Featured Product Archive
The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their
uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough
to warrant an appearance.
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Whilst perusing engineering and science websites for the latest news and reviews,
I ran across this "RF Toolbox"† computer software which incorporates a large
variety of calculators. As one who rarely uses a smartphone (I am home most of the
time), it is nice to find something like this meant to be used on a computer and
not on a smartphone. Overall, RF Toolbox seems to be a handy addition to your
arsenal of calculators once you understand its operation. A few user interface anomalies
were encountered which should be addressed, as outlined below. I did not do an exhaustive
review - only a few of the calculators. Holland Shielding Systems says they have
a periodic update schedule so hopefully some of them will be tended to with the
RF Toolbox v22.214.171.124, as this opening screen shows, has 12 categories of
calculators including EMC and shielding (Holland Shielding Systems' specialty),
antennas, radar, filters, mixer spurs, attenuators, and unit conversions. Keep in
mind that the software people at Holland Shielding Systems, being in the Netherlands,
have Dutch as their native language, so some the English translations might be a
Mixer Spurs calculator, RF Toolbox v126.96.36.199.
Radar Range and Simulator calculator, RF Toolbox v188.8.131.52.
RF Immunity Test Configurator, RF Toolbox v184.108.40.206.
When evaluating software, the first thing I usually do is attempt to replicate
the results of examples presented in a demo or in a user manual. Having written
a couple programs to analyze mixer product spurs, I started with that. The "MixerSpurs"
screen shot to the right is the result, which does agree exactly with the system
shown in the Help provided for the calculator. There are a couple things I noticed
about the calculator that are not errors, but might want to be addressed by the
creators. First, when you click the "IF range MHz" checkbox, it takes two clicks
to get it to register - no big deal. I cannot figure out what the "Couple RF _LO"
checkbox does, and the Help does not address it. Clicking on the "List" button opens
a window that gives numerical values for the spur product harmonics, frequency,
and amplitude (e.g., "USB 1 x RF, 1 x LO : 5000 MHz, -26dBm"). Also, when you move
the window to where part of it is off the screen, moving it back leaves a blank
area where the screen cut it off.
Being a former radar guy (USAF and as a design engineer), the Radar Range and
Simulator calculator was my next stop. Parameter values shown in the Help file (v220.127.116.11)
are preloaded into the fields, and the screen shot to the right (v18.104.22.168) show
the results match the example. I did not attempt to validate all the numbers because
I am not familiar with the kinds of values being calculated. One thing I noticed
was that the icons for the antennas are the mirror image of the direction in which
the RF energy would be transmitted and received - again not critical.
My next stop was the "RF immunity test configurator" after clicking on the "Radiated
Immunity" button. This calculator does not have defaults filled in for all the values,
so I opened the Help file to use the ones shown there. The first thing you need
to do is click on the "Distance" field and set a value; you must select a value
from the drop-down box in order to begin entering data because otherwise the "Set"
button is grayed out. After clicking on the "Set" button to step through setting
parameters for the simulation, I discovered that if you do not enter a value in
the input field, there is no way to cancel out of the process. I had opened the
parameter entry dialog box before noticing that the RF Tools window was covering
part of the Help window, and I wanted to cancel out of the process to move it into
view. Clicking "Cancel" or the "x" in the dialog box corner did not get me out of
it; I had to continue all the way through to get it to close (again, not a big deal,
but atypical behavior). When you start over, all the entry fields except frequency
are blank again. However, you can edit the cells in the existing table area. I noticed
that when entering the Cable Loss values to match those in the example, entering
.6 resulted in 0.06 being placed in the table and entering 2.8 resulted in 0.28
(same for other values). I needed to go back and edit the table to get it to look
like the example.
That is as far as I am going on the review since to do so would be a lengthy
process. You will want to do some verification of
your own when using the calculators to assure you understand their particulars.
IMHO, the entire suite of calculators should be reviewed by the good folks at Holland
Shielding Systems to identify the user interface anomalies. As a software writer
myself, I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to do a thorough verification
of every aspect of the program - both calculation accuracy and the user interface.
What is obvious to me as the creator is not always equally obvious to the uninitiated
BTW, although I've seen it many times, I looked up what "BV" means as it pertains
to a company. From the gov.nl website: "What
is a Dutch bv? A bv [besloten vennootschap] is a legal entity, equivalent to
the private limited company. You can start a bv on your own or together with partners.
Your private liability as a director is limited." It appears to be the equivalent
of a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
format in the U.S.
Holland Shielding Systems BV
Jacobus Lipsweg 124 3316BP
Phone: +31(0)78 - 204 90 00
Posted May 5, 2022 (updated August 19, 202)