Eliminating system failure

Eliminating system failure
Published: 11 August 2019 - 8:18 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

With the focus shifting to production testing to enable timely defect elimination and prevent late stage equipment failure, there are more benefits for testing & measurement (T&M) instruments.

Key benefits driving the adoption of T&M instruments in product R&D, production and maintenance include high product quality, and lower costs associated with product malfunctions, repairs, replacements, product call backs and repeat production.

The electronic Test and Measurement Instruments industry in the GCC has blossomed and continues to expand at a pace never witnessed before. The GCC market for electrical Test and Measurement Instruments (T&M) is projected to grow over the coming years in parallel with global growth, widely expected to reach $6.8bn by 2020.

With electronic gadgets shrinking in size, featuring advanced wireless capabilities, and gaining in complexity, testing has become a vital process in electric power generation, transmission and distribution.

A new market for test instruments is being created by the separation of an instrument’s processing/control and measurement modules. With the accelerated performance of personal computers, it also has proven viable to create PC-driven instruments that interface through high-speed and common platform-interface technologies.

To solve many of these limitations with current hardware would require a proprietary interface technology and a specialised workhorse of a computer, mitigating the benefits of a PC-driven computer.

The world is increasingly software oriented, and the way people interact with devices is changing. Smartphones, set top boxes and even automobiles are now defined by their embedded software. With this evolution, the industry is challenged to keep up with the pace of innovation and the resulting complexities.

The industry today realises that building a test system requires evaluation of expanding test requirements and an architecture that can last over time. It is important to choose a platform that can harness the technology curve while enabling abstraction and integration.

Devices under test (DUTs) are moving away from single purpose, hardware centric entities with limited capability to multipurpose, software-centric entities with endless capability. Making the switch from traditional instruments with vendor defined functionality to a software defined architecture, allows user defined measurements and analysis in real time.

Communities of developers and integrators, building on standard software platforms, are using commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology to extend the functionality of complex hardware into applications previously impossible. The level of productivity and collaboration delivered by software centric ecosystems will have a profound effect on test system design over the next three to five years.

The last 2-3 years have witnessed a growing trend of T&M on rent which is gaining popularity as a good choice for executing short term projects. Long term projects continue to attract new T&M buys. At the same time, support of multiple technologies like GSM, CDMA, WiMAX, WCDMA, LTE or WiFion single platform is in demand from the T&M industry. LTE, Cloud Computing, WiFi off load, WLAN, Green telecom, M2M, Connected life style, research toward 5G race are top trends for the coming years.

Site sharing is another trend which continues to result into lower CAPEX and OPEX. The all in one box for production testing helps to save space, time and cost during production. Field instrument are more rugged now and they support multiple interface and technology, so that engineer do not need to carry multiple instrument.

One of the emerging trends in the market is the miniaturisation of test and measurement equipment. Miniaturised test and measurement equipment are flexible and easy to use. The fast growth in the electronics industry is leading to the development of small-sized electronic devices for which miniaturised test and measurement equipment are required. For example, the test and measurement equipment used in consumer electronics and other minute components need to be very small in size.

The trend to LTE advanced and the use of smartphones is challenging test-and-measurement (T&M) systems to stay ahead of advancements in RF component performance and innovations. As a result, T&M system designers will be challenged to provide faster, extremely repeatable, rugged, and best-in-class testing environments. Test equipment will be expected to last over multiple generations of product introductions, meaning that the performance requirements of the RFICs used in test equipment must be better than the device under test by a factor of several generations.

Further to this, next-generation communication systems that use higher-order modulation schemes such as Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), with high peak to average ratios, are driving the need for the components used in the test equipment’s signal chain to have higher linearity.

Additionally, more frequency bands are expected to be introduced, driving the need for broader bandwidths and higher operating frequencies. This new, crowded spectrum will require additional filtering, so filter-bank switching is expected to drive the need for lower-loss components.

Despite the fact that test solutions are growing in complexity, end customers will continue to expect lower overall test costs per unit. In order to accomplish this, test equipment must enable lower overall test time, which can be accomplished by RF components with a fast settling time.

Also, there continues to be an increasing reliance on software to differentiate and provide flexibility for future product expansion. This fundamental reliance on software drives device and system manufacturers to look at ways to shorten the software development lifecycle and reduce costs, while at the same time increasing functional complexity and improving software quality. Streamlining the development team and their development processes through automation, from requirements engineering and traceability, down through verification and deployment is a way to achieve this.

Other factors pushing better automation of test processes include: greater emphasis on the safety- and security-critical market segments, increased focus on software quality and reliability; growing requirements for software certification and risk mitigation as well as reduction in development and verification resources.

Device and system manufacturers are now implementing traceable development processes where requirements, from concept through to code, automatically link to development and verification artefacts, such as development plans, design documents, verification plans, test procedures, and test results. Manual methods are no longer adequate to properly test, execute, and trace the results throughout the development process both from a reliability and cost perspective.

According to industry analysts, engineers must learn different instrument UIs and struggle with limited to no correlation across the analogue, digital and RF signals. An affordable mixed-domain oscilloscope (MDO) that combines a mixed signal oscilloscope with a spectrum analyser is greater than sum of its parts. Not only does it reduce pressure on the equipment budget, it adds the critical element of a single integrated view across domains. As embedded RF continues to grow, so will the market demand for MDOs.

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