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Speed Test Times by Utilizing the Built-in Features of your Frequency Counter

Agilent 53131A Image

Modern instruments have many built-in features that allow you to do more than just acquire raw data. Taking advantage of built-in features will reduce the time needed for communication overhead and post-processing. The simplest example is the use of statistics - the 53131A, 53132A and 53181A can calculate arithmetic mean, minimum, maximum, and standard deviation. When analyzing a moving carrier, statistical results are much more meaningful than the raw data. In addition, the 53131A and 53132A can directly measure frequency ratios, time interval, pulse width, rise/fall time and duty cycle. Using the system controller to acquire raw measurements can be very time consuming compared to transferring a few measurement results.

Counters are often used in semi-automated tests, i.e. tests that involve an operator. For some measurements, the counter may produce readings in which the last few digits are not stable or "rack". This can slow a test as a human operator tries to discern the difference in readings. Truncating the last digits will produce a more understandable display, however some tests require that extra resolution. Having the counter calculate the arithmetic mean is a good solution when high resolution and a stable reading is required. An alternative is to use a limit-testing mode such as the shown below.

The asterisk represents the reading, the left colon is the low limit and the upper bound is the colon to the right. The operator can see if the reading is within the limits to sort "good" and "bad", or if adjustments are to be made it is a simple matter to adjust the DUT until the asterisk is between the two colons. The graphical display will eliminate the time it takes to read and make an adjustment based on a 10 or 12-digit number.

If you only need to make frequency measurements, consider using the 53181A in your semi-automated tests. 53181As interface is greatly simplified for frequency only measurements.

As instruments get more powerful it is important to take advantage of their extra horsepower. For example, the 53132A offers improved throughput by packing two DSPs instead of the single DSP found in the 53131A and 53181A. The high throughput rate of the 53132A can be beneficial for overall test time.