For the PDF version of this article, click here.

Accelerated testing platform

QualMark's patented omni-axial vibration system (OVS) tables used in its highly accelerated life testing (HALT) and highly accelerated stress screenings (HASS) chambers mechanically excite every part of a product, down to the component level, at its resonant frequency. HALT testing is a proven method to find design defects. Without discovery, design defects often appear in end-use applications, causing product failures after release. HALT increases product reliability by pushing a product to its operating limits and beyond.

These capabilities require vibration in all three axes as well as the rotation around those axes, simultaneously, across a wide frequency range. At the same time, and within the same chamber, thermal tests are undertaken. The chamber's patented Typhoon air-handling technology drives products from ambient to the appropriate stress temperature quickly using less electricity and liquid nitrogen, providing the lowest total cost of chamber ownership for everyday operation.

Every manufacturer whose product contains a microprocessor, circuit card or electromechanical assembly can benefit from accelerated test methods that enable companies to develop products quickly, free of design flaws and within budget.

HALT and HASS techniques expose any weak links in a product so they can be fixed before they become expensive field issues.

After HALT has revealed any product weaknesses, proper root cause of failure analysis facilitates the corrective action necessary to improve the design. As a result, HALT reduces R&D costs, shortens the time to market, and increases product quality and reliability.

Once a design goes into production, HASS testing comes into play to ensure that any weak leaks in the manufacturing processes do not undermine the design. Realizing the full potential of HALT and HASS rests on employing the correct testing equipment and procedures.
(303) 254-8800

Portable radio test set

The 3500 from Aeroflex is a lightweight and portable radio test set designed to test vehicle-based radio systems used by first responders. The test set allows the user to test all aspects of the vehicle's system, from the radio to the cable and the antenna, with powerful features typically found in bench-top radio test equipment.

With a built-in generator and receiver, the Aeroflex 3500 radio test set operates from 2 MHz to 1 GHz and is capable of measuring high power (up to 200 W with an external attenuator), as well as finding faults in antennas, power amplifiers and interconnects. It performs a variety of AM/FM transmitter and receiver tests including RF power, RF frequency error, AM modulation, FM deviation, receive signal strength indicator (RSSI), distortion and SINAD/sensitivity.

Many radio system faults originate in the cabling or antenna rather than in the radio. The radio test set allows the user to measure the voltage standing-wave ratio (VSWR) of the cable and the antenna. A large VSWR can indicate a high return loss caused by a bad cable, connector or antenna. Isolating the problem in the cable, connector or antenna prevents the user from returning a good radio to the manufacturer or depot for repair.

The radio test set weighs 8.5 lbs. (3.86 kg) including the battery and aluminum weatherproof case. It has an operating temperature of -10 °C to +50 °C, and is designed with construction specifications for humidity, altitude, shock and vibration. It has a battery life of seven hours and can be fully recharged and ready to operate in four hours. When not in use, the radio test set and the optional accessories can be stored and transported in a carrying case.

The radio test set is designed to enable quick “drive-by” testing, allowing the user to connect to the supplied antenna, key up the radio and measure the radio parameters over-the-air. A microphone/speaker combination handset is provided to check voice quality of the transmitter and receiver.

The test set uses a software-defined radio architecture where the software defines almost all of the functionality of the test set from the RF physical layer and up. Because it is software-defined, it allows for future updates and improvements to the capability of the instrument and the user can add options or update functional improvements in the field without the need to return the instrument to the factory.

Pricing starts at $14,995 for a base configuration that includes an internal battery, ac-dc charger, audio/microphone handset, audio/microphone cable, VSWR load, TNC female and TNC to TNC cable.
(516) 694-6700

Test platform RF multiplexers

Automated test engineers can use the new National Instruments PXI and SCXI RF multiplexing switch modules to route signals ranging from dc to 5 GHz. These modules are ideal for accurate RF signal routing in telecommunications, military/aerospace and automated test applications.

The NI PXI-2595 and NI SCXI-1195 5 GHz switches and the NI PXI-2594 and NI SCXI-1194 2.5 GHz switches offer excellent voltage standing-wave ratio (VSWR), isolation and insertion loss specifications to retain signal integrity across their entire frequency range. All switches feature built-in relay count tracking for predictive maintenance of the module, reducing the potential for system downtime as the relays near the end of their rated lifetimes.

