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App-Specific Trend Drives Test and Measurement Gear

Written by Jeff Child

Market Mindset

System designers depended on test and measurement equipment such as oscilloscopes, analyzers and other tools. Lately, equipment vendors are focusing on solutions targeted to meet application-specific needs.

Today’s crop of test and measurement equipment stands on the shoulders of decades of technology evolution. Test and measurement functions that used to require large rack-based gear can now be done by lab-benchtop systems and, in some cases, by hand-held portable devices. Over the years, test equipment makers have added more performance and functionality to existing form factors, while also shrinking systems down to smaller, more compact solutions.

The trend toward combing multiple test tools into a single system is still on-going. But over the past 12 months, the latest new test and measurement products seem to be dominated by solutions aimed at application-specific or technology-specific purposes. These include 5G, automotive test, PCI Express and more. That said, general purpose equipment like oscilloscopes are also well represented among the latest product rollouts.

RPi HAT FOR IEPE SENSORS
Exemplifying the application-specific trend, in May Measurement Computing announced its MCC 172 IEPE Measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi. Designed for machine condition monitoring and edge-computing applications, the MCC 172 is a two-channel, high-speed DAQ HAT for making sound and vibration measurements from IEPE (integrated electronics piezo-electric) sensors like accelerometers and microphones (Figure 1). It features two, simultaneous, 24 bit analog inputs, with sample rates up to 51.2KS/s per channel.

FIGURE 1 – The MCC 172 is a 24-bit DAQ HAT for making sound and vibration measurements from IEPE sensors. The MCC 172 is shown connected to a Raspberry Pi (not included).

A “HAT,” which stands for Hardware Attached on Top, is an add-on board with a 40-pin GPIO (general purpose input/output) connector that conforms to the Raspberry Pi HAT specification. Up to eight MCC HATs can be stacked onto one Raspberry Pi SBC. MCC offers a variety of DAQ HATs that enable users to configure multifunction, Pi-based solutions with analog input, output and digital I/O.

The open-source MCC DAQ HAT Library of commands in C/C++ and Python enables users to develop applications on Linux. The library is available to download from GitHub. Comprehensive API and hardware documentation are also provided. The MCC 172 was tested for use with all Raspberry Pi SBC models with the 40-pin GPIO connector. Users can turn IEPE excitation current on or off. Each channel has a dedicated analog-to-digital converter (ADC). Both ADCs share the same clock and are synchronized to start conversions at the same time for synchronous data. The MCC 172 is powered with 5V provided by the Raspberry Pi through the GPIO header connector.

TEST KIT FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Test solutions for the automotive industry are nothing new. But now such test equipment has evolved to include products for electric vehicles (EVs). In an example along those lines, in October Pico Technology announced its PicoScope 4425A, a kit that provides comprehensive diagnostics capability for all types of EV and hybrid vehicles (HVs) and tradition ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles as well (Figure 2).

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FIGURE 2 – PicoScope 4425A is a kit that provides comprehensive diagnostics capability for all types of EV and hybrid vehicles (HVs) and tradition ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.

In combination with the extensive range of Pico accessories, the 4425A covers engines/motors, sensors, actuators, communications buses, noise vibration/harshness and all basic measurements in an easy-to-use system that includes extensive guidance for technicians. The PicoScope 4425A EV Kit contains all the test equipment required to ensure it is safe to work on an EV, and to investigate any faults that are likely to cause safety issues.

The wide range of EV systems covered includes testing of DC HV energy systems or the AC motor/generator drive systems. It also covers charging behavior and 12V/HV battery current split issues. Users can analyze protocol communications between charging system sand vehicles as well as 3-phase current measurements to check winding balance under load. All 12V and 48V systems are supported.

Together with PicoScope 7 software, the system delivers ease of use for less experienced users and offers advanced features when needed, says the company. The benefits include free software updates and the use of large screen displays in workshops, making measurements clearly visible at all times.

In addition to the new EV capability, the 4425A still offers standard features useful to automotive technicians: ConnectDetect, ±200V voltage input range, floating input system, high sample rate (up to 400MS/s), high vertical resolution (12-bit to 16-bit enhanced), USB 3.0 interface, 20MHz bandwidth, advanced triggers, advanced filtering, large buffer memory (250 million samples), math channels, measurement and phase rulers, Pico waveform library, more than 150 guided tests and Pico software upgrades.

5G NR SPECTRUM ANALYZER
To support the rollout of 5G wireless data communication worldwide, test equipment vendors have been constantly evolving their 5G solutions. In an example along those lines, in October Rohde & Schwarz (R&S)announced adding 1GHz analysis bandwidth to its mid-range R&S FSVA3000 signal and spectrum analyzers (Figure 3). To analyze wideband signals for 5G NR (New Radio) and other future wireless standards, a wide analysis bandwidth is key, says the company. This enables manufacturers of future cellular and wireless systems, infrastructure and amplifiers to use a signal test solution that was previously available only in high-end instruments.

