A new solution enables novice engineers to make complex measurements on devices under test, ranging from telecom and medical equipment to laptops and mainframes.

Charles Murray

February 19, 2016

3 Min Read
New Test Solution Simplifies Interconnect Characterization

Tektronix Inc.’s new solution targets one of the trickier aspects of test –- the interconnect characterization process. Using a solution that includes both hardware and software, it enables engineers to examine how cables, switches, and test fixtures could affect a signal, then creates a filter to compensate for those effects. “It characterizes the cable and the measurement parameters, and then converts that into a filter that can be applied to an oscilloscope,” Prashanth Thota, product planner for Tektronix, told Design News.

Tektronix’s TSC70902 calibration source and SignalCorrect software package work together to target one of the trickier aspects of test -– the interconnect characterization process.
(Source: Tektronix Inc.)

Tektronix’s solution consists of two parts: a calibration source known as TSC70902 and a software package called SignalCorrect. Together, the two components work with the company’s DPO/MSO70000 real-time oscilloscope.

The new solution could become an important tool for test engineers who must discriminate between real signals and the noise added by cables, test fixtures, and RF switches. “If you send a signal in through a cable, the cable will have its own losses,” Thota told us. “And there may be crosstalk between adjacent cables, so the signal will come out distorted on the other end.”

Today, engineers typically address that problem by using a vector network analyzer and/or a sampling scope to characterize the losses. Then they employ a separate software package to create a filter that reverses the effects of the losses. Finally, they manually apply that filter to the oscilloscope.

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Typically, that process is relegated to experts, Thota told us. “Normally, you need an experienced electrical engineer to do it,” he said. “An entry-level EE could not be expected to do it.”

In contrast, Tektronix’s new solution uses the calibration hardware to characterize and de-embed the interconnect. Then, it employs the SignalCorrect software to guide the user through the process of measuring insertion loss and creating and applying filters. The company says the solution supports creation of multiple filters from a single measurement and enables comparison of raw waveforms with different filter designs.

As a result, Tektronix says its new solution takes the process out of the hands of experts and makes interconnect characterization a routine part of performing high-speed measurement and analysis. “It characterizes the cable and the measurement parameters and then designs the filter, all within one product,” Thota said.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 31 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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