Research & Design Hub Tech Trends

Test and Measurement Solutions Push the Envelope

Written by Jeff Child

Speed and Functionality Advances

Test gear such as oscilloscopes, analyzers, signal generators and others are important tools for embedded systems developers. Choices today revolve around form vs. function trade-offs, right-sized performance and application-specific functionally.

Test and measurement equipment remain a staple for embedded system developers. Perhaps more than other kinds of systems, test equipment has to cater to the long evolutions of users’ particular comfort levels. Using today’s electronics technology, it’s quite feasible to have an all-in-one test system. Yet, many engineers desire a stand-alone box to serve as an oscilloscope, for example. Meanwhile, even though touchscreen and push-button digital interfaces become are mature technologies, many engineers still like the feel of turning knobs when it comes to operating test gear.

In terms of functionality, test gear always has to achieve performance levels higher than the components they’re testing, requiring cutting-edge analog conversion technologies to keep pace. Meanwhile, test solutions continue to evolve in many application-specific directions, including automotive test, 5G communications and more. Over the last 12 months, test and measurement equipment vendors have rolled out new solutions that continue to push the barriers of performance and functionality.

HEADLESS TEST APPROACH
Exemplifying what can be done with today’s technology, Pico Technology’s approach to test gear is to create compact, easily portable box-level systems. Instead of having a screen and arrays of controls, Pico Technology’s test systems interface with your desktop or laptop computer, so that the computer provides all the display and control needs for the equipment. Announced in August, its latest example along those lines is its PicoScope 9404-16 SXRTO, a 16 GHz sampler-extended real-time oscilloscope (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1
Instead of having a screen and arrays of controls, the headless approach has the test system interface with your desktop or laptop computer, so that the computer provides all the display and control needs for the equipment. Pico Technology’s latest example is its PicoScope 9404-16 SXRTO, a 16 GHz sampler-extended real-time oscilloscope.

The new model joins the 5 GHz 9404-05 model launched earlier this year. Well suited to repetitive or clock-derived signals, both models feature four high-resolution 12-bit channels, each supported by real-time sampling to 500 MS/s per channel and up to 5 TS/s (0.2 ps) equivalent-time sampling. These are voltage and timing resolutions that match, or more typically exceed, the best available among broadband real-time oscilloscopes today, says the company.

The wide-band inputs, and fine timing and voltage resolutions, display and accurately measure transitions as fast as 22 ps, pulses and impulses down to 45 ps wide, and allow clock performance and eye diagram analysis of up to 11 Gb/s signals (to third harmonic). Less than 2 ps RMS trigger jitter and 5 GHz trigger support margin analysis and characterization of today’s high-speed serial data systems. Thanks to integrated clock and data recovery to 11 Gb/s and an external pre-scaled trigger input, the SXRTO trigger capability extends to the full bandwidth of the 16 GHz model.

The real-time broadband sampling modes can support, for example, capture of carrier envelope, baseband modulation and other envelope tracking signals around amplify, route and transmit paths—including major wireless frequency bands such as 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.5 GHz and upward.

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4 GHz TO 16 GHz ON BENCHTOP
Like Pico Technology, the latest oscilloscope from Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) is likewise a 16 GHz product but in a more traditional benchtop format. In September, R&S announced that its RTP high-performance oscilloscope family is now scalable from the 4 GHz minimum up to the full 16 GHz bandwidth (Figure 2). Additional new highlights are powerful debugging functions such as the high-speed serial pattern trigger using hardware-based clock-data-recovery (CDR) up to 16 Gbps, or the DDR4 signal integrity and compliance test. The R&S RTP oscilloscope now also provides time domain reflection (TDR) and transmission (TDT) analysis to characterize and debug signal paths.

FIGURE 2
The RTP high-performance oscilloscope family is scalable from the 4 GHz minimum up to the full 16 GHz bandwidth. Additional new highlights are debugging functions such as the high-speed serial pattern trigger using hardware-based clock-data-recovery (CDR) up to 16 Gbps, and the DDR4 signal integrity and compliance test.

R&S expanded its high-performance R&S RTP oscilloscope family in terms of both bandwidth, and functions for debugging and analysis. The new R&S RTP134 with 13 GHz, and R&S RTP164 with 16 GHz bandwidth, support four channels to 8 GHz, or two channels interleaved for the respective higher frequencies. For all R&S RTP models, update options support bandwidth increases right up to 16 GHz.

