One of the many aspects of electrical engineering that makes it so complex and abstract is the fact that we’re working with something intangible (although anyone who’s ever touched a live wire may argue otherwise). This is why the oscilloscope is arguably the most important tool available to an electrical engineer: it gives us the ability to see our signals, which cannot be measured with the human eye.
Oscilloscopes come in many shapes and sizes and with a massive range of features. Image used courtesy of RIGOL
Still, the oscilloscope is not a perfect device. The test and measurement companies who make these tools are constantly improving them, adding new features and higher performance. Some of these additions address usability issues or technological advancements that provide more accurate readings. Others are less ground-breaking and primarily serve to introduce bells and whistles to help equipment stand out compared to competitors.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some notable upgrades companies have brought to their oscilloscopes in the past couple of months.
Tektronix Goes Cloud-Connected with TekDrive
Everything is moving to the cloud nowadays, so why not oscilloscopes too? Tektronix did exactly that earlier this month when they released their ‘scope’s newest feature: TekDrive.
TekDrive is Tektronix’s first native oscilloscope-to-cloud software solution, meant to enable global collaboration. The platform allows for all data and traces captured by the scope to be automatically uploaded to the cloud, making the information immediately sharable, stored, and recallable as needed.
The hope is to facilitate sharing and collaboration between engineers, making all data accessible from a computer, phone, or tablet.
The “save and recall” function of the TekDrive program allows secure recall of files and data from other connected devices. Image used courtesy of Tektronix.
This added ‘scope feature is of particular relevance in the age of COVID-19, where working from home is often the new norm. Engineers have recently had an increased incentive to explore ways of sharing of ‘scope data, increasing productivity, and easing collaboration.
New High-Voltage, High-Frequency Probes from Yokogawa
With the rise of EVs, renewable energy, and other high-power applications comes the demand for higher voltages—and consequently, oscilloscope probes that can handle these voltages. Back in November, Yokogawa looked to solve this problem when they announced the release of a new family of probes.
Their new products offer a range of high-frequency, high-voltage differential oscilloscope probes. These new probes include:
- The 701977: Designed for use on inverters; offers a maximum input voltage of 7,000 V peak at 50 MHz, with an attenuation ratio of 100:1/1000:1
- The 701978: Designed for the needs of high-voltage photovoltaic systems; offers a maximum differential voltage of 1,500 V at 150 MHz, with an attenuation ratio of 50:1/500:1
- The 701925: A high-frequency differential probe, which offers a 500 MHz bandwidth and an input voltage range of +/- 35 V, with an attenuation ratio of 50:1
The 701978 differential probe. Image used courtesy of Yokogawa
These new products aim to augment the oscilloscope’s functionality by providing manufacturers with the means to accurately teeth high-voltage and high-frequency signals in their systems.
Keysight Steps Up to the 5G Plate
Earlier this year, Keysight announced the enhancement of its UXR oscilloscope family to address mmWave and 5G characterization with the introduction of the UXR0051AP Infiniium ‘scope.
The device offers the ability to measure and characterize across both mmWave and MIMO 5G NR communications. While certainly not all engineers will be concerned with 5G utility, in the announcement, Keysight quotes a professor who paints a picture of the UXR’s use-case, wherein engineers can hook up their 5G phased-arrays for quick measurements.
The UXR0051AP Infiniium. Image used courtesy of Keysight
Meanwhile, one of Keysight’s major competitors, Rohde & Schwarz, has already been making moves to address 6G, as well. This may seem preemptive, given 5G’s very young adoption into broadband cellular infrastructure, but 6G is demonstrably already an area of active R&D—especially 6G via the D-band, which is defined as a series of ranges.
A comparison of the W-band and the D-band, as defined in a presentation by Nokia. Image adaptation used courtesy of Nokia.
This month, Rohde & Schwarz, in partnership with fellow German company IHP, announced successful OTA (over-the-air) tests of D-band frequencies. We’ll see if this prompts a competitive push from Keysight in response.
The industry is seeing continual developments in oscilloscope technology, be it performance enhancements, usability changes, or keeping up with new trends. The oscilloscope is the main tool at an EE’s disposal, so perhaps it’s true that a better ‘scope often makes a better engineer. What do you think?