Electronic circuits and products are being made smaller as users seek more mobility and portability. Whether those users are consumers, warehouse workers, or military teams, electronic devices such as cell phones and even medical alert devices are being designed to fit in smaller packages. Making smaller electronic products possible is made possible by achieving electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) within the operating environment—making measurements that tell whether an electronic design can operate effectively when near other electronic devices and not cause electromagnetic interference (EMI) for other electronic devices. Fortunately, a variety of practical test equipment has been developed to perform the many measurements needed for efficient EMC/EMI testing.
Making sure the batteries are charged no longer applies just to the flashlight. Whether it is an electric vehicle (EV), a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), a growing number of vehicles are running on electricity rather than gasoline or diesel fuel. Keeping them running requires careful maintenance of the batteries and powertrains in these environmentally friendly vehicles.
Running out of gas was once a concern for a vehicle with an internal-combustion engine; now, with an EV, HEV, or PHEV, it is a matter of keeping the vehicle’s batteries and charging system in shape for the long haul. The battery chemistries in EVs, HEVs, and PHEVs differ, such as lithium-ion, nickel-metal hydride, and lead-acid batteries or ultracapacitor electrica...
Social distancing has become a new way of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Instead of daily trips to a test lab or electronic manufacturing facility, many engineers are being asked to work remotely to minimize contact with others and the potential spread of the virus. For many, home is the new office and workplace and for electronic circuit designers, testing is a helpful if not essential part of working on electronic designs at home. Most engineers would hardly turn down the opportunity to have one or more racks of their favorite test instruments within arms reach at home. Beyond dealing with the costs of acquiring test instruments for a home system, engineers should consider many factors before creating the home test studio of their ...
Measurements (and the test instruments to perform them) must evolve to keep pace with emerging technologies. The past few years have already yielded major electronic technology advances, such as Fifth Generation (5G) cellular networks at millimeter-wave frequencies and radar-guided autonomous vehicles. It is a new year with more to come. The start of a new year is often a good time to review current and future test needs and decide if it might also be time to upgrade some of that “good old test gear.”
Upgrading test equipment should never be a quick decision or spontaneous reaction. It should be carefully considered, in the mindset of testing requirements for years to come. Those requirements are usually based on technology trends, such as increasing data rates, freque...
Test equipment is on many engineers’ wish lists for the holidays. It may be merely a voltmeter, or it could be as elaborate as a spectrum analyzer or digital storage oscilloscope (DSO). There is one thing that most of us have in common around this time of year: it is a time of wishful thinking, sizing up what’s on the test bench right now versus what might be added for 2021.
Purchasing test equipment as a gift can be costly. Fortunately, reliable sources such as Axiom Test Equipment rent high-quality test equipment and sell it used. Either way is a chance for test equipment gift giving at a fraction of the cost of new equipment and a way to put a dent in an engineer’s test equipment wish lists for the holidays.
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A wish list for test instruments may have...
Low-cost solar energy is an invaluable, renewable resource for many homes and businesses, using photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert sunlight to electricity. While the sun may not always be shining, sunlight is the most abundant natural resource on the planet. Intelligently designed, solar-power installations efficiently convert that sunlight to electric power which can be stored until needed, such as during nighttime when the sun is not shining. Several conversion technologies are used to convert sunlight to electricity, including semiconductor-based PV cells and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems technology. In each case, regular maintenance is required to achieve optimum results from the power conversion process and several basic electrical measurements are essential actions in delive...
Electricity powers most lives and the electronic products within those lives. Electronic devices provide communications and many other conveniences, while electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are providing mobility to a growing number of drivers and passengers. Electronic devices draw power from the power grid surrounding them, supplied by utilities and regenerative sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. While electronic products are designed and developed with the help of traditional test equipment such as oscilloscopes, a different type of test instrument is needed for grid-connected device testing: the regenerative grid simulator. Such a tester makes it possible to know how a device under test (DUT) will perform under changing, real-worl...
Power is essential to any test setup and the DC power supply at one time might have been among the most overlooked instruments in a test system. Modern DC power supplies are no longer simply sources of current and voltage in a test system; they are being designed with versatile functionality and intelligent protection for extended operating lifetimes. They provide details at a glance using LCD screens and touchscreen displays. Even as power supplies increase in capabilities, they become easier to use by means of programmability and computer control. Of course, sorting through a wide selection of advanced DC power supplies for a benchtop or system application can be challenging, but the choice can be made a little easier by understanding about the different types of DC power supplies and ho...
It is part of the performance of almost every signal source, even active components, such as amplifiers. It is phase noise, and, at sufficiently high levels, it can prevent a radar or communications system from operating effectively. Fortunately, it can be measured quickly and accurately constant improvements in test hardware and software are making the task of determining a high-frequency source’s phase noise easier even as signal bandwidths continue to reach into millimeter-wave frequency bands.
What is phase noise?
Phase noise consists of fluctuations in the phase of an oscillator, frequency synthesizer, or other signal source as measured in the frequency domain. It is also known as jitter when it is associated with timing deviations in a system clock. A sine wave withou...
Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are gaining in popularity as they improve in performance. Contributing to the growing numbers of EVs and HEVs on the roads are increasing comfort levels for drivers dealing with vehicles powered by electric motors. Manufacturers of EVs and HEVs are making it simpler and more convenient to maintain adequate electric charge levels to keep their vehicles running for longer distances on electric power, enticing more drivers to try these environmentally friendly vehicles. Of course, testing the electrical motors, systems, and their components is an important part of ensuring that every EV and HEV has the longest running times and operating lifetimes possible, and that involves understanding what needs to be tested and how to perform th...
