Automating test equipment with Python

Because manually performing measurements is for suckers! (and uni students).

See the tutorial for example code and resources.

I recently had to characterise a prototype power supply. When you count up all the voltage and current set-points it quickly becomes a daunting task – over a thousand data points. Thankfully, most lab gear has some digital interface like USB or Serial and you can issue commands through these interfaces to control your equipment – the same as if you were pushing buttons on the front panel. Write a script to sequence these commands, and you have yourself an Automated Test Procedure!

What followed was week long dive into SCPI and VESA, culminating in a 5-instrument experiment: A power supply, electronic load, 2x benchtop multimeters and an oscilloscope. Yes, you can even capture complex measurements and statistical data from an oscilloscope… from your computer. Needless to say, I felt like a wizard.

If you’re curious, I’ve put together a tutorial at Core Electronics. Even though I might be using gear different to yours, the command-set is an industry standard so everything should be pretty easy to port to your own equipment. The tutorial covers installing the necessary packages, running a hello-world, and even gets into a demonstration experiment – driving two instruments in a single test.

Happy experimenting 💚

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