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5 Key Findings in Test and Measurement Taunt Engineers

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Test and measurement equipment trends challenge engineers in expanding markets.

General and specific trends foretell the future of the test and measurement (T&M) equipment market. These trends point to steady growth upon a market already valued at US$ 24.34 Billion in 2020. Going forward, the worldwide T&M equipment segment is predicted to reach US$ 30.09 Billion by 2026, reports Research and Markets.

The following list of 5 reveals where most of the growth will occur in traditional markets as well as challenging new ones.

1. General Trends in Testing

A recent report offered by Research and Markets highlights why the test and measurement equipment industry shows promising growth in some new and surprising areas.  Test and measurement equipment refers to various tools used to measure, analyze, display, test, and record electrical and electronic data. The full report is available here.

Highlights from the report reveal interesting directions for test and measurement equipment in the future:

  • Rapid industrialization, along with significant growth in the electronics industry, represents the key drivers behind the increase in test and measurement equipment. Such equipment is used for checking defects in high-performance and power-efficient consumer electronics and semiconductors during manufacturing.
  • Increasing utilization of T&M equipment for regular testing and fault diagnostics in aircraft, helicopters, and other machines is also driving the market growth. They are also used for machine control, factory automation, and establishing remote sensor connections in the automotive and transportation sectors.
  • Integration of connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) and development of machine-to-machine (M2M) interaction are another reason for the growth of T&M equipment. These systems offer portable and embedded testing and measurement solutions with remote troubleshooting capabilities and interactive interfaces.
  • Ongoing improvements in the networking and communications infrastructure, along with the increasing automation of laboratory instruments, are expected to drive the market further.

2. PCB and 5G Testing

Getting rid of unwanted heat can be a challenge in any electronic design, but even more so as high-speed signals tend to generate more heat on the chip and the board. A thermal bridge is typically an unwanted heat path in a PCB circuit. If a component has higher thermal conductivity than the surrounding materials, it creates a path of least resistance for heat transfer. This results in an overall reduction in the thermal resistance of the object.

Today, thermal pads and gap pads are used to decrease the formation of unwanted thermal bridges in electronic circuits. New thermal bridge technology can provide up to 2X better thermal resistance over traditional technologies. These thermal bridge solutions feature a near-zero plate gap in the bridge construction. This improves the thermal transfer capabilities of the system. Also, it minimizes the level of compression required to transfer heat over a path.

3. Communication Antenna Testing

Over-the-Air (OTA) testing has become a cornerstone in the development and deployment of IoT devices and products. While many designers focus their testing energies and budgets on software, the hardware aspects of OTA devices can be neglected. It is important to make sure the antennas designed or selected will perform as intended. 

The device and its environment must be considered during the development phase.  For example, the design of an antenna for a large stationary device like a vending machine needs to include the operational environment, namely, that the machines will likely be installed or placed against a wall.  Designing or selecting an antenna that concentrates its energy and radiates toward the front of the device would be ideal for this environment.

4. Automotive Radar Simulation and Testing

While hardware simulation is valuable during the sensor design stage, simulation becomes even more valuable when validating and testing radar sensor performance in the real world. Specifically, radar engineers need to be sure that the radar sensors will accurately sense the environment and provide consistent information to the vehicle's perception algorithms. Failure to do this can severely compromise the safety of fully autonomous vehicles.

Furthermore, engineers will need to test the performance of a radar sensor in the so-called corner cases that may prove too dangerous or costly for physical testing. In fact, it has been estimated that 8.8 billion driving miles will need to be completed before fully autonomous vehicles reach customers. Simulation, therefore, has emerged as the only practical way of reaching this goal. Using simulation, engineers can complete billions of virtual drive miles while also safely testing automotive radar sensor performance in corner cases.

5. Transportation V2X Testing

Before vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication is ready for consumer use, developers must ensure the reliability and maturity of the technology. This means that rigorously testing and verification will be needed.

Field testing in the real world will have to be complemented with simulation testing in the lab. The latter is also critical for testing in the development and introduction phase to verify compliance with the standards. Traditional communication protocol testers will have to be used with scenario simulation tools.

Typical simulation tests would include simulations for emergency electronic brake light, left turn assist (LTA), intersection movement assist (IMA), and congestion control testing.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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