New and Upgraded Oscilloscopes May Be Useful Options in Lab and at HomeSeptember 28, 2020 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.
New oscilloscopes with larger bandwidths, faster sampling rates, and quicker rise times prove that T&M doesn't have to slow down amidst the pandemic.
Oscilloscopes are used to test and analyze equipment and components in various industries—automotive, aerospace, medical, cybersecurity, and more.
Modern digital oscilloscopes support a large amount of data and measurements to help engineers troubleshoot circuits via output/input signals. Image used courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz
Most aspiring engineers first encounter an oscilloscope in the lab. But with distance learning and online lectures being a new norm, students may not have as much access to such test equipment. The great thing is, oscilloscopes are more commonly used outside of school right in the heart of R&D laboratories. Low-cost T&M equipment is also becoming a common reality, offering reasonable options for at-home workbench use.
To accommodate the specific needs of design engineers during the COVID-19 pandemic, a handful of manufacturers have updated their oscilloscope models or released new models.
First, What Makes a Good Oscilloscope?
An oscilloscope is an important tool that will help an engineer analyze and record electrical signals from any device with respect to time. There are a few ways to gauge whether an oscilloscope is right for your project.
A large bandwidth is the most crucial characteristic of an oscilloscope. The oscilloscope should have a bandwidth that is five times the max signal bandwidth to allow a 2% error. If the bandwidth's amplitude is too low, the signal will be distorted and the image of your signal will be lost.
In a Mouser Ebook, Tektronix outlines twelve key factors to consider when choosing an oscilloscope. Image used courtesy of Mouser
Think of a blockbuster hit: movies wouldn’t deliver the same effect to an audience with choppy scenes and transitions. The same goes for oscilloscopes. Electrical signals need to be as smooth as possible, especially when comparing multiple devices. That said, an oscilloscope's fast rise time and sample rate will capture more details to deliver accurate time measurements of fast-acting signals.
When choosing an oscilloscope, designers should also consider how they intend to get data from the scope to your computer. The ability to connect from USB to a laptop to transfer data without any loss is extremely helpful.
The great news is there several oscilloscope manufacturers that have been developing more modern scopes with upgradable features (like bandwidth) that are convenient for both home or lab use.
Tektronix’s 6 Series B MSO
Since 1946, Tektronix has produced test and measurement solutions for health, communication, and space applications. Tektronix’s first-gen oscilloscope had a bandwidth ranging from 50 MHz to 200 MHz with a sample rate of 1 GS/s (Samples/second) and only two analog channels.
Now, Tektronix has announced what it terms the "industry's first 10 GHz oscilloscope with four, six, or eight channels." Along with its 10 GHz bandwidth, the 6 Series B MSO is said to include a sample rate of 50 GS/sec and an eight-channel input for comparative flexibility. The scope is designed to mitigate unwanted noise and ensure a clear signal for testing.
Tektronix claims its 10 GHz oscilloscope provides an industry first, 15.6 inch HD capacitive pinch-zoom-swipe touch display. Image used courtesy of Tektronix
Tektronix VP and general manager Chris Witt further discussed the next-gen of oscilloscopes being designed for modern technologies: "Embedded designs are growing more sophisticated by incorporating additional sensors that generate increasing amounts of data. This instrument addresses the new requirements of testing these systems to advance video, motion, and 3D sensing technologies."
The oscilloscope is equipped with built-in digital down converters behind every channel, which creates analysis time-domain waveforms that draw correlations between RF and time events. Additionally, Tektronix says that all data can be securely transferred via USB to any laptop without experiencing data loss or harmonics.
Back in 2012, Yokogawa, developers of solutions in measurement, control, and information, created the DLM4000 series oscilloscope. This series of scopes provided users with an eight-channel setup, a bandwidth ranging from 350 MHz and 500 MHz models, 24-bit logic analysis, and a sample rate of 2.5 GS/s.
But since then, the demand for energy and power-efficient motors, inverters, filters, and regulators for clean energy applications has grown. To meet that demand curve, Yokogawa Test & Measurement introduced the next line of mixed-signal oscilloscopes, the DLM5000 series.
With a 32-bit logic for analysis, Yokogawa’s DLM5000 series makes it easier to debug and assess signals from all eight channels simultaneously. Image used courtesy of Yokogawa
Yokogawa’s DLM5000 series is said to offer the same bandwidth range and sample rate as its predecessor: 350 MHz to 500 MHz and 2.5 Gs/s. So, what changes have been made? Yokogawa says the upgrades allow engineers to analyze up to 16 channels of inputs from a touch-pinch-zoom screen.
The DLM5000 also offers a 32-bit logic analyzing channel, providing a more accurate presentation of complex signals.
Rohde & Schwarz’s RTO2000
Rohde & Schwarz is known for designing solutions in T&M that affect media, aerospace, cybersecurity, and networks. To refresh its sampling of modern oscilloscope designs, the company has introduced two separate series of scopes for multi-domain challenges.
The R&S RTO2000 oscilloscopes can quickly locate signal faults at one million waveforms per second rate, establishing efficient spectrum analysis. Image used courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz
The R&S RTO2000 scope is designed with a maximum bandwidth range of 600 MHz to 6 GHz along with a sample rate of 20 GS/s and four channels. High resolution and real-time de-embedding with a 583 ps rise time are possible, the company says, but only for the 600 MHz option.
Choosing an oscilloscope from this series is an application-based decision. Rohde & Schwarz’s RTP scope delivers a much larger bandwidth range of 4 GHz to 16 GHz, a sample rate of 40 GS/s, and with a 108ps rise time. Both are easily able to go from the lab to your home and allow engineers to transfer data via USB.
Clearer Choices in Oscilloscopes?
Whether you are working from home, in a secluded laboratory, or virtually accessing an oscilloscope, your choice of oscilloscope will depend largely on application. All modern scopes present unique features and many have become more user friendly with touch-screen interfaces and portable sizes.
It seems that companies such as Tektronix, Yokogawa, and Rohde & Schwarz are all aiming to make the choice of test and measurement solutions a little clearer during the age of COVID-19, one signal at a time.