Moore’s Law creates new test product categories. Expect that to continue

This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gordon Moore’s famous paper “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits”, the basis of Moore’s Law.  Remarkably enough, it was my college advisor who coined the phrase.

So what has Moore’s Law meant for test equipment and the associated industry? A lot. For one thing, an explosion of product categories, a trend that is likely to continue.

In my latest column I document the rise (and fall) of test and measurement product categories through each decade.  I also document the rise of new companies along with these categories: Teradyne, Advantest, Spirent and Ixia, to name a few.

What does the future hold?  5G wireless and IoT (Internet of Things) are ripe for spawning new test categories. It is challenging to predict exactly how this will play out, but the vendors that can foresee the changes and define these new categories will reap rich rewards.

You can read my entire column here.

By Larry DJ

Designing your first PXI test system? Start inside out.

I’ve written several tutorials in the past on how to integrate PXI and AXIe modular systems, and how to combine them with traditional instruments based on LXI. A key concept in doing so is to think inside out.

The specific steps are:
• Choosing modules and software
• Choosing the controller
• Choosing the chassis
• Final iteration and integration

I describe each step, and how each leads to narrowing your choices for the next steps.  You can read the entire tutorial here.

By Larry DJ

Porter’s 5 forces accelerate modular instruments

Last November I wrote about the recently released Frost and Sullivan report that predicted PXI to disrupt the automated test market going forward. Frost and Sullivan predicts PXI to grow at an aggregate growth rate of more than 17%, achieving $1.75B in annual sales by 2020. This is significantly more than the 3% secular growth rate of the test and measurement market. In fact, my arithmetic at the end of the column concludes that all the growth of automated test over the next several years is coming from PXI.

In that article, I stated that this matches my own estimates. In particular, if you combine Porter’s 5 forces with Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash’s game theory mathematics, you can see the patterns that are igniting this disruptive change.

I’ve written about game theory in our sister publication EETimes. Give it a read to see how game theory explains industry structures. While game theory explains the actions of major players, Porter’s 5 forces explain the context of the industry, essentially the rules of the game. Today, I’m going to review the five forces, and how they collude to accelerate the modular disruption.

Michael Porter developed his five-force model to explain why different industries had different levels of competitiveness. It is a staple of any MBA curriculum. The five forces are:

• Competitors
• New entrants
• Substitute products
• Suppliers
• Customers

To read about Porter’s 5 forces, and specifically why they are colluding to cause the modular disruption, read the entire article here.

By Larry DJ

National Instruments ups PXI game to Gen 3

In my blog, I cover the happenings in the test-and-measurement market from an industry and architectural perspective. You can find plenty of product announcements elsewhere in EDN. At Test Cafe, it is the architecture that counts—and what it may mean for you, the test engineer. Recently I covered the future of bench instrumentation and likely form factors. I’ve covered acquisitions too, and how that affects strategies of the test vendors. Sometimes, specific product announcements trigger my interest.

Such is the case with the latest PXI introduction from National Instruments. NI has just announced the first Gen 3 PXI embedded controller and chassis in the industry. Gen 3 refers to the speed of the PCIe (PCI Express) backplane data fabric that is inherent to PXI.

There’s more than just Gen 3 that contributes to NI’s speed jump. If you have the need for speed, brew yourself an espresso, and read the entire article here.

By Larry DJ

DesignCon and the future of bench instrumentation

Frequent readers of the Test Cafe blog know my focus on the disruption caused by modular instruments. Led by PXI, modular instruments are rapidly gaining share in automated test applications, typically concentrated on the manufacturing floor.

Conversely, if there is one place where traditional “box” instruments shine, it is the electrical designer’s lab bench. But is that still true? I went to DesignCon, the quintessential show for the design engineer, to find out.  I focused on what bench instruments looked like at the show. I’ve asked the question, “Do bench instruments need knobs and displays?” and received a wide range of opinions as feedback. Now it was time to wander into the land of oscilloscopes and pattern generators to see for myself!

I went to the booths of eight vendors, and matched them to five human interface paradigms. The vendors were Keysight, Tektronix, Teledyne LeCroy, Rohde & Schwarz, National Instruments, Introspect, SHF, and Anritsu.  The paradigms ranged from traditional bench instruments to PXI or AXIe modular products with remote controllers and displays. I also interviewed each of the eight vendors, and then summarized all my findings.  This article is actually a pretty good example of primary research.

To read my summary, you need to click through my tour here.

I followed up this primary research with an analysis of why different vendors made different choices, and what the trends would be. You can read that follow-up analysis here.

Be sure to read the two articles in order to get the full context.

By Larry DJ