- Today, with fewer staff employees responsible for more work at many companies, engineers need instrumentation that can produce reliable results quickly, with no extended learning curve required. That means, to maximize value, a new instrument must combine measurement accuracy with intuitive operation.
- Many companies want instruments that offer a migration path that allows them to upgrade system capabilities cost-effectively when new test requirements emerge. No one can afford to scrap their old systems and start over from scratch every few years.
- Every instrument expenditure is being scrutinized more carefully now and requires more approvals. Many instrument specifiers are unable or unwilling to buy instruments with lots of features that would likely go unusedÃ¢ÂÂthey want solutions that give them "just enough test."
- Although this might seems like a contradiction of my previous point, there is still a demand for instruments flexible enough to adapt to multiple applications and testing environments. Customers have always wanted both the flexibility to buy only what they need today and the ability to repurpose that instrumentation later. From an instrument development perspective, this poses a challenge.
Test hardware buyers have always striven to balance an instrument's performance against its price. In recent years, however, buyers are increasingly demanding instruments optimized to test at an appropriate level of accuracy for the application and produce results quickly and easily Ã¢ÂÂ all without blowing their equipment budgets on non-essential functions and capabilities. Several factors are driving this new focus on maximizing instrument value:
WeÃ¢ÂÂve also worked hard to hear the voice of our customers when they tell us they want lower price points without sacrificing important instrument capabilities. For example, many buyers have told us they prefer using SMUs in benchtop R&D applications because of their tightly synchronized sourcing and measurement. While many of our SMU offerings are oriented to system-level test automation for production test, our latest series of SMUs includes three dual-channel models that eliminate automation features to offer a lower-cost solution for benchtop use.
One of the ways weÃ¢ÂÂre addressing migration path issues is the addition of a software emulation mode in our newest SMUs. The Model 2400 SourceMeterÂ® instrument, introduced in 1995, has been extremely popular for both benchtop and production test use. Many long-time owners now need greater channel density and higher speed but have been hesitant to replace their instruments. Our newer SMUs donÃ¢ÂÂt support the original SCPI commands of the 2400 Series because they use ICL (Instrument Command Language) commands instead, and this difference in command sets once required users to re-write their test code if they wished to replace a Model 2400. However, we developed what we call a 2400 Personality Script, which allows Series 2600B System SourceMeter SMU instruments to accept Model 2400 SCPI commands, quickly and seamlessly translating them into the native ICL commands these new instruments can understand.
For instrument buyers and developers alike, achieving the right combination of performance and price will always require a balancing act. I encourage you to use the comments feature to offer feedback on the features and capabilities most important to your work that youÃ¢ÂÂd like to see in the next generation of test and measurement instruments.