While the oscilloscope reigns supreme as the designer’s go-to hardware debug tool, it can’t do the job alone. The testbench isn’t complete without complementary instruments such as dc power supplies, digital multimeters, and function generators. Yet when it comes time to update your bench instrument setup, the oscilloscope typically gets attention first.
This maxim holds for test-equipment vendors too, and Tektronix is in the same boat as you are. It’s been a while since Tek has upgraded its testbench lineup. But now the company is applying some of the design know-how gleaned from its scopes to a selection of instruments intended to complement those workhorses, endowing them with improved performance, feature sets, ease of use, and connectivity.
First out of the chute is the PWS series of dc power supplies, broken out into two sub-series. The PWS2000 series comprises four models of basic supplies, while the PWS4000 series includes five programmable models (Fig. 1). The supplies deliver up to 190 W of output (that’s the PWS2000 series; the PWS4000 models range up to 150 W) with less than 5 mVpk-pk of ripple and noise. Voltage accuracy is specified as up to 0.03% with current accuracy of 0.05%.
An important feature of the PWS4000 programmable models, and one that isn’t found on supplies at this price level, is a list mode that helps designers simplify complicated testing. Up to seven lists of 80 steps each can be set up for stress testing or characterizing a device. These lists can be stepped through based on an external trigger input or simply with front-panel pushbutton presses, with a time duration specified for each step.
Other features include remote sense to compensate for lead-wire losses, password lockout, and another feature too rarely found on bench supplies: a numeric keypad for direct entry of output voltages/currents. This will be a relief to users who’ve had to accustom themselves to the vagaries of a sweep knob or arrow key arrangement.
Along with the PWS series power supplies, Tek is launching a line of timer/counter analyzers. The lineup includes three series. The FCA3000 and FCA3100 series offer frequency ranges up to 20 GHz, including two standard inputs at 300 MHz and the option of a third channel input in either 3-GHz or 20-GHz models. They deliver 12-digit/second frequency resolution and single-shot resolution of 50 ps (FCA3100) or 100 ps (FCA3000) for time.
The third series, the MCA3000, is a microwave analyzer that comes standard with two 300-MHz input channels and the choice of a third channel at either 27 GHz or 40 GHz (Fig. 2). The instruments offer advantages compared with most microwave timer/counter analyzers, which typically offer only the microwave port and not the lower-frequency channels. As a result, users gain the ability to make a much wider range of measurements and end up with an instrument that will be that much more useful in a general sense.
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All three series offer frequency resolution of 12 digits/second and time resolution as low as 50 ps. All models have a suite of 13 built-in automated measurements. They also include built-in analysis modes, including histogram, trend line, and numerical statistics modes. In the latter mode, there’s also support for Allen deviation statistics for showing the short-term instability of oscillators.
The timer/counter analyzers are suited for bench work, but their high throughput also makes them suitable for production duties. Up to 250 ksamples/s can be written to internal memory and up to 15 ksamples/s can be transferred in block-transfer mode over the instruments’ general-purpose interface bus (GPIB) ports.
As with the design of its scopes, Tektronix has thought through ease of use for all of these additions to its bench instrument line. All of the supplies and timer/counter analyzers ship with a Tektronix Edition of National Instruments’ LabVIEW SignalExpress software. This enables users to remotely control the instruments from a Windows-based PC. As a result, it’s much easier to perform instrument setup, pull in waveform data, and automate measurement results.
With a connected bench-instrument setup, users can time-correlate data results across multiple instruments as well as log data for extended periods of time, which is useful for, say, performing stability testing over a weekend. Results are easily massaged into custom reports or exported into Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, or PowerPoint presentations.
Pricing for the PWS2000 series of dc supplies starts at $389. The PWS4000 programmable supplies start at $865. The FCA3000/3100 and MCA3000 timer/counter analyzers start at $2450. All come with the Tektronix Edition of NI’s LabVIEW SignalExpress software.