Test Jig for RF communication modules for AMI / Smart Metering

Kalkitech December 25, 2023

Customer: Global RF module provider for the smart grid and other applications

Industry: AMI / Smart Metering

Business Case: 

The company empowers the energy and industrial internet of things industries with the only purpose-built wireless communications platform that enables utilities and cities to securely and reliably deploy any application - on one powerful network. With the most field-proven,  globally compliant solution in the market,  they empower you by connecting the world of things®.

The specific use case for the customer was to have an automated test jig specifically developed for verifying the proper adaptation of their RF communication modules. The OSDI modules were  SOM  (System  On  Module)  based solutions for integrating meters into the  RF  network.  Meter vendors were expected to adopt the  NIC  reference design into their meter interface boards.  The manufactured meter boards were required to undergo a rigorous test to verify that electronic,  electric, and radio interfaces were properly integrated and were good to be shipped to the customer. The RF manufacturer had developed a  test plan specific to this.  The specific use case was to develop the automated test jig that performs all these tests automatically and provides a Go/No Go verdict for each of the devices being tested. 

Key Design Features considered:

  1. Increase productivity - Meter communication cards were produced in lots and the performance of the jig should be in line with the manufacturing process.
  2. Custom development required - Since the meter implementation varies from vendor to vendor, the test jig must be custom-built.
  3. Accuracy of results  -  Test jig should take accurate and precise measurements to meet the specific test requirement that includes voltage,  current,  rise time,  ramp rate thresholds.  The intrinsic delays and errors should be negligible in magnitude.
  4. Decreased human interaction  –  Minimal human involvement in executing/interpreting test results.
  5. Increased traceability – Maintaining detailed logs and report for the test conducted. This will help to conduct root cause analysis.

The Solution: 

The solution provided by the Kalkitech hardware and software services team included the following components

  • Barcode scanner enabled reduction of delay and errors while setting up the unit avoiding the manual entry of OSDI and PCB Serial Numbers.
  • Data acquisition and control cards to control, capture and coordinate the test devices and sequence.
  • Mechanical design made to brace the DUT to jig effortlessly without mounting errors.
  • Custom Test Manager application that can be customized to specific user requirements.
  • A user-friendly reporting engine was provided for generating reports for the tests performed.

Key Benefits:

  • The test jig system was able to conduct all the tests specified in the customer test requirements (that was customized for a specific meter partner).
  • The system was integrated into the manufacturing setup and necessary training was imparted to the technical team.
  • The reporting interface provided key test details with status. Individual and Summary report selection. Interfaces to extract management information like daily /weekly production report with date selection including test count etc.
  • Unattended test execution and result generation. One full set of tests (including RF test completed in ~60 Sec).
  • Easy input interfaces including barcode scanner for faster testing
  • Optional error code sticker printer to enable easy debugging.

Note: Kalkitech provides hardware and software consultancy services in several areas including protocol consulting, integration support, customization, and testing inclusive of certification. This also included hardware areas of design, meeting EMI/EMC requirements as per IEC61850-3 standards, development of test jigs, SOC integration for PRP/HSR/PTP, and other network requirements, etc.

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