Pickering Interfaces' eBIRST FAQ

July 09, 2015 //By David Owen
Pickering Interfaces' eBIRST FAQ
Switching systems are an important part of many test systems; they allow test resources to access the key parts of the unit under test (UUT), share instrumentation resources, and create a test environment that is accurate and repeatable.

However, the switching system is in a vulnerable place, and accidents may happen during development or when a connection is made to a faulty device. When those accidents happen you need a way to get the system up and running again with the minimum of effort and operator skills – because until the switching system is repaired the test system cannot be used. That is where the new eBIRST switching system test tools from Pickering Interfaces come in.

The eBIRST tools provide a means of quickly determining if your switching system has faults, identifies where that fault is located at relay level and allows you to take fast corrective action. This in turn saves on repair costs and minimizes downtime of your switching system. No other switching system manufacturer offers this level of support for their products.

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about the eBIRST tools.

Q: What exactly do the eBIRST tools do and what are the benefits?

A: The eBIRST tools provide a means of quickly determining if a switching system has faults, identifies where that fault is located at relay level and allows the user to take fast corrective action. The tools greatly lower MTTR (Meant Time To Repair), saving users repair costs by allowing for fast local repair rather than return to factory, while allowing development to proceed or to minimize the downtime of manufacturing systems.

Q: What kind of switching systems do the eBIRST tools support?

A: The eBIRST tools support any of Pickering Interfaces PXI, PCI or LXI (Ethernet) controlled switching systems that have consistent path resistance at low signal levels. Through the use of three tools based on 200-way LFH, 78-way D-type and 50-way D-type connectors and a set of adaptors, a wide range of switching systems can be covered. These typically include all the highest density and complexity switching systems based on reed relays, low and medium power (typically 2A or less) EMR's and low frequency solid state relays.

Q: How do the eBIRST tools work?

A: They work by measuring the path resistance at the switching system's connectors using four-wire tool measurements. This measurement quickly establishes if the path is good, has increased resistance or has failed.

Q: What is needed to make use of the eBIRST tools?

A: The eBIRST tools are self-contained; all you will need is a USB2 port on a PC running Windows and the supplied application program to control them. The USB control port provides power for the tools. Adaptors used with the eBIRST tools are recognized and checked to make sure they are compatible with the switching system to be tested. The program uses a Test Definition File created for each switching system that defines how to test the system. Test Definition Files and the application program can be downloaded from the Pickering Interfaces website (pickeringtest.com/ebirst) free of charge to update the application program.

For some switching systems, there may be inputs on one connector and outputs on another, requiring a through path measurement between the two connectors to be carried out using two eBIRST tools. In order to make this connection, we offer a Master/Slave Cable that connects to the rear of the two tools allowing them to work together. The application program controls both tools to make a measurement between the two connectors; the connectors do not have to be the same type if the switching system requires them to be different. The Master/Slave Cable connection is generic across all of the tools.

Q: What can be tested with the eBIRST tools?

A: Almost any switching system that has a consistent path resistance at a current of 30mA or less, the test current used by the eBIRST tool. This includes RF switching systems that are DC coupled and use SMB connectors. The eBIRST tools do not cover switching systems based on high current relays as they are potentially subject to minimum switching capacity issues that can result in unpredictable path resistance and, therefore, false failure reports. The 30mA test current is considerably higher than that used in DMM based testing.

Q: Can eBIRST tools test other switching systems?

A: Pickering Interfaces eBIRST tools are designed to support the Pickering Interfaces family of switching systems only. At this time, there are no plans to broaden this scope.

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