Automating complex measurements is hard. Automating simple measurements is hard too. To automate instrument settings, data acquisition, plotting, measurement calculations requires a good understanding of things like:
We think intelligent use of cloud computing can transform how this is done and measuring capacitor ESR is a good example.
In ideal settings, capacitors can be assumed to only have capacitance. Realistically, there is some finite level of resistance that is seen in series with the capacitor, this is called Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR). Over time, the capacitor's physical properties degrade and the ESR goes up. In worst case scenarios the ESR is large enough that the capacitor fails and does damage to the other components. To measure the ESR an engineer has two main options:
1) Buy a purpose built ESR meter. They are cheap, but can't do much else.
2) Use the scope and function generator already on your work bench.
If you pursue option 2, you still need to do the following:
With GradientOne it is as simple as attaching the probe leads, select the measurement cap_esr, then hit 'go' and you have your result.
In this example a user selects the Tektronix MDO3012, which has an integrated function generator with its oscilloscope.
The function generator is issuing a square wave at 1 Vpp, 220 kHz. The scope captures the signal, transmits the settings and waveform to the cloud, where GradientOne algorithms calculate the voltage drop across the capacitor.
The data collected by the GradientOne algorithm is then plugged into the formula:
The results of the measurement, the trace, and the data, are stored in an automatically generated report that is stored on the server. You can also upload your images associated with your test, store them on the server, and the report generator includes them.
Our vision is to continue to expand our measurement library and to allow customers to upload their own, share them inside or outside their organization.
The first instrument I ever used was an HP oscilloscope in the EE labs of the US Naval Academy. The learning curve had a slope of zero. We all know that if you turn a knob clockwise, the value goes up. Knobs are intuitive and responsive and they aren’t going away any time soon.
I spent 5 years as an officer on US attack submarines in the late 90s. The submarine force wrestled with the benefits of embracing digital technology vs. the tried and true analog tools in use for over 50 years.
Surely someone could adjust the control rods of a nuclear reactor with something like a track pad or a mouse, but a joy stick is easier to understand and more responsive.
Surely someone could increase the speed of the boat by pushing a button, but adjusting the throttle with a steering wheel shaped device is more intuitive and provides more granularity.
For similar reasons we love the knobs and buttons of instrument front panels. If I want to adjust the trigger, I can be very precise. If I want to adjust the display axis it is easy, fast, and responsive.
When we were designing how the web browser, cloud computing, and instruments would work together, we spent a lot of time navigating this issue with customers.
Successful technology innovations provide customers a better way of doing their current job while simultaneously unlocking opportunities that were previously impossible or difficult to attain. Our ‘Cloud Capture’ feature is a great example of how the benefits of cloud computing can be extended to the work bench in a way that lets customers configure an instrument via its front panel, yet seamlessly take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
The work flow of Cloud Capture is pretty simple:
1) Connect a USB cable from the oscilloscope to the instrument gateway, then do whatever you would normally do on the scope in terms of configuring it, setting the trigger, etc.
2) Click the 'Cloud Capture' button on the browser.
3) With one mouse click, the measurement is initiated, the plot created, and the configuration stored in the cloud.
In this case the only thing the engineer needs to do differently is click in the browser to ‘capture’ what is happening on the scope. Alternatively, customers could use a USB pedal to do send that signal or use a voice plugin in the browser to simply say ‘Capture’ to make the entire process hands free.
This isn’t to say that soft panels powered by computers don’t have their place. For the customers who prefer that option, we’ve provided customers a streamlined config panel via a web browser for the instruments we support.
Technology should be seamless. The value is a simple way to capture the instrument’s measurement data and configuration for analysis, context, and future use.
The world of instruments is rapidly changing. How will instruments be different 50 years from now? Will we still be asking instruments to do the same things they do now?
‘Things’, whether they are electronics, pharmaceuticals, food, or other objects, will still need to be measured and characterized. So how does that inform our roadmap from today to the future?
There are certain truths about the future we can probably all agree to:
1) hardware components will only become cheaper, smaller, and more powerful
2) things we need to measure will likely be higher performance and more complex
3) speed and availability of the networks we use will be faster and ubiquitous
4) software tools for design and simulation will become more capable
5) artificial intelligence of computing will automate and simplify the interpretation of information and automate the behavior of machines and software routines
We can already see some of these trends at work in certain segments of the instrumentation market, ranging from the goliath horsepower of 100 Ghz bandwidth scopes to the elegance of the small handheld wifi-based oscilloscopes.
Somewhere in the future, a field technician will hold a multi-functional instrument the size of a pencil. This instrument will connect via a network for intelligent routines that assess the DUT, program the measurements, collect the data, and automatically analyze the results. On the manufacturing floor a bank of probes will be receiving real time data input from all types of measurement sources on the production floor, from the R&D bench, and from the support organization, continuously adapting its measurements and tests to real time data feeds.
Our vision rests firmly in the belief that cloud computing is a critical component in this future. The near infinite scale in storage, compute, and footprint, will usher this reality to the fore. There is a long, wide road ahead that will unlock new capabilities for the marketplace and the engineers that serve it and our journey begins here, as we develop and deliver to the market the building blocks to help meet the customers where they are today, and walk this path together.