Original Date: 07/10/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Automatic Test Equipment
In an effort to remove all obsolete automatic test equipment systems, Tobyhanna Army Depot designed customized automatic test equipment system replacements that have improved maintainability, reliability, and performance, and significantly reduced costs.
Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) has been a Department of Defense leader in the use of automatic test equipment (ATE) as a tool for functionally testing and diagnosing electrical/electronics failures since the 1960s. For nearly four decades, TYAD engineers and technicians have authored hundreds of test program sets (TPS) to support the repair of various weapon systems. Among the primary ATE used at TYAD are Army standard testers such as the AN/USM-410, the AN/USM-465, and the AN/GSM-340 as well as other application-specific test systems.
Many of the older ATE systems contained equipment that became obsolete, creating reliability, supportability and availability issues. The lack of available equipment spares and the cost of third-party service contracts led to high system maintenance costs, unacceptable downtimes, and adversely impacted production schedules. These frequently occurring problems forced TYAD to seek more cost-effective and maintainable solutions for the replacement of older ATE systems.
In an effort to transition test programs to modern platforms, TYAD designed customized ATE employing today’s hardware and software technologies. These newly designed PXI/VXI/GPIB-based ATE systems are built using commercial-off-the-shelf test equipment and are controlled by personal computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Rehosted test programs are rewritten using innovative software products from National Instruments, such as the LabView graphical programming language and TestStand test executive. TYAD engineers leverage off these commercial software products to create customized programming environments that promote rapid development of test programs. These customizations also serve to eliminate the possibility of future equipment obsolescence problems. Interface hardware for these systems is rapidly produced by third-party companies using documentation packages provided by TYAD. These systems have allowed TYAD to transition test programs in short time frames and at a justifiable cost.
The new VXI-based TYAD Radio Frequency (RF) Test Platform is one example of TYAD’s initiative to eliminate obsolete ATE systems and minimize the quantity of ATE. The RF Test Platform (Figure 2-1) is configured as a general purpose RF test station that replaces both an aging HP9580 test system (Figure 2-2) and the TPQ-36/37 Fire Finder test system.
TYAD also employs the Agilent 3070 in-circuit test system as a low-cost alterative for diagnostic testing. The use of third-party interface companies, an extensive library of components with test vectors included, and efficient debugging and validation tools significantly reduce the labor required to produce diagnostic test programs. The diagnostic portion of many programs rehosted to customized ATE is often accomplished using the Agilent 3070 test system.
These approaches enable TYAD to accomplish its extensive ATE requirements for functional and diagnostic testing, while providing in-house support with greater ease, increased test accuracy, and improved execution times.
Figure 2-1. HP9580 RF Test Platform
Figure 2-2. TYAD RF Test Platform
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