Getting Ready to Start Those Tests
Electronic test equipment is designed to deliver meaningful data concerning a device under test (DUT), and most users assume they are achieving excellent accuracy when they power up their instruments. But what if the test instruments have been sitting on a shelf for some time (not unusual during this time of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic)? Can those instruments be expected to deliver the same levels of performance as instruments that are powered for use day after day and perform regular measurement routines? Or should test instruments that are being returned to regular use after considerable “downtime” be prepared in any way for handling a regular workload once again? This blog post offers steps or precautions that should be taken with in...
Chroma 62000D programmable bidirectional DC power supply series has power source and load characteristics, is two quadrant operated, allows feedback of the power from the DUT, and is used for testing renewable energy power systems, including PV/storage hybrid inverters, power conversion system (PCS) on charging/discharging and as a battery simulator. 62000D also fits power components used in electric vehicles, such as bidirectional on-board charger (BOBC), bidirectional DC convertor, and DC-AC motor driver, so replacing power conversion simulation tests of batteries in both directions.
For a traditional DC power supply to perform a motor driver test, it needs an additional protection diode and resistance to process the reverse current. One single 62000D bidirectional DC power supply devic...
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are quickly being adopted for commercial and industrial applications, almost as quickly as they have been accepted as part of the modern battlefield for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. If major retailers follow through with plans to deliver purchased goods by drone, customers may soon expect to receive delivery of an order in as little as 30 minutes. UAVs and other robotic systems have already proven their value in many different areas, including in farming, in preventing forest fires, even in mapping long runs of power lines for breaks and failures. But what happens to a drone that is losing power? What must be tested, and which are the right instruments to perform the testing? Please join us in the conclusion of thi...
Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used in a growing number of commercial, civil, industrial, and military applications. They are currently used for many security and surveillance tasks as well as for monitoring inventory in warehouses. They are expected to play major roles in almost by-the-hour delivery schemes being developed by major retailers. As noted in the previous blog, they depend on onboard sensors for gathering data, tracking, navigation, and positioning and wireless radio links (and regular testing of those links) for reliable command and control from a nearby ground station, even when the ground station turns out to be simply a smartphone. The radio signals between a drone and a controller, whether a vehicle is autonomous or guided by a remote pilot, can be c...
While we recognize the uncertainty around this time, and are adapting day-to-day, we here at Axiom Test Equipment want you to know that we are open and continue to support and serve our customers. We have taken steps to prepare during the past month and have implemented a plan to continue running the business as smoothly as possible, while taking necessary steps to protect the welfare of our team members.
Any quote requests, orders, repairs, or questions you send in will continue to be answered.
The majority of our staff are working remotely. We are operating and communicating with minimal disruption.
We will continue to make decisions and adjustments based on the most current information, and we will update you if our situation changes.
Feel free to continue working with your area's A...
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, have been a part of military operations for decades, often paving the way for an operation with their remote intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) capabilities. Those familiar with military drones may think of million-dollar UAVs like the Predator with comprehensive electronic weapons payloads, including radar and sophisticated navigation and guidance systems. The military demand for fixed- and rotary-wing UAVs has grown steadily over the past decade, but it is not the only market for these remote-controlled vehicles. Drones are rapidly gaining popularity in many other commercial and industrial markets, such as construction, real-estate aerial views, commercial and industrial security, warehouse management, law enfo...
Hi, I'm Omid Ghavami, Axiom Test Equipment's account manager for San Diego and Orange Counties.
I have been working for Axiom for the past year and wanted to share with you some things about me.
Favorite TV show? "Gilligan's Island"
Favorite Sports team? "How 'bout dem Chieeeefs!"
Sport I would want to play professionally? "Curling"
Which superhero would you want to be and why? "Spiderman...he seems to avoid traffic."
What do you like about working at Axiom? "Working with a team with the experience & talent to best serve our customers."
What sets Axiom apart from other test equipment companies? "The thoughtfulness put into serving our customers."
What is your go to dance move? "Egg roll"
There you have it! I look forward to learning about how I c...
Time-domain reflectometers (TDRs) are easy-to-use test instruments usually associated with finding faults in cables and antennas. How they work is simple: send a pulse with fast risetime into a cable under test and measure reflected signals that take place where the characteristic impedance (usually 50 Ω) deviates from the nominal value, usually because of a break or disturbance in the line. This approach to finding a fault can also be applied to fiber-optic cables using an optical pulse. Comparisons of the transmitted and reflected signals can provide information about the length of the line, the loss of the line, and the locations of discontinuities and breaks in the line. TDRs have been compared to radar systems, which transmit pulses and measure reflections from illuminated targe...
Avionics systems assist pilots in providing safe flights on commercial, industrial, and military aircraft. Failures in those systems usually leads to catastrophe, stressing the importance of proper testing of avionics systems and their components. As avionics systems become more automated and autonomous, they become more complex in their software and hardware. Suitable test equipment must keep pace with the functionality needed to “exercise” avionic systems and subsystems under real-world conditions, so that designers can fully understand the behavior of those systems, installers and maintainers know their performance levels, and pilots can count on reliable performance. Because of the complexity, a variety of test instruments and software tools are needed to test modern avioni...
