Multichannel RF Transceiver Unit ATE System

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"We decreased testing time by up to 10X. The ATE system took us five months to organize, develop, program, and install at the customer site. Due to our speed and quality, this client became a repeat customer."

- Davit Zargaryan , 10X Engineering LLC

The Challenge:
Designing, developing, and integrating a turnkey test system that can increase the number of measurements while decreasing the testing time.

The Solution:
Using NI hardware and LabVIEW software to develop a complete, easily maintained, and flexible automated test system that provides accurate and repeatable measurements.

Author(s):
Davit Zargaryan - 10X Engineering LLC

About 10X Engineering

10X Engineering LLC, founded in 2013, is an NI Alliance Partner with the knowledge and experience to deliver innovative engineering solutions for RF product (units, devices, components) quality and line testing, custom-designed automated test equipment (ATE) system assembly, verification, and development. Our solutions cover a variety of industrial sectors such as RF software defined radio, radiolocation, spectrum monitoring, and more. For every request we receive, we follow procedures for technical and software functional requirements clarification, RF measurement methodology selection, and hardware configurations. If needed, we take responsibility to prove a concept and demonstrate the flexibility and reliability of our solution.

Problem Background and Solution

It takes each engineer one work day to switch I/O, assemble, and configure an individual test system, and report with traditional instruments. Our main challenge was to free up our customer’s developers from DUT testing, which is a time-consuming procedure.

We built an ATE hardware test suite that works in automatic mode and is based on PXI and PXI Express modular instruments. Users can control output signals, analyze, and store the received signals from the DUT with four RX inputs, four TX outputs, and four combined TX inputs/RX outputs (16 connectors in total).

The DUT TX paths work only in pulse mode, where RX operates both in pulse and continuous modes. All channels have programmable phase shifters, amplifiers (RX-LNA), and attenuators controlled through the RS485 port according to the customer-specific programs. The ATE system includes both the DUT control program performance and test unified database along with the date of test, operator information (name of the employee), special number of device, and measurement results.

Total number of tests: 4 channels x 30 measurements x 100 frequencies = 12,000 measurements in 30–45 minutes

The system test control is performed in the following modes:

  • Calibration—force calibration of test system
  • Auto—automatic measurement of all selections and automated report generation
  • Step—step mode (intermediate-output mode) and stop at the next parameter enabling the user to select test settings manually
  • Oscilloscope—digitizing and displaying waveform with preselected dynamic parameters

The ATE measurement list includes:

  • TX output pulse power
  • TX output pulse rise/fall time
  • Amplitude-frequency response (flatness) for TX/RX path
  • RX output pulse amplitude flatness
  • Delay of the front edge of the output pulse versus the front edge of the input RF pulse
  • Delay instability of the output pulse front edge versus the front edge of the input RF pulse for TX and RX paths
  • Permissible output signal phase jitter in TX\RX path in .5 s
  • TX path’s power spectral density between the pulse pause intervals
  • Electrical length of the TX\RX path
  • Transmission efficiency
  • Noise figure for RX channel
  • RX path transfer ratio
  • The upper limit of linearity of the receive path
  • Instability of the receiver path gain in .1 s
  • Programmable phase shifter accuracy
  • Programmable attenuator accuracy

The system requires the following equipment:

Conclusion

We developed the multichannel RF transceiver (RX, TX) unit ATE system to be flexible with a simple user interface and unified database that can significantly improve the reliability and speed of the testing process. We decreased testing time by up to 10X. The ATE system took us five months to organize, develop, program, and install at the customer site. Due to our speed and quality, this client became a repeat customer.

Author Information:
Davit Zargaryan
10X Engineering LLC
Hovsep Emin 123
Yerevan
Armenia
Tel: (+374)77212193
(+374)77212193

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