The electronic test equipment (testgear) industry is blossoming and expanding as never before. No longer limited to the production of such mainstays as ammeters, multi-meters, ohmmeters, and voltmeters, the industry now includes a wide array of products such as:
Atomic force microscopes (AFM) – For scanning probe microscopy.
Automated optical inspection (AOI) – Used for automotive parts, liquid crystal displays (LCDs), printed circuit boards, and transistors.
Automated x-ray inspection (AXI) – AXI is especially used for inspecting ball grid arrays (BGAs) that are hidden underneath integrated circuits.
Digital Storage Oscilloscopes (DSO) – For monitoring varying signal voltages.
Electronic Design Automation (EDA) – Software for the design, design closure and design flow of cell phones, high-speed digital wireline services, integrated circuits, radar systems, satellite communications systems, and wireless networks.
In-Circuit Testers – Used with populated printed circuit boards
Logic Analyzers – For capturing and displaying multiple signals from digital systems and digital circuits
Network analyzers (VNA) – These are used in measuring network parameters in all components in electrical networks.
Signal generators – For designing, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing electronic and electroacoustic devices.
Spectrum analyzers – Spectrum analyzers are used for measuring the bandwidth, distortion frequency, harmonics, magnitude, and spectrum of an analog or digital input signals.
So, what’s new for 2014?
On January 7, 2014, Agilent Technologies Inc., which touts itself as the world’s premier measurement company providing core electronic measurement solutions to the chemical analysis, communications, diagnostics, electronics, genomics, and life-sciences industries, unveiled the name of a new spinoff called Keysight Technologies that will begin day-to-day operation in early November 2014 (Source: “Agilent Says Electronic Measurement Spinoff to Be Called Keysight,” NASDAQ, http://www.nasdaq.com/article/agilent-says-electronic-measurement-spinoff-to-be-called-keysight-20140107-00912 ).
This new company, with the tagline, “Unlocking Measurement Insights for 75 Years,” will concentrate exclusively on the electronic measurement industry. Keysight will rely heavily on the intellectual property of Agilent, which itself is a spinoff of Hewlett Packard in 1999, whose test measurement and software solutions have enabled electronic and communication advancements since 1939. But, Keysight is not looking back or resting on the laurels of its predecessors. Instead, according to new Keysight CEO and Pres. Ron Nersesian, they’re committing themselves to bringing their customers whole new generation of firsts. Agilent already produces a wide variety of products in all the categories above.
What does the future hold for the testgear industry? Despite it’s nearly 80 year history, the testgear can still be considered a nascent technology. What other developments may we anticipate from Keystone and its competitors?
First, it is reasonable to expect, with the continuing advancements in computer technology coupled with such areas as articulated robotics, nanotechnology, and semiconductors, that the need for new electronic testgear, intelligent test facilities, and testing algorithms will continue into the foreseeable future.
Second, with the drive toward green decentralized energy alternatives to petrochemical energy growing stronger, we may see test gear manufacturers to move into these areas such alternatives as solar, hydro, hydrothermal and wind-based technologies.
Third, the potential integration of power electronics (PE) and information and communication technologies (ICT) may also provide an open door of opportunity for the development of new testgear technologies and instrumentation in medium voltage power generation measurement.
Finally the need for advanced testing systems to ensure de-risk in smart grids, energy supplies, and fault conditions, and to cope with increasing sensitivity of power quality and dynamic behavior equipment will also fuel the development of new were testgear technologies.