This article needs additional citations for verification . (March 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
An RF switch matrix is a system of discrete electronic components that are integrated to route radio frequency (RF) signals between multiple inputs and multiple outputs. Popular applications requiring RF matrices are ground systems, test equipment, and communication systems.
Radio frequency (RF) is the oscillation rate of an alternating electric current or voltage or of a magnetic, electric or electromagnetic field or mechanical system in the frequency range from around twenty thousand times per second to around three hundred billion times per second. This is roughly between the upper limit of audio frequencies and the lower limit of infrared frequencies; these are the frequencies at which energy from an oscillating current can radiate off a conductor into space as radio waves. Different sources specify different upper and lower bounds for the frequency range.
An RF matrix is used in test systems, in both design verification and manufacturing test, to route high frequency signals between the device under test (DUT) and the test and measurement equipment. In addition to signal routing, the RF/Microwave Switch Matrix may also contain signal conditioning components including passive signal conditioning devices, such as attenuators, filters, and directional couplers, as well as active signal conditioning, such as amplification and frequency converters. Since the signal routing and signal conditioning needs of a test system differ from design to design, RF/Microwave Switch Matrices typically are custom designed by the test system engineer or by a hired contractor for each new test system.[ dubious ]
A device under test (DUT), also known as equipment under test (EUT) and unit under test (UUT), is a manufactured product undergoing testing, either at first manufacture or later during its life cycle as part of ongoing functional testing and calibration checks. This can include a test after repair to establish that the product is performing in accordance with the original product specification.
Electronic filters are a type of signal processing filter in the form of electrical circuits consisting of discrete (lumped) electronic components. Such filters remove unwanted frequency components from the applied signal, enhance wanted ones, or both. Electronic filters can be:
The Switch Matrix is made up of RF switches and signal conditioners that are mounted together in a mechanical infrastructure or housing. Cables then interconnect the switches and signal conditioners. The switch matrix then employs a driver circuit and power supply to power and drive the switches and signal conditioners. The switch matrix uses connectors or fixtures to route the signal paths from the sourcing and measurement equipment to the DUT. The switch matrix is typically located close to the DUT to shorten the signal paths, thus reducing insertion loss and signal degradation.
An RF Switch or Microwave Switch is a device to route high frequency signals through transmission paths. RF and microwave switches are used extensively in microwave test systems for signal routing between instruments and devices under test (DUT). Incorporating a switch into a switch matrix system enables you to route signals from multiple instruments to single or multiple DUTs. This allows multiple tests to be performed with the same setup, eliminating the need for frequent connects and disconnects. The entire testing process can be automated, increasing the throughput in high-volume production environments.
A power supply is an electrical device that supplies electric power to an electrical load. The primary function of a power supply is to convert electric current from a source to the correct voltage, current, and frequency to power the load. As a result, power supplies are sometimes referred to as electric power converters. Some power supplies are separate standalone pieces of equipment, while others are built into the load appliances that they power. Examples of the latter include power supplies found in desktop computers and consumer electronics devices. Other functions that power supplies may perform include limiting the current drawn by the load to safe levels, shutting off the current in the event of an electrical fault, power conditioning to prevent electronic noise or voltage surges on the input from reaching the load, power-factor correction, and storing energy so it can continue to power the load in the event of a temporary interruption in the source power.
The purpose of a switch matrix is to move the signal routing and signal conditioning to one central location in the test system versus having it all distributed at various places in the test system. Moving the signal routing and signal conditioning to a single location in the test system has the following advantages:
Switch matrices present a unique problem to test system designers as the signal conditioning needs, the frequency range, the bandwidth, and power aspects change from application to application. Test and measurement companies cannot provide a "one size fits all" solution. This leaves test system designers with two choices for their switch matrix design: Insourcing or outsourcing.
Outsourcing is an agreement in which one company hires another company to be responsible for a planned or existing activity that is or could be done internally, and sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm to another.
There are two types of switches typically used in switch matrices: Coaxial Electromechanical Switches and Solid State Switches, also known as electronic switches. Coaxial electromechanical switches can be further divided into two categories based on their architecture, latching relay and non-latching relay.
In geometry, coaxial means that two or more three-dimensional linear forms share a common axis. Thus, it is concentric in three-dimensional, linear forms.
