The year of the waveform generator

-December 01, 2005

I hereby declare 2005 "The year of the waveform generator" because of the unusually high number of product introductions. I've identified eight companies that have introduced function or arbitrary waveform generators this year: B&K Precision, Fluke, Geotest, Novatech Instruments, Signal Forge, Tabor Electronics, Tegam, and Tektronix. The prices range from less than $1000 to about $17,000.

The Wonder Wave series of arbitrary waveform generators consists of seven models, including the Model 2572, which operates at 250 Msamples/s.
Courtesy of Tabor Electronics.

Waveform generators
introduced in 2005

B+K Precision Model 4051:
Function generator adds power supply, counter

Fluke Model 271:
DDS function generator

Geotest Model GP1665H:
Function generator replaces discontinued model

Novatech Instruments Model 440A:
400-MHz signal source comes in at under $1000

Signal Forge Model SF800:
800-MHz generator debuts

Tegam 2700 Series:
Tegam introduces function/arbitrary waveform generators

Tabor Electronics Models
8550 and 8551:
Function generators replace obsolete models

Tabor Electronics Wonder Wave:
Arbitrary waveform generators

Tektronix AFG 3000 Series:
Waveform generators fill a void

"There's a clear movement from standard waveforms to arbitrary waveforms," said Bob Buxton, product line marketing manager for signal sources at Tektronix. "We expect a 9% growth in arbitrary waveform generators and zero growth in basic function generators industry wide." Tegam president Adam Fleder sees a similar trend, noting "The function/arbitrary waveform generator is replacing the classic function generator."

Fleder also noted a need for waveforms that simulate signals from sensors used in medical equipment and automotive systems. Hilton Hammond, Fluke's product manager, cited new technologies adopted in several industries, like automotive, as reasons his company introduced several waveform generators this year. "Engineers need to generate signals that simulate those found in technologies such as in braking systems and airbags," he noted.

Geotest and Tabor Electronics introduced waveform generators that replace discontinued models from Wavetek and Agilent Technologies (Hewlett-Packard). Geotest's GP1665 series replaces Wavetek and Agilent models, and Tabor has two models that replace two Agilent models.

There's even a new player in the function-generator market. Signal Forge introduced its first product, an 800-MHz sine-wave and square-wave source that uses a PC or terminal for its user interface. Priced at $985, it's in the same low price range as a new offering from B+K Precision that combines a function generator, counter, and power supply. In contrast, a top-of-the-line model in the Wonder Wave series of arbitrary waveform generators from Tabor is priced at around $17,000.

The most significant reason for the flurry of function/arbitrary waveform generator introductions is greater integration in direct digital synthesis (DDS) ICs. "DDS cores that were once used only in high-end equipment are now used in larger volume consumer, medical, and automotive markets," said Jeff Keip, senior product marketing manager at DDS IC supplier Analog Devices. Keip sees applications such as radio controllers for model planes, handheld wireless tag scanners, software defined radio, automotive radar, and impedance measurement for medical and industrial diagnostics creating economies of scale that drive DDS IC prices down. Tektronix, though, developed its own DDS IC for its AFG3000 series, which the company introduced in August. The IC integrates a DDS core with memory and a digital-to-analog converter.

For more information about these recent waveform-generator introductions, see the box above.

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