Devices operate ‘standalone,’ have enhanced displays

Cellular phones, laptops, and palm pilots, oh my. If Dorothy Gale's family had access to test and measurement equipment to detect that legendary tornado, "The Wizard of Oz" story line would have been significantly different. Dorothy was instructed to "Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City where you will find The Wizard.

By Antonia E. McBride, assistant editor September 1, 2000

Cellular phones, laptops, and palm pilots, oh my. If Dorothy Gale’s family had access to test and measurement equipment to detect that legendary tornado, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ story line would have been significantly different. Dorothy was instructed to ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City where you will find The Wizard.’ Instead, she might have flipped open her cellular phone and surfed the web to locate the next flight to Kansas.

Wireless technology has inundated society and allowed us the freedom and ease of mobility. That mobility, along with use of handheld, remote or portable equipment, has led to a change in people’s perceptions of working in the field.

Control Engineering polled 1,500 readers to determine, in part, what portable test and measurement equipment is used for applications. Two hundred ninety-two completed the survey for a response rate of 19%.

CE’s objectives were to determine the importance of selected features in the buying process and examine from which manufacturers the respondents have purchased portable test and measurement equipment in the past 12 months.

Leading types, applications

Of the respondents that use portable test and measurement equipment, 23% use it for continuous processing only, while 21% responded that discrete applications were the primary use.

The leading type of portable test and measurement equipment was handheld, both single purpose (72%) and multipurpose (72%) for measurement applications. While 33% of respondents use large portable test and measurement equipment. (See graph.)

Since portable equipment is feasible when working in the field, companies are striving to keep up with changing technology. For that reason, quality control has become a major focus in recent years. According to Lester Robinson, Data Physics Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) product marketing manager, there is a drive to increase the reliability of products in the field.

‘A good production test system, which enhances quality control, will result in improved profits,’ he added.

Reliability, durability, accuracy, repeatability, and ease of use were the leading characteristics in the purchase decision of portable test and measurement equipment.

Most notable attributes of the equipment include: dual displays, ability to use on-line or for portable operation, increased accuracy ranges, and ability to store frequently used test setups.

Besides the above, customers are increasingly requesting HART communication. ‘HART has been gaining speed in the last 10-20 years. The process calibrator/HART communication combination, is one tool that does the job of two in the field,’ says Rick Pirret, Fluke Corp. (Everett, Wa.) market manager, process tools group.

‘Fieldbus people will acknowledge the use of HART well into the future,’ he added.

Most measured variables reported by the respondents were: electrical parameters 78%, temperature 77%, pressure, 56%, and flow 41%. (See graph.)

What the future holds

According to Yiannis Pavlou, National Instruments (Austin, Tex.) data acquisition product manager, the ability to connect equipment without an outside source is increasingly being used in the field.

‘PCMCIA technologies open a new realm of possibilities for mobile applications through easy-to-connect external high performance data acquisition devices to laptop or palmtop computers,’ Mr. Pavlou says.

Dorothy did not know what was over the rainbow, but the future of portable test and measurement equipment is promising.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents purchased $908,150 in large portable test and measurement equipment in the last 12 months for an average of $15,932 per respondent.

While most respondents (42%) felt they would purchase about the same amount of handheld test and measurement equipment in the next 12 months, 17% felt their purchases would increase.

Test and measurement equipment products

For more information on test and measurement equipment, circle the following numbers, or visit . For a broader listing of test and measurement equipment manufacturers, go to the Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide at

Type of Portable Test and Measurement Equipment Used

Measurement Calibration Analytical
Totals exceed 100% because more than one reply was allowed.
Source: 2000 Control Engineering Portable Test & Measurement Study
Handheld (single-purpose) 72% 34% 16%
Handheld (multipurpose) 72% 35% 16%
Large portable 33% 17% 17%
No answer 5% 50% 66%

Modular, configurable life-cycle testing

Springfield, N.J. -Intepro 9000 Power Supply Testing System provides life-cycle test management for telecom, industrial, and military aerospace applications. The modular system addresses a range of test requirements including design verification, production test, fault-finding and repair, global data management, and application support. Configuration flexibility is achieved through industry standards and open architecture, including IEEE 488 and CANbus for high-speed command control across all modules. Future expansion is also facilitated.

Schaffner EMC Inc.

Analyzer designed for continuous operation

Pomona, Calif. -GPR-990 Series Breathing Air Analyzer can be used by fire fighting brigades, fire departments at chemical plants, refineries and government facilities to check the O 2 , CO, or CO 2 content of air cylinders and other breathing air supplies. GPR-990 can be used for both on-line and portable operation, as it only weighs 12 lb, and measures 8 x 9 x 4.5 in. On the front panel, 3

Advanced Instruments Inc.