In electronics, an electronic switch is an electronic component or device that can switch an electrical circuit, interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another.
In electrical engineering, a switch is an electrical component that can "make" or "break" an electrical circuit, interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. The mechanism of a switch removes or restores the conducting path in a circuit when it is operated. It may be operated manually, for example, a light switch or a keyboard button, may be operated by a moving object such as a door, or may be operated by some sensing element for pressure, temperature or flow. A switch will have one or more sets of contacts, which may operate simultaneously, sequentially, or alternately. Switches in high-powered circuits must operate rapidly to prevent destructive arcing, and may include special features to assist in rapidly interrupting a heavy current. Multiple forms of actuators are used for operation by hand or to sense position, level, temperature or flow. Special types are used, for example, for control of machinery, to reverse electric motors, or to sense liquid level. Many specialized forms exist. A common use is control of lighting, where multiple switches may be wired into one circuit to allow convenient control of light fixtures.
Solid state switches come in three types: PIN diode, FET, and hybrid. The advantages of solid state switches over EM switches are:
A PIN diode is a diode with a wide, undoped intrinsic semiconductor region between a p-type semiconductor and an n-type semiconductor region. The p-type and n-type regions are typically heavily doped because they are used for ohmic contacts.
On the other hand, since solid state switches have non-linear portions over their frequency range their bandwidth is limited.
An electromechanical switch (EM) provides better:
For these reasons EM switches are used much more often in switch matrix designs.
Custom Switch Matrices are used extensively throughout test systems in the wireless and aerospace defense sectors for design verification and for manufacturing test. They have a wide range of complexity, from the simple to the complex.
RF Switch Matrices are also used heavily in the Television Broadcast market for the reception and re-broadcast of TV Channels. Typically a cable television headend will contain a matrix to enable multiple dishes that are aligned to different satellites to be routed to a bank of receivers. The RF Switch Matrix allows channel changes to be made remotely, without any interruptions.
There are six main challenges when designing a custom RF/Microwave Switch Matrix from beginning to end:
Test equipment manufacturers offer instruments that provide a power supply, driver circuitry, and software drivers that essentially saves a test system designer time and cost by eliminating two of the six switch matrix design challenges: power and control hardware design as well as software driver development.
Many companies have introduced new product concepts that aid in custom switch matrix design. These new products offer test system designers a power supply, driver circuitry, and software drivers all wrapped together in a mainframe. The mainframe provides flexible mounting for switches and other components as well as blank front and rear panels that can be easily modified to fit a design need. These new products eliminates 3 of the 6 design challenges: mechanical design, power and control hardware design, and software driver development
Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is the ability of electrical equipment and systems to function acceptably in their electromagnetic environment, by limiting the unintentional generation, propagation and reception of electromagnetic energy which may cause unwanted effects such as electromagnetic interference (EMI) or even physical damage in operational equipment. The goal of EMC is the correct operation of different equipment in a common electromagnetic environment. It is also the name given to the associated branch of electrical engineering.
A signal generator is an electronic device that generates repeating or non-repeating electronic signals in either the analog or the digital domain. It is generally used in designing, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing electronic or electroacoustic devices, though it often has artistic uses as well.
An embedded system is a controller with a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or electrical system, often with real-time computing constraints. It is embedded as part of a complete device often including hardware and mechanical parts. Embedded systems control many devices in common use today. Ninety-eight percent of all microprocessors manufactured are used in embedded systems.
Data acquisition is the process of sampling signals that measure real world physical conditions and converting the resulting samples into digital numeric values that can be manipulated by a computer. Data acquisition systems, abbreviated by the acronyms DAS or DAQ, typically convert analog waveforms into digital values for processing. The components of data acquisition systems include:
Electronic test equipment is used to create signals and capture responses from electronic devices under test (DUTs). In this way, the proper operation of the DUT can be proven or faults in the device can be traced. Use of electronic test equipment is essential to any serious work on electronics systems.
A timer is a specialized type of clock used for measuring specific time intervals. Timers can be categorized into two main types. A timer which counts upwards from zero for measuring elapsed time is often called a stopwatch, while a device which counts down from a specified time interval is more usually called a timer. A simple example of this type is an hourglass. Working method timers have two main groups: Hardware and Software timers.
