By Miles Budimir, Senior Editor
From the changing face of test instrument interfaces to new application areas, the world of test and measurement is evolving with the times.
Engineering and manufacturing doesn’t sit still for long. And a large part of that world is the test equipment that supports it and ensures quality in production as well as in verifying designs and prototypes.
As manufacturing changes over the years, so too has test and measurement equipment. For instance, as general consumer technology has continued to evolve over the years, the results of this evolution have found their way into test and measurement instrumentation. This shows in the design of instruments themselves, with many having wireless communication capability, for instance.
The User Experience
One example of how consumer trends have influenced test instrument design is in the user interface, or more broadly the user experience in using the instrument.
A recent survey Keithley conducted among its customers uncovered some insights into their concerns and desires about the next generation of instruments. Among the findings were that users wanted a simpler user interface, they also wanted to speed up the measurement process significantly, and to be free to focus on their work, rather than on the details of the test or measurement process.
Using these insights helped Keithley design their newest family of test instruments. For example, Keithley’s Model 2450 SourceMeter Source Measure Unit (SMU) instrument provides a capacitive touchscreen interface that speeds up the measurement process by helping users test accurately and get results quickly, and allows them to focus on measurements and data rather than on learning how to configure the instrument. With simplified setups configured from the front panel, such instruments support faster time to measurement and significant improvements in test productivity.
The intuitive nature of touchscreen interfaces lets users at all levels of testing sophistication become experts quickly. They also offer the advantage of providing instant access to on-board help, which eliminates the need to consult a user manual to get an instrument up and running.
New application areas are another trend. For instance, a growing area for measurement is energy monitoring. More specifically, measuring power usage. And measuring power is becoming increasingly important because of energy issues. Companies and manufacturers want to measure energy use to better control energy costs. This involves not only lighting and other common uses but monitoring the factory floor itself, in the form of machines and processes and how much energy they use and, more importantly, waste.
An example of some new offerings for power monitoring comes from NK Technologies. Their new APN Series Power Monitoring Sensor measures three phases of current and voltage and computes fourteen values necessary to track power usage in the RS485 Modbus RTU format. The monitor uses current transformers to measure the current while the line voltage connects directly to the transducer, up to 600 VAC. The APN’s RS485 Modbus RTU format is compatible with many programmable logic controllers and fits seamlessly into industrial communications networks, both hard wired and wireless depending on the specifics of the application.
The sensor is a step forward from analog signal reporting watt consumption to a digital format allowing information on the system voltage, current, and power factor along with wattage. As the cost of electrical power increases, the need to use less energy also increases and the need to measure power consumption becomes a necessity.
In brief, electrical energy is measured in watts over time. To measure watts in an AC circuit, the supplied voltage is compared with the current, and whether the current peaks before the voltage (leading power factor in a mostly reactive circuit) or the current peaks after the voltage (lagging power factor in a more inductive circuit), the real power is measured.
So-called electronic smart meters are used to measure watts, but they only provide information about the entire service consumption. Monitoring individual loads or processes requires the use of watt transducers or power monitors. The purpose is to obtain information to help isolate potential problems such as phase loss or voltage sags and voltage spikes as well as unbalanced current phase to phase, to ultimately help avoid utility surcharges levied for a poor power factor.
Another energy measurement and management offering comes from WAGO. A new power measurement family features components for industrial and building applications. The new product line includes the 750 Series 3-phase power measurement modules, 855 Series Rogowski coils and current transformers and 857/798 Series signal conditioners.
These new power measurement modules can be integrated into a WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM node with other standard digital/analog input and output signals and can also be networked to an existing control platform. WAGO signal conditioners can convert standard 1A or 5A current transformer or Rogowski coil signals into a standard PLC analog signal type. A full range of measuring devices, current transformers and Rogowski coils round out both applications.
The critical importance of power measurement is borne out by the fact that of the 26.7 percent of U.S. electrical consumption that comes from the industrial sector, 64 percent is attributed to motor-driven equipment. Power measurement products can be used to measure and collect motor current data to detect instant or cumulative loading to protect an installation from potential failure or extraordinary energy usage.
Cyber crime and cyber warfare are among the chief concerns of manufacturers around the world. Recent prominent cases of industrial sabotage and espionage have escalated these concerns. Companies in a host of industries are increasingly vigilant about such intrusions and are being careful to check a product’s cyber security features before purchasing it.
As a result, companies are beefing up the security of their products. Case in point; Yokogawa recently obtained the ISASecure Embedded Device Security Assurance (EDSA) certification for the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system. The ISASecure EDSA certification has three elements; communication robustness testing (CRT), functional security assessment (FSA), and software development security assessment (SDSA), and is based on the IEC 62443-4 standard.
The ISASecure program was developed by the ISA Security Compliance Institute (ISCI) with the goal of accelerating the industry-wide improvement of cyber security for industrial automation and control systems (IACS). It does this by offering a common industry-recognized set of device and process requirements that drive device security, simplifying procurement for asset owners and device assurance for equipment vendors.
Yokogawa Electric Corporation