Can virtual instrumentation help make the job faster?

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Repetitive testing procedures are rightly considered slow and tedious tasks, in many cases even overwhelming. Difficulties are encountered by different professionals in the company: From engineers overcome by the amount of instructions they have to prepare, to technicians drowned in paper and with a tangle of cables and probes on the table.

For years, the industry has been trying to get rid of conventional tools, such as multimeters or oscilloscopes, especially at the end of production lines. Commercials from different companies lined up at the door, offering’ customised’ solutions in the form of all-in-one instruments, controlled by a protected software or third-party companies.

Many companies bought this idea, simply to see how over the years they have been leaving a small fortune in licenses or inescapable upgrades, with the only added value of being able to continue using their test benches. Add to this the time invested in starting up the solution or the great cost of sending different workers to receive external training, just to see them leave the company each week in search of new opportunities.

The problem is only accentuated by the development of new products, which share the production line with other old ones still in demand. How do you jump from testing current designs, to something created by people who left the company five years ago?

Thanks to their expertise, many engineers deal with all these drawbacks, attacking the problem directly by using their own solutions. They’re not usually very pretty, but we could say they do their job. The main drawback is that they require experienced technicians to continue their use. This knowledge is not usually easy to transmit and – in many cases – these systems end up creating dust after the departure of a certain company employee.

At this point we can ask ourselves: Is there really nothing between expensive and bulky test benches, and the classical instrumentation of being at home?

ABI Electronics discovered this gap in the market in 2015. More than 30 years of experience in the design and production of advanced diagnostic tools focused on the development of the first 8-in-1 instrumentation system.

Before we go into detail, let’s look at the main advantages of using virtual tools controlled by an easy-to-use software platform, through USB connectivity.

  1. Allows standardization of test procedures while minimizing human errors. Manual and repetitive procedures are difficult to carry out throughout the entire production line without failure. Thanks to the possibility of storing configurations, measurements, results, references and tolerances, these setbacks can be eliminated. In addition, the data acquired will be consistent regardless of the operator. Quality meetings will no longer be about how to adopt uniform testing procedures to praise efficiency and productivity improvements.
  2. Saves time. In many cases the technician will have to perform repetitive measurements over a wide range of values. Virtual instrumentation together with TestFlow functionality (video link) allow you to automate these tasks, eliminating the need to check twenty times the instructions before setting up an instrument to take certain measurements without breaking anything.
  3. The creation of test benches is simplified. Instruments can be customized to solve common tasks. Without needing to know complex programming languages, the most used functionalities of the default tools already present in the Software can be easily combined to create new custom-made solutions. These designs can be retrieved, reused and shared with other team members present in the same factory or on the other side of the world.
  4. The results are stored in custom reports. At the end of each test procedure, the software allows you to generate reports in HTML, CSV or DataBase format. It can include a record of results, product codes, serial numbers, operator identification, time spent, etc.
  5. Intelligent procedures do not mean complicated. It is possible to combine several instruments for more complex testing with basic programming skills. For example, the signals from the function generator can be produced and, after measuring the voltage corresponding to the multimeter at a test point, the oscilloscope will begin to acquire the signal at a different point. All this can be hidden from the end user, who will simply have to follow the instructions on the computer screen and connect the color-coded probes to the relevant references. Thanks to the option of adding images, videos or documents associated with each process, the chances of incurring a failure or wasting time are minimal. Finally, a PASS/FAIL screen will be displayed according to the test results, compared to those previously stored.

If you think that this type of tool can add value to the company, you can learn more about its possibilities in the following video SYSTEM 8 MIS4 module. With a significantly lower price than the cost of purchasing all the classic instrumentation separately, MIS4 is sold in more than 60 countries thanks to a global network of distributors. The SYSTEM 8 Ultimate software along with the popular TestFlow Manager is included in the package and its use, maintenance and upgrades are free for life.

Source: Diego Gutierrez – Sales Ingineer at Abi Electronics