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A Guide to Switch Considerations - Introduction

Published: 20th May 2021

Many electronic test systems use relay switching to connect multiple devices to sources and measurement instruments. In some cases, multiple sources and measuring instruments are connected to a single device. Switching allows automating the testing of multiple devices, thereby reducing error and costs.

Designing the switching for an automated test system demands an understanding of the signals to be switched and the tests to be performed. Test requirements can change frequently, so automated test systems must provide the flexibility needed to handle a variety of signals. Even simple test systems often have diverse and conflicting switching requirements. Given the versatility that test systems must offer, designing the switching function may be one of the most complex and challenging parts of the overall system design.

As a signal travels from its source to its destination, it may encounter various forms of interference or sources of error. Each time the signal passes through a connecting cable or switch point, the signal may be degraded. When calculating the overall system accuracy, the engineer must include not only the effects of the switch itself but all the switching hardware in the system.

The quality of a switch system depends in large part on its ability to preserve the characteristics of the test signals routed through it. For example, when the test signal is a low voltage, the switching system must minimize errors such as offset voltage and IR drops. Leakage current may be a problem for high resistance and low current switching applications. Depending on the type of test signal involved, specific switching techniques must be used to maintain signal integrity through the switch system. This blog series will describe switching techniques for a variety of test signals.

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Content produced by Keithley, A Tektronix Company: Test and Measurement Equipment | Tektronix


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Up to 32 Channels, Mainframe Size: Full rack, 2U

The Keithley S46 RF Microwave Switch Systems are designed to simplify automated switching.

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