Trends in Test & Measurement: New Test Requirements, New Technologies

The single biggest recent advance in test equipment is the inclusion of digitization of signals and computer analysis capabilities. Many instruments now have internal PC platforms that operate the instrument and perform the calculations necessary to process the measurement data (FFT, modulation/demodulation, BER analysis, etc.) and deliver detailed displays and reports to the user. Production testing is a significant challenge, with today’s complex modulation types, spectral mask-defined emissions limits, and ever-higher frequencies of operation. Current production test systems must have performance approaching that of high-end laboratory instruments. With evolving standards and deployment of new systems, the flexibility of production testing has also become an important issue, with the goal of reducing the cost to reconfigure test systems for new products. High performance portable instruments is a growing area of interest. The construction and commissioning of new wireless, industrial, automotive and medical systems can be considered an extension of the manufacturing process, including testing. Once they are operating, maintenance of these systems must use instruments that are capable of verifying that performance is fully compliant with the operating specifications.