Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Using the power supply status subsystem to improve your test throughput

Continuing on my throughput theme here, one recommendation is to take advantage of the power supply’s status subsystem. Some power supply operations take notably longer than most to complete than others. Two notable examples:
  • Initializing a triggered measurement
  • Initializing a triggered output transient or output list event

When developing programs you can include long, fixed wait statements to make certain these operations have completed before proceeding. However, this can easily add many tens of milliseconds or more of unnecessary waiting, increasing overall test time.  A better way is to take advantage of the DC power supply’s status subsystem features that eliminate unnecessary waiting for these operations.

Triggered measurement and output sourcing events can substantially speed up testing by providing actions tightly synchronized with other test activities. But they do have some up-front set up overhead time needed for initializing them. Instead of using a fixed programming delay following an initialization operation it is better to take advantage of the Operation Status Group register in the status subsystem, which is illustrated in Figure 1.



Figure 1: Agilent N6700 series DC power system operation status group

The “WTG meas” bit (#3) or “WTG trans bit (#4) in the condition register can be monitored with a loop in the test program to see when they turn true. At the moment the measurement or output sourcing event is initiated and ready for a trigger the test program will then proceed with its execution without incurring any unnecessary additional waiting. This saves a considerable amount of time as illustrated in Figure 2.



Figure 2: Operation-complete wait time distribution

Instead of waiting for the full worst-case each and every time, the wait is now just the actual time. When repeated over and over for all DUTs being tested, the net result is the average of the actual wait time, which in most cases is just a small fraction of the worst case time! The net result can be many tens of milliseconds test time savings, making an improvement in test throughput.

The first five hints of my compendium “10 Hints for Improving Throughput with your Power Supply” can be viewed here: (click here to access).  For those reading our “Watt’s Up?” blog here are getting the opportunity to preview one of the remaining 5 hints yet to be released!

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