Author Topic: Does computer-controllability matter to you when purchasing new test equipment?  (Read 1322 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online TheUnnamedNewbie

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1127
  • Country: 00
  • mmwave RFIC/antenna designer
So I used to not care about being able to control my equipment with a computer. But recently, I have changed my mind - using Matlab (but I guess the same can be done with python?) I can control my test equipment, and this to me is becoming an important feature when shopping for new equipment. There are two main reasons why I want this:

The first is to extend the capabilities of the instruments I have with software for example, I made a 'better' continuity meter using my keithley 2000: it will display the resistance, not have an annoying sharp buzzer, I can change the threshold on the fly (because the meter is just measuring ohms and the 'threshold" is figured out on computer), it logs the last values, etc...

The second is doing measurements that are a pain by hand because it involves changing multiple instruments constantly. Using my arb as a signal generator I can measure low-frequency filter response by having it sweep across the frequency spans and reading the voltage from the multimeter. (of course, no phase, but I guess I could use a scope to do so if I really wanted).

My next step is to buy a few GPIB adapters so I could connect some of the older instruments to my computer as well.

So, does the ability to control test equipment with your computer matter when you are looking for a new tool?
The best part about magic is when it stops being magic and becomes science instead

"There was no road, but the people walked on it, and the road came to be, and the people followed it, for the road took the path of least resistance"
 

Online HKJ

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 2499
  • Country: dk
    • Tests
So, does the ability to control test equipment with your computer matter when you are looking for a new tool?

The way I use my equipment computer control is very important for me.
 

Offline RonFred2

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 22
  • Country: us
    • Biophysics Lab
I find that the programmer manuals for older and new instruments give enough detail to make use of computer controlled instruments. I find there is a lot of flexibility in creating new automated test solutions with my Tektronix TDS 784D (GPIB with ebay NI Card) scope and Rigol DG4062 (USB) function generator for example.

I use NI-VISA at the driver level and pyVisa / python for software scripts. I am learning how to use Qt with python for GUI in upcoming projects.

My Tektronix 784 scope can still use the original WaveStar software with a download and install key still floating around. There would be other old vendor code for some instruments and some open source projects for others to jump start computer controlled instrument projects too.

I have attached a copy of my initial install notes and support issues and resolutions along the way to get an old windows product to run nativley on my modern windows 10 platform.
 

Offline BillB

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 615
  • Country: us
I think for bench equipment it's almost a necessity these days; I would even go further and even say IP connectivity is a must have.  Being able to have a control API (like SCPI) is great, and many instruments now are including webservers for remote control, which is very handy, too.

         
 

Offline Fsck

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1157
  • Country: ca
  • sleep deprived
Yes. I'd want network capabilities as well for new gear. Ideally, there would be some kind of common interface like BenchVue for HPAK, but I wouldn't keep my hopes up.
"This is a one line proof...if we start sufficiently far to the left."
 

Online rstofer

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 9203
  • Country: us
No, I don't need to connectivity...

I don't think I can even imagine an application for such a feature.  My hobby stuff just doesn't rise to the level of complexity where such a feature would be required.

OTOH, my Siglent AWG, Rigol PS and Rigol scope seem to have some kind of connectivity should an application arise.

I wouldn't pay extra for connectivity but I certainly don't mind if it is included free.

ETA:  I suppose if I ever used my Siglent AWG to output arbitrary waveforms, I would compose them on a PC and download them over the LAN.  Or maybe I could just use sneakernet with a thumb drive.  I haven't gotten that far...
« Last Edit: July 31, 2018, 06:18:23 pm by rstofer »
 

Online Gribo

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 562
  • Country: ca
For me, LXI is a must have. GPIB should die already, and so should USB for instrument control. Of course, certain devices are USB only, I can live with that, as long as they have a good enough API.
I am available for freelance work.
 

Offline james_s

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 17928
  • Country: us
I like being able to log data from my bench multimeter, but other than that I've never had any need for computer control. I could definitely see it being useful if I was doing production testing but not for a hobby project.
 

Offline coromonadalix

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3722
  • Country: ca
For me its a must if i can find ant test equipment with usb, serial, gpib, lan interfaces, you never know when you may need it / them. 

Sometimes it's the priority before any purchase.
 

Offline jpb

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1769
  • Country: gb
I like to have such connectivity on my measurement instruments (timer/counter, scope etc.) It is especially useful for long measurements (the computer has much more memory than the instrument) and for post analysis.

On the other hand, I have not paid the extra to have it on my power supplies. I am not involved in automated test and I like just manually setting voltage and current. Programmable power supplies are quite a lot more expensive. If I want to vary the signal level I can do that as my function generator has a computer interface.
 

Offline james_s

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 17928
  • Country: us
A programmable power supply would make me nervous for day to day use. It's too easy to make a typo or script error that causes the voltage to be set much higher than intended. I've used a couple of fancy digitally controlled power supplies and have to say that nothing beats an old fashioned analog knob.

I can certainly see how the programmable type could make life much easier in a production testing environment though.
 

Offline joeqsmith

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 9396
  • Country: us
Interesting comment about the programmable supply.  I have a few of them that I frequently use under software control but then again, I tend to automate a fair number of my experiments.
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
Software, documentation and test reports for the low cost NanoVNA, V2+4 and LiteVNA may be found here:
https://github.com/joeqsmith
 

Offline Miti

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1096
  • Country: ca
I think any decent new equipment comes with all kind of interfaces these days, would be hard to find one that doesn't, just my 2 cents. They may not be all enable, you may have to pay for that but they are there. And yes, it is very important to me for old or new equipment. Few examples:
My HP3478A - I used the GPIB to save the calibration constants so if the battery dies or I do something stupid, I'm safe.
Tek TDS 6xx, 7xx series - In case of a self test failure, you get detailed troubleshooting information through GPIB that you don't get otherwise.
Fluke 884X - Firmware upgrade through Ethernet.

Want more?
Fear does not stop death, it stops life.
 

Online TheUnnamedNewbie

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1127
  • Country: 00
  • mmwave RFIC/antenna designer
A programmable power supply would make me nervous for day to day use. It's too easy to make a typo or script error that causes the voltage to be set much higher than intended. I've used a couple of fancy digitally controlled power supplies and have to say that nothing beats an old fashioned analog knob.

I can certainly see how the programmable type could make life much easier in a production testing environment though.

I use the program ability in scripting situations, and I would test scripts a lot before actually hooking up a DUT.

Programmable supplies allow you to check the impact of something like VDD changes. In addition, you don't have to use computer-control for changing the values - reading could be another useful application - say to compute power consumption versus operating conditions. In fact, I have a few powersupplies but none of them can do computer control, and it is a feature I wished they had more than once now.
The best part about magic is when it stops being magic and becomes science instead

"There was no road, but the people walked on it, and the road came to be, and the people followed it, for the road took the path of least resistance"
 


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf