From an anonymous industry, the handheld test and measurement (T&M) equipment market has travelled a long way to build a space of importance in the domestic industry. The most prolific users of handheld T&M instruments are the service providers, followed closely by large plants in the power sector. The defence forces, too, are now buying these products to scale up their capabilities and update their instrumentation/sub-systems. The demand for these equipment is, therefore, rising.
Thursday, August 19, 2009: T&M companies continue to develop new products with better specifications and sharper price competitiveness, more so in the communication protocol tester segment, to meet the rapid buildup of wireless networks. Handheld analyzers and fault finders are new in the realm of cable fault isolation. However, manufacturers and vendors are concerned as buyers in the Indian market are so much driven by low price that they ignore the quality or the services part of the product. “There is a strong need to educate the buyers in this respect,” points out S R Sabapathi, CEO, Qmax Test Equipments.
Ambrish Kela, director, Scientech Technologies, cautions, “It’s not the price that always matters. The brand, service support, application and features play more important roles while choosing handheld T&M equipment. We suggest customers to look for the features that meet their application needs. They should also look for an all-India presence with pre-sales and after sales support, toll free service, etc.”
Suneel Kapoor, national manager-IG, Fluke Corporation (India), states, “Our distributor, TTL Technologies, has skilled and equipped service centres with added calibration facilities with NABL accreditation to assist buyers post sales. Under the newly created TTL knowledge centre we provide relevant technology trainings using internal or external faculty from the industry in India.”
Products being modified
In the handheld T&M space, new products are basically driven by accuracy. Says Gautam Awasthi, general manager, marketing, Agilent Technologies India, “Accuracy of these equipment is a non-negotiable and single most important factor. Those which are light and easy to carry with enhanced functions and have longer battery life, capacious memory, rugged design, better displays, one-touch measurements and sound graphical user interface (GUI) are popular in the market.” Kela observes, “Products are becoming lighter and more rugged, with added features and increased memory interface.”
Sabapathi states, “Qmax’s new product is the QNImits, a solution that employs the industry proven V-I (voltage versus current waveform) trace technique of learn and compare of nodal impedances, where a working, functional board is needed to compare with a faulty one (in order to identify flaws), without schematics and functional details of PCBs. QNImits displays the test results in V-I traces, showing current against applied voltage in graphical format. Changes in device pin characteristics can be detected by using V-I curve traces.
Kapoor points to another dimension, “Merging of technologies and components, sub-assemblies, equipment and devices with each other digitally, in an automated environment, using various bus/protocols, represents the key change in this arena.” Many handheld equipment can multitask. Says Kapoor, “A handheld oscilloscope can double as a fully isolated 1000V electrical and power measurement application scope, with multimeter functionality. These work as bus health analyzers, which can assist instrumentation personnel. This deie is designed to save time and money.”
All sorts of handheld T&M equipment brands are available in the Indian market but buyers prefer the cheapest ones without giving much thought to quality and service support. When obtaining T&M equipment there are many factors involved in the decision making process. Below are some considerations to assist you in making a favourable buying decision.
- Look for features that meet your application needs
- Make a list of features/capabilities and accuracies/repeatability you want in your equipment
- Understand the long term and short term goals you expect to achieve through usage of these instruments
- Make the effort to understand the specifications claimed by the manufacturerthoroughly.Verifythoseclaims and ask for confirmations if in doubt, from the manufacturer or even from a third party certification agency
- Consolidate requirements to get the quantitative benefit of pricing
- Ask for training as part of the package or pay extra to ensure the investment made in the instrumentation pays for itself by maximising usage
- Look for an all-India presence, with pre-sales and after sales support, toll free service, etc
- Opt for best-in-class performance and accuracy
- Pay attention to battery and memory options
- Look for local world class calibration and repair support
- Seek best-in-class application support infrastructure and resources
- Look for availability of a range of accessories to meet customers’ varied needs