Impedance is one of the most essential of electrical parameters, providing insight into how alternating current (AC) flows through an electronic device, circuit, or system. It is frequency dependent, and measurements can be made across a wide range of frequencies, from audio (20 Hz to 20 kHz) through microwave frequencies. Depending upon frequency, those measurements are performed with different instruments, including LCR meters at the lowest frequencies and network analyzers at the highest frequencies, with impedance analyzers in between. Measurements of basic circuit parameters such as impedance (Z) and admittance (Y) are usually supported by analysis of other additional circuit parameters, such as capacitance (C), resistance (R), inductance (L) and, in some cases, material parameters, s...
Electronic device performance is sensitive to temperature, with most electronic devices and components specified according to operating and storage temperature ranges. Those ranges differ according to the type of component and application, with electronic products for industrial and military applications usually characterized over wider temperature ranges than commercial electronic products. Thermal test systems provide convenient ways to reproduce the temperature ranges that a device might encounter under actual operating conditions, but they also help bring temperature control to a device under test (DUT) as the means of performing thermal shock testing and accelerated lifetime testing. Selecting the best thermal test system for the job is simply a matter of understanding the thermal tes...
Semiconductor devices are rapidly gaining in output-power capabilities, whether used in continuous-wave (CW) circuits or in pulsed applications. Because they have continued to increase power levels while remaining at such smaller sizes, power semiconductors have made vacuum-tube devices such as klystrons, magnetrons, and travelling-wave tubes (TWTs) all but forgotten except for designs at the highest power levels. But packing so much power into such small semiconductor chips and packaged devices poses the problem of properly testing these devices, for such parameters as breakdown voltage, leakage power, maximum output power, and typical operating lifetimes. Last month’s blog reviewed ways to perform capacitance-voltage (CV) measurements; this month’s blog will look at high-powe...
Transistors and integrated circuits (ICs) make many of our modern electronic “toys,” such as cellular telephones and computers, possible. But before it is possible to reliably design supporting circuits for new semiconductor devices, they must be accurately tested to better understand their electrical characteristics. Last month’s blog looked at the ways in which current changed with changing voltage. As a follow-up, this blog will explore capacitance as a function of applied voltage and how capacitance-voltage (C-V) measurements can greatly assist the modeling and design of circuits with semiconductor devices.
Semiconductor devices come in many forms, including many types of transistors, diodes, and even photovoltaic devices and Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems(MEMS)...
Semiconductors have become such a profound part of modern electronic circuits and systems that they are often taken for granted. But a key part of any design process involving semiconductors requires gaining a full understanding of the current-versus-voltage (I-V) characteristics of each semiconductor and how each semiconductor will respond under different I-V conditions (and, in generation, under as many as possible different operating conditions). With the proper test equipment, semiconductor I-V measurements can be performed quickly and efficiently.
As with any electrical tests, I-V measurements take time, and time is a key parameter of those measurements. Semiconductor I-V testing is typically performed as a series of swept measurements, with values of I and V changing for each measur...
Test instruments have been an integral part of American electronic product development for over a century. Since pioneering telegraph/radio work by Guglielmo Marconi in the late 19th century through war-time efforts accelerated by the battlefield requirements of World Wars I and II for radio, sonar, and radar systems, electronics technology has grown into the mammoth global industry that now serves much of the world’s population with electronic devices of one kind or another. And many of those devices would not be designed, developed, or maintained if not for the creative efforts of innovative engineers at leading test equipment manufacturers, such as Amplifier Research (www.arworld.us), Chroma Systems Solutions (www.chromausa.com), Fluke Corp. (www.fluke.com), Keysight Technologies ...
Solar energy is a clean alternative to other sources of electricity for many business and home users of electricity, once the right equipment is installed. It requires the highly visible solar panels placed in a position and an angle best suited to “catch” the sunlight for the maximum amount of time each day. The number of photovoltaic (PV) cells used in those panels is determined by the amount of electricity required from a PV system and the maximum amount of power will not always be the same due to cloudy days and rainstorms which will limit the amount of electricity from PV sources. But solar energy is a renewable resource and is inexpensive once a PV system has been installed and the different components working properly. This can be done with the proper tools and the right...
Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, are literally right down the road. These electronically guided vehicles of the future will be built with advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) hardware and software, using several different technologies to detect and track other cars, pedestrians, and objects on the road and steer the vehicle and its driver clear of harm. One of the key technologies in vehicular ADAS electronic systems will be 77-GHz radars.
ADAS uses several sensor technologies, such as optical, laser-based LiDAR, and radar sensors, to provide constant input information to a computer control system for each vehicle. The sensors are mounted in the front and the back of the vehicle for longer-distance monitoring and at the four corners of the vehicle, for more short-...
Environmental conditions can vary widely from place to place and season-to-season, often making it necessary to evaluate electronic products while temperature and humidity are well controlled. Testing a device under test (DUT) or equipment under test (EUT) under adverse environmental conditions can often reveal problems in a design and help discover ways to improve a design meant for use over temperature and humidity extremes. An essential tool for performing such testing is an environmental chamber capable of accurately controlling temperature and humidity.
Environmental test chambers are available in many sizes and power levels, depending on measurement requirements. An environmental test chamber well suited to an application should provide the amount of control needed in terms of adjus...
Electronic loads may be somewhat mysterious to some engineers, but they can be invaluable test instruments in the development of power circuitry. Electronic loads provide the means to generate precisely controlled electrical power for simulation and test, with control of key parameters, such as current, voltage, and load impedance/resistance, to aid in development of new products and in the maintenance of existing products. Electronic loads come in various forms, including AC electronic loads, DC electronic loads, and even combination AC / DC electronic loads. Learning more about electronic loads and how they work can encourage electronic designers to achieve optimum performance levels from the power circuitry, power supplies, batteries, and fuel cells in their designs.
