In this session, John explains how Times Microwave Systems’® test cables are used in test and measurement applications, and how the company’s core products are suited for various uses. He also explains how higher frequency ranges and the rise of 5G are driving development of more advanced cabling products, with more robust features and higher levels of customization now possible. Finally, the session drills deeper into popular products like Clarity™, Silverline®, Silverline®-Extra Flex, and Silverline®-VNA and how they are being used in the testing world today.
Watch the video or read the session notes below.
Test leads are used in essentially every manufacturing space related to electronics, avionics, test equipment, semiconductors, and more.
RF testing requires unique coaxial cable and connector solutions. The cable assemblies must be durable enough to withstand extensive handling and continuous movement from frequent connecting and disconnecting, while maintaining precise repeatability of measurement and reliable electrical performance. It is critical that the cable, cable assembly and connector do not introduce any problems.
New technologies such as 5G have introduced more testing challenges. The increased speed of 5G is achieved in part by using higher-frequency radio waves. Unlike previous cellular technology generations that were focused on a specific frequency band, 5G operates across a much larger frequency range. For example, 5G can range from 450 MHz to 3.9 GHz, and up to 20-52.6 GHz millimeter-wave bands for high-speed operations. It also encompasses unlicensed frequency bands, such as the 6 GHz band.
Rapidly advancing technologies are also increasing the complexity of test setups, requiring more test leads and connection points than ever before. This makes it necessary to revisit how connection points and test leads are built as well as the different types of connectors available—while ensuring that the latest test assemblies work in concert with the changes made by test equipment manufacturers.
Another key aspect is related to the need to constantly move the cables around. Movement introduces phase change, which can impact measurement accuracy. Robust cabling is therefore critical to keep phase as stable as possible.
Additionally, when testing technologies such as 5G, the source and receiver might be running at two different frequencies at once. A phase-stable assembly will help ensure that harmonics are not introduced back into the system.
SilverLine test cables are cost-effective, durable, high-performance cable assemblies designed for use in a broad range of test and interconnect applications. The PTFE dielectric cable features stainless steel connectors and a molded strain relief system, providing long life and excellent phase stability in applications where the cables are repeatedly flexed and mated/unmated. Because Silverline tolerates a very wide temperature range – up to 125 degrees Celsius, it can also be used outside of a test bench.
SilverLine-ExtraFlex was designed for testing delicate components such as exposed RF circuits with edge launch connectors. It uses Times’ proprietary TF-4 dielectric, exhibiting a very linear phase change from 0ºC to +30ºC. It also uses the injection-molded strain relief system for extremely good isolation, and the same robust, proven connector attachment system as SilverLine.
Silverline-VNA cables are designed for the highest frequencies presently available, 70 GHz through 110 GHz. Their construction method is different than the others, as there is no unarmored option, to keep phase stability in check.
Times Microwave’s Clarity line includes highly stable RF cables with flex in a very robust package for accurate measurement. It features excellent phase stability, extremely low loss, an ergonomic molded boot and a large connector selection. Utilizing the flexible TF4® dielectric allows for accurate S parameter measurements and even when movement occurs in the production environment, the proven solutions cover a wide frequency range from 18 GHz to 50 GHz.
It is also important to use a very flexible cable material that can be moved around on a test bench, either in R&D or in a production environment. Testing often moves from module to module. With high frequencies, this could require recalibration every time a module or cable is moved. However, using a cable that can bend and flex will greatly reduce the amount of recalibration required while maintaining stability. Where Clarity really shines is its ability to connect and disconnect without having to do different calibrations in between.
Following are some of the questions that were asked by the audience:
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