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Best-in-Test 2014: Test Support

-November 27, 2013

Here are the finalists for EDN's Best-in-Test awards in the Test Support: Programmable Power Supplies, Signal Generators, Etc. category. Please give them a review, then follow the links to vote or to return to the name Best-in-Test page to see finalists in other categories.

N7900 Series Advanced Power System Dynamic DC Power Supplies, Agilent Technologies


The Advanced Power System (APS) N7900 Series represents a new level of performance in 1 and 2 kW system power supplies by reducing test system complexity. Example benefits are:

  • Increased test throughput with fast output programming speeds, voltage and current list capability, and command processing times <1 ms.
  • Capture your device’s dynamic current profile with 18 bit digitized current measurements and seamless ranging capability.
  • Protect high value DUTs with logical trigger expressions, watchdog timer, broken sense lead detection, fast mode crossover speeds, and output relays.
  • Simulate real world voltage and current transients with built-in voltage and current waveform capability.
  • Properly power on/off your DUT with built-in output sequencing capability across mainframes and programmable slew rates
  • Maintain output integrity under dynamic load conditions with low output impedance and fast transient response.

The APS N7900 Series also offers an innovative optional accessory called a black box recorder (BBR). The concept behind the BBR is similar to that of a flight data recorder. It works in the background whenever the power supply is on recording data such as voltage, current, power, trigger events, status bit, user-defined tags, and more. All of this data is time stamped and recorded to non-volatile memory. The BBR data serves as a forensic record to determine what happened and help prevent it from happening again.


2450 SourceMeter Source Measure Unit (SMU), Keithley Instruments


Keithley’s Model 2450 SMU is an all-in-one instrument with a capacitive touchscreen graphical user interface (GUI) that enhances ease of use and measurement performance. It provides intuitive operation that minimizes the learning curve and enables faster setup to test results (speed to answer) as well as precision, accuracy, low level measurement capability, and versatility.

The Keithley 2450 SMU offers a fundamentally new way for users to interact with instruments:

  • Touch: Allow the user to reach out and literally touch the data.
  • Test: Help the user to perform a test accurately and get results quickly.
  • Invent: Give the user the time needed to focus on the next breakthrough.

The Model 2450 touchscreen GUI offers gestural operation, much like a smartphone or tablet computer, eliminating the need to configure measurements via cumbersome, multi-layer menu structures and multi-function buttons. The intuitive icon-based menu structure allows users to reach any measurement set-up panel within two touches. Only options relevant to a specific function are displayed on the screen, minimizing “clutter” and eliminating confusion.

Extended low current (100nA, 10nA) and low voltage (20mV) measurement ranges eliminate the need to add separate low-level instruments to create a benchtop system. Other features simplify integration into larger, rack-based systems, including Keithley’s Test Script Processor (TSP®) technology. Multiple instruments can be integrated into a single system using Keithley’s TSP-Link channel expansion bus.


MTS-916-3, Modular Target Simulator, TV/CCD & IR, Marvin Test Solutions


The MTS-916-3 is a target simulator for AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface guided missiles, TGM-65 training missiles, and their guidance and control sections (GCS). A target simulator is required for testing the missile and guidance section at the intermediate and depot levels during maintenance and seeker bore sighting (calibration).

The MTS-916-3 combines both visible charge-coupled device (CCD) and infrared (IR) seekers into a rugged, modular, compact system. Its moving collimator design has precision control that can be adjusted to project target images with varying movement speed and distance. When interfaced with the PXI-based MTS-206 Maverick Field Test Set, the MTS-916-3 simulates targets and target motion with full test automation for improved reliability and accuracy. It also is compatible with the legacy AN/DSM-157 Guided Missile Test Set (GMTS) and is designed to replace the obsolete AN/DSM-129 and AN/DSM-787 target simulators.

Three subassemblies simplify repair and maintenance of a system—an optical unit containing the target simulator’s optical apparatus, a mounting collar for easy attachment to the AGM-65 guidance sections, and the electronics unit that interfaces with the test set and other subassemblies. By reducing moving mechanical fixtures and using a special low-temperature black body rated from -35°F to 140°F, this military-qualified product provides increased system ruggedness and performance. The MTS-916-3 is a fully qualified system that meets all MIL-STD-810 vibration ratings and CE specifications.