FIGURE 3 – Rohde & Schwarz announced adding 1GHz analysis bandwidth to its mid-range R&S FSVA3000 signal and spectrum analyzers. The new R&S FSV3-B1000 hardware option is available for all models from 7.5GHz to 44GHz, while comparable solutions offer just 160MHz analysis bandwidth.

The new R&S FSV3-B1000 hardware option is available for all models from 7.5GHz to 44GHz, while comparable solutions offer just 160 MHz analysis bandwidth. Thanks to its usability and high measurement speed, the R&S FSVA3000 supports manufacturers in the development and production of 5G NR base stations, mobile phones and components, especially in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands.

In combination with the supported 5G NR downlink and uplink measurement options, this makes the R&S FSVA3000 an easy-to-set-up solution for analyzing 5G NR signals with several component carriers. The instrument, which also addresses users in aerospace, defense and automotive applications, can also characterize wideband amplifiers or can be used for troubleshooting, capturing even very short events.

The R&S FSVA3000, which comes with an advanced autoset feature allowing the quick configuration of frequently performed measurements, now offers sufficient bandwidth for Adjacent Channel Leakage Power Ratio (ACLR) and Spectrum Emission Mask (SEM) measurements of wideband signals also in I/Q mode. The analyzer’s high RF performance allows capturing and pre-distorting for instance a 200MHz wide signal and measure the effects of distortion up to the fifth harmonic. The R&S FSVA3000 also supports measurement of short rise and fall times (down to 1ns system rise time) and detection of ultrashort pulses. This allows the analysis of frequency agile signals within 1GHz as used in radar and tactical radios.

TESTING 5G BASE STATIONS
For its part, Keysight Technologies also has a 5G test solution amongst its latest offerings. In October, the company announced a new high-performance 5G base station test solution, based on Keysight’s S9130A 5G Performance Multi-Band Vector Transceiver (VXT), that enables network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) and small cell vendors to accelerate validation of mmWave products according to the latest 3GPP specifications (Figure 4).

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FIGURE 4 – This 5G base station test solution, based on Keysight’s S9130A 5G Performance Multi-Band VXT, enables network equipment manufacturers and small cell vendors to accelerate validation of mmWave products according to the latest 3GPP specifications.

According to Keysight, mobile operators are deploying 5G new radio (NR) in frequency range 2 (FR2) to deliver enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) connectivity in metropolitan areas and indoor environments such as stadiums and airports. Rapid deployment of a heterogenous network, consisting of macro base stations, small cell infrastructure, radio units (RUs) and distributed antenna systems (DAS), depends on streamlined testing across the workflow. With that in mind, Keysight has extended the company’s suite of 5G base station test solutions, initially launched in 2018, to meet a growing need for cost-effective 5G mmWave test and validation.

The new 5G base station test solution leverages the company’s new PXIe-based vector transceiver (VXT) to deliver a good adjacent channel leakage ratio (ACLR) and error vector magnitude (EVM) measurements. The high performance of the next generation VXT and RRH brings the measurement plane closer to the device under test (DUT). This means that the DUT can receive high power levels across a wide dynamic power range, resulting in exceedingly accurate and reliable measurement results. Keysight’s S9100 suite of solutions supports multiple channels for testing several base stations in parallel and leverages the company’s cloud-ready suite of PathWave software solutions.

PCI EXPRESS ANALYZER
Serial bus fabrics are the focus of the latest test solution from Teledyne LeCroy. In October, the company introduced its Summit T516 protocol analyzer. It claims the system as the first PCIe 5.0 and Compute Express Link (CXL) Protocol Analyzer capable of capturing full x16 link width traffic at 32GT/s for the analysis of high-performance devices and systems (Figure 5).

FIGURE 5 – The Summit T516 protocol analyzer is a PCIe 5.0 and Compute Express Link (CXL) Protocol Analyzer that is capable of capturing full x16 link width traffic at 32GT/s for the analysis of high-performance devices and systems.

The PCIe 5.0 and CXL interconnect technologies essentially double the data transport speed over the previous PCI Express 4.0 specification and enable reduced latency when accessing data. Protocol analysis tools are critical to troubleshooting and validating PCIe 5.0 and CXL enabled systems because they help ensure optimal performance, overall stability and market readiness, says the company.

The Summit T516 analyzer is designed to capture PCIe 5.0 and CXL traffic using high-speed interposers and can efficiently analyze the PCIe 5.0 and CXL traffic with full support for x16 links using a deep, 256GB memory buffer. Design and test engineers can use the Summit T516 protocol analyzer to capture large traces to determine the root cause of any error or quickly identify performance degradation on the bus.

All Teledyne LeCroy protocol test solutions feature hierarchical views of recorded traffic, real-time statistics, protocol traffic summaries, detailed error reports and scripting. They also provide the ability to create user-defined test reports, which enables developers to troubleshoot intricate problems and finish their projects on time. A rich library of decodes and analysis capabilities are available on all of Teledyne LeCroy’s PCIe specification test tools.

