Your first choice while troubleshooting an electrical fault like a circuit is to use a multimeter, but sometimes your meter alone might not be enough.
You might need to uncover some information like frequency, attitude, noise and all those other important characteristics that easily change with time that your simple multimeter cannot give you, then you would need an oscilloscope.
For its ability to show electric signals vary over time, the oscilloscope is very important to electrical engineers.
Right now if your mind is wrestling around what you can use an oscilloscope for, in this article, we would discuss a brief introduction to the tool and give a breakdown on the things you can do with the oscilloscope.
An introduction to the oscilloscope
If you have seen a heart rate monitor with the beep sounds and colored waveform lines in a hospital or a movie, then this already describes the outlook the oscilloscope, but in this case, those lines could represent voltage or current.
The oscilloscope was formally called an oscillograph, some prefer to call it a “scope” or “o-scope,” and in this case, instead of being a heart rate monitor, it is an electronic test instrument.
The basic display of the oscilloscope has a visual representation of the signal with divisions revealing the voltage and time. The voltage stands on the vertical axis and time is on the horizontal axis, where other properties like vibrations and sounds can be displayed as voltages after being converted.Oscilloscope measures amplitude, rise time, time intervals, distortion, frequency, and several other properties. There are other functions of the oscilloscope, some includes:
Lines in the oscilloscope should oscillate at the right frequency or pace, and in cases of an electrical glitch, and device helps to diagnose and correct it.
The signals can present both magnitude and frequency and also allow you to view any distortion or abnormalities that may be affecting the function of your circuit or the electronic device you are testing.
With new inventions, the working process of the oscilloscope gradually changes. Some of the oldest forms that are still used in some labs are known as “the cathode-ray,” they work by causing a focused beam to travel in patterns across the cathode ray tube and displays this in an image.
A more modern type functions the same as the older ones only that it works with a liquid crystal display just like the ones on notebook computers. The latest oscilloscopes use computers to process and no longer need scanning electronic beams before they display the waveform as the cathode ray does.
These sophisticated oscilloscopes are digital devices with software controlling the vertical deflection, the sweep rate and several other features of the machine such as the display and storage of the waveforms for future references, spectral analysis, battery power option, spectral analysis, multi-color, usability, zoom-in, and zoom-out. Their display waveforms are with cathode ray tube, liquid crystal displays, and gas plasma.
Regardless of the invention, all oscilloscope have adjustable vertical and horizontal deflection settings to show repetitive signals as a continuous shape on the screen. The horizontal axis would represent time in seconds, milliseconds, microseconds or nanoseconds while the vertical axis would represent voltage in volts, millivolts or microvolts.
What do you use an oscilloscope used for?
The oscilloscope is better for electrical checks in the sense that it can display the waveforms of alternating currents and direct currents, presenting frequencies lower than 1Hertz to the ones as high as several Megahertz.
With the device, you can have a display and easily spot the difference between the sine wave and the ramp wave. The level of frequency would depend mainly on the type of oscilloscope you are working with; some high-end ones can display signals as much as several Gigahertz.
Here’s how to use an oscilloscope:
- Measuring electrical devices and display them in waveforms– They measure constant voltage level, mostly used to reveal the different levels of power supply voltage.
- The oscilloscope can be used to debug analog output of sensors and communication buses. If you have tons of analog distance sensors and you want to put one into your circuit, the oscilloscope can be of assistance in identifying the ones that are genuine.
- They are useful to make some necessary checking to detect errors or varying pulse width modulations when working on electrical projects like building light-up poker chips or a chirping light-up bug.
- Comma Separated Values help to get the exact formula for a trigonometric waveform, and some versions of oscilloscope feature a CSV-export mode to hold data for some seconds before they are saved to a USB drive. You can put the CSV file like into spreadsheet programs like Excel or Numbers for further analysis.
An oscilloscope is a detector machine that can function in both manufacturings, repairing, development and research sectors. When you use your multimeter to carry out a test, there is only so much detail you can get from looking at the points in a circuit.
But the oscilloscope presents more information to you by letting you view the various changes in the waveform of a real-time or show you the bits and bytes as they are transmitted from a device to another in a circuit- this quality makes the oscilloscope a tremendous educational tool.
There are several other mentionable uses of the device, one of them is that some can perform complex maths analysis on multiple waveforms, like adding one wave to another. A flat line on the display would assure you that your circuit is working.
They also assist in making checks while developing a sound wave jammer circuit, by connecting the result of the jammer circuit to a channel on the oscilloscope and the sound wave to another channel.