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Test and Measurement Tools Push Performance Barriers

Figure 1 The N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer is designed to enable engineers to test the performance of millimeter-wave (mmWave) innovations in 5G, satellite communications and other applications. The tool sees signals clearly with an unbanded, preselected sweep from 2Hz to 110GHz and up to 11GHz of analysis bandwidth.
Written by Jeff Child

Speedy Solutions

As computer serial buses, network protocols and I/O interfaces get ever faster, makers of test and measurement gear are keeping pace with new innovations. As a result, equipment such as oscilloscopes, analyzers, exercisers and other tools are offering higher performance levels.

  • What’s happening in test and measurement gear?

  • mmWave measurement solutions

  • Raspberry Pi HATs for measurement

  • Cloud-based data logging

  • Vector network analyzers

  • Oscilloscope user interfaces

  • PCI Express 5.0 test tools

  • USB exercisers

  • Keysight Technologies’ N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer 

  • Measurement Computing Corp.’s MCC 128 Voltage Measurement HAT

  • Pico Technology’s PicoLog Cloud data logging software

  • Rohde & Schwarz’s R&S RTO6 scope. 

  • Siglent Technologies’s SNA5000A network analyzer i

  • Tektronix’s DPO700000SX series oscilloscope

  • MP1900A Signal Quality Analyzer-R series (BERT) from Anritsu.

  • Teledyne LeCroy’s Voyager M4x USB 3.2 Analyzer

Test gear always lives under a burden to achieve performance levels higher than the components they are testing. That calls for cutting-edge analog conversion technologies to keep pace. Meanwhile, test solutions must continue to evolve to accommodate the market demands in diverse technology sectors, including automotive test, 5G communications, PCI Express 5.0 and more.

Over the last 12 months, test and measurement equipment vendors have stepped up to the challenge by introducing new test and measurement solutions that continue to push the barriers of performance and functionality. Meanwhile, these solutions are embracing modern connectivity methods, such as the cloud.

mmWAVE SOLUTION

Signals at millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies present their own special challenges. Offering a solution, in May Keysight Technologies announced the N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer (Figure 1). It is designed to enable engineers to test the performance of millimeter-wave (mmWave) innovations in 5G, satellite communications and other applications.

Figure 1 The N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer is designed to enable engineers to test the performance of millimeter-wave (mmWave) innovations in 5G, satellite communications and other applications. The tool sees signals clearly with an unbanded, preselected sweep from 2Hz to 110GHz and up to 11GHz of analysis bandwidth.
Figure 1
The N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer is designed to enable engineers to test the performance of millimeter-wave (mmWave) innovations in 5G, satellite communications and other applications. The tool sees signals clearly with an unbanded, preselected sweep from 2Hz to 110GHz and up to 11GHz of analysis bandwidth.

Keysight’s N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer provides wide analysis bandwidth and deep dynamic range to help engineers solve their most difficult mmWave challenges including tight design margins and timelines, complex modulation and stringent standards, says the company.

“Understanding signal fidelity is critical to the performance of products in 5G, aerospace and defense, satellite and automotive radar markets,” said Kiran Unni, vice president, industrial technologies practice, Frost & Sullivan. “At mmWave frequencies, signals are more susceptible to impairments that affect the signal quality, such as IQ modulation errors, phase noise, distortion, signal-to-noise ratio, amplitude and phase linearity. For designers and manufacturers, addressing these challenges is crucial when characterizing and testing the true performance of mmWave products.”

Keysight’s N9042B UXA X-Series signal analyzer offers a number of benefits. It ensures designs meet the latest standards with ready-to-use measurement applications and signal analysis software. The tool sees signals clearly with an unbanded, preselected sweep from 2Hz to 110GHz and up to 11GHz of analysis bandwidth. The signal analyzer tests the true performance of a 5G new radio (NR) transmitter with an advanced error vector magnitude (EVM). It can find out-of-band emissions or spurs quickly in radar designs with superior swept displayed average noise level (DANL). It can be used to develop high-throughput satellite communication designs with 4GHz of corrected analysis bandwidth.

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Keysight has integrated PathWave X-Series measurement applications with the UXA X-Series signal analyzer. These applications simplify complex tasks and deliver repeatable results. In addition, the 89600 PathWave Vector Signal Analysis software, a comprehensive set of tools for demodulation and vector signal analysis, offers support for more than 75 signal standards and modulation types, and enables customers to explore every facet of a signal and optimize their most advanced designs.