Electromagnetic interference (EMI), also called radio-frequency interference (RFI) when in the radio frequency spectrum, is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction. The disturbance may degrade the performance of the circuit or even stop it from functioning. In the case of a data path, these effects can range from an increase in error rate to a total loss of the data. Both man-made and natural sources generate changing electrical currents and voltages that can cause EMI: ignition systems, cellular network of mobile phones, lightning, solar flares, and auroras. EMI frequently affects AM radios. It can also affect mobile phones, FM radios, and televisions, as well as observations for radio astronomy and atmospheric science.
Automatic test equipment or automated test equipment (ATE) is any apparatus that performs tests on a device, known as the device under test (DUT), equipment under test (EUT) or unit under test (UUT), using automation to quickly perform measurements and evaluate the test results. An ATE can be a simple computer-controlled digital multimeter, or a complicated system containing dozens of complex test instruments capable of automatically testing and diagnosing faults in sophisticated electronic packaged parts or on wafer testing, including system on chips and integrated circuits.
A network analyzer is an instrument that measures the network parameters of electrical networks. Today, network analyzers commonly measure s–parameters because reflection and transmission of electrical networks are easy to measure at high frequencies, but there are other network parameter sets such as y-parameters, z-parameters, and h-parameters. Network analyzers are often used to characterize two-port networks such as amplifiers and filters, but they can be used on networks with an arbitrary number of ports.
Level sensors detect the level of liquids and other fluids and fluidized solids, including slurries, granular materials, and powders that exhibit an upper free surface. Substances that flow become essentially horizontal in their containers because of gravity whereas most bulk solids pile at an angle of repose to a peak. The substance to be measured can be inside a container or can be in its natural form. The level measurement can be either continuous or point values. Continuous level sensors measure level within a specified range and determine the exact amount of substance in a certain place, while point-level sensors only indicate whether the substance is above or below the sensing point. Generally the latter detect levels that are excessively high or low.
A bias tee is a three-port network used for setting the DC bias point of some electronic components without disturbing other components. The bias tee is a diplexer. The low-frequency port is used to set the bias; the high-frequency port passes the radio-frequency signals but blocks the biasing levels; the combined port connects to the device, which sees both the bias and RF. It is called a tee because the 3 ports are often arranged in the shape of a T.
A semiconductor curve tracer is a specialised piece of electronic test equipment used to analyze the characteristics of discrete semiconductor devices such as diodes, transistors, and thyristors. Based on an oscilloscope, the device also contains voltage and current sources that can be used to stimulate the device under test (DUT).
Emission-aware programming is a design philosophy aiming to reduce the amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted by electronic devices through proper design of the software executed by the device, rather than changing the hardware.
Pickering Interfaces is a test and measurement company headquartered in Clacton-on-Sea, United Kingdom. Pickering designs, manufactures and markets a range of switching, simulation and cabling products in the LXI, PXI, and PCI platforms. These products are sold into the functional test, hardware-in-the-loop simulation (HILS) and design verifications markets.
Radio-frequency engineering, or RF engineering, is a subset of electrical and electronic engineering involving the application of transmission line, waveguide, antenna and electromagnetic field principles to the design and application of devices that produce or utilize signals within the radio band, the frequency range of about 20 kHz up to 300 GHz.
AWR Corporation is an electronic design automation (EDA) software company, formerly known as Applied Wave Research, and then acquired by National Instruments
Automatic test system switching' test equipment allows for high-speed testing of a device or devices in a test situation, where strict sequences and combinations of switching must be observed. By automating the process in this way, the possibility of test errors and inaccuracies is minimized, and only systematic errors would generally be encountered due to such as an incorrect programmed test condition. This eliminates error due to human factors and allows application of a standard test sequence repetitively. The design of a test system’s switching configuration is governed by the test specification, which is derived from the functional tests to be performed.
Microwave imaging is a science which has been evolved from older detecting/locating techniques in order to evaluate hidden or embedded objects in a structure using electromagnetic (EM) waves in microwave regime. Engineering and application oriented microwave imaging for non-destructive testing is called microwave testing, see below.