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10 Steps to Digital Multimeter (DMM) Selection

Maximizing DMM Productivity in Wireless Device Quality Testing

Digital multimeters seem common, but specialized versions perform tests you might not imagine, thereby improving productivity and lowering costs.

Digital multimeters (DMMs) have for years been a quality assurance test tool used by wireless device manufacturers. However, DMM performance has steadily improved and you can now get functions never imagined on these instruments. For example, you can now buy benchtop DMMs with basic one-year accuracy ranging from 0.0006% to 0.03%, resolution from 4-1/2 digits to 8-1/2 digits and sensitivity from 1nV to 10mV. For audio circuit and component testing, total harmonic distortion (THD) can be measured with some specialized DMMs.

While accuracy, resolution and sensitivity are important factors in DMM selection, you should look at speed, specialized functions and productivity enhancements for added value, especially if you do production testing. Also, certain features can help overcome external noise problems that would otherwise nullify the underlying accuracy and sensitivity of a DMM. Major selection factors include measurement variables, range, accuracy, resolution, sensitivity, speed, filters, test current limiting in resistance measurements, 2-wire vs. 4-wire measurements, triggering, number of measurement channels and cost.

  1. What variables are you testing?
  2. What is the range of expected signal values?
  3. The big three: accuracy, resolution and sensitivity
  4. What DUT characteristics are important?
  5. What are the hardware and software interface issues?
  6. What are the noise sources?
  7. What are the throughput requirements?
  8. How many DUTs are to be tested?
  9. Would additional DMM features be helpful?
  10. How cost effective is the solution?

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