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MODULAR TEST SPECIAL REPORT


LXI and PXI To take advantage of the large variety of PXI and PXIe instruments, VTI Instru- ments has developed the CMX34 inte- grated 8U LXI/PXIe chassis, the same size as a 13-slot VXI chassis. Because of the similarities of the company’s LXI switches and PXIe instruments to earlier VXI-based SMIP and VMIP designs, respectively, customers have an easy upgrade path from their existing VXI systems to an LXI/PXIe system. Geotest-Marvin Test Systems is one of the few companies actively developing 6U PXI modules. As with VXI, the larger form factor supports greater functional density. Mike Dewey, senior product marketing manager at the company, commented, “With the introduction of our GX5960 digital subsystem, in combination with software translation tools, we have been able to successfully offer a replacement for high-end VXI digital subsystems.” In a 2011 Autotestcon paper, Dewey and Jim Ginn, systems engineer at Astronics DME, described the development of a mul- tiformat test system intended to highlight a more compact footprint, SI, improved


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digital performance, lower power, higher speed, and use of standard communications bus protocols: ”A prototype system, the common off-the-shelf benchtop rapidly deployed advanced/tester (COBRA/T) has been developed... to demonstrate how the current VIPER/T and TETS platforms can be downsized while retaining and even expanding the current capabilities. The system emulates the current VIPER/T functionality and employs cPCI, PXI, PXIe, and LXI instrument standards.”4 The COBRA/T is about 50% smaller and lighter in weight than the VIPER/T. Further, it consumes about 50% less power at idle and has a signifi cantly lower cost. Separately, Geotest-Marvin Test Systems has developed the PXI-based GBATS ATS (Figure 3) with similar capabilities to VDATS and RT-CASS.


TPS Migration


TPS issues so often drive ATS pro- visioning decisions that it is natural to question whether it is ever cost-effective to throw away the old TPS and start over. Indeed, NI’s McDonell cited a few cases. In his experience, it made sense “when


consolidating test of LRUs from mul- tiple unique testers to a common tester or when the tester being replaced does not have a hardware abstraction layer (HAL). In this case, the redevelopment should include a HAL so future rede- velopment is minimized when handling obsolescence events, upgrades, and the next generation of rehost.”


McDonell also observed that creating JFW Industries


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new TPS seems to have been justifi ed for the CBATS testers based on results of studies showing their effectiveness. Compared to UUTs tested on the earlier- generation testers, CBATS-tested UUTs remained in the field longer. CBATS automated what previously were manual tests, so that alone could account for the UUT performance improvement. In general, however, TPS migration to a new ATS is required. For example, Bill Ross, then deputy program manager for NAVAIR’s Support Systems Group (PMA260), in 2008 said that about 1,300 of the currently active 3,000 TPS running on CASS will need to be transferred to eCASS. In the same article where Ross was quoted, the CASS systems are credit- ed with saving $3.8bn by consolidating 30 different test systems. Moving to eCASS must retain that advantage and build on the $2bn already invested in CASS.5 Geotest’s Dewey said, “We have de- veloped several tools for TPS migra- tion, specifically for digital test vector translation. We also have developed tools for translating digital test vectors from legacy VXI digital subsystems using XML as a common intermediate translation interface.” ZTEC’s Ziomec explained that in some cases additional capabilities are required for newer military assets, such as more bandwidth or dynamic range. Providing the new capability is relatively straightforward with new instruments because there are no legacy compat- ibility issues.


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Mike Rutledge, director of advanced programs at EADS North America Test and Services, commented on the benefi ts typically associated with system up- grades and the effect on TPS. “The new system reduced down time, maintenance costs, and obsolescence headaches. Gen- erally, but not always, the new system improved throughput. Measurement confl icts are resolved by the automated allocation process inherent in our tool suite. It is cost-effective to obtain better


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