The new R&S RTP models support all functions already introduced for models up to 8 GHz, including the high acquisition and processing rate, and the real-time deembedding. The bandwidth of the industry-leading digital trigger is extended to 16 GHz to provide the highest precision for detecting very small and intermittent signals.

The R&S RTP triggers on real-time deembedded signals and supports all trigger types including pulse width, setup and hold, or runt, up to the full instrument bandwidth. Well suited for debugging high-speed differential signals and available for both data acquisition and trigger functions, the new math module introduced directly after the real-time deembedding block supports addition or subtraction for any two signals, plus signal inversion and common mode operations.

HIGH-SPEED SERIAL FOCUS
With its 16 GHz oscilloscope offering, Tektronix provides a solution catered to supporting highest performance, highest speed serial and optical interface standards. In July, Tektronix announced the expansion of its scalable DPO70000SX Series Performance Oscilloscope to include new 13 GHz and 16 GHz models. The new offerings allow engineers to take advantage of the high sample rate and low noise floor of Tektronix’ highest performance family of oscilloscopes at lower bandwidth levels and more affordable price points, says the company.

The DPO70000SX Series oscilloscopes were initially developed to test the highest performance, highest speed serial and optical interface standards. With this platform extension, Tektronix brought these high-end capabilities to lower speed interfaces such as USB, Display Port, HDMI, LPDDR, MIPI C-PHY and D-PHY plus legacy server storage applications such as PCI Express Gen 3 and SATA that are widely used in consumer, automotive and military/aerospace applications.

The new 13 GHz and 16 GHz models offer four 50 GS/s sample rate input channels with the unique ability to synchronize up to four scopes for a total of 16 input channels. The UltraSync architecture provides precise data synchronization and convenient operation across multi-unit systems to support applications that require more than four channels. The low-profile size fits in a single 3U rackmount space or two oscilloscopes can be stacked in the same space as a single standard bench oscilloscope.

HIGH DEFINITION OSCILLOSCOPE
Putting its efforts into the high-resolution, high-definition route, the latest oscilloscope offering from Teledyne LeCroy is its WaveSurfer 4000HD High Definition Oscilloscope (HDO). Announced in November, the company claims it as the first in its class to feature 12-bit vertical resolution at all times, showing clean, crisp waveforms on a bright, 12.1″ touchscreen display. WaveSurfer 4000HD is available in bandwidths from 200 MHz to 1 GHz, with sample rates of up to 5 GS/s and up to 12.5 Mpts of acquisition memory on each channel (25 Mpts interleaved). It offers versatile built-in capabilities for embedded systems debug and is compatible with Teledyne LeCroy’s comprehensive probe offerings.

The WaveSurfer 4000HD leverages Teledyne LeCroy’s HD4096 High Definition technology to deliver 12-bit resolution all the time (Figure 3). HD4096 technology utilizes a system design of high signal-to-noise input amplifiers, high sample rate 12-bit ADCs, and a low-noise system architecture to enable capture and display of waveforms with 16x more resolution than 8-bit oscilloscopes.

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FIGURE 3
The WaveSurfer 4000HD leverages Teledyne LeCroy’s HD4096 High Definition technology to deliver 12-bit resolution all the time. HD4096 technology utilizes a system design of high signal-to-noise input amplifiers, high sample rate 12-bit ADCs, and a low-noise system architecture to enable capture and display of waveforms with 16x more resolution than 8-bit oscilloscopes.

The WaveSurfer 4000HD claims to offer the lowest baseline noise—2.5 times better than competitive oscilloscopes with 12-bit ADCs and 8 times better than competitive oscilloscopes with 10-bit ADCs—and highest accuracy —0.5% versus competitors’ 2.5% at 1 mV/div gain setting, according to the company. Displayed waveforms are crisper, cleaner and provide visibility into signal details that are often lost in the noise on other oscilloscopes, including those with advertised 10-bit and 12-bit ADCs.

AUTOMOTIVE TEST SOLUTION
An example of automotive focused test solution is Keysite Technologies’ PathWave Test 2020 solution which the company announced in October. The PathWave Test 2020 software suite is designed to provide an integrated experience for electronic manufacturers to accelerate time-to-market of their digital and wireless platforms and products (Figure 4). Developed on the Keysight PathWave software platform, the PathWave Test 2020 software suite enables 5G, IoT and automotive engineers and managers to streamline test data processing and analysis to speed product introductions and secure a competitive advantage in the market, says Keysite.