The PXI switches add to the company's current RF offering on the industry-standard PXI platform. Engineers can use the PXI-2594 and PXI-2595 with PXI vector signal analyzers (such as the PXI-5660) and generators (such as the PXI-5670) to create a complete RF application in one PXI chassis. Both PXI switches integrate with all NI PXI modular instruments, including digitizers, digital multimeters, power supplies and arbitrary waveform generators, to help create a complete functional test system in one platform.

The SCXI-1194 and SCXI-1195 modules are ideal for engineers who plan to add switching to a pre-existing test system made of third-party equipment. When combined with the USB switch mainframes offered by National Instruments, these SCXI switches form a cost-effective, plug-and-play solution that integrates with external RF equipment and takes advantage of the flexibility and ease of use of USB.

All of the new switches use the full-featured NI-SWITCH driver software for basic relay operations in common development environments such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, LabWindows/CVI for ANSI C development and Microsoft Visual Basic/C++. For additional assistance in configuring, programming and managing high-channel-count switching systems, NI Switch Executive software offers an easy-to-use, intelligent switch management and visual routing environment. Engineers can use the per-path calibration capability of NI Switch Executive to ensure greater measurement accuracy by storing complete path calibration information.
National Instruments
(800) 258-7022

Pulse and pattern generators

The series 3400 pulse/pattern generators from Keithley Instruments provide key performance advantages, such as superior signal quality and precise control for pulse widths from 3 ns to 1000 seconds, as well as an intuitive user interface. Series 3400 pulse and pattern generators are ideal for semiconductor device and material research and characterization, as well as process integration and advanced materials research applied to such projects as nanotechnology in R&D labs and technology development labs. The 3400 family consists of two units — the model 3401 single-channel 165 MHz pulse/pattern generator and the model 3402 dual-channel 165 MHz pulse/pattern generator.

Pulse generators are used not only for characterization and transient analysis but also in a variety of applications, including data and clock simulation and functional testing for high-speed serial components. In addition, there are specialized applications, including nanotechnology and serial communications for the wireless industry that are driven by a reduction in device size and increase in operating speeds of many electronic components and materials.

The signals produced by the series 3400 units have less voltage overshoot. Signals generated by the series also have greater amplitude accuracy and flatness and less edge-to-edge jitter.

The generator instruments are designed for maximum flexibility, giving users full control over the pulsed source. Users can set critical parameters, including amplitude, rise time, fall time, pulse width and duty cycle, frequency, delay and offset. The series 3400 also has pattern generation capability, which lets users simulate serial data patterns to test devices and determine their performance characteristics in less than ideal situations.

The generators feature a maximum frequency of 165 MHz with a minimum frequency capability down to 1 MHz and pulse amplitudes of ±10 V or ±20 V. The minimum attainable pulse width is 3 ns, which is ideal for advanced research in nanotechnology materials and devices.

These instruments integrate with other instruments, such as digital multimeters, source-measure units, semiconductor characterization systems and oscilloscopes. The instruments include multiple user connections, such as GPIB and USB, making them easier to set up and integrate with other systems.

The pulse/pattern generators are priced at $12,500 for the single-channel model 3401 and $17,500 for the dual-channel model 3402. They will be available until the end of June.
Keithley Instruments
(440) 498-2746

Signal analyzer

Anritsu has developed a WCDMA/HSDPA modulation quality measurement option for its MS2781A Signature high-performance signal analyzer. When the option is combined with Signature's signal analysis capability, the result is a comprehensive suite of measurements for developers of WCDMA/HSDPA base stations, and related subsystems (e.g., power amplifiers), at the development and production stages. Signature is part of Anritsu's portfolio of test solutions for digital mobile communications.

