technologies is driven by the needs of the users—the measurements and analysis required to support new technologies and applications. Amongst today’s needs are measurement speed, broadband signal measurements, modulation and demodulation capabilities within instruments, and greater integration with computer simulation and analysis. There are also increasing needs for high-performance portable instruments, flexibleand fast production test systems and a continuing push for the highest performance in laboratory instruments.
One of the major challenges we face these days is ‘testing capability for quantity’”
— T. Anand, managing director, Knewron
Technology is changing very fast, creating challenges for T&M manufacturers. Higher data speed, multifunctional test, future technology upgradability in a single box and minimum cost/less budget are major trends for passive T&M”
— Madhukar Tripathy, manager, telecom sector and indirect channel, Anritsu
The single biggest recent advancement in test equipment is inclusion of digitisation of signals and computer analysis capabilities. Many instruments now have internal PC platforms that operate the instrument and perform the necessary calculations to process the measurement data and deliver detailed displays and reports to the user.
Madhukar Tripathy, manager, telecom sector and indirect channel, An-ritsu, has a different take on the trends: “Technology is changing very fast, creating challenges for T&M manufacturers. Higher data speed, multifunctional test, future technology upgradability in a single box and minimum cost/less budget are major trends for passive T&M. Today’s customers are looking for short-term purchase. Getting T&M on rent is yet another big trend seen in the last couple of years.”
“In the last couple of years, many firmshave adopted microcontroller/computer-based design solutions. There is a major shift from old, bulky passive device boxes to classy, sleek and active units for testing. Counterfeit electronic components are an increasing threat to the electronics industry and many T&M solutions are now coming up with features that can identify such components. Some counterfeit parts are like counterfeit money; unauthorised copies. Other cases include mislabelled parts where parts meant for one purpose are relabelled for another by changing the part number. A similar device packaged and marked to appear as the correct device may even pass certain functional and parametric testing. A comprehensive set of tests is required to be carried out in order to spot fake part from the real one. This has been on agenda for many T&M solution providers including Knewron,” adds T. Anand.
With newer set-ups, the user gets quick and easy access to all the key setup parameters in a simple, easy-to-use, intuitive graphical user interface (GUI). This is very popular in qualiἀcation test where users want maximum control in a rapidly changing environment”
— J.K. Baldua, director, technical, Scientech Technologies
“For fibre-opticcomponents various techniques are popular because they are quick and give easy access to all the key setup parameters. Present solutions focus on measuring insertion loss, return loss, polarisation-dependent loss, along with visual/cleaning inspection of connectors, across key wavelengths. Various tools deliver the reliable measurement results needed to meet end user requirements,” says J.K. Baldua, director, technical, Scientech Technologies.
“The proper way to inspect the fibre is to use vision-guided motion control to perform gross alignment of the fbre and lens. To automate the process completely, vision pattern matching tools are employed to locate the core and then automatically position the region of interest. With newer set-ups, the user gets quick and easy access to all the key setup parameters in a simple, easy-to-use, intuitive graphical user interface (GUI). This is very popular in qualificationtest where users want maximum control in a rapidly changing environment,” he adds.
When asked about radical changes affecting the T&M methodology for passive components, Mahesh Subramanyam, senior technical consultant, Agilent Technologies, says, “Synthetic instruments are a reality now. To achieve multiple functionality, individual sub-systems can be put together on a common platform. For example, on the digital processing side for a scope, spectrum analyser, network analyser and digital multimeter, the common block would be a digitiser. This can be built as a separate module. Other modules such as the source and the local oscillator can be built separately and integrated to form a network analyser or a spectrum analyser. The user interface and the software need to be accordingly modified.USB-based instrumentation is also getting popular.”
The author is a tech correspondent at EFY Bengaluru