Learn What An Oscilloscope Is, How To Choose The Correct One, & Properly Take Care Of It
Oscilloscopes test, measure and display voltage signals. Signals are plotted on a graph to demonstrate how the signal changes over time. Oscilloscopes provide reliable results over an extensive period of time and are used in a variety of industries ranging from healthcare to automotive.
Health care workers use oscilloscopes to monitor a patient’s heartbeat and to observe brain waves. Physicists and other research scientists use oscilloscopes to track tiny particles and to analyze the impact of various signals such as mobile or television. Engineers and electronic technicians use them the most out of any occupation. Electronic and electrical engineers rely on them for designing electrical equipment. Sound engineers use oscilloscopes to observe vibrations in engines and computer design engineers use them to determine processor speed and frequency. Even automobiles advance to incorporate more electronic equipment each year and need oscilloscopes to troubleshoot automotive issues.
There are many oscilloscopes to choose from. To choose the best option for the application, consider the bandwidth, input channels, sample rate, record length, vertical resolution, and other various features. The bandwidth needs to capture all frequency components of the signal. A good rule of thumb is the bandwidth should be greater than 5x the highest signal frequency. More input channels increase awareness around what’s going on in the design. Mixed signal oscilloscopes offer both digital and analog channels to increase visibility. The faster the sample rate, the greater the wavelength resolution. This helps ensure critical information isn’t lost. It is recommended that the sample rate is greater than 5x the highest frequency component to capture all signal details. Record length is the number of samples stored in a single acquisition. Due to storing a limited number of samples, the waveform duration is inversely proportional to the sample rate. A longer record length allows for a longer duration to be captured at high resolution. Vertical resolution is greatly important when converting a signal from analog to digital. Higher bit converters capture and measure more detail. Taking into consideration the different features of an oscilloscope compared to what needs to be measured should lead to the right choice.
Due to the extreme sensitivity of an oscilloscope and the importance of reliable results, professional calibration services are imperative to the quality of the equipment. When purchasing an oscilloscope, most of the time it comes calibrated and ready to use. After about a year it is time to have it professionally calibrated. This assures the user, the measurements recorded are accurate and within specification limits. Equipment may need to be tested regularly to be in compliance with specific standards. An oscilloscope that is out of tolerance will result in false information when a product is measured. Your oscilloscope may need to be calibrated more or less than a year. Calibration intervals should take into account the accuracy of the instrument, the impact an out of tolerance oscilloscope would have on the process and the instruments performance history. Analyzing the calibration reports should give insight into this information.
Grand Rapids Metrology would be happy to help you determine which oscilloscope best meets your application, and we’ll care for it every year after your purchase. We work with the purpose to uphold quality standards and want to ensure your measurements are accurate.