The option is part of the 3.0 version software enhancements to the Signature signal analyzer that has redefined the high-end signal analyzer market. Its advanced receiver architecture provides exceptional performance over the 100 Hz to 8 GHz frequency range. Amplitude accuracy is better than 0.65 dB, intermodulation distortion (TOI) +27 dBm, and displayed average noise level (DANL) is better than -157 dBm with 0.1 Hz BW. Demodulation bandwidth of up to 50 MHz supports capture and analysis of wideband digital modulation. With the WCDMA/HSDPA option installed, Signature supports a comprehensive set of measurements specified by the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

Signature's Windows XP user interface makes it easier to test the WCDMA/HSDPA technology and reduces mistakes. Graph capabilities supports quick viewing of results. The intuitive “graph type” dialog allows multiple measurement windows for analysis of measured data.

Signature's open Microsoft Windows environment provides ease of use and supports a seamless interface to MATLAB from The MathWorks. Designers of software-defined radios or radios with new or unique modulation techniques can view live measurement results, post-processed by MATLAB. The MS2781A Option 30, WCDMA/HSDPA modulation quality measurements, is priced at $9,600.

Microwave cable and assemblies

Semflex offers RoHS-compliant products that enable OEM manufacturers that use high-performance microwave cable assemblies and/or bulk cable to meet the European Union Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) standards for electronic components. This standard goes into effect July 1.

Semflex' HP microwave cable meets the RoHS-6 standard-free of all of the six heavy metals that the standard seeks to eliminate. In addition, Semflex has the cable termination process in place to produce RoHS-compliant cable assemblies to RoHS Level 6 (lead-free) on customer request. Semflex is offering to share its lead-free soldering process with purchasers of bulk cable so that they can produce RoHS-compliant HP cable assemblies.
(800) 778-4401

EvDO test support

Aeroflex has added EvDO revision A support to its 6402 CDMA AIME network emulation platform. The EvDO revision A capability will provide test support for device development, signaling conformance and interoperability as well as applications development.

The addition of EvDO technology to networks improves data rates and provides advanced quality of service capabilities, which better facilitates video streaming and VoIP applications. Aeroflex's aggressive introduction of a development and protocol conformance test capability for this new technology reflects industry demand for early access to a complete test solution to ensure timely, successful roll-out of EvDO revision A devices and applications.

The EvDO test capability is shipping on all new Aeroflex 6402 CDMA AIME test platforms, but is also available as an upgrade to existing systems. The test capability is available for immediate delivery. The Aeroflex CDMA AIME test platform is highly configurable. For pricing for specific test applications, contact Aeroflex.
(516) 694-6700

Code domain power test

Rohde & Schwarz has announced firmware option FSH-K4 for its R&S FSH3 handheld spectrum analyzer that allows the instrument to perform standards-compliant 3GPP frequency-division duplex (FDD) code domain power measurements on base stations. The firmware option includes measurements such as overall power, main code channel power in the common pilot channel, the primary common control physical channel, the primary synchronization channel, and the secondary synchronization channel.

Carrier frequency offset and error vector magnitude (EVM) are measured and displayed. The R&S FSH-K4 includes an automatic level control function that allows the user to quickly set the best reference level. For base stations equipped with two antennas for space diversity, the user can independently select each antenna.

The R&S FSH3 provides all required measurement functions for installation and maintenance of mobile radio base stations. It has a maximum measurement frequency of 3 GHz and is suited for installation, maintenance, servicing and field strength measurements in laboratories, universities and production test. In addition to the 3GPP CDP measurements available in option FSK-K4, the instrument performs spectrum analysis, channel power measurements, scalar and vector network analysis, distance-to-fault measurements, one-port cable-loss measurements, and precision terminating and directional power measurements using external power sensors.

The R&S FSH-K4 firmware option can be used with the R&S FSH3 model 23 equipped with the latest hardware. The firmware for enabling the R&S FSH-K4 can be downloaded from the Rohde & Schwarz web site.
Rohde & Schwarz
(949) 885-7000

WCDMA enhancements

Rohde & Schwarz has added high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) measurement solutions to its signal and spectrum analyzers, signal generators and radio communication testers. HSUPA is an enhancement to WCDMA technology providing upload speeds as high as 5.76 Mbps. It uses an enhanced dedicated channel (E-DCH) and link adaptation methods similar to those employed by high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA). HSUPA does not use higher-order modulations to increase throughput without increasing the bandwidth. This is because HSUPA is an uplink technology in which the limited battery capacity of the mobile unit must be considered.

