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testbenches

Test Benches

Morgan Electronics develop test benches for electronic and mechanical systems. A test bench is a set of equipment set aside for performing a suite of tests on a product. Morgan Electronics make automated test benches that comprise electronic and mechanical equipment and the software that controls them. Software directs the operator through the process ensuring consistent measurements. Where possible, the software records serial numbers of the products and the results automatically, giving the operator clear indication of a pass or fail. Test benches can be included as part of a production line. Morgan Electronics make reliable test benches that allow error conditions to be handled automatically, or indicated to the operator before they cause a problem.

Recent Projects Include:

Radio Frequency Test System –  A client had written a test plan and was conducting it manually. They had some computer programs to make measurements using Radio Frequency Test equipment. Morgan Electronics made a new user interface to run the tests one after the other, recording the results and evaluating them against pass / fail criteria. The user interface included pictures of how to set up for each test step, so that an unskilled operator could use it. To reduce risk,  Morgan Electronics kept the working computer programs and continued to run them in the background to control the equipment. As well as installing the software on the real system, Morgan Electronics provided the source code and release notes to enable the client’s engineers to maintain the system themselves.

Mechanical Test System – The client made a mechanical rig to test their products, integrated into their production line so that it could test a sample of the products automatically. Morgan Electronics wrote the software to control it, so that it scanned the product’s bar codes, performed mechanical tests and produced a test result label without operator interaction. Morgan Electronics wrote a software simulation of each piece of hardware, so that the test bench software could be developed and tested before the real hardware was available.  Morgan Electronics wrote the software using Labview (a graphical programming language), which made it easy to check the modules that controlled each piece of hardware as they became available.

dramatic photo of homemade bulb

Electronics and Software

Software

We specialise in embedded software: designing, making and testing the programs that go inside things.

Necessarily, we’re also good at the software supporting things, in test-benches, user interfaces, control systems and internet of things (IoT) servers.

Things We’ve Learnt
  • Requirements change, changes have to be managed.
  • Flexibility matters, but quality must be maintained.
  • Software is used throughout the life cycle of products.
  • Hardware design cycles are long and changes are expensive.
  • Code is written once, but read many times.

Our experience and training lead us to use many aspects of the Scrum software development methodology and many practices of Agile software development. This involves splitting projects up into small chunks, checking in with the client on completion of each chunk, and adapting the plan as required. We make use of tools for unit testing, static analysis and code-coverage  to ensure that all of our code is well tested. We keep code well commented and keep useful documentation up to date.

Our Specialisms

We have a breadth of experience across the design, manufacture and support of embedded systems. We’re expert at these particular things:

  • Test Stations. We make automated test stations, integrating digital, RF, mechanical, audio and optical components, for use during acceptance, manufacture and repair. We plan tests for automatic implementation that enable testing to be done quickly and reliably and for processes to be improved over time.
  • Embedded Software. We write the software that controls things, from microcontrollers (for car alarms) to hard cores in FPGAs (for airport radars). We make software that glues together the components of a complex electronic system. We design software with monitoring, diagnostics, and testing facilities that enable a system to be succesfully developed, accepted and maintained.
  • Built in Test. A reliable system is one that doesn’t break often, but it’s also a system where faults are detected and repaired quickly. Based on a rigorous analyis of failure modes, we design built in test software that continuously monitors systems. This gives a positive indication when the system is working and alerts users to faulty components.
  • Equipment Control GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces). Embedded systems can operate with minimal user interaction. We design GUIs that reliably configure, monitor and upgrade these systems. GUIs can be connected remotely over the internet, or plugged in to a service computer. With a little psychological input, we design GUIs that make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing.
  • DSP (Digital Signal Processing). We port algorithms from  the mathematician’s notebook, to fixed point DSPs, FPGAs and Vector Processors. We profile and optimise DSP code for baseband radio processing, with hard real-time constraints. We balance the use of types of  DSP devices to minimise cost and power consumption without compromising on time constraints.
  • Networks of Sensors. We design networks of sensors that comunicate synchronised measurements over low power radio links. These can be used for monitoring and positioning applications.

Electronics

Morgan Electronics develop embedded systems either using custom designed PCBs or off the shelf modules. We offer a full service from design idea to manufacture of complete CE marked products, using our network of trusted suppliers.

Recent Projects Include:

A Control Board to switch high current equipment. The electronics and software in this board were designed to meet the Safety Standard EN60335. A failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) was carried out to ensure that no two faults could cause the equipment to turn on and that any one fault would be detected. The board featured a micro-controller with periodic self-test and monitoring, and redundant inputs and outputs to detect faults. This project provided a reliable, simple, and more economical plug-in replacement for an existing part.

A Building Monitor. This battery powered board has sensors for temperature, humidity, sound, light, and vibration. It has a theoretical battery life of 10 years when reporting wireless every 30 minutes using the Sigfox radio network. In the first part of the project, Morgan Electronics conducted an analysis of the most economical way to achieve this, selecting the optimum micro-controller, radio transceiver, antenna and battery. After 6 months, the prototype unit is on course to achieve this life, reporting over the 10 Miles from Royston to Cambridge. The project went from concept to first working prototype in just 6 weeks. Morgan Electronics manufactured a batch of sensors for the client’s trial.

iot

Internet of Things

Morgan Electronics develop products powered by software and electronics. The new term “Internet of Things” describes the established practice of getting these devices on the internet, so that they can be controlled and configured and so that they can report what they doing or what they’ve detected.

Past Projects

IoT Building Monitor – The client wanted to  make a family of products using the low power Sigfox radio protocol. This is one of a range of new protocols being rolled out across the UK that enable low cost, long life, battery powered devices to connect to the internet of things.

Understanding the Client’s timescales, Morgan Electronics developed a first product to demonstrate the technology and provide a foundation for future devices. Morgan Electronics chose a simple bare-metal approach to the software, to make it reliable and to give it a predictable power consumption.  The software was written in a modular way, enabling most of it to be reused in the next product. Morgan Electronics used tried and tested reference designs for hardware and software to ensure that the prototypes worked without lots of integration effort, and were a good foundation for adding more features in software.

Cleaning Equipment – Morgan Electronics developed a control system and graphical user interface for the client’s product. Connecting their systems to the internet by GSM modem would give them direct evidence of each successful use, without paperwork. It would also tell our client if there were any issues, allowing them to improve their product and the customer’s experience.

Morgan Electronics connected the equipment to the internet using the MQTT protocol, which is the backbone of IoT services provided by Amazon and IBM. Morgan Electronics provided the client with a self-contained server to ensure that units in the field would always have something to report to, without depending on the direction taken by 3rd party services. Morgan Electronics found a range of GSM SIM Cards that are cheap to keep connected and roam to any UK operator’s network guaranteeing the best signal. The system sends SMS messages to tell operators when there are events, and also emails pdf reports to managers.

Further Reading

Servers:

Dashboards

Protocols: