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

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