Tektronix targets university lab management

March 31, 2015

Tektronix today announced a network-based lab instrument management solution for quickly setting up and efficiently managing basic electronics engineering laboratories at colleges and universities. The new TekSmartLab solution supports managing up to 400 instruments (100 test benches) on a single platform.

The company also introduced the entry-level AFG1022 arbitrary/function generator, which supports a wide range of use cases and course subjects. The AFG1022 integrates seamlessly with the new TekSmartLab wireless lab instrument management solution.

At many learning institutions, implementing productive and fully integrated instrument networks in classrooms can be a daunting task. For instance, using LAN cables to set up a network is costly and time-consuming and limits flexibility. Moreover, many instruments lack LAN ports. Using instruments’ existing USB ports and the new Tektronix network adaptor, the instruments on each bench can be connected to the network wirelessly or via Ethernet. TekSmartLab conveniently enables network connectivity on previously unconnected instruments, while giving professors the software tools they need to efficiently manage large, busy classrooms.

“Centralized control of instruments dramatically improves the classroom and lab experience for students, instructors, and lab managers,” said Michael Ewald, general manager, Bench Products, Tektronix. “TekSmartLab eliminates many repetitive manual tasks, saving valuable class time. Features such as batch instrument configuration, remote auto-set disable, centralized status monitoring, and wireless retrieval of test results via smartphones mean that professors and students can focus on learning and not shuffling paper or configuring their tools.”

The TekSmartLab software runs on a standard PC and sets up quickly without requiring any special skills in network administration or special instrument configuration. From a central dashboard, professors can load instrument configurations associated with different course requirements and distribute these to up to 400 instruments with a single mouse click. Educators can also easily check individual instruments’ status and measurement contents, for instance, in order to help students on a specific test bench remotely. Instead of using a USB thumb drive to connect to an oscilloscope, students can now retrieve test results wirelessly after scanning a work station specific QR code with their smartphones.

TekSmartLab also improves laboratory administration. In conventional teaching labs, lab managers must manually check and record information such as instrument model numbers, serial numbers, and workstation location. Detailed information such as an instrument’s utilization time can only be estimated by experience or by keeping paper-based usage logs. In contrast, TekSmartLab automatically records and displays this type of asset information, providing administrators with better information for class-room scheduling or making decisions on energy consumption and lab equipment investments.

A typical classroom test bench consists of an oscilloscope, a function generator, a digital multimeter, and a power supply. Most Tektronix and Keithley instruments for education applications are supported by TekSmartLab, including the Tektronix TBS1000B-EDU Series, DPO/MSO2000B Series, and MDO3000 Series oscilloscopes; AFG1022, AFG2021, and AFG3000C Series arbitrary function generators; and Keithley DMM2110 multimeters and 2231A-30-3 power supplies. In addition, many Tektronix instruments released over the last five years, including the TDS1000 Series, MSO/DPO2000 Series, AFG3000 Series, are also supported, and many existing labs can be easily upgraded to TekSmartLab without having to purchase a full set of new instruments.

Arbitrary/function generator

As electronic systems continue to increase in speed and complexity, colleges and universities globally are looking to outfit labs with modern test instrumentation to better prepare students for the real world. With the addition of the AFG1022, Tektronix now offers educational institutions a complete set of affordable instruments including oscilloscopes, signal generators, digital multimeters, and power supplies, all tied together with TekSmartLab.

“Tektronix strongly believes that a rich hands-on experience dramatically improves education outcomes,” said Ewald. “That’s why we are working hard to meet the needs of colleges and universities including superior price-performance on instrumentation, integrated courseware, and ease of administration. We are the one-stop-shop for basic education test solutions.”

Compared to scope-based signal generators or standalone AFGs in its price class, the AFG1022 offers better performance and greater flexibility. Key performance specifications include dual-channel, 25-MHz bandwidth with 1-mVpp to 10-Vpp output, 14-bit vertical resolution, and 1-µHz frequency resolution. It provides a 125-MS/s sample rate along with 64 MB of built-in nonvolatile memory and USB memory expansion for user-defined waveforms.

On the functionality side, the instrument offers 50 built-in standard function and arbitrary waveforms with continuous, modulation, sweep, and burst modes to cover almost all the test requirements found in basic education labs. A built-in 200-MHz counter with 6-digit resolution offers an easy and precise way of performing frequency, period, pulse width, and duty cycle measurements.

To maximize learning, the AFG1022 incorporates an intuitive user interface with a 3.95-inch TFT color display, shortcut buttons, and rotary knob for quick setting adjustments. Its compact form factor saves valuable bench space. Price is $715 US MSRP.


About the Author

Rick Nelson | Contributing Editor

Rick is currently Contributing Technical Editor. He was Executive Editor for EE in 2011-2018. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.

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