Both AC and DC ele...
As much as the Internet has become as part of daily lives and businesses, the Internet of Things (IoT) and billions of tiny electronic devices will soon provide the means to quickly identify an unlimited number of associated things at home, in businesses, even for personal health. The oscilloscope, with its measurement flexibility and versatility, will be an important tool in helping to design and maintain the many low-power IoT sensors that will be needed in the future. Of course, all oscilloscopes are different, and knowing which measurement capabilities are needed for characterizing IoT devices can simplify the task of finding an oscilloscope with the hardware and software best suited for evaluating IoT sensors.
IoT devices are small, typically battery-powered devices that identify som...
Batteries provide power for portable electronic devices. They come in many shapes and sizes, from tiny cells that power pocket-sized personal electronic devices to large, fixed systems. They are also available in different chemistries, such as alkaline, lead-acid, and lithium-ion cells. Each battery chemistry results in battery cells with different voltages, such as 1.5 V for alkaline cells, 2.0 V for lead-acid cells, and 3.0 V for lithium cells. Commercial batteries are typically comprised of multiple connected cells to achieve higher voltages, such as 12 or 24 V. Batteries are obviously essential components in any portable electronic product or system, and should be tested to determine performance and quality, whether in production or as part of a regular maintenance schedule. Testing ma...
Optical communications systems are highly regarded for their generous bandwidths and capabilities of transferring massive amounts of data during extremely short transmission times. Of course, those systems rely on durable, high-performance components connected by single-mode (SM) and multi-mode (MM) cables, which must be checked and maintained at regular intervals. That can be done using fiber-optic test equipment designed specifically for the task: optical spectrum analyzers and optical waveform generators.
This blog will focus on selecting an optical spectrum analyzer, while a future blog will offer advice on understanding the specifications for selecting an optimum precision optical test source. An optical spectrum analyzer is essentially a receiver that can detect and displaying signa...
Test equipment is essential for the operation of most electronic manufacturers and service providers, and most engineers develop a kind of “relationship” of sorts with that favorite signal generator or oscilloscope and may even arrive early to the workplace to get the first shot at using the favorite test equipment. Of course, it would be ideal if a company could equip every workstation with a full lineup of test equipment, so that an engineer knew that the test equipment was waiting for them, and not vice versa. But, the cost of test equipment can add up quickly, especially when trying to equip everyone in a design team with a full set of test gear. For many companies, it may be more practical to carefully consider when to buy a new piece of test equipment and when it might ma...
Vista, CA —Axiom Test Equipment, a premier provider of electronic test and measurement equipment rentals and sales, is now accredited in accordance with ISO/IEC 17025:2017 requirements from the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). This high-level accreditation is awarded to labs that have demonstrated technical competence, systematic approaches to procedures, and traceability of measurements to national standards.
Shannon Johnson, Axiom’s Vice President of Operations states, “Achieving 17025 accreditation is an important milestone for the growth of our business and expands the capabilities of our lab. It opens doors to new markets and gives customers high confidence when they rent or buy equipment from Axiom Test Equipment. Even if they do not require calibratio...
EMC pre-compliance testing can be a company-saver—a way to make sure a new product will pass electromagnetic-compatibility (EMC) compliance testing. EMC pre-compliance testing is basically an earlier version of EMC compliance testing, a way to determine the EM emissions from a new design as well as its immunity to nearby EM energy. Not only can it save time to market, it can save the costs of re-designing a product that fails EMC compliance testing.
Almost any new electronic product can be at risk of failing EMC compliance testing. EMC pre-compliance testing is a way to minimize that risk by performing some simple measurements before shipping the new product to an EMC compliance test lab for evaluation. Failing EMC compliance testing at an accredited EMC compliance test lab can lead...
Power supplies are often taken for granted in electronic system design, although the quality of the power supply is one of the most important parameters for any electronic system. The power and its supply serve as forms of heartbeats for an electronic system and have a great deal to do with the ultimate performance and reliability of the system. The purity of the power in a component or system can be determined by a variety of measurements, using the proper power-quality measurement equipment. Because power purity is usually revealed by the connection of a nonlinear load which will stress a component or system into distortion, it is not something that can be measured with a simple test tool, such as a multimeter, but requires an instrument designed for measuring power parameters even under...
There may one day be billions or even trillions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in service, using the Internet to connect to us and to each other. IoT technology is already making homes, factories, warehouses, and even vehicles smarter, using sensors, detectors, RFID tags, radio transceivers, and software to provide data about different equipment and environments that can be collected and analyzed at any time. IoT devices can be accessed by any communications equipment such as mobile phones and laptop computers capable of connecting to the Internet. The Internet provides the means of linking the IoT devices to each other and providing data about how they are being used and about the environments in which they are being used. Ideally, IoT devices provide the insights needed for optimize...
Current-voltage (I-V) measurements are among the most fundamental methods for characterizing electronic devices. They can be used to evaluate the behavior of active and passive electronic devices under a required set of operating conditions, to find optimum power supply values, and explore performance limits. Most device measurements are either to determine the current flow for a given voltage or the capacitance of an electronic device for a given voltage (C-V measurements). The x-y plots and curves that result can tell a great deal about the electronic device, to better understand its operation and behavior in an electronic circuit or to develop a computer-aided model that can be used in circuit simulation software.
Electronic devices that can be evaluated by means of I-V measurements in...
