Pickering Interfaces' eBIRST FAQ : Page 2 of 2

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.
Q: How can eBIRST tools be made traceable and checked?

A: Functionality and accuracy of the eBIRST tools can be checked with the aid of an external calibration fixture that allows users to either connect two tools together or measure a set of fixed value precision resistors. The two tools are controlled to perform a cross-check of their functional performance and the precision resistors on the fixture allow the tool to check for measurement accuracy. The resistors in the fixture can be checked using a user supplied calibrated DMM to ensure traceability.

Q: What steps are necessary to run a test?

A: Connect the eBIRST tool to the switching system, via an adapter if required. The switching system can be PXI, PCI or LXI based; it makes no difference as long as it uses a connector supported by the eBIRST tools. Then simply run the supplied application program

Q: Does the user need to configure the tool for a different switching system to be tested?

A: For each switching system to be tested there is a Test Definition File that describes the tests to be performed and the limits to be applied. If the required Test Definition File is not present, a newer version of the eBIRST application program needs to be installed. Pickering Interfaces will continually expand the availability of Test Definition Files to cover all supported switching systems.

Q: How do I find out where faulty relays are physically located?

A: The eBIRST tools will quickly test the switching system, locate the faulty relay(s) and inform you what relays to replace via a graphical output. This output identifies the relays that need attention and where physically they are on the switching system.

There is no need to refer to manuals to use lengthy cross reference tables that convert a functional position (e.g. X-Y co-ordinates on a matrix) to relays designation (e.g. RL123), then try to find it on the PCB layout. Instead, the eBIRST tools show you a layout of the PCB and exactly where the defective relays are on that layout. The eBIRST tools make fault location easy in order to simplify the repair task.

Q: What if my switching system doesn’t look to be supported by eBIRST?

A: Contact Pickering to request it – If there are no technical reasons why we can’t support the system (a minority of our switching systems cannot be supported for various technical reasons), we will add a Test Definition File to the application program.

Q: What happens after a repair is carried out?

A: After carrying out repairs as required, reconnect the test tool and run the application program again to check that repairs were successful. Ideally try to find why the failure occurred (relay failures usually have an external cause). Then re-deploy the switching system. Provided repairs have been done correctly, our policy is that there is no impact on the 3-year warranty offered by Pickering Interfaces.

Q: Pickering has had the BIRST (Built-In Relay Self-Test) feature on its high-value matrices for years. So why use eBIRST tools and why are they better?

BIRST is a tool internal to our matrix switching modules. While it can test relay paths in the matrix and report errors, it is less accurate and only works internally. For example, it does not test for connector issues. The eBIRST tools, however, will test most of the other switching in your system. Finally, one set of eBIRST tools can support an entire test floor, keeping your support costs low. I would recommend any test department manager to review their test system support strategy and to consider using Pickering Interfaces switching and eBIRST as part of their plan to maximize test system uptime.

So – the main question should be: Why choose Pickering products supported by the eBIRST switching system tools?

Users buy switching systems to test products. When the switching system develops a fault, it causes downtime, consumes an engineer’s time to diagnose the fault and delays projects. So when problems occur—instead of figuring out how to identify and rectify the fault, get your eBIRST tool, connect it to the system and run the test.

The eBIRST tools will quickly test the switching system, locate the faulty relay and inform you what relays to replace. Downtime is considerably reduced, and the problems of misdiagnosed faults causing ineffective repairs to be carried out are minimized.

So along with Pickering’s diagnostic test tools, standard three-year warranty and long-term product support, no other switching system manufacturer offers this level of support for their products. Pickering and eBIRST should be considered as part of your test system support strategy.

About the author:

David Owen is Pickering Interfaces' Business Development Manager - www.pickeringtest.com

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