FIGURE 4
The PathWave Test 2020 software suite includes PathWave Desktop Edition and PathWave Test Automation which leverages the OpenTAP open source test sequencer. For design verification, validation, and test engineers under extreme deadline pressures, the PathWave Test 2020 suite supports efficient test flows.

At the core of the PathWave Test 2020 software suite is PathWave Desktop Edition, providing users with access to the platform for launching and managing applications in the design and test ecosystem. PathWave Desktop Edition enables engineers to manage instrument discovery and installed design and test software. Users can share data with a common user experience across all design and test software.

PathWave Test 2020 includes PathWave Desktop Edition and PathWave Test Automation which leverages the OpenTAP open source test sequencer. For engineers under extreme deadline pressures, the PathWave Test 2020 suite supports efficient test flows including shared data and analysis for making fast, informed decisions.

RASPBERRY Pi TEST GEAR
The popular Raspberry Pi family of embedded computers has infiltrated numerous areas of embedded design. Though mainly used by “hacker” and DIY kinds of users, professional engineers find it attractive for many development needs. That trend has motivated vendors like Measurement Computing to offer Raspberry Pi supplementary modules, called HATs, for test and measurement needs.

Announced in June, Measurement Computing’s latest product along these lines is the MCC 134, a thermocouple measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi. The MCC 134 is designed to bring high-quality, temperature measurement capability to the popular low-cost Raspberry Pi computer (Figure 5). The device features four thermocouple (TC) inputs capable of measuring the most popular TC types including J, K, R, S, T, N, E and B. Each channel type is selectable on a per-channel basis.

FIGURE 5
The MCC 134 is a thermocouple measurement HAT for Raspberry Pi. The device features four thermocouple (TC) inputs capable of measuring the most popular TC types including J, K, R, S, T, N, E and B. Each channel type is selectable on a per-channel basis.

The MCC 134 features 24-bit resolution and provides professional-grade accuracy that is best in class. Open thermocouple detection lets users monitor for broken or disconnected thermocouples. Up to eight MCC HATs can be stacked onto one Raspberry Pi. With the already available MCC 118, eight channel voltage measurement HAT and the MCC 152 voltage output and digital I/O HAT, users can 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 allows users to develop applications on Linux. The library is available to download from GitHub. Comprehensive API and hardware documentation are also provided.

SPECTRUM/VECTOR ANALYZER
In today’s world, an increasing number of embedded devices have antennas and radios of some kind. Test equipment vendors are keeping pace with critical gear such as spectrum analyzers. Along those lines, in September, Siglent introduced a 3.2 GHz model to it SVA1000X series. It provides the ability to perform measurements such as antenna matching in the widely used 2.4 GHz ISM band. Beginning with the SVA1032X product, the vector network analysis function is now integrated and enabled as standard for the entire SVA1000X series (Figure 6).

FIGURE 6
The 3.2 GHz SVA1032X analyzer provides the ability to perform measurements such as antenna matching in the widely used 2.4 GHz ISM band. Beginning with this product, the vector network analysis function is now integrated and enabled as standard for the entire SVA1000X series.

Compared to SVA1015X, the SVA1032X not only extends frequency range, but also performance and RF specs. The spectrum analyzer’s frequency range is 9 kHz to 3.2 GHz, and vector network analyzer frequency range is 100 kHz to 3.2 GHz. The analyzer has excellent RF specs including -161 dBm/Hz DANL, less than -98 dBc phase noise, less than 0.7 dB total amplitude accuracy and real 1 Hz resolution bandwidth. Options include advanced measurements (AMK), EMC-Pre-Compliance (EMC), distance to fault measurement (DTF) together with standard vector analysis and spectrum analysis.

The SVA1032X has a built-in 100 kHz to 3.2 GHz tracking generator and a vector reflect bridge. The newly added harmonic and carrier-to-noise ratio (CNR) measurements are now part of the option SVA1000X-AMK. The SVA1000X-EMI option expands EMI filter bandwidth including 200 Hz, 9 kHz, 120 kHz and 1 MHz. And it also includes the quasi-peak detector defined by CISPR (International Special Committee on Radio Interference.) In addition, the SVA1032X can be equipped with a vector signal analysis function for analog and digital modulations (SVA1000X-AMA/DMA). This can be used, for example, to measure the error vector magnitude (EVM) of PSK, MSK or QAM modulated signals. The 10.1″ touchscreen, ability to connect an external mouse and keyboard and the integrated web server, all make operation and control easier. 

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 2019 #353 – Get a PDF of the issue


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

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.