RPi VOLTAGE MEASUREMENT HAT

Raspberry Pi has infiltrated many sectors of embedded system development, and the test and measurement sector is no exception. As an example, earlier this year Measurement Computing Corp. (MCC) announced the release of its MCC 128 Voltage Measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi (Figure 2). The MCC 128 features 16-bit resolution and multiple analog input ranges. This makes it well suited for making precision voltage measurements. It includes eight single-ended or four differential-ended analog inputs with sample rates up to 100KSPS.

Figure 2 The MCC 128 Voltage Measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi features 16-bit resolution and multiple analog input ranges. This makes it well suited for making precision voltage measurements. It includes eight single-ended or four differential-ended analog inputs with sample rates up to 100KSPS.
Figure 2
The MCC 128 Voltage Measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi features 16-bit resolution and multiple analog input ranges. This makes it well suited for making precision voltage measurements. It includes eight single-ended or four differential-ended analog inputs with sample rates up to 100KSPS.

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 providing up to 64 channels of data and a maximum throughput of 320KSPS. MCC offers a variety of DAQ HATs that allow users to configure multifunction, Pi-based solutions with voltage, thermocouple, or vibration inputs, voltage outputs and digital I/O.

Two versions of the MCC 128 are available. The MCC 128 features screw terminal signal connectors. The MCC 128-OEM is provided with unpopulated signal connections for users that want to add their own connectors. The open-source MCC DAQ HAT Library of commands in C/C++ and Python allows users to develop applications on Linux. The library is available to download from GitHub. Comprehensive API and hardware documentation are also provided.

CLOUD CONNECTIVITY

From USB to Ethernet, the test and measurement industry has a history of embracing each new connectivity technology for use in instrumentation products. Today, that means accessing cloud connectivity. Along just those lines, in September Pico Technology announced its PicoLog Cloud data logging software. The software enables any Pico data logger or real-time oscilloscope to save data to a local disk or stream the capture directly to a secure online Cloud store (Figure 3).

Figure 3 PicoLog Cloud software enables any Pico data logger or real-time oscilloscope to save data to a local disk or stream the capture directly to a secure online Cloud store.
Figure 3
PicoLog Cloud software enables any Pico data logger or real-time oscilloscope to save data to a local disk or stream the capture directly to a secure online Cloud store.

Engineers can set up and control captures on a source PC and then remotely view them on any number of client devices running the software. They can also view, on a standard browser, live or previously saved captures on any PC or tablet device connected to the Internet.

A simple server-side API allows PicoLog Cloud to transfer live capture data from a data logger or oscilloscope to a third-party application while the capture is running. With the PicoLog data residing on a server, this API allows programmers to request the data in batches. This feature is particularly useful to users who want to add extra functionality such as emailing alarms or captures, plotting data in a different way—fill tanks, throttle needles, large numerical displays and so on—adding logger data to existing databases and much more.

Remote working, monitoring of critical processes, sharing experimental data, preventative maintenance, design integrity through big data collection, compliance and security are all critical to scientific, research and manufacturing organizations, says Pico Technology. These challenges increase complexity for engineers and scientists working on next-generation technologies and processes. PicoLog Cloud addresses those issues directly with a simple, fast and flexible approach to scientific data collection, sharing and analysis. Access to cloud data is managed through single sign on (SSO) protocol. PicoLog Cloud uses the latest security techniques and processes to ensure that online data and user credentials stay safe.

PicoLog Cloud device support includes the ADC20/24 high-resolution, high-accuracy voltage loggers, TC-08 & PT-104 temperature loggers and the CM3 AC RMS current logger. All current real-time PicoScope models are also supported. The PicoLog Cloud client is available for Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 (32- and 64-bit), macOS, Linux (64-bit) and Raspberry Pi OS (32-bit) for Raspberry Pi 4.

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UPDATED USER INTERFACE

Oscilloscopes remain the key staple of the test engineering. Makers of oscilloscopes continuously evolve the performance and user interfaces of these critical tools. For its part, in July Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) rolled out its newest oscilloscope: the R&S RTO6. The device features an updated user interface on a larger, 15.6″ full high definition (HD) touchscreen and straightforward workflows that speed up daily measurement tasks (Figure 4). The company says that the RTO6 delivers deep insights into designs on the engineer’s workbench with state-of-the-art specifications such as an 9.4ENOB (effective number of bits), an unparalleled update rate of one million waveforms per second as well as a comprehensive toolset of analysis functions.

Figure 4 The R&S RTO6 oscilloscope features an updated user interface on a larger, 15.6" full high definition (HD) touchscreen and straightforward workflows that speed up daily measurement tasks. The oscilloscope offers six different bandwidth models from 600MHz to 6GHz and a sample rate of up to 20GSPS.
Figure 4
The R&S RTO6 oscilloscope features an updated user interface on a larger, 15.6″ full high definition (HD) touchscreen and straightforward workflows that speed up daily measurement tasks. The oscilloscope offers six different bandwidth models from 600MHz to 6GHz and a sample rate of up to 20GSPS.