REAL-TIME SPECTRUM ANALYZER
Measuring RF signals is an important task in today’s wireless world. With that in mind, in August Siglent added the SSA3032X-R model to its SSA3000X-R family of real-time spectrum analyzers. The analyzer family now offers a frequency range of 9kHz to 3.2/5.0/7.5GHz (Figure 6). Like the SSA3050X-R and SSA3075X-R, released in April, the SSA3032X-R supports a real-time analysis bandwidth up to 40MHz and 7µs 100% probability of intercept (POI). The platform solves modern RF spectrum challenges like hopping frequency, conflict channel and spectrum interference.

FIGURE 6 – With the SSA3032X-R model added to Siglent’s SSA3000X-R family of real-time spectrum analyzers, the family now offers a frequency range of 9kHz to 3.2/5.0/7.5GHz. The SSA3032X-R supports a real-time analysis bandwidth up to 40MHz and 7µs 100% POI.

All of the SSA3000X-R series real-time spectrum analyzers will feature Vector Network Analysis (VNA) and Distance-to-fault (DTF) functions included free of charge. Users can now perform critical real-time analysis and RF device characterization with one instrument.

The instruments will now have the ability to perform S11 and S21 measurements on RF components and circuits. The data can be graphed in a number of common formats, including Smith and polar charts.

The analyzers also provide a standard tracking generator for network analysis, optional wide band digital modulation analysis and EMI pre-compliance test. Applications include broadcast monitoring/evaluation, cellular site, IoT, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth surveying, research and development, education, production and maintenance.

10GHz, 50GS/s OSCILLOSCOPE
Illustrating that the advancement of general-purpose test and measurement instrumentation is still alive and well, Tektronix has among its latest new releases a high-bandwidth oscilloscope product. Announced in September, the company’s 6 Series B mixed signal oscilloscope (MSO) extends the performance threshold of the Tektronix Mainstream Oscilloscopes Portfolio to 10GHz and 50GS/s (Figure 7).

FIGURE 7 – Developed to meet the demand for high-speed data movement and processing in embedded designs, the enhanced 6 Series B MSO offers leading signal fidelity with 12-bit ADCs and extremely low noise, 10GHz bandwidth and up to eight FlexChannel inputs, enabling users to confidently analyze and debug today’s embedded systems while ensuring ease of use.

Developed to meet the demand for high-speed data movement and processing in embedded designs, the enhanced 6 Series B MSO offers leading signal fidelity with 12 bit ADCs and extremely low noise, 10GHz bandwidth and up to eight FlexChannel inputs, enabling users to confidently analyze and debug today’s embedded systems while ensuring ease of use. Alongside the 6 Series B MSO, Tektronix also introduced the TDP7710 TriMode Probe, which extends the line of TriMode probes to match the advancements of the new oscilloscope.

The 6 Series B MSO delivers high signal fidelity, contributing less than 51.1µV of noise at 1mV/div and 1GHz, and less than 1.39mV of noise at 50 mV/div and 10GHz. Tektronix claims that the 6 Series B MSO is the industry’s first oscilloscope with bandwidth more than 2 GHz to offer 4, 6 or 8 channels. Each FlexChannel input can be converted into eight digital channels using a TLP058 Logic Probe for added visibility.

BUILT-IN DDCs
The 6 Series B MSO offers a range of options to streamline protocol decoding, compliance testing for serial standards, jitter analysis and power analysis. Built-in digital down converters (DDCs) behind every channel enable multi-channel spectrum analysis, and spectrum measurements are synchronized with time domain waveforms to enable correlation between RF and time events.

Tektronix says the 6 Series B MSO’s responsive 15.6″ HD capacitive pinch-zoom-swipe touch display is the industry’s largest, providing an intuitive drag and drop, object-oriented user interface. This series expansion is capable of switching between Windows 10 and closed operating systems, without loss of performance or ease-of-use.

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The 6 Series B MSO contains a removable SSD, which, along with optional security licenses, enables use of the oscilloscope in secure environments by minimizing cybersecurity threats. The TekVPI probe interface communicates seamlessly with a wide range of probes, to simplify setup and reduce errors. The new TDP7710 TriMode Probe has the ability to switch from making differential to common mode to single-ended measurements, without having to reconnect the probe. 

RESOURCES
Keysight Technologies | www.keysight.com
Measurement Computing | www.mccdaq.com
Pico Technology | www.picotech.com
Rohde & Schwarz | www.rohde-schwarz.com
Siglent | www.siglentna.com
Tektronix | www.tek.com
Teledyne LeCroy | www.teledynelecroy.com

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 #365 – Get a PDF of the issue


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App-Specific Trend Drives Test and Measurement Gear

by Jeff Child time to read: 10 min