The Expanding Role of Test & Measurement in the Mil/Aero Arena – reducing the mission risk
MJ: What is the overall business outlook for the high performance RF and Microwave Test and Measurement industry from your perspective?
LP: Overall our business outlook is strong. We remain the number one provider of oscilloscopes, arbitrary waveform generators, and are making significant gains in our spectrum analyzers. With respect to RF and microwave instruments, the need for communications is ever increasing in all areas of life, whether they be civilian, government or military. This drives the need for higher bandwidth wireless systems that are more agile and cognizant of their environment. Our products are specifically architected to meet the needs of test for these fast, smart, agile applications and the components and systems being designed and manufactured.
MJ: What growth markets in RF and Microwave test equipment are you concentrating on for the next year?
LP: Perhaps the most significant growth area for us is in very wideband applications, those approaching information bandwidths in the GHz range and beyond. This includes advances in imaging radar technologies, electronic warfare, optics, and ultra-wideband communications. Our RF and Microwave products have been designed to have distinct advantages for extension to these underserved applications. Over time, look for a wide range of products from Tektronix that will set the standard in Wideband RF and Microwave test and measurement.
MJ: What core strengths does Tektronix bring to RF and Microwave test equipment?
LP: Many of our unique capabilities for our RF and Microwave instruments come from a combination of years of experience in high frequency communication signals and our deep time domain knowledge from our oscilloscope and logic analyzer products. The result has been a burst of innovative products and new ways to look at complex and rapidly changing signals.
Having many years of deep technical experience in RF and Microwave module design and manufacturing has given us a significant advantage for front-end signal conditioning. Our custom ASIC design center and key partnerships provide advanced technology to deliver the best application-driven critical specifications in the industry. We are in a unique position in the Test and Measurement industry in that we can license our core technologies back to our customers for their operational needs. Tektronix Component Solutions serves this business need to many of our same test equipment customers.
Many of theTektronix Component Solutions customers are in the Defense Electronics industry. As a valued supplier to this industry, you’re only as good as what you’re working on next. With our accreditation as a Trusted Supplier and validation as a “Ready for IBM Technology - Foundry” partner, our key customers are turning to Tektronix to reduce development risk, speed time-to-market, and lower their development costs with new advanced designs.
Many of these technology advances also pave the way for advances that we can fold back into our instruments, so that when our customer are ready to deploy these technologies in their end-products, Tektronix will have the instruments with the performance needed to test these new technologies.
MJ: What are the most challenging aspects of the investment in RF and Microwave instruments?
LP: Tektronix has had an excellent reputation for identifying strategically important applications for our customers, and then developing and executing on new product plans. Of course, with our unique RF and Microwave architectures, and with the metrology demands of test and measurement equipment, perhaps the most challenging aspect is finding top talent. We seek out the best technicians, engineers and managers in RF and Microwave instrument and module design and manufacturing.
We have unique challenges with the technology we employ to allow our customers to capture fast transient signals traditional instruments will miss. For example:
- Digitally enhanced analog: We use vector calibration and alignment, DSP processes to enhance the analog performance of the instrument.
- Real time: We do the above in real time, as well as process the signal in real time to deliver our DPX® Live RF spectrum display, our new real time Signal Analysis displays, and many unique triggering capabilities.
- Image-free broadband front ends: Unlike traditional instruments, we specify RF and Microwave performance across the entire bandwidth of the instrument.
Finally, we are determined to serve the critical needs of our customers faster than our competitors. This means creating a strong offering by growing both organically and as appropriately, inorganically. Finding those key partnerships and acquisitions with the right synergistic match to our strategy is a difficult task. And of course, with every acquisition come the challenges in integration.
MJ: Can you highlight some of the key partnerships and solutions that were put together over the last year in the area of RF?
LP: We use have developed several partnerships over the last couple years to help us serve our customers’ test needs.
SenarioTek (www.senariotek.com) – is a system integration partner that has helped us fill an important gap in offering our customers a total solution. In additional to being able to provide turn-key systems solutions, with SenarioTek, we have jointly developed a customizable up/down converter system platform designed specifically for with our Arbitrary Waveform Generators and performance Oscilloscopes. This is a banded solutionthat addresses wideband microwave frequency testing today at the frequencies our customers are doing their development. Complete solution actually can increase the performance at a lower cost compared to direct generation and analysis with alternative solutions.