More time is spent on mobile telephones than ever before, and that is not a trend that is about to change anytime soon with the coming of Fifth Generation (5G) wireless communications networks. If anything, 5G networks are being ballyhooed as historic landmarks in the history of the world, with so many users growing to become dependent upon those wireless networks for voice, video, and data from personal to business matters. Of course, 5G networks will have some things that previous wireless communications networks didn’t have, including the use of millimeter-wave signal frequencies for backhaul high-speed data links. Current Fourth Generation (4G) cellular wireless network boast maximum download speeds to 1 Gb/s, but 5G proponents are promising much more, with download speeds as hig...
Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are gaining in popularity; seemingly as they gain in the range of each battery charge. Both EVs and HEVs rely on high-voltage batteries and an electric motor; in addition, an HEV is aided by a gasoline engine with its own fuel supply. Both types of vehicles still employ lower-voltage batteries and electrical systems for lights, radios, electric windows, and other voltage-driven functions. Of course, among the key functions in an EV or HEV is charging the high-voltage battery, whether at home or at a remote charging station, and maintaining the efficiency of that battery-charging process. For that reason, test equipment that is capable of emulating the different types of high-voltage batteries used in EVs and HEVs and the charging/...
Electrical safety testing (EST) is often performed by manufacturers of electronic products to ensure the safety of their customers and learn more about their products. Properly performed, basic EST functions such as AC high-potential (hipot) testing, DC hipot testing, and insulation resistance (IR) measurements can help to identify and eliminate manufacturing problems before they become too widespread in production or even become part of shipped products. Performing EST as part of manufacturing production can provide a great deal of insight into the design of an electronic product and often lead to ideas on improving the reliability of that product.
In general, EST measurements are performed during two different stages of a product lifetime: during product research and development (R&...
Digital multimeters (DMMs) are one of the handiest of tools for any electrician or engineer, putting a host of measurement capabilities in one hand. A multimeter and its probes can measure voltage (V), current (I), and resistance (R) while operating with battery power wherever and whenever needed, over fairly wide measurement ranges depending on the model. Many excellent instruments are currently available from a number of highly respected manufacturers. When sorting through a group of different DMMs, the instrument of choice should provide sufficient accuracy and resolution, and it should be rugged enough to withstand the rigors of the workplace, which may include occasional mishandling. A DMM is truly portable and versatile, but is it always the best choice for a measurement, or does it ...
Semiconductors are essential components in many electronic products, with many different kinds of semiconductors, such as transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits (ICs), performing important functions in a wide range of applications. Recently, wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, notably those taking advantage of the electrical properties of gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon-carbide (SiC) substrate materials, have gained much attention for their contributions to power electronics products. But just what are WBG semiconductors, how are they different from semiconductors with narrower bandgaps, and what kinds of test-and-measurement approaches and solutions are needed to evaluate a WBG semiconductor? Please read on!
High-power semiconductor devices fabricated on certain materials, such as...
Go on a virtual tour of what it would be like to rent or buy test equipment from Axiom
Vista, CA — Axiom Test Equipment, Inc., a premier electronic test equipment rental and sales provider, has produced a company video with the goal of showing customers what it is like to partner with a test equipment rental company that wants to help you get the equipment you need in a timely manner.
This video was filmed at Axiom’s headquarters in Vista, California where the Axiom team wanted to give customers an inside look of what happens when they call in and place an order. Viewers will see Axiom’s various departments at work including the sales team where a dedicated account manager will work with you to select the equipment you need.
The video then moves into other departments ...
Generating RF/Microwave Signals for Test
The last test blog highlighted instruments capable of producing many different test signals, including pulses, square waves, and audio tones. It explored function generators and their value in checking the performance of a variety of circuits, from audio through digital. However, at higher analog frequencies, such as when testing receivers and their components, RF/microwave signal generators provide the optimum sources of test signals for teaming with a suitable signal analyzer, such as a spectrum analyzer. Choosing an RF/microwave signal generator is fairly straightforward and often comes down to how much performance will be needed in the short-term or the long-term, since modern RF/microwave signal generators are available with robust functionali...
Repeatable signals are often needed for measurements, and signal generators are sources of test signals of many kinds. A signal source might be needed for a sine wave at a particular frequency or range of frequencies, or for a different kind of waveform, such as a square wave or a triangle wave. Quite simply, test signal generators can be divided into two camps: function generators and RF/microwave signal generators. When an elaborate waveform is needed at a lower frequency, such as 10 MHz, reach for the function generator. When a higher-frequency sine wave is required, such as in the GHz range, make sure it is an RF/microwave signal generator. This blog will take a closer look at function generators, which are also known as arbitrary waveform generators. The next blog will focus on the ke...
Vector network analyzers (VNAs) were once associated mainly with RF/microwave frequencies, although they have gained popularity in recent years at audio frequencies. They are unique among electronic measuring instruments in their capabilities to measure circuits as networks and to understand the transmission and reflection of signals through those networks and how changes in impedance can impact the transfer of energy through those networks. The most popular commercial VNA configurations are available with two or four ports, enabling the measurement of a device’s or circuit’s performance in terms of linear network scattering (S) parameters or its nonlinear behavior. VNAs are complex test systems, but a review of some of their essential measurement capabilities can help in selec...
