Three T&M Tools Speed Verification for Data-heavy Applications

July 22, 2023 by Kristijan Nelkovski

Some of the biggest names in testing equipment have released new tools to accelerate verification for communication chips, PCIe cables, wide bandgap devices, and more.

Global standards for electronic components help assure consumers that they’re always getting the advertised performance of the products and services they’ve paid for. To this end, the test and measurement (T&M) industry helps engineers accurately assess the vital properties of their designs during research and development.

This article takes a look at three T&M companies that have unveiled new instrument platforms focusing on communication chips, computer peripheral cables, and semiconductor switching components with the goal of drastically decreasing R&D times without cutting corners on precision and quality.


Instruments for Testing 5G and Satellite ICs

Recently, Keysight Technologies unveiled a new midrange vector network analyzer (VNA) aimed at 5G and satellite communications. VNAs are important instruments for component design validation, helping companies accelerate their R&D by reducing the number of physical prototype iterations.

Keysight says its new VNA platform, the E5081A ENA-X, offers accurate vector magnitude testing, a metric that quantifies the combination of all signal impairments within a system. The VNA features an integrated upconverter, direct receiver access, integrated modulation, distortion analysis, and full vector correction through a single test setup. 


E5081A ENA-X

Keysight's E5081A ENA-X, a midrange vector network analyzer. Image courtesy of Keysight Technologies

Manufactured using Keysight’s proprietary monolithic microwave circuits (MMIC) technology, this instrument can accelerate the characterization of power amplifier performance by up to 50% under complex modulation schemes. It performs this characterization in high-power systems operating at frequencies of up to 44 GHz.

According to Joe Rickert, Keysight's VP and GM of its high-frequency measurements center, the E5081A ENA-X is a useful tool when developing 5G transmitters thanks to the combination of the company’s MMIC technology and its modulation distortion analysis software (previously available only for high-end network analyzers). Rickert adds that this new platform provides RF engineers with the highest output power, dynamic range, and system stability without hindering the performance of the power amplifier being tested.


A Measurement Suite to Evaluate PCIe Cables

Earlier this month, Rohde & Schwarz also unveiled a new VNA platform—this one designed for automating PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 6.0 cable/connector testing. PCIe or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is a standardized interface used for connecting devices such as hard drives, graphics cards, and Wi-Fi adapters to different types of computer systems.

Based on the R&S ZNB26 and ZNB43 VNAs, the new Rohde & Schwarz ZNrun-K440 suite utilizes a four-port setup combined with open switch and control platforms that can provide a scalable multiport configuration of up to 64 ports. Users are not required to repeatedly reconnect the device under test and terminate its other lanes.


The new ZNrun-K440 VNA platform

The new ZNrun-K440 VNA platform. Image courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz 

This platform features:

  • Postprocessing of defined PCIe metrics
  • Test configurator that allows users to select and deselect items by lane
  • Calibration procedure that reduces the number of steps and connections
  • Method for de-embedding the test fixture per the PCIe-specification requirements

At the end of every automated measurement, the ZNrun-K440 generates a pass/fail evaluation based on metrics such as integrated return loss and component contribution to integrated crosstalk noise.

Rohde & Schwarz claims its new instrument is an important tool for cable and connector manufacturers because it can cut hours of manual compliance verification. With this tool, designers can meet the increasing global demand for components with extremely high data transfer rates—considering data centers have already started implementing PCIe 5.0 and 6.0 in high-speed data storage. The company says this instrument will also help manufacturers meet the quality requirements defined by the PCI Special Interest Group.


Speeding Up Wide Bandgap Component Validation

Tektronix has recently announced a new wide bandgap double pulse test (WBG-DPT) instrument aiming to deliver automated, repeatable, and precise measurements when developing wide bandgap devices such as SiC and GaN MOSFETs.

Integrating into existing Tektronix oscilloscope measuring setups, this device can perform the automatic WBG de-skew technique and display reverse recovery timing plots. These features enable engineers to overlay and visualize the details of multiple pulses at the same time. 

Additionally, this system uses an adjustable software-generated alignment waveform technique to simulate the effects of delays in the test setup. This eliminates the system's need for rewiring and reduces de-skew times from more than one hour to less than ten minutes. 


 Tektronix 5 Series MSO

The new Tektronix 5 Series MSO uses double pulse testing software to automate validation measurements on SiC and GaN power converters. Image courtesy of Tektronix

Qorvo engineer Masashi Nogawa commented that this instrument immediately displays power waveform and integration range markers for calculating energy losses. This eliminates the need to export data into spreadsheets for further processing.

According to Tektronix, the WBG-DPT is designed for engineers developing the next generation of power electronics. With this tool, the company aims to reduce test times and retesting errors and simplify debugging and repeatable measurements in compliance with the JEDEC Association and International Electrotechnical Commission.


Cutting Component Manufacturing Times

The Keysight and Rohde & Schwarz VNA instruments complement each other from the opposite side of the data transfer spectrum. However, both can benefit manufacturers looking for faster turnaround times in component verification. In addition, the Tektronix wide bandgap double pulse test solution can play an important role in advancing multiple areas of engineering, such as switching ICs for industrial control, electric vehicles, and renewable energy systems.

Utilizing these three platforms, certain manufacturers can now potentially get a leg up in the race to bring their products to market faster without compromising their timelines or global standards.