Mesuro Ltd (www.mesuro.com) – has pioneered the area of Open-Loop Active Harmonic Load Pull to improve the performance and efficiency of amplifier device technologies. This solution has been demonstrated to have a 100% success rate to boost the power and efficiency of designs using this measurement technology vs. the traditional passive technology. World record performance has been demonstrated for different device technologies using these systems and measurement services.
X-Com Systems (www.xcomsystems.com) – has specialized in capture / playback systems using our real time spectrum analyzers. With our wideband high performance spectrum analyzers, we have been giving customersaccess to the real time data for many years. Over time, as the data rates and bandwidths have increase, the ability to capture minutes to hours of data at up to 4.8 Gbps has become a challenge for our customers. X-Com has been able to keep up with a solution that marries with our spectrum analyzers, including event markers for our real time triggering.
MJ: What’s new the area of signal generators and RF waveform capturing/recording?
LP: The need for signal generation has moved from analog to digital and from continuous signals to pulses, bursts and packets. Radar signals have evolved from simple pulsed RF to complex modulation, requiring arbitrary waveform techniques for baseband up-conversion to microwave frequencies. The modulation BW requirements are also increasing to address UWB communications, radar imaging, and low probability of intercept (LPI) radars.
Work in electronic countermeasures for the detection and mitigation of improvised explosive devices (IED) has created a need for receivers and playback systems where a complex signal is received, its complex modulation is digitized and analyzed. The results of the analysis are then used to create a modified modulation signal which is then played back through a signal generator capable of arbitrary waveform baseband modulation. Capture and playback systems are used extensively in the development and refinement of electronic RF countermeasure technologies and platform interoperability testing.
MJ: How are you focusing on service of your products?
LP: 2010 was an exciting year for Tektronix on the acquisition front. Last year we completed four acquisitions, all of which have been complementary to our business and have expanded our offerings to customers. We acquired Sypris Test & Measurement and Davis Calibration, just to name two. Both are leaders in the service segment, which have now come together with Tektronix to create our industry-leading Service Solutions Organization.
With these two acquisitions, we ultimately serve our customers better with a more comprehensive service portfolio of offerings. Offerings such as multiple vendor service support, to help our customers through the entire product life cycle -- a key strategic initiative for Tektronix.
Tektronix Service Solutions brings a strong global footprint of locations to provide rapid turn-around to customers across a wide range of parameters through on-site, mobile, or service offerings to current and future Tektronix customers.
In addition last year, we launched new Gold Care Plans designed to give customers a worry-free ownership experience across mid-range and high-performance test instruments such as oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers. An enhancement to Tektronix’ current support offerings, Gold Care Plans deliver such benefits as equivalent loaner products, scheduled factory-certified calibration, and priority access to technical support resources.
Our ultimate goal is to be able to offer our customers globally the highest level of support to help them focus on their core competencies.
MJ: What are your plans for major new product introductions this year (that you can disclose)?
LP: In January, we introduced a new series of mid-range Real-Time Signal Analyzers that double the available bandwidth in the mid-range category. It also marked the delivery of our 3rd generation of DPX technology for spectrum analyzers since we pioneered this for the industry back in 2006.
Last month, we announced an Option to our AWG7000C series Arbitrary Waveform Generators that increase the bandwidth on our two channel instruments with a substantial cost savings for our customers.
While we can’t talk about specific future products, we do plan to continue to offer wideband solutions, advances to our leadership with existing real time solutions, and price and performance improvements that meet our customer’s needs.
MJ: What challenges do you see ahead over the next couple of years for your industry?
LP: The need to meet the needs of users who demand higher bandwidth communications in any location pushes our customers, no matter whether they are commercial, government or military. This drives our direct customers to need test solutions that can create and capture wideband and rapidly changing signals. At the same time, development times have shortened, and development investment must be constrained. This means that test equipment purchased must be both cost-effective and able to minimize development times.