The RTO6 digital oscilloscope offers six different bandwidth models from 600MHz to 6GHz and a sample rate of up to 20GSPS. The fully integrated test solution for the time and frequency domain, as well as protocol and logic analysis, supports design engineers from all industries. The instrument features a high waveform update rate, excellent signal fidelity, a uniquely powerful digital trigger and responsive deep memory, says R&S.

The significantly larger screen can display a maximized waveform viewing area, and signals can be dragged and dropped to different parts of the screen with the tried and tested R&S SmartGrid. The app cockpit provides access to all of the oscilloscope’s applications with a single tap. A low-noise frontend and single-core analog-to-digital (A-D) converters with extremely small linearity errors achieve excellent signal integrity with a spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR) of 65dBc and an outstanding 9.4ENOB. This allows users to capture all signal details with maximum precision.

Even more signal details can be revealed using the HD mode. This increases the vertical resolution of the R&S RTO6 oscilloscopes up to 16 bits with digital filtering, resulting in sharper waveforms and less noise. This filtered 16-bit signal is also used by the patented digital trigger system from R&S. This allows the R&S RTO6 to achieve unprecedented trigger sensitivity and the capability to isolate even the smallest signal details.

In addition, the RTO6 has several features that provide users with quick results. Mask tests, which users can set up with simple touch gestures, allow signal anomalies to be easily identified within defined tolerance limits. Thanks to the unique zone trigger, events can be graphically isolated in both the time and frequency domain. With a standard acquisition memory of 200 Mpoint (Mpts) and an optional 2 Gpoints (Gpts) per channel, the R&S RTO6 can analyze long pulse and protocol sequences without difficulties. The RTO6 is now available from R&S as a four-channel base instrument with bandwidth options of 600MHz, 1GHz, 2GHz, 3GHz, 4GHz and 6GHz.

VECTOR NETWORK ANALYZER

Vector network analyzers (VNAs) are a key measuring device in the field of high frequency technology, important for radio and cellular networks. Measurement of passive or active components, verification of 2-port networks or adaptation of antennas are just a few examples of where VNAs are required. With all that in mind, in July Siglent Technologies announced its first 2- or 4-port vector network analyzer. The SNA5000A network analyzer is offered as a 2- or 4-port device with frequency ranges from 9kHz to 4.5GHz or to 8.5GHz (Figure 5).

Figure 5 SNA5000A vector network analyzer is offered as a 2- or 4-port device with frequency ranges from 9kHz to 4.5GHz or to 8.5GHz. The dynamic range spans 125dB and enables, for example, a precise analysis of the stopband of a filter without losing sight of the passband.
Figure 5
SNA5000A vector network analyzer is offered as a 2- or 4-port device with frequency ranges from 9kHz to 4.5GHz or to 8.5GHz. The dynamic range spans 125dB and enables, for example, a precise analysis of the stopband of a filter without losing sight of the passband.

The dynamic range spans 125dB and enables, for example, a precise analysis of the stopband of a filter without losing sight of the passband. The analyzers support 2/4 port S-parameters and differential S-parameter measurements. Time domain analysis can be performed with the options SNA5000-TDA (time domain analysis) or SNA5000-TDR (enhanced time domain analysis).

The accuracy of a network analyzer is very much linked to the accuracy of the calibration. Different calibration techniques are required for different applications, says Siglent. With the SNA5000A, the user can choose between 1-port, extended 1-port, full 2-port correction and the different techniques SOLT, SOLR, TRL in order to obtain the best accuracy for the respective application. An adjustable reference plane, port matching and the embedding/de-embedding of test sockets enable the elimination of external sources of error.

The VNAs of the SNA5000A series offer five types of sweeps: linear and logarithmic frequency sweeps, output power sweeps, time domain sweeps and segmented sweeps. The formula editor and the mask test support developers in the analysis of their test objects and accelerate their evaluation and verification. The large 12″ touchscreen can be flexibly configured so that several windows with different measurements can be clearly displayed. The short-cut menu helps with configuration and offers quick access to the most important functions. The device supports an external mouse and keyboard, external monitor via HDMI, and can be controlled via the web interface from the PC.

