No precision without feedback

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD



Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD

One of the most accurate ways to evaluate the level of advancement in a given technology is to simply measure its level of precision. This is a fair guide, as precision in tooling enables better physical performance and precision in electronic systems brings enhanced software and system operational capability. Simply put, the more precisely a device is made the better it works, by definition.

This yardstick works in both directions. You can only measure what you have the capability to see. It is very difficult to evaluate your competitor as long as the precision in their manufacturing processes exceed the capability your measurement tech. There are many companies that enjoy comfortable margins in their industries because they have made the effort to make their processes as efficient and precise as possible with the state of the art available.

Precision is also a significant enabler of system efficiency. Waste motion, loose connections, and poor fit & finish rob mechanical systems of power, and the same goes for inefficient electronic systems. How can you get more life out of your smartphone battery if there is any slop in the circuit? An imprecise device not only functions poorly, it wastes energy. Therefore precise design is also efficient design.

In order to achieve precision, you need accurate feedback. What use is it to measure something if your ruler’s lines aren’t accurately spaced? You cannot know any aspect of anything without an external trusted reference to compare that aspect to. You can have the sharpest knife in the world and it is useless to you if you do not know where to cut.

The pressures on the electronic industry to make better, smaller, and more efficient devices directly impacts the test & measurement (T&M) industry, as none of the things that are needed to create advanced devices cannot be done without accurate power supplies, references, and scopes, as well as other test devices, efficient cables and probes, and good development processes.

If you are going into a product design without testing before, during, and after every step in the process, and using production-line test to ensure that your products continue to maintain the level of precision created during the design, your efforts will not be effective and your products will not perform as well in the field as those that were made with highly-precise systems and processes.

Today’s T&M devices are more advanced than ever before, enabling faster, more frequent, and more accurate measurements than ever before, enabling design engineers to stay ahead of the constantly-rising expectations of their customers. It is important to note, however, that simply having a great tool is not enough. One must also have good software to maximize the capabilities and functionalities of these powerful new tools, as well as efficient and precise processes that will ensure that the tools are used to their greatest possible extent.