10 years oscilloscopes

R&S Stories

10 years oscilloscopes

Oscilloscopes: all-round tools for the path from vision to product

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Updated on 03-Jul-2024 🛈
Originally published on 07-Dec-2020

Oscilloscopes are workhorses. They do their job reliably and well. Engineers and service technicians use them to visualize the time characteristics of electrical signals. This information is used everywhere – in PC board development, for troubleshooting wireless communications circuits and for testing in-vehicle electronics. Oscilloscopes are standard instruments in electronics labs and part of the basic setup of anyone who develops, manufactures or repairs electronic equipment.

Rohde & Schwarz has been operating successfully in the oscilloscope market for ten years, and had to be innovative right from the start to offer users true added value compared to established instruments. To achieve this, the company was able to build on more than 85 years of experience with high-tech instruments. Users were especially impressed by innovative solutions previously unavailable on the market.

It's no surprise that more and more customers choose an oscilloscope from Rohde & Schwarz. In order to thoroughly understand what customers need, the company's experts maintain close contact with the markets in which the instruments are used.

Oscilloscopes are indispensable instruments in electronics labs, in educational applications, in R&D and in production.

Paving the way for tomorrow's vehicles

The vehicles of tomorrow will be computers on wheels. According to a study by Roland Berger, the average value share of electronics and software in vehicles is expected to rise to about USD 7,000 by 2025, and significantly more if batteries in electric vehicles are included. Oscilloscopes play an important role in the development of in-vehicle electronics.

Communications between the on-board computers and individual vehicle components, such as radar sensors, the lighting system and the entertainment system, are based on special automotive data buses such as CAN or automotive Ethernet. Customers who want to verify correct operation of these systems need an oscilloscope with precisely tailored software, and that's what Rohde & Schwarz gives them.

Each radar component, as well as its integration in the vehicle, must be tested to ensure reliable operation. Oscilloscopes are ideal for this task.

Good for the environment...

The generation of renewable energy presents entirely new challenges for power electronics. With wind power, for example, the power output is highly variable, making it difficult to achieve the stable grid we all want. Special power electronics are therefore used to convert electricity from wind power to a stable grid voltage, but this process itself costs energy. In order to maximize utilization of the generated electricity, the industry is working hard to develop energy-efficient converters.

The high-voltage resistant oscilloscopes needed to develop these are available in the Rohde & Schwarz product portfolio. One example is the R&S®Scope Rider RTH handheld oscilloscope, which is ideally suited for on-site maintenance. Thanks to its isolated input channels, it can be used directly in wind power systems without additional accessories – an unbeatable advantage for users.

Mobile oscilloscopes meet the needs of a wide range of measurement tasks, including battery-powered handheld instruments for field use as well as lab oscilloscopes.

...and for the internet of things

While in high-power technology the objective is large-scale energy efficiency and minimizing the environmental footprint, the main aim of energy efficiency technologies for smaller devices is to extend their operating time. We all know from experience how unpleasantly fast charge indicators on smartphones and smartwatches dip toward the red zone.

This issue will become even more important in the future when millions of sensors and mini-devices, both indoors and outdoors, will be interconnected in the internet of things. Most of these autonomous devices with built-in wireless modules, some of which have to operate for years without servicing, will be powered by batteries.

For these devices, every microwatt counts when it comes to power saving. Here again, the oscilloscope gives the developer a helping hand. With it, the developer can measure the energy drawn from the battery versus time and discover relationships between the activities of the device and the corresponding current drain. This allows peak current drains to be selectively mitigated, extending the battery life.

For smartphones, smartwatches and IoT applications, battery life is becoming more and more important. Oscilloscopes help to extend it.

High flyers, the thrill of speed and the winner mentality

Sometimes these all-round instruments can be found in unusual places. For example, in 2016, Rohde & Schwarz sent its R&S®Scope Rider RTH handheld oscilloscope into space. After a flight time of two and a half hours at an altitude of 32,000 meters with the device exposed to temperatures as low as –60 °C, it still worked perfectly.

Oscilloscopes are also in demand where high speeds are involved: in the Formula Student design competition, participants tested the electronics of their race car with an R&S®Scope Rider RTH. And in 2019, in the fourth Hyperloop competition in Los Angeles, the R&S®RTM3004 helped students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) win first prize for the fourth time in a row. In this competition, student teams from around the world compete to develop a prototype transport pod for the Hyperloop high-speed transport system.

Oscilloscopes are also at home in unusual situations, such as testing the electronics of a race car.

From zero to wow! in ten years

Oscilloscopes are the youngest product group in the Rohde & Schwarz test and measurement portfolio. The company's specialists developed functions that did not previously exist but were on customer wish lists. One example is triggering, a key function of every oscilloscope that starts the measurement. Previously, triggering was based on analog technology in all instruments on the market. Rohde & Schwarz made it digital. Digital triggering not only proved to be significantly more precise than analog triggering, it also offered new possibilities for visualizing extremely fine signal details.

Another key to success was, and still is, in-house development and production of the main components. The instruments' extremely high-performance analog-to-digital converters (ADC), for example, are not off-the-shelf parts, but were instead developed in-house. For performance reasons, important measurement functions are not implemented in software, but instead in application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) specially developed by Rohde & Schwarz.

But even the best technology is no use without user-friendly packaging, so the user interface was also a key focus in development. The sophisticated touch control of the instruments set new standards and was applauded by users.

Today, Rohde & Schwarz is a major player in the oscilloscope market. From entry-level instruments for educational applications to handheld and high-end lab oscilloscopes, users can choose from many different models and configuration options. And development keeps on going.

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