Recently, Signal Integrity Journal connected with Martin Stumpf, market segment director for Electronics and Component Testing at Rohde & Schwarz, to talk about current test and measurement trends and challenges facing the industry. Stumpf joined Rohde & Schwarz in 1990 and has worked in research & development, project management, product management, regional support and business development. He holds an EE degree from Technical University of Munich. Below is a summary of our conversation (edited slightly for length).
SIJ: It seems you are working on growing your PI test portfolio, what is your long range plan/commitment in SI/PI related product development?
Martin Stumpf: Indeed we are. Signal integrity and power integrity are two fundamental challenges in electronics and they are becoming even more important. On the one hand, this is strongly driven by the growing demand for bandwidth and data rates (e.g. in wireless and high-speed digital designs) and by stringent power requirements. On the other hand, applications like radar, where signal and power integrity were already important in the past, are now spreading from pure aerospace & defense into automotive and other applications.
Since SI and PI address RF and time domain measurements as well as EMI aspects, we believe Rohde & Schwarz provides the needed expertise and portfolio to address these challenges. Let me give you a recent example where we turned customer feedback into a PI product. Measuring ripple, noise, and coupled signals on ever-smaller power rails with smaller tolerances is a challenge for traditional oscilloscopes. Oscilloscope and probe noise can exceed the small disturbances that are being measured. The bandwidth also needs to be high enough to identify unwanted wireless signals coupled onto the rail. To meet these challenges, in the last year we introduced a low-noise 4 GHz power rail probe that works with a variety of our oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers.
SIJ: What are the most common SI/PI applications questions that you are hearing from your customers?
MS: Circuit designers who measure signal integrity in digital designs typically look into eye diagrams and jitter analysis. For efficient debugging, they also want to see, catch, and trace intermittent signals. For analog designs, key parameters are phase noise and noise figure. Due to the high level of integration, crosstalk is becoming more critical and engineers need tools to identify the corresponding signals and coupling paths. Distinguishing signals through their different statistical probabilities in the frequency domain often helps. For system margin tests, quasi-ideal signal sources (e.g. substituting a real-world clock) are being used to first verify the optimum system performance and then to also verify the effect of defined impairments like skew, jitter, etc. Designers of PCBs want to analyze impedance, insertion loss and skew of the high-speed signal paths and measure the discontinuities, caused by connectors, vias, etc. Customers who design power distribution networks (PDN) want to measure the level of disturbances on the power rails and verify the impedance and stability of their PDN network.
SIJ: Within the competitive landscape of the industry, what are the greatest challenges your company faces technically?
MS: To continuously offer best-in-class solutions, certain key components need to be developed in-house. For example, when developing our new high-performance oscilloscope R&S RTP (see Figure), special ASICs were developed for optimum frontend, A/D converter, acquisition and processing performance (). This requires a long-term investment and also represents a strong technical challenge. Rohde & Schwarz has therefore installed a dedicated department for forward-looking development of ASICs and other key components.
SIJ: What about challenges from a business perspective? E.g. international trade challenges, finding and keeping talent, reaching customers through new media? etc.
MS: We offer industry-leading solutions and certainly want to make our customers aware of that. In our traditional fields like wireless communications, RF & microwave as well as EMC, Rohde & Schwarz is very well known. Our key challenge is to achieve a similar level of awareness in other areas where we can offer competitive solutions but might not be seen as the traditional supplier. To reach out to our customers, we use traditional communications channels as well as social media. Rohde & Schwarz offers a wide range of webinars, application videos, white papers, application documents and technical articles as well as seminars and trainings. We are active in standardization bodies, industry organizations, conferences and trade fairs and cooperate with leading customers, universities and other industry experts all over the world. We can leverage our complete solution portfolio in RF, time domain and EMI and have a strong local presence around the world.
SIJ: Can you talk a bit about your company structure? How do the different business units or teams interact in the product development/launch process? How much crossover is there between your analog and digital teams?
MS: Rohde & Schwarz has approximately 10,500 employees and an extensive sales and service network in more than 70 countries. It is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and has development locations around the world. The company has a strong customer- and solution-centric approach and is organized in product groups and market segments. The management structure and the close proximity of the organizations ensure a high level of synergy between product groups and market segments, R&D and production as well as between analog and digital teams.
SIJ: How do you foster innovation?
MS: Being a private and independent company, Rohde & Schwarz is not driven by the stock market, but can plan and act long-term and focus on customers’ needs. We aim for best-in-class performance, speed, functionality and usability, and build up and hold key expertise in-house – for R&D as well as production. These core values are the basis for a high level of innovation in traditional as well as in new business fields. Our R&S QPS quick personnel security scanners are a recent innovation example, translating our expertise in RF & microwave test & measurement into a new line of industry-leading microwave imaging solutions.
SIJ: Tell us about one of your latest products for SI/PI test, how did it come about?
MS: Here, we also leveraged our expertise in RF, time domain and EMI as well as the inputs from our customers. With the increasing complexity in electronic circuit design, we see a growing need for efficient board and system level R&D and debugging – ideally with multiple measurement domains integrated in one instrument. This was the design goal for our new high-performance oscilloscope R&S RTP featuring a high-performance frontend for high-class signal integrity, hardware-accelerated data processing for an industry-leading acquisition rate with real-time de-embedding and a digital trigger system operating on the de-embedded waveforms and offering a wide range of trigger types up to the full bandwidth of the instrument. It initially offers frequency ranges up to 8 GHz and combines multiple test instruments in one, including power integrity and power consumption tests, spectrum and signal analysis, EMI debugging, protocol triggering & decoding, logic tests (MSO), and, of course, interface compliance tests.