The R&S FSQ, R&S FSP and R&S FSU signal and spectrum analyzers, R&S SMU200A, R&S SMJ100A and R&S SMATE200A signal generators, and layer 1 test software for the R&S CRTU-W and R&S CRTU-M are equipped with HSUPA functionality. The company is also involved in creating HSDPA and HSUPA test cases on the ETSI standardization committee.

For the R&S CRTU-W and R&S CRTU-M protocol testers, the test software simulates the layer 1 behavior of a base station and can generate HSUPA downlink signals at layer 1 and test their reception and processing in the layer 1 user equipment under test. The test software provides many possible configurations for the transport channels defined in HSDPA and HSUPA as well as for the physical channels. An additional scripting interface facilitates the automated execution of test scenarios.

For the R&S FSQ, R&S FSP and R&S FSU signal and spectrum analyzers, Rohde & Schwarz has added HSUPA to the R&S FS-K72/-K73/-K74 application firmware packages. They provide functions for transmitter measurements on HSUPA base stations and modules. R&S FS-K74 firmware is integrated into R&S FS-K72 and makes it possible to test modulation for HSDPA and HSUPA signals in the downlink. HSDPA and HSUPA signals in the uplink are covered by R&S FS-K73.

For the vector signal generators of the R&S SMx family, the R&S SMx-K45 software option provides an HSUPA update. The R&S SMU200A, R&S SMATE200A, and R&S SMJ100A can generate HSUPA signals for measurements on base stations, modules, and user equipment. The R&S SMx-K45 features channel coding and makes the fixed reference channels defined in the 3GPP standard available to the user. HSDPA signals in the uplink and downlink can be generated with the R&S SMx-K43 options.

The R&S CMU200 radio communication tester is supporting HSUPA. HSUPA functionality can be added to any new or existing CMU200 with the SW option CMU-K56, which requires no additional hardware from the WCDMA or HSDPA functions.
Rohde & Schwarz
(949) 885-7000

Push-to-talk test capability

Agilent Technologies has announced a push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) test capability for the 8960 wireless communications test set. The 8960 provides bench-top connectivity for testing and debug of user-supplied PoC servers, clients and applications.

PoC technology, standardized by the Open Mobile Alliance, is the evolution of push to talk (PTT) from a proprietary to an open approach. PoC combines aspects of cellular mobile communications, mobile packet data, presence detection, and walkie-talkie-style communications to provide end-users with the ability to quickly find one another and engage in brief, burst-oriented communication.

The ability for users to connect between different mobile network operators requires interoperability between PoC systems, including interface and protocol interoperability. Conformance, compliance and interoperability testing of intercarrier PoC service are required. Because the testing is performed on a bench it provides a more convenient and economical solution.

The lab application emulates the base station and provides IP routing to any valid connected service network or server. It supports interworking of UE, client and PoC network elements; interoperability with other services like WAP browsing, SMS, MMS, IM and voice services; RF-related interruption; and interdevice compatibility. Enhancements improve PoC throughput and can assist debug of PoC latency and delay issues. Debug is enabled by the use of wireless protocol advisor protocol logging.

The E6701E GSM/GPRS lab application runs on the 8960 wireless communications test set.

A pre-release of the E6701E GSM/GPRS lab application is available via an E6720A-001 upgrade to E6701D. Current owners of the E6720A lab application annual contract will receive the upgrade for free. Full release is expected by October. Pricing is as follows: E6701D GSM/GPRS lab application: $40,700, existing application; E6720A-001 annual upgrade: $12,000.
Agilent Technologies
(877) 424-4536

Spectrum analyzer PC software

Tektronix has announced its RSAVu off-line analysis software. With RSAVu, customers can acquire signals using their real-time spectrum analyzer (RSA) and then analyze the captured information offline on a PC. The PC-based RSAVu software can provide the same analysis capabilities as exist on the customer's real-time spectrum analyzer.

As the importance of digital RF increases it is becoming a key part of the engineering curriculum. Educators can demonstrate and explain transient RF effects, capturing a signal on a RSA and then having students analyze the signals on their PC using RSAVu. Customers with complex analyses needs are able to use RSAVu to analyze the captured signal at their desk, allowing the RSA to be used by other engineers. RSAVu also facilitates remote analysis. A single RSA instrument can acquire a data file and transmit this to a remote location for analysis, enabling the application and product experts to perform the analysis no matter where they are in the world.

