Significant increases in available low power technologies (like IoT and medical devices), growth in automotive electronics, and needs for higher power efficiency have made, power analysis more important than ever. For keeping up with competitive markets along with pressures to innovate first, designers and engineers face challenges like cramming testing sessions in their schedules to finish projects, quickly needing to set up tests on a statistically significant sample of devices, and tedious durations of equipment used to conduct these trials.
To mitigate lost test time in the event of unforeseen issues (and since faster data insight is essential for success), engineers need real-time information on test systems, and the ability to capture more complex current waveforms generated by wireless devices. In addition, measuring lower currents has become more important to designers than ever, since sleep mode currents in battery-operated devices can now reach hundreds of nanoamps.
“The time is long-past where engineers should be forced to grapple with complex or cluttered user interfaces just because they are engineers and ultimately can figure it out,” says Tektronix General Manager of the Keithley product line Mike Flaherty. “Instead, by delivering test instruments that simplify the complex, let consumers focus on what’s really important— the products they are trying to design or ship out the door, rather than trying to figure out how to use their measurement tools.”
Busy design engineers that need to use digital multimeters are not instrumentation experts, don’t have time to learn about conducting these tests, and struggle with the need to generate custom programs that manage test routines involving multiple instruments. One way to consolidate these issues involves combining the simplicity of “pinch and zoom” touchscreen interfaces with the power of 15 different measurement functions, wide instrument ranges, multichannel instruments, along with accuracy and sensitivity.
Developers like Keithley have incorporated five-inch touchscreen displays containing pinch and zoom cursors, along with statistics for broader insight into measurement trends and waveform characteristics. Single touchscreen displays on Keithley’s latest multimeter system models for example, simplify instrument setup, execution, and monitoring with readily accessible swipe screens and minimized menu depth for fast in-depth data analysis. The screen’s cursors make it easy for designers to characterize measurements using statistical data like peaks, average minimum values, and standard deviation across portions or a whole waveform.
Status displays on these new models can tell engineers if any channel measurements are outside their limits or those recordings have been over-ranged. The engineer can correct these issues by minimizing lost test time, instead of waiting until the test concludes. Features like built-in plotting functions let users display up to 20 different plots from as many channels in a single graph, while using pinch and zoom controls to conduct further analysis using cursors and statistical functions.
While consolidation through touchscreen modification is a practical (but effective) way to address the issues design engineers face when balancing time and efficiency with equipment like multimeter systems, another approach innovators in this field are taking involve software enhancements. An especially noteworthy improvement in this regard is the ability of controlling multiple instruments through one interface. Newer multimeter systems, like Keithley’s DMM6500 and DAQ6510, are compatible with software capable of simultaneously running up to eight apps, and seeing results from multiple instruments within a single format. Keithley also offers software like KickStart Data Logger for easy setups and controlling multichannel data acquisition instruments, viewing measurement functions in a single data window, and exporting data in readily usable formats to report or share additional analysis.
“Everyone from the expert to the novice can use a helping hand when making instruments,” says Flaherty. “It’s not just setting up instruments. It’s visualizing trends, analyzing measurement dependencies, validating performance and sharing results with colleagues around the globe.”
These particular kinds of software support PC-connected instruments using GPIB, LAN, and USB interfaces. Users can launch, control, and collect data from apps using an array of instruments like digital multimeters, data acquisition systems, power supplies, and source measure units— all with the click of a mouse. Design engineers can even familiarize themselves with software, and readily test in advance of receiving the physical instrument (tests developed using stimulated instruments they can swap when the actual physical instruments arrive).
This brand of innovative software can be an ideal solution for long-term data-logging needs to capture data from transient events using a digitizing DMM by garnering millions of readings from each instrument, presenting the data in tubular graphical formats. Non-essential data can be hidden by users, while selected statistics automatically update, which only reflect visible data in the table. Design engineers can make their time more efficient by characterizing devices after they reach thermal stabilization, and only overlay a graph’s plots from run history for quick comparisons, while identifying anomalies and trends.