Power supplies and electronic loads are forms of test equipment that go together like signal generators and analyzers. Power supplies generate precise amounts of energy to power a device under test (DUT) while electronic loads provide the means to measure the output of an energy source, such as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), an inverter, or even a battery. Power supplies and loads are available for AC or DC testing, over a wide range of power ratings and capacities. Finding the right match for an application is a matter of understanding the specifications for each type of instrument and the performance levels needed for the measurements in mind.
AC and DC power supplies are defined by a voltage range, maximum voltage, current range and maximum current. Some supplies may also be ra...
Spectrum analyzers are among the most versatile of electronic test instruments, with versions now available for the benchtop, battery-powered for the field, and even with USB connectors for use with a computer. A spectrum analyzer displays signal amplitude as a function of frequency, and it can be used to study known signals or to find unknown signals. Those in need of a spectrum analyzer will find many different choices—by understanding how the specifications fit their needs, they can make the right choice.
The most essential specifications of a spectrum analyzer refer to frequency and amplitude, such as the frequency range, resolution bandwidth (RBW), frequency accuracy, signal sensitivity, dynamic range, and amplitude accuracy. The frequency range of an analyzer simply defines th...
Prepare for Practical Pulsed RF Measurements
Pulsed RF microwave measurements use pulses of precise pulse widths, intervals, and amplitudes as test signals rather than the continuous-wave (CW) signals of standard high-frequency measurements. For systems and their components that operate with pulses, such as radars, these test signals represent the actual operating conditions more closely than CW signals. Pulses also provide a means of testing components, such as amplifiers, at high power levels when CW signals may cause overheating and damage. A basic test system for pulsed RF testing requires the means of generating pulsed signals and some way to analyze the pulsed signals at the output of a device under test (DUT). As pulsed RF signal applications such as radar continue to expand beyond...
Harmonic signals are generated by almost every high-frequency signal source with sufficient bandwidth, no matter how well designed. Any signal source with more than one octave bandwidth is capable of producing harmonic outputs. The harmonics can be removed by means of lowpass filters, but first they must be identified. A spectrum analyzer is usually the test instrument of choice for measuring harmonic signals. An instrument with sufficient bandwidth can display a fundamental signal and a number of its harmonic signals simultaneously to simplify identification of harmonics. The number of harmonics that can be displayed for a particular fundamental-frequency signal will depend upon the frequency range or bandwidth of the analyzer.
Harmonics are generated as the result of the nonlinear behav...
Audio circuits and transducers can be found in many modern electronic devices, such as smart phones, not to mention home and professional audio systems and sound equipment. High fidelity can be achieved through thoughtful design and well-chosen components, but it also requires proper testing to verify performance. Audio signals are produced by analog and digital circuits, although one set of performance parameters can serve as the basis for measurements on all kinds of audio circuits and devices, to determine if a device under test (DUT) is truly high fidelity.
Audio frequencies lie within the range of human hearing, typically 20 Hz to 20 kHz, but human hearing is more sensitive to some frequencies than others and is not a good tool for evaluating the audio quality of a DUT. For that reas...
How to Pick a Power Supply for the Test Bench
Power is an essential ingredient for testing any active device under test (DUT), although electronic DUTs vary widely as do their power-supply requirements. Finding the right power supply for the laboratory or the production line starts with a budget and it ends hopefully; with finding a power source that meets all the test needs for present and future DUTs. Whether it is an AC power source or a DC power supply, or a single unit that can provide both types of power, a practical power supply will provide controlled current and voltage to enable testing a DUT under all the different operating conditions it is likely to see in actual use.
Performance requirements for a power supply start with the DUT. For example, a DUT may be a portable d...
Amplifiers are widely used in electronic circuits and systems. They raise signal amplitudes as needed, whether to drive low-impedance audio amplifiers or higher-impedance RF/microwave circuits. They are characterized by various sets of measurements, with some for audio amplifiers and some for higher-frequency amplifiers. Evaluating the performance of an amplifier calls for the right tools, and finding the right test equipment is a matter of understanding which measurements must be performed.
Amplifier measurements differ by frequency, with some measurements for audio amplifiers, and different measurements for higher-frequency amplifiers. Audio amplifiers, which are typically specified from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, are typically tested from at least 20 Hz to 50 kHz to account for any harmo...
Amplifiers are often needed as part of an RF/microwave test setup, to boost test signal power. Commercial test signal generators may provide +10 dBm or less output power, especially at the upper-frequency portion of their bandwidth. This is not nearly enough power to characterize passive components, such as attenuators and filters, under realistic conditions or stress them under maximum power conditions. It is also not enough test input power to drive many active components, such as amplifiers, to their compression points, such as 1-dB compression or 3-dB compression. For that reason, when testing an amplifier, often an additional amplifier is needed to add gain to the test signals. The choice of test amplifier will be determined by the bandwidth and power requirements of a particular test...
Batteries provide the power for portability, from the miniature rechargeable batteries of cellular phones to the larger battery packs of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Ideally, rechargeable/regenerative batteries provide long operating lifetimes; with long discharge cycles and short recharge times. To determine performance levels, rechargeable secondary batteries must be tested for a number of meaningful parameters with the appropriate measurement equipment. Testing can tell such details as how well a battery can hold its charge in terms of voltage, current, and power, how efficient it is, and how effectively it can be recharged.
Rechargeable batteries of different chemistries, such as lead-acid, nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd), and lithium-ion (Li-ion) types, are use...
