The world of testing and automation has seen a rapid transformation. To meet the ever-evolving needs of the industry, testing procedures should evolve and ensure high testing accuracy and quality output without compromising.
Testing equipment with COTS and Embedded Boards are preferred for certain testing environments pertaining to the requirements of the client and the availability of the resource availability in the market.
Choosing the appropriate testing environment for your product testing comes with a set of challenges that can allow you to analyse the pros and cons involved to make an effective business decision for testing your product.
What are COTS?
COTS or Commercial-off-the-shelf solutions are packaged test equipment comprising everything one needs. These units can be adapted easily according to organizational needs. Most organizations use COTS-based solutions to increase the reliability of the testing, reduce the cost and time taken for testing, and offer a significant chance to incorporate industry standards.
Being commercial off the shelf means that these products are tested extensively and benchmarked by their OEM for their functionalities and prevent any sort of deviation in specifications. This enables the clients who purchase the COTS item from the OEM to rest assured that the test equipment is always working to the industry standards defined in the data sheet.
Figure 1: COTS Enabled Automated Test System from Digilogic.
Digilogic has amalgamated customization in COTS solution, empowering itself to adapt to industry shifts and trends, add on with a new component or design a whole new system, redefine its entire purpose, and complete the test case scenario with elevated efficacy.
Figure 2: Examples of Commercial Off The Shelf Products such as PXI Chassis (Top left), Oscilloscope (Top right) and Spectrum Analyzer (Bottom)
What Are Embedded Boards?
Embedded Boards are standard printed circuit boards present in the products we see and use every day. They are more compact and comprise everything that one needs to test a product and come packed in a single board assembled.
Embedded boards offer a compact form factor along with performance (depending on their designer’s capability). Since the board is purely developed by the individual for their specific testing needs, the development can be restricted to an individual.
Embedded Boards are surely renowned for time-saving and cost-cutting in development. But such boards are built for only a particular test case and cannot be upgraded or reused to test a different unit.
Figure 3: Representative Images of Embedded Boards.
Pros and Cons of COTS-based Test & Measurement Solutions:
With a rapid increase in product validation and testing standards in industries, numerous major organizations have started to build T&M equipment for specific industries, and some of the most prominent T&M OEM companies are Tektronix, National Instruments, Rohde Schwarz, Keysight and many more.
Understanding the design and development procedures of T&M-based COTS products, which can enable clients to purchase them at a single click and start working on them as they’re readily available and don’t need any further R&D as most of the development for the specific industry’s testing needs has already been catered to.
Some of the renowned industries that such OEMs are focused on can be categorized as below:
- Semiconductor and many more.
Catering to numerous industries with readily available and usable solutions, Test & Measurement COTS hardware has numerous advantages that one can consider and equip them in their testing strategies.
Some of the major advantages of Test & Measurement (T&M) COTS based Testing Solutions are:
- Readily available industry-standard T&M equipment
- Reliable Testing of Input and output parameters
- Support from the OEM
- Possibility of upgradation for future needs
- Calibratable setup
- Repair support for 10 years (Minimum)
And with Pros, there are some minor Cons, too, and these are some minor cons that we can consider that work against COTS Hardware are:
- Extensive R&D is involved to make sure the product can be utilised across industries.
- Numerous certifications are required to make sure it is trusted across industries
- R&D and certifications increase not just the cost of the Hardware but also it’s marketing.
- Customisation often becomes expensive.
Pros and Cons of Embedded Test equipment:
Embedded boards are easy to build and cost-effective. These are single-board solutions which cost one-fourth the price and can be built by a local designer. These kinds of boards are hard-wired and are developed for specific test needs.
Users cannot perform the testing for their devices directly as the embedded board needs to be designed first, and then comes the testing part. The performance of the board is entirely dependent on the designer’s skill, and no testing is required once the board is printed and the components are soldered. This enables the users to start testing as soon as they design the board.
Some of the main advantages of using embedded boards that we can conclude from this are,
- Low cost of building
- The flexibility of built-to-specs
- Shorter development time
And some points that we can consider as the cons of embedded boards are:
- No specific testing standards maintained
- Can’t be upgraded easily since the boards are hard-coded
- No calibrations of the board are possible
- No long-term support for repair
Figure 4: Embedded System enabled Automated Test System by Digilogic.
Clearly, as we see in embedded boards, the reliability of test numbers can be a little lower, as the component flaws, testing procedures, and software glitches might affect the outcome.
COTS has a clear advantage here as it comes with user-friendly software, is capable of performing every test, and can add more test cases with a simple upgrade. We also see that in the COTS solution, everything is ready and detachable, where one can easily add or remove components and features in the hardware and software, entirely depending on the project and test case requirements, and it hardly takes time to replace or add any of the components, making COTS an extremely customizable solution available.
What Makes COTS Special?
COTS, known for its availability and efficiency, is redefined by the best testing and automation players in the Indian market. Digilogic Systems offers seamless integration and customization, matching the testing standards of every product with component add-ons on the go.
Catering sophisticated testing solutions to every requirement, Digilogic Systems offers customizable COTS solutions, a revolutionary move for aerospace, defence, automotive, and other industries to test products in a test environment consisting of every necessity and offering precise and accurate results.
Digilogic’s software is developed to be user-friendly and deliver efficient results. Customizable hardware is a unique offering of Digilogic, which enables us to cater tailor-made, effective solutions for your requirements, giving you an extra edge in accomplishing precise results and enhancing your overall testing experience and production cycle.
Building an ATE with COTS vs Building an ATE with an Embedded Board Measurement System:
Witnessing the major difference between using the COTS and Embedded Boards, people often wonder about the right platform that we can completely rely on in building automated test equipment.
And many questions arise, such as whether we can entirely rely on the Embedded System, which does not provide any guarantee in performance, or the COTS hardware, which delivers what they promise but comes at a reasonably high price point.
There is a reasonable trade-off between performance vs price, which the user needs to keep in mind. We also should consider the precision and accuracy of reports, and the ATE needs to be much more sophisticated and superior than the actual unit itself.
This is where in Digilogic, we often give first preference to the COTS-based solution approach. We only custom-develop boards in applications where there is no availability of a COTS-based product/board. Thus, the risk of Hardware failure is reduced drastically, and performance is guaranteed to the customer.
A few of the ATEs built as a combination of COTS & Embedded system technology are:
- Actuator test system
- TR Module test system
- Avionics test system
- Missile Checkout System
- Frequency Response Analyser
- Hydrophone sensor calibration system
Depending on the requirement, users can use any of the following to benefit their testing needs. If price is a constraint and test parameters are not that stringent, the user can always look into exploring the Embedded T&M Boards for his testing needs. These boards may not be the final testing solution and seldom pass off as a test platform.
If your facility is a final level acceptance of the hardware before submitting the system to the user, it is recommended to use the COTS-based approach to enable the right test processes to be followed.
Also, since these are COTS-based systems, users can always purchase and set up the same facility at multiple locations at the same time and not be worried about result variation from facility to facility. This is often seen as a practice followed by many production companies that have their production units throughout the world.
At Digilogic, we enable the users with the right COTS-based approach, which equips the user with the most accurate testing result. With the usage of COTS, we do just not reduce the time to build an automated test solution, but also make sure the testing quality is not compromised.
For more information on Digilogic Systems solutions, please mail us at email@example.com.