How to Get the most for your Money with Signal Conditioning

Signal Conditioning – Getting the most for your money

This article reviews signal conditioning equipment features such as accuracy, adjustability, isolation, surge withstand capability, RFI/EMI protection, packaging, and repairability. Where possible, it also examines the relative importance of various features.

Accuracy, Linearity, and Repeatability

Accuracy, linearity, and repeatability specifications are described in many different ways. Accuracy specifications should include the combined effects of repeatability, hysteresis, terminal point linearity, and adjustment resolution.

Adjustability (zero/span)

Conditioners with adjustability can compensate for signal differences, and the ability to do so is usually worth the extra cost (typically $100). Adjustability can be accomplished in hardware or software. Some applications have no software so it must be available in hardware.

Isolation

Isolation in a signal conditioner means not having a direct electrical connection (or low impedance path) between two or more points (or circuits). The two primary components used in signal conditioners to provide isolation are transformers and optical couplers.

Surge withstand capability

Surge withstand capability (SWC) – which is the ability of a signal conditioner to reject high voltage and frequency electrical interference – should be considered where ever signal conditioners are to be located

RFI/EMI

The increasing need for reliable communications in factories and plants means that more and more industrial electronic equipment may require built-in radio frequency interference (RFI) immunity. At the same time, this equipment’s susceptibility to the electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects of inductive load switching relays and noise induced by heavy operating equipment (Fig. 4) must also be considered.

Packaging

Signal conditioners come in a variety of packages including DIN rail, hockey-puck enclosures, general purpose NEMA 1 type enclosures, NEMA 4/12, and 19 in. rack-mountable card cage systems.

Repairability

Knowing how devices are manufactured will help you determine their repairability.

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