Test & Measurement

Test and measurement equipment underpins the product design process, enabling engineers to verify their design is working in the way they want. If not, these essential devices help them to find out where the problems lie.

In this section, New Electronics keeps design engineers up to date with the Test and Measurement market, bringing a range of information about the products and their application.

Developments in low cost VNAs to find new applications

As test equipment has evolved, there has been a drive to provide unique and identifiable differentiations in feature sets and capabilities, suggesting to customers they will have an advantage over their competitors by providing tighter specification thresholds. For most modern Vector Network Analysers (VNAs), this trend has led to their capabilities becoming complex, resulting in an increased cost of ownership for the user, not just in terms of capital equipment costs, and calibration and support costs, but also in the time required for user understanding and training, as well as for any control software control or drivers to be written.

LabVIEW and CompactDAQ get the Skylon space plane project off the ground

An aircraft that takes off from a runway, travels to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and delivers its payload, or even travels into space, then heads back to earth and lands on the same runway it took off from. It sounds like science fiction, but Reaction Engines Limited (REL) has laid a solid foundation towards making this a reality. Using National Instruments LabVIEW design software and CompactDAQ, they created a test-bed that is both scalable and flexible in its implementation and allows for the test data to be viewed and logged simultaneously at high speed for further analysis.

The sky is not the limit for the world's largest optical telescope

Dubbed “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), aims to help scientists find extrasolar planets that are orbiting other stars, answer fundamental questions regarding planet formation and better understand the nature and distribution of dark matter and dark energy. The E-ELT project was undertaken by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

NASA selects NI SC Express for accuracy and flexibility in new data acquisition system

NASA has used NI SC Express and PXI hardware to create an advanced, distributed and flexible data acquisition (DAQ) system to meet the challenge of replacing legacy NEFF equipment in one of its largest human-rated environmental chambers. The data acquisition system is capable of accurately synchronising and measuring more than 500 analogue channels distributed throughout the chamber, without the need for additional external signal conditioning. "For the first time, NASA will no longer need the custom signal conditioning equipment in addition to its measurement hardware. With NI SC Express hardware, NASA can achieve the ±3°F end-to-end accuracy requirements for thermocouples with commercial off-the-shelf technology," said James Dean, Jacobs Technology.

Addressing key challenges in automotive infotainment test with the NI PXI Platform

Automobiles have experienced rapid growth in the amount of in-vehicle electronics in recent years and a key area where these electronics are playing a vital role is in the infotainment system of the vehicle. In fact, the infotainment systems have become somewhat of a hub for a number of functions of the vehicle, and represent where both large amounts of information and driver entertainment are converging. Not only do they continue to blur the line between the driver’s mobile phone and the car for entertainment purposes, but there is also an overlap with important components of advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS).

Tracking WiFi signals to passively see through walls using NI USRP and LabVIEW

With dedication and a creative approach, University College London (UCL) research is helping to address the world's most urgent problems. Whether designing healthier cities or grappling with issues such as global health and climate change, the challenges of daily life inspire UCL students and academics. Based at UCL, our team of electrical engineering researchers is investigating passive radar technologies that can see through walls using WiFi radio waves.

Real world sensors and Star Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… the Star Wars universe introduced millions of science fiction fans to an epic saga that had many anxiously anticipating the release of the next instalment late last year. Being an engineer, I can’t help but think back to the original movies and the ideas created within them that are now a reality today. Lightsabers, unfortunately, we can still only imagine, but just focusing on “droids”, it’s remarkable where we are today.

Why treat EMC and environmental compliance separately?

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and environmental tests are often treated separately, so it is not unusual for products to be sent for assessment at different times; EMC testing is usually done first, with environmental testing following on much later. As a consequence, the effect of environmental degradation on EMC performance tends not to be routinely addressed and, very often, such testing is carried out in benign conditions that fail to represent real-world use.

Key attributes to consider when choosing high bandwidth probes

High speed digital applications are pushing probing solutions to the limit. As system bandwidth increases, the edge speed of the signal gets faster, the size of the chipsets and components becomes smaller and PCB layout becomes more complex. These trends challenge probing solutions and the higher the performance, the more care is needed in selecting probes.

A more strategic approach to purchasing or renting test equipment

The market for technology is changing fast with digital processor speeds and data rates continually increasing, new frequencies opening up fresh options for developers, while across the wireless space new standards and regulations are continually being introduced; continuous improvements in analogue performance also have to be taken into account. "R&D teams, by their very nature, will be working at or beyond the leading edge in one or more of these domains," suggests George Acris, Head of Business Development (Europe) at Microlease, a company that specialises in the rental market for test equipment. "Test is key to their work and providing them with the right, up to date, equipment is a great challenge."

How plateauing clock speeds and increased data rates are changing test and measurement

A large misconception is that test data is purely pass/fail, but in reality this could not be further from the truth. The approach of traditional, fixed-functionality instruments is to send only the results back to the host PC of a test system. This results in much of the signal processing being hidden from the user within the box of the instrumentation. The speed of this signal processing is determined by the speed of the processor on board the instrument.

Verification of RF performance using simple tools and test setups

Buzzwords like Industry 4.0, the IoT, Mobile Computing, and Cloud Computing can be found in many headlines in magazines. The common theme throughout is the development and rapid expansion of modern communication technologies rooted in RF communication. Wireless connectivity is everywhere you look: in the warehouse, the office, the car, at home, at sporting events, and in medical technology.

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