Automatic temperature calibration system

Largo, Fla.- Jofra Automatic Calibration (ATC) System meets the need for cost-effective calibration of multiple sensors. The system consists of ATC-155, ATC-320, and ATC-650. All feature a highly specific, dry block heater said to be easy to use, portable, traceable, and ruggedly designed. The design of the heating block provides for optimum temperature calibration of sensors, regardless of sensor type or format. Jofra ATC Series calibrators can operate as stand-alone instruments using complex routines. Calibration can be executed automatically when the instrument is unattended. Routines can be customized in the Amecal temperature software, and data updated to software for post-processing and certificate printing.

Ametek Test & Calibration Instruments

Through-the-wall level measurement

Newton, Pa.- Sonometer-11, an ultrasonic measurement system, uses penetrating pulse technology for measurement of abrasive, corrosive, toxic or pressurized liquids, or liquefied gases for a wide variety of industrial applications. Sonometer-11 features 10 programmable channels (each with 99 functions) where 10 vessels/liquids can be preprogrammed to give the unit versatility and mobility to check various container levels. Handheld or lightly pressed to the outside of the tank, sidewall, or bottom of the vessel, Sonometer-11 uses pulsed hazard-free sound waves that penetrate through the wall of a tank or vessel up to 30 mm thick. Battery-powered Sonometer-11 has an RS-485 serial interface and provides a current output of 4-20 mA dc. Frequency of the measuring cycle is approximately 10 Hz, with a pulse frequency 0.5-1.0 MHz.

HiTech Technologies Inc.

Production line test system

San Jose, Calif. -SignalCalc-QC, a production line test system, measures product quality on electric motors, gearboxes, appliances, power tools, mechanical linkages, cast metal components, etc. On products with moving parts, SignalCalc-QC measures the frequency content of the sound and vibration output and makes a pass/fail decision using previously defined tolerance limits. Users can establish time, frequency, order, angle, and amplitude tolerance limits based on previous experience or employ the Intelligent Limits Module, which automatically generates limits through a self-training process. A link with Microsoft Excel provides for automated reported results.

Data Physics Corp.

Meters measure system harmonics

Atlanta, Ga. -9300 Series power meters measure power quality by detecting harmonics and disturbances that could interrupt a process or damage electrical power equipment. Equipped with features to automate sub-billing, the meters meet ANSI C12.16 revenue accuracy for effective monitoring and management of utility bills. A built-in Ethernet card allows the meters to plug into existing LANs. With user-friendly display screens that can be configured for customized applications, the meters can standalone or link to a PC, PLC, or SCADA system.

Siemens Energy & Automation

Self-contained energy measurement unit

Los Gatos, Calif. -InSite Power Recorder provides a range of power quality and energy measurements in a self-contained package designed for permanent installation and network communications. The four-voltage input/five current input device performs comprehensive measurement and recording of power quality and energy parameters-such as true rms voltage, rms current, rms sags/swells, frequency, transients to 130

Reliable Power Meters

PCMCIA cards expand data acquisition

Austin, Tex.- General purpose DAQCard-6062E is a 12-bit, 500 kS/sec, multifunction I/O card with analog output waveform capability. The DAQCard-6715 is an 8-channel analog output PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) card with the ability to generate waveforms and can be used to process control applications, vibration analysis, and audio testing. Both cards feature a newly designed shielded latching connector that keeps the cable firmly attached to the card. DAQCards include NI-DAQ driver software, a programming interface for use with numerous environments and languages with National Instruments PC-based data acquisition products.

National Instruments

Handheld calibrator with increased accuracy

Newtown, Conn.- Dresser Instrument’s Heise PTE-1 handheld calibrator is now available in 2 O to 0-10,000 psi. The PTE-1 can be used to measure temperature with either RTDs or thermocouples.

Dresser Instrument

Noncontact volt and current probe

Miami, Fla.- Advanced Test Products’ (formerly, Amprobe) Kwik-I-E noncontact volt and current probe measures ac voltages and ac amps without touching a bare conductor. It obtains an instantaneous reading by detecting electromagnetic and electrostatic fields. Kwik-I-E accommodates a range of wire sizes for accurate indications. Other specifications include a 10 light bargraph display, ac current levels of 0.6-60 amps, and ac voltage levels of 6-600 volts.

Advanced Test Products

Dual-display temperature calibrator

Everett, Wa.- Fluke 724 Temperature Calibrator offers ‘measure and source functions’ to test and calibrate almost any temperature instrument. Dual displays allow users to view input and output simultaneously. It measures RTDs, thermocouples, ohms, and volts for testing sensors and transmitters; sources/simulates thermocouples, RTDs, volts, and ohms to calibrate transmitters; performs fast linearity tests with 25% to 100% steps; executes remote tests with auto step and auto ramp; and stores frequently used test setups.

Fluke Corp.