Creating a New RF Vector Analyzer: A Conversation with the Designers
RF vector analyzers perform a wide variety of essential RF engineering measurements. They are essential to antenna tuning, component characterization, plasma chamber tuning, impedance matching, cable fault location, and a host of other applications. Test engineers look for portability, ease of calibration, and high accuracy, while getting the most for tight budget dollars. These are real challenges for the instrument design team.
Stepping up to these requirements, the much anticipated new TE3000 vector impedance analyzer and TE3001 one-port vector network analyzer have been released, and are now available in North and South America from LBA Technology, Inc. The TE3000 series of portable field and desktop analysers is the result of manufacturer Trewmac Systems Pty Ltd working several years to improve upon the highly successful TE1000.
The Australian manufacturer’s principles, Dee Trewartha and Josh McIntyre, recently visited LBA to talk about and demonstrate the features of the TE3000 and TE3001 RF vector analyzers. LBA’s Dave Horn talked with Dee and Josh about their design philosophy, and the added features and problem solving capabilities these new units bring to the engineering toolbox.
What process did you use in trying to determine what you wanted the TE3000 Series to be and do?
Dee: There was feedback from numerous distributors and customers. For example, the lowering of the frequency range came from a particular customer, but we had also had other customers in the past who were interested in doing things at those lower ranges, and we’re looking at making it even lower. Apparently lower frequency is quite an empty sort of place for impedance analyzers.
Josh: I suppose we’re responding to a lot of customer feedback, because we’ve been producing these original TE1000 units now for about 7 years and over that time you get to talk to customers and they say, gee it would be great if it did this, or great if it did that and so we’ve kept a log of all of those requests and I think we’ve met almost every one of them. That’s why we’re excited about the new series, because we anticipate that they will be very popular.
What are some of the key points that you’re trying to communicate about this new product?
Josh: Our first mission was to improve the old product so we’ve increased the frequency range both in the upper and lower range, so it goes lower than the original TE1000 RF impedance analyzer and higher. The resolution is now just 1 hertz over that complete range which is a significant improvement. Now people can search in a very fine frequency resolution for resonate points, for example, which was never possible before.
What about software improvements?
Josh: We’ve got basically a much more modern piece of software that integrates with more modern computers. It has a lot of functionality such as being able to produce graphs with multiple traces, plot one trace as a difference from another, put X and Y markers so that you can easily identify bandwidth information. You can display the darter and the graphs in one of 25 formats now. I think originally the software had 7 or 8, so we’ve increased that choice of 8 to a choice of 25 which is going to suit a whole lot more people for their particular need.
Of course, as in the TE1000, there is also a robust native display in the instrument for the user’s convenience in reading essential data points without tethering to an outboard device.
What other software feature do you feel is just a neat thing that must be mentioned?
Dee: A lot of people previously couldn’t use the TE1000 because they were Mac operators.
Josh: So, the new software is written in Java and is portable to Linux or Mac machines or PCs.
We understand there are some exciting new utilities available as well?
Josh: There are several new utilities which allow the unit to be used as a scanning spectrum analyzer. This was never possible before. It means that you can essentially take a spectral analysis of your environment and see, if I’m connected to an antenna, what interference signals are coming from the outside world onto that antenna. It’s a secondary function of the unit because its primary function is to measure the tuning of the antenna itself. But, as anyone who goes out into the field knows, if you’ve got secondary interference on that antenna and you’re trying to take a measurement, your measurements can be all wrong, so this kind of gives you a view of what the environment is like before you take your measurements. So, you know, okay, at 21 MHz I can’t trust my readings because there’s a lot of interference there. Previous to this, you were in the dark. You were blind. You really didn’t know what the environment was.
Can you talk about some of the other technical features of the TE3000 and TE3001?
Josh: I’d have to mention one more feature which I think stands apart from its predecessor; it’s the distance to fault function, which is another utility on the software. The distance to fault function lets you view the time domain reflectometry (TDR). Essentially, it lets you view an impulse traveling down a cable and lets you view the reflection in real time, so you can see a graph of what it would look like if you put an impulse down a cable and looked at the reflection coming back. Essentially what that does is allow you to connect to a cable which might be underground, scan that cable get the report that there is a fault, say 53 meters down that cable, and that, as you can imagine, could save 53 meters of digging up cable. You just have to go measure that far and then you can dig the hole there and find the fault.
Dee: Also, in a cable, the fault might be invisible, so you might dig your way down there and not know where it is anyway.
Josh: But if you can electrically measure the distance, that’s a tremendous function.
Customers always want to know about the support behind the product. Can you talk a little bit about this?
Dee: That’s another function that distributors like LBA provide great warranty and service backup, so for people here in America they can come to LBA and get their unit serviced and warrantied. We also offer service and warranty from our end, so we get quite a few units coming back to us for re-calibration or whatever over the years, a bit of maintenance. We’re quite available for people.
Josh: We have worked to bring all of our service centers up to speed. Both to be able to service the old TE1000 units and showing them how to service the new TE3000 units, so customer who have a TE1000 or 3000 have the option of sending their unit, if they need to, to a regional service center or they can send it directly back to us. Or, if the problem is too challenging for the regional service center, that center, such as LBA, can then send it back to us for repair.
LBA Technology enjoyed spending time with Ms. Trewartha and Mr. McIntyre and LBA is proud to be the exclusive distributor of the TE3000 vector impedance analyzer and TE3001 one-port vector network analyzer in North and South America. For more information, contact LBA’s Byron Johnson at 252-757-0279 or email@example.com. Get complete information on the TE3000, TE3001 and LBA’s wide variety of other RF line and antenna test sets at: https://www.lbagroup.com/products/test-equpiment.