Clean energy is vital to an evolving world and its increasing use of electronic devices, and a distributed power grid provides the means to provide that power. In a distributed power grid, the energy comes from many different sources and technologies, including solar power inverters, hydroelectric power, and wind power generators. Distributed energy resources (DERs) that are sometimes part of a power grid are switched on and off as needed according to user requirements. Efficient management of a distributed power grid requires such capabilities as remote control of the microgrids or different portions of the grid, so that they can be switched in and out as power is needed and, especially, regular measurement and maintenance of the performance of the different parts of a distributed grid.
Phase noise describes a signal source’s short-term variations in frequency or phase as a function of time. That is how it is known in the frequency domain; it is also known as clock jitter in the time domain. A signal source, such as an oscillator or frequency synthesizer, without phase noise, would be capable of generating pure sine waves that would never vary from a tuned frequency: all of the source’s energy would be concentrated in the carrier frequency, with no frequency deviations to cause lower and upper noise sidebands at frequencies below and above the carrier, respectively.
However, real-world signal sources suffer short-term variations in frequency and phase noise. The amount of phase noise is a barometer for the amount of frequency stability possible from a...
Measurements of DC power can reveal a great deal about a system or its components. Power consumption is a global concern, and DC measurements, depending upon the choice of test equipment, can provide important details about the components that handle DC power within an electronic system, such as AC-to-DC converters, DC-to-DC converters, DC to AC converter, DC loads, inverters, and power supplies. The levels of DC power that often must be measured can range from milliwatts in portable electronic devices to thousands of watts produced by DC power generators and power supplies. While it is possible to determine power by measuring DC current and voltage with a voltmeter, modern test tools can make the task much easier by automatically measuring DC current and voltage over multiple channels and...
One of the more recent developments in power electronics are wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor devices. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, WBG semiconductor devices will:
Operate up to 300 degrees C
Operate at voltage up to ten times the operating voltage of conventional semiconductors
Eliminate up to 90% of the power losses in electricity transfer compared to current semiconductor technology
They also switch faster and have a higher frequency response than current semiconductor devices.
WBG semiconductor devices are made from silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors. You can currently purchase SiC MOSFETS, BJTs, and Schottky diodes and GaN FETs and Schottky diodes. Applications for these devices include electric vehicles, power conversion for wind an...
What is EMC/EMI?
The letters EMC stand for electro-magnetic compatibility and likewise EMI stands for electro-magnetic interference. There are standards that are used to determine whether or not a test article is susceptible to, or emits, an unacceptable level of interference. It can be either radiated or conducted in form. The standards are defined by regulatory agencies worldwide and are specific to particular scenarios. There are literally hundreds of different standards that various types of equipment must meet depending on their application and country of origin.
Electronic devices cannot be sold unless they pass the standards specified for the type of device it is, and the location or environment it is being used in. This is a safety and compatibility requirement. This makes testin...
What Is An Environmental Chamber?
An environmental chamber is used to test various types of equipment under controlled environmental conditions. These conditions include temperature, the most common variable, and sometimes, humidity. More advanced types can run programs to cycle the variables over extensive ranges and are used to validate the performance of various types of equipment when subjected to extremes of temperature, and humidity. Also needing to be considered is the number and type of connections available for connecting to the unit under test. Power, temperature probes, thermocouples, and communication busses are passed through ports that can be on either side, both sides, and even the front door. Some specialized types of chambers are used for EMI testing and will not be cover...
What Is An RF Amplifier?
An RF amplifier is similar to an audio amplifier, but applied at much higher frequencies. The frequency boundary where an amplifier is considered to be an RF type is typically vague. Applications requiring a frequency over 100 kHz often defines this boundary. We will address this in the amplifier types and frequency response section. Being an amplifier we will be concerned with power output, or wattage, frequency response, noise figure, efficiency, gain, and distortion / linearity.
Amplifier technologies come in several types. Each type will have a different frequency response characteristic. The major technologies of RF power amps include: vacuum tube, TWT, and solid state. The solid-state types can be further classified as bipolar junction o...
The Spectrum Analyzer
The spectrum analyzer, also referred to as a “spec an”, is an essential piece of test equipment for the engineer’s bench. The spectrum analyzer displays frequency vs. amplitude as opposed to time vs. amplitude as with an oscilloscope. Since spectrum analyzers display frequency vs. amplitude they are essentially an AC input device. This means that they cannot display DC values like an oscilloscope can. However, slowly varying DC is a perfectly valid input signal. The use of a spectrum analyzer allows the visualization of the harmonic content of any signal. An absolutely pure sine wave will have no harmonics (multiples of the fundamental frequency). Since this is impossible in the real world a spectrum analyzer will display the entire harmonic content...
The Network Analyzer
Essential in the development of RF circuits and systems, the Network Analyzer is a very specialized piece of test equipment. Combining a precise signal source and sensitive receivers, the network analyzer displays the amount of energy that is transmitted or reflected by a network. The term “network” refers to any linear circuit or system that signals travel through. This can include antenna arrays of all types also. Just because there is not a physical connection between the source and receiver doesn’t mean it is not a system! Network Analyzers are useful for electrical engineering, electronics engineering, and communication systems design, and especially for microwave engineering. They are also known as a VNA, or vector network analyzer. It sho...
The oscilloscope, referred to as a “scope” going forward, is without a doubt the most versatile piece of test equipment on the engineer’s bench. No R&D or test bench is complete without one. In its most basic form, an oscilloscope displays voltage versus time with a calibrated display. The display takes the form of an XY graticule with calibrated vertical and horizontal divisions, known as a CRT. The feature that made the scope useful is the ability to trigger, or start a trace sweep, at precisely the same point in a repetitive waveform. This makes the trace stable and flicker free and easy to view. The primary characteristic of analog types is that there is a direct DC path from the input all the way to the deflection plates on the CRT displ...
