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3-in-1 AWG

3-in-1 Arbitrary Waveform Generator Joins IoT Fray

If a product debuted in 2016 and it didn’t have a tie to the Internet of Things, did it ever really debut? This variation of the tree falling in the woods question came to mind as I was introduced to the first 3-in-1 arbitrary waveform generator, the AWG4000 Series from Tektronix.

The generator came out in time for IMS2016 last week with three clear missions in mind: flexibility, ease of use, and fast time to precise answers. The “3-in-1” refers to basic, advanced, and digital modes that allow it to address signal-generation needs from radar and wireless to embedded systems and research.

The flexibility comes in two dimensions. The first is in recognition of a number of key trends, both in technology and applications, the second is a response to trending device usage patterns.

For example, if you’re on the cutting edge of embedded system design, you need high-stability clock references at faster sampling rates to secure the timing budget. And sensors are ubiquitous. In semiconductor test, denser memory (think: DDR4 and low-power DDR4) and faster processor cores are all operating at multiple voltage levels and fast transition times, narrow pulse widths and incorporating differential signaling.

In communications, digital IQ modulation schemes are evolving quickly so you need flexibility in modulation scheme generation, with custom options and baseband pre-distortion methods for algorithm/system validations. For radar, which is ubiquitous in applications such as automotive, you need fast pulse edges and high-frequency stability (Fig. 1.)

1. Radar is moving into everyday consumer applications such as automotive, and you need to be able to generate narrow millimeter RF pulses with fast edge times of up to 800ps.

However, as Varun Merchant, technical marketing manager at Tektronix noted, there are few trends more profound than the need to meld wireless with everything. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). And this will only increase as 5G emerges.

This came up when Tektronix asked its customers (i.e., you) what challenges they faced, and across the board they responded that beyond keeping pace with technology and dealing with mixed-signal design, the No. 1 concern is integrating wireless. “They need to come up to speed on how to measure system with analog, digital and RF,” said Merchant. “It’s very important for them to understand the interactions, both planned and unplanned, as well as power distribution.”

“Shareability” Forms Second Dimension

This ubiquitous merging of analog, digital, and RF signals on a single device creates an interesting dilemma for engineering managers who want to minimize capital expenditures and maximize equipment utilization.  The trick is to be able to share as much equipment as possible among teams, which now also need to work more closely together. For example, a pattern and function generator will be needed, but not at the same time, so the best option is to combine the two into one device that can be shared.

This sharing of equipment means the device must be able to deal with multiple waveform generation and synchronization requirements, while also being easy to use, which makes the user interface particularly important (Fig. 2).

2. The Tektronix AWG4000 weighs in at 15 lb., allowing its built-in 3-in-1 (basic, arbitrary and digital) modes to be transported and shared by a converged design team dealing with advanced designs across the analog, digital and RF domains.

At the same time, both basic and advanced functions must be available and the device must operate flawlessly and be able to interconnect with other instruments or host computers for data transfer and remote control.

Feature-wise, the AWG4000 addresses many of these needs with its 3-in-1 basic, advanced (arbitrary), and digital modes that combine traditional arbitrary frequency generation (AFG), AWG, and digital pattern functions.

In basic direct digital synthesis (DDS) mode, it has two analog channels, can produce 600-MHz sine waveforms, has a sampling rate of 2.5 Gsamples/s, 14-bit resolution, and 16-kpoint waveforms—with an amplitude of up to 5 Vp-p into a 50Ω load. Merchant added that the sine output has been calibrated to 0.5 dB flatness across the band.

In arbitrary mode, the memory reaches 64 Mpt/channel with 16,384 entries and up to 32-bit digital channels. It’s also worth noting that many of the specs can be upgraded in the field. The SFDR is <-60 dBc.

The capabilities allow the AWG4000 to handle everything from a clock with constant frequency in an embedded design to a complex mix of modulated waveforms in parallel with digital patterns in radar and communications designs. However, Tektronix took pains to simplify the form factor and user interface, given the cross-team functionality.

For many who are familiar with a basic oscilloscope interface, the AWG4000 is designed to reflect that experience, with minimal button clicks and a shallow menu hierarchy on the 10.1-inch touch-enabled screen. For more complex sequences and modulated signals, a Windows-based UI can be used. Also, signal-generation tools such as RFXpress or Matlab can be installed to let you create the signals you need for your specific design.

The AWG4000 Series starts at $34,900 for the AWG4162 with 2 analog channels, 1 Mpoint arbitrary memory, a sampling rate of 100 samples to 2.5 Gsamples/s, and no digital channels (although a 16/32-bit channel is optional). It’s available now.

Looking for parts? Go to SourceESB.

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