PCI EXPRESS 5.0 TOOL

PCI Express remains the dominant high-speed serial computer bus, and it doubles in bandwidth every three years. Test and measurement tool vendors have had to race to keep pace. Feeding such needs, earlier this year Tektronix teamed up with Anritsu to introduce a PCI Express 5.0 transceiver (Base and CEM) and reference clock solution, to offer early CEM fixtures for pre-compliance testing (Figure 6).

Figure 6 This PCI Express 5.0 transceiver and reference clock solution was developed for, and continues to be aligned with, the 5.0 Base specification, 5.0 CEM specification and 5.0 test specifications.
Figure 6
This PCI Express 5.0 transceiver and reference clock solution was developed for, and continues to be aligned with, the 5.0 Base specification, 5.0 CEM specification and 5.0 test specifications.

PCI Express has reached a new plateau with the aggressive introduction of the 5.0 Base Specification (128GB/s). This rapid development pace is expected to continue as PCI-SIG, the standard-setting body for peripheral component I/O data transfers, announced the PCI Express 6.0 specification (256GB/s)—now at version 0.9—to be delivered before year’s end and include multi-level PAM4 signaling.

The server/storage industry is rapidly transitioning to PCI Express 5.0 due to new requirements imposed by 400G ethernet, cloud AI and modeling (co-processors), storage capacity and NAND-based storage. This rapid progression brings an entirely new problem set for test and measurement traditionally split into Base silicon level validation and CEM compliance testing with the PCI-SIG.

The PCI Express 5.0 transceiver and reference clock solution from Tektronix was developed for, and continues to be aligned with, the 5.0 Base specification, 5.0 CEM specification and 5.0 test specifications. The Base/CEM transceiver solution runs on Tektronix’s DPO700000SX series 70GHz real time oscilloscope and the MP1900A Signal Quality Analyzer-R series (BERT) from Anritsu. Receiver automation software from Tektronix offers highly efficient algorithms for stressed eye calibration at 32GT/s and 16GT/s. Tool support includes SigTest Phoenix with highly parallelized processing to reduce overall test time.

The solution is offered in multiple form factors (M.2 and U.2) and clocking architectures (CC, SRNS, SRIS). It follows the real-time evolution of the 5.0 Base specification with 32GT/s uncorrelated jitter and pulse width jitter measurements implemented to optimize A-D range and minimize noise. The increasing challenges of 100MHz reference clock jitter and signal integrity measurements are addressed through full integration with the Silicon Labs “PCIe Clock Jitter” tool and Tektronix’s DPOJET tool.

USB 20Gb/s EXERCISER

The high speeds of the latest USB protocols are handful to be sure. To help system developers keep up, in September Teledyne LeCroy announced its Voyager M4x USB 3.2 Analyzer (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) upgrade to USB 3.2 Analyzer/Exerciser (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) option, the first SuperSpeed USB 20Gb/s capable exerciser, enabling end-to-end testing for 20Gb/s enabled systems and devices (Figure 7). This new USB exerciser option allows design and test engineers to mimic real-world USB device behaviors to verify functionality, error recovery and compliance to the specifications.

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Figure 7 The Voyager M4x USB 3.2 Analyzer (Gen 2x2 20Gb/s) upgrade to USB 3.2 Analyzer/Exerciser (Gen 2x2 20Gb/s) option is the first SuperSpeed USB 20Gb/s capable exerciser, enabling end-to-end testing for 20Gb/s enabled systems and devices.
Figure 7
The Voyager M4x USB 3.2 Analyzer (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) upgrade to USB 3.2 Analyzer/Exerciser (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) option is the first SuperSpeed USB 20Gb/s capable exerciser, enabling end-to-end testing for 20Gb/s enabled systems and devices.

This new option enables test interoperability and error recovery. Users can easily program the exerciser to systematically test every configuration of SuperSpeed USB and all operational ranges by changing the exerciser’s link configuration parameters. Specifically, this new option supports Gen1x1, Gen1x2, Gen2x1 and Gen2x2 signaling. The Voyager M4x platform now supports the USB SuperSpeed Link Layer Compliance specification at 10Gb/s, and 20Gb/s rates. The upgrade also supports the USB Type-C Functional Test specification, allowing developers to verify proper USB Type-C port operation, including USB data role-swap behaviors.

The Voyager M4x USB 3.2 Analyzer (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) upgrade to USB 3.2 Analyzer/Exerciser (Gen 2×2 20Gb/s) option is only available on the Voyager M4x platform. This USB exerciser option uses the same scripting framework as the previous generation Voyager M310P and the recently released Voyager M310e USB exerciser platforms to provide forward compatibility for test scripts running at the new USB bonded link rates. 

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 2021 #377 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Former Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.

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Test and Measurement Tools Push Performance Barriers

by Jeff Child time to read: 11 min