A new weapon in the EMC war

| Environmental Testing

Intelligent modular PTCM Series TWT instrumentation amplifiers
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Jonathan Newell finds out about a new wave of test instrumentation amplifiers with military heritage shown at German EMC event in Stuttgart.

Testing for electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) is requiring higher field strengths than ever before as test chambers become larger and more equipment is being packed into the EM environment.

To meet this new level of demand, London-based TMD Technologies has created the PTCM series of intelligent, modular travelling wave tube (TWT) RF instrumentation amplifiers, which the company introduced on its stand at the EMC 2017 event in Stuttgart at the end of March.

Modular rack-mounted amplifier

The compact PTCM Series are of customisable 6U high rack mounting construction. They are designed to deliver the highest field strengths in the test environment and to meet even the most demanding global standards, including RTCA/DO-160, MIL Standard, EUROCAE and AIRBUS ABD 100. Operating over a frequency range from DC up to 40 GHz with a power output up to 50 kW, the amplifiers are designed for a range of applications that include EMC/radiated immunity, communications, EW, radar, RF component testing and the scientific field.

According to Heather Skinner of TMD Technologies, the new amplifier range provides advanced EMC capability and offers a superior user interface, easy maintainability and a wealth of operational benefits.

“The user benefits include self-test, fault diagnosis, modular plug and play field replaceable Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and Ethernet remote control and monitoring,” Skinner explained. The inherent high level of amplifier intelligence is provided by a state of the art ’system on chip’ (SOC) – controlling and synchronising all power conversion circuitry in real time, and all the monitoring, control, data logging and user interface functionality.

The modular 6U high system allows a number of options – enabling, for example, dual high power TWT amplifiers at 12U high to be easily configured.

Military heritage

The ultra-reliable PTCM Series architecture is based on demanding military standards, with excellent thermal management to provide high Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). Also featured is Voltage Standing Wave Radio (VSWR) reflected power protection.

The history of TMD Technologies stretches back to the 1940s, when the predecessor company was engaged in radar production. Specialising in tubes, the company went on to combine tube technology with power supplies and progressed to TWT microwave tubes for military usage.

I asked Skinner how this defence industry background was relevant to its current range of instrumentation amplifiers. She explained that although instrumentation amplifiers are specified differently to those used in military applications, there are nonetheless a number of advantages that cross over between the two applications.

“We have proven our expertise in the defence arena with our high power amplifiers so this is something we’re good at and can transfer to the instrumentation market. We’re also a very innovative company with a lot of flexibility to meet very demanding specifications so we’re used to supplying bespoke equipment,” she explained.

Also, TMD works closely with antenna specialists and anechoic chamber manufacturers to provide full turnkey EMC testing systems.

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell is a graduate of Loughborough University and has three decades of experience in engineering as well as broadcast and technical journalism.
Jonathan Newell

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