The analysis functionally of RSAVu is identical to that provided with the RSA3300A, RSA3408A and WCA200A real-time spectrum analyzers. A customer must own one of these instruments to acquire signals for transfer to RSAVu. RSAVu is available as a free file on the Tektronix web site.
(800) 835-9433

PC oscilloscopes

PicoScope 2105 USB pen scope includes the features of many high-performance bench-top oscilloscopes in a small, lightweight and ergonomic probe that fits in the hand. Used with free PicoScope software, PicoScope 2105 converts any laptop or desktop PC into an oscilloscope without the need for additional probes or power supplies.

The unit displays signals from 100 mV to 20 V. High-bandwidth and fast-sampling PicoScope 2105 also features equivalent time sampling (ETS), which enhances the sample rate for measuring continuous signals. ETS or “repetitive sampling” works on repeating, stable signals by building up the waveform from successive acquisitions. An entry-level version PicoScope 2104 is available.

The scope is USB2.0-powered and connected (but still works well on USB1.0 ports) and features a 24 kS buffer and fast 100 Msps sampling so you can zoom in to high-speed signals. ETS sample rate for stable signals like clocks is up to 2 Gsps. A range of drivers is available for most situations, including C, VB, Delphi, LabView and VEE.

PicoScope 2105 complete with software is available for $349.00 each from Saelig. The lower-grade version PicoScope 2104 is $199.90.
(585) 385-1750

Fast device tune measurement

Agilent Technologies has released Fast Device Tune Measurement, a fast calibration solution that reduces manufacturing calibration test times by an order of magnitude.

Test time reduction remains one of the key ways to reduce cost of test. Fast calibration techniques, such as 8960 fast device tune, can provide an order of magnitude reduction in test time; reducing calibration time for a GSM phone from 60 s to just 1 s to 2 s. The high-quality, repeatable results contribute to the cost savings.

The E1999A-201 fast device tune measurement allows a user to simultaneously calibrate a mobile device transmitter's output power level and receiver input level across level and frequency in a single frequency band sweep. When the device is operating in a user-controlled test mode, it is forced to transmit a predefined series of power steps at various uplink frequencies. Simultaneously, the receiver is tuned to perform measurements of the test set's signal, such as RSSI, at various downlink frequencies and power levels.

The fast device tune measurement is a feature-based option to the Agilent 8960 wireless communications test set. This one-box tester combines comprehensive measurement functionality, speed and accuracy to provide complete test capability for all areas of manufacturing.

Fast device tune measurement addresses GSM/GPRS, EGPRS, W-CDMA and cdma2000 technologies. Fast device tune W-CDMA and cdma2000 solutions are based on a 20 ms step size, while the GSM/GPRS and EGPRS solutions are based on the GSM timeslot and frame structure.

The E1999A-201 will license the fast device tune measurement in any of the technologies where it is implemented: W-CDMA, GSM/GPRS/EGPRS and cdma2000. Pricing starts at $5,000 and will be available in June.
Agilent Technologies
(877) 424-4536

Coaxial connector

Murata Electronics North America has developed a small microwave coaxial connector. The advanced board connector and cable assembly (HSC series) provide an ultralow profile (0.6 mm height/mating height 1.2 mm max) in a 2.0 mm × 2.0 mm package. In addition, various cable configurations and lengths are available to meet emerging product requirements. The miniature HSC series is ideal for use in cellular and cordless phones, PDAs, global positioning satellites, wireless LANs and microwave test equipment.

Further benefits include excellent voltage standing-wave ratio (VSWR) characteristics, wide operating frequency (dc to 6 GHz), low insertion loss and RoHS compliance. Test probes are available to interface with the cable or connector to confirm signal integrity. A disengagement tool to remove the cable from the board-mounted connector is available.

Murata's coaxial cable series is offered at approximately $0.17 for the board connector (global part number MM4829-2700) and between $0.75 and $1.50 for the cable (global part number MXHK98) depending on the configuration.
(770) 436-1300