NI PXIe-8383mc MultiComputing Module, National Instruments


The PXI MultiComputing (PXImc) specification lets two or more intelligent systems exchange data via PCI Express. PXImc enables PXI systems to transfer data at multigigabytes per second of practical data throughput with only a few microseconds of latency. This capability reduces test times for automated production test systems that are bound computationally. PXImc can also be used in applications such as real-time tests (or hardware-in-the-loop tests) and structural tests that need many distributed PXI systems to share data with low latency. The first PXImc module addresses the need for greater processing requirements and floating-point math, enabling engineers to spread floating-point processing across multiple CPUs in the system the same way fixed-point processing deploys across multiple FPGAs.

The NI PXIe-8383mc uses an x8 PCI Express 2.0 link to provide up to 2.7GBytes/s of data throughput and 5µs of one-way latency. The module interfaces with either the NI PXIe-8384 module or the NI PCIe-8381 board and configures with the required NI-PXImc Driver, which presents a simple and efficient API for data transfer. The driver also supports multiple concurrent data transfer sessions per NI PXIe-8383mc module. The NI-PXImc driver supports multiple NI PXIe-8383mc modules per system. The NI PXIe-8383mc adapter module, expands the CPU capability of LabVIEW Reconfigurable I/O architecture, increasing user flexibility and power to meet modern automated test system challenges and reduce the total cost of test.


RTM2000 Digital Oscilloscope, Rohde & Schwarz


The R&S RTM provides time domain, logic, protocol and frequency analysis functions in a single box, making it the ideal instrument for the testing and development of electronic circuits. The operating concept ensures extreme ease of use, reliability, quick results without getting lost in complicated menu structures or having to wait for long boot times. Its color-coded controls, logically grouped menus with flat structures and dedicated keys for frequently used functions. The undo/redo function, for example, makes it possible to easily restore previous settings. A VirtualScreen frees up more space for the simultaneous display of analog, logic, math and reference signals. The screen can be expanded to 20 divisions providing a well-organized overview of all signals. The user can easily move the visible section of the VirtualScreen to the desired position using a rotary knob.

The entire measurement bandwidth and the full resolution of the A/D converter can be used even at 1mV/div. High trigger sensitivity makes it possible to measure signals that might be lost in the noise. For everyday measurement tasks, it is also important that results be available quickly. The QuickMeas feature displays the key measurement values and updates them continuously, with just the push of a button.


PA4000 Power Analyzer, Tektronix


With energy efficiency and new power sources taking center stage in electronics design, engineers need newer and more advanced tools to keep up with consumer demand, changing technologies, government regulations and added workload. A power analyzer can test a wide range of power-electronics devices, from cell-phone chargers to 1000kW grid-connected inverters. One key challenge is to provide a stable and linear response over a wide range of input current levels, ambient temperatures, crest factors, and other variables. Further, the design should minimize inductance and offer high overload capability and thermal stability. Given the wide range of signal conditions common in today’s power conversion technologies, this required a new approach to shunt design.

Featuring patent-pending Spiral Shunt™ technology, the Tektronix PA4000 Power Analyzer delivers consistently accurate measurements, even with challenging power waveforms. The Tektronix PA4000 Power Analyzers enable engineers to fully characterize their power-electronics design from input to output. A particularly difficult challenge due to the rise of new higher-performance technologies is obtaining consistently high measurement accuracy.

The PA4000 uses two Spiral Shunts on each channel – one for current measurements up to 1 A, for precise low-current measurements, and one for current measurements up to 30A, for higher-current measurements. This state-of-the-art shunt design is then combined with unique high-speed digital signal processing algorithms, allowing the PA4000 to track power cycles accurately, even in the presence of transients and noise. Add in wide current and voltage input ranges, built-in test modes and standard PC interfaces, and it provides a power analyzer that’s as versatile as it is accurate.

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Voting closes December 31, 2013

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