Alternating-current (AC) power sources and loads can bring tremendous versatility to test systems and measurement applications, helping to precisely control the energy required for testing. Of course, selecting an AC power supply for different types of applications can be challenging. But the task can be made easier by better understanding key performance parameters that differentiate AC power supplies and loads, and matching AC source and load capabilities to meet current and future measurement requirements.
In a typical test environment, an AC power source will supply a repeatable, precisely controlled, low-distortion sinusoidal voltage to a device under test (DUT). The AC source must be capable of providing the amount of power required by the DUT. The power source should be accurate, c...
Why Such High Costs for Test Equipment?
by Jack Browne in Measuring Progress
Most of us have waited on line at the workplace for a signal generator, or a spectrum analyzer, or even a digital multimeter. We may have even sneaked the use of a piece of test equipment from a coworker during their lunch break, to try to get some test results on a particular project. At any engineering facility worth its salt, test equipment will usually be in demand, and there is always the “engineering complaint” of there not being enough test equipment “in the house.” Many of us have asked, “Why doesn’t the company simply invest in more test gear so that the engineering staff can work more efficiently and effectively?” And most of us have received official corporate...
Axiom Test Equipment, a premier provider of electronic test and measurement equipment rentals and sales, announces the launch of a new, redesigned version of its website, www.axiomtest.com
Key features of the site include a simplified, more contemporary design, an improved user experience with enhanced search functionality and navigation menus, and the ability to improve the site for future enhancements.“We wanted to redesign our site to become a better resource for users,” said Axiom’s Marketing Manager Erin Stucker. “The faster and easier it is for users to find the equipment they are looking for on our site, the better.”
The redesigned website allows visitors to more easily interact with the site in order to find the equipment the...
When most companies think about acquiring test equipment, they think about purchasing it. Before you sign that purchase order, however, you should consider renting the equipment instead. Here are nine reasons why it might be better to rent test equipment than buying it:
Renting equipment allows you to get equipment without having a capital budget. Capital budgets are generally approved only once a year, so what do you do if, all of a sudden, you need some test equipment in the middle of the year? You rent it, of course!
Rentals are paid for with expense dollars, not capital dollars. Because equipment rentals come out of your expense budget instead of your capital budget, there may be some tax advantages for your company. The expense of an equipment rental can be deduct...
Where do you turn when it’s time to buy? What do you do when you need it now? Who can you trust?
When engineers need something, they need it fast. They want tested, functional equipment that is ready to hit their bench straight out of the box. Nobody likes the surprise of getting something that needs a tinkering and sometimes there’s no time to wait for your purchasing department to get its paperwork together. eBay just might be the solution.
eBay has come a long way since its initial growth in 1997. Long gone are the days of hobbyist trading their Star Wars collections via online auctions and weekend warriors taking their garage sales digital. Instead, eBay has emerged as a leading online retailer and premier e-commerce site where buyers can safely p...
I’ve dealt with a lot of different types of test equipment over the years, but I’m still amazed sometimes at what lands on my bench. The only way to explain this is it’s just plain odd. As if dealing with all the sophisticated circuitry in modern test equipment isn’t tough enough, I’ve had to deal with odd modifications, strange setups, and confusing control panels.
I cringe when I open up equipment and find odd modifications. Sometimes there are components missing from boards, circuit board traces that have been cut, or wires soldered to components on the board and or control knobs. Many times these modifications are not documented on the schematics that I have.
Manufacturers tell me that these are just engineerin...
Save time by analyzing broken equipment with nothing but your senses!
When confronted with a piece of equipment that’s not working, lots of things will be running through your mind. Modern test equipment is, after all, very complex, and lots of things can go wrong with it. Oh, the dreaded equipment that needs repair, where to start?
You may already have some information. The repair ticket might say, “Won’t turn on” or “Display not working.” That’s a good start, but I would suggest that before you open the toolbox or break out the schematics, you gather some troubleshooting information using your senses. Your senses--sight, hearing, touch, and even smell--can tell you a lot about what’s wrong with the gear and get ...
OK, I admit it. I’ve made mistakes that have led to blown power supplies and blown inputs and outputs on some of the equipment that I’ve worked on. You don’t have to make those same mistakes, though, if you follow these simple tips. Don’t blow it!
Check the voltage AND polarity of a replacement power adapter. Many instruments these days are using external power adapters, or “wall warts,” to provide power. Using a replacement adapter sounds easy enough, but not so fast. Not only do you have to ensure that the replacement adapter has the appropriate output voltage, but also that the output connector is wired properly. For some adapters, the center pin is positive and the outer conductor negative. For others, it’s the exact opposite, and I...
Six Preventive Maintenance Tips That Will Help Your Test Equipment Last Longer
I don’t have to tell you that test equipment is expensive. It’s expensive to buy, and it’s expensive to fix. That being the case, doesn’t it make sense to take some simple steps to keep your equipment from failing?
Here are six preventive maintenance tips that will:
• extend life of your test equipment
• reduce equipment downtime
• ensure that your test equipment meets specs
#1. Keep it clean.
Heat kills, and the biggest culprit when it comes to overheating is dirt. Dirty fan filters and clogged ventilation holes impede the flow of air through your test equipment, meaning that the components inside are not being cooled properl...
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Axiom Test has an excellent range of test equipment and is always super responsive to short notice requests. They are an extension of our quality and engineering team with the support they provide us. Thanks!