Things have been quite busy, so I haven’t had a chance to bring everyone an update on my Keithley 2450 RoadTest. Since I delivered the original review with caveats, I’ve completed two RoadTests (Omron 2JCIE-EV-AR01 Environmental Sensor and Vishay SiC461 Synchronous Buck EVB) while my day-to-day work has consumed virtually all of my thoughts. But since we’re coming up to the end-of-year shutdowns, I finally got a chance to get back to blogging.

 

When I left you with the last post, the 2450 SMU had been packed up, ready for its journey around the world for repair service.

 

Door-to-Door Service for the 2450

I mentioned in the previous post that shipping expensive items overseas can be a customs and courier-selection nightmare but I had settled on DHL after some research of my own.

The return postage, using the DHL Express Jumbo service cost AU$278.43, which I thought to be expensive but reasonable given the “hassle” involved with such shipments. As promised, the pick-up driver turned up on 24th August 2020 in the appointed time-window to inspect, seal and pick-up the SMU.

The package sat in Sydney until 26th August when it finally found some capacity on a plane – air cargo demand frequently outstrips supply due to the COVID-19 situation and a lack of international passenger flights. By 28th August, it had reached its (first) destination in Tektronix Singapore – five days from door to door, which is not bad given the circumstances.

 

I received an acknowledgement from Tektronix Singapore Service Centre that they received the package, but then things went quiet for a while. In this time, Tektronix on-forwarded the unit to Solon, OH, USA where the main Keithley service centre is despite initial assurances that the modifications and calibration can be done in a local service centre. While this does take a little longer, I suspect that the new processes involved may take some time to roll-out. In the end, I’m thankful that my instrument got the proper attention from the head office and that Tektronix were generous enough to save me from having to send the package further to the USA directly. The downside was a lack of communication throughput the process, which left me (patiently) wondering when the SMU might return.

 

It wasn’t until around 14th October that I was again contacted to confirm my shipping address for the SMU’s return. However, the saga wasn’t over just yet, as the inbound customs wanted to charge duties on the package which caused a slight delay. After responding with the fact it was a no-charge warranty service return and the necessary paperwork, I was given a waiver on the SMU’s value, but the cost of the shipping service and paperwork fees were still due, costing another AU$110.00.

The SMU was returned into my hands on 21st October, spending 58 days out of my hands for the RMA process at a cost of AU$388.43. While this is not a typical RMA (due to the technicalities of RoadTest items and how service is handled for them), it was an experience nonetheless and I was relieved to see the unit back in my hands.

 

Unboxing & Preliminary Checks

The first thing I noticed was the unit was returned in a different box to the one I shipped it out in. I suspect the original box had seen enough torture, having been shipped several times already (from the factory to Keithley to element14 to me to Tektronix Singapore to Keithley). The pink foam end stops are also different – so I wonder whether they have several different packaging alternatives.

The document enclosed provides a statement that the unit is calibrated, with the specific procedure being named as “MANIFEST:Product_SMUs_2012-KE2450_Full VERSION:66”. The document does not contain any specifics regarding calibration data points and the before data is “not possible due to condition of unit.”

 

Visually speaking, the SMU looks the same as it did when it left (as it should), but it now wears a badge of its tour around the world –

The calibration date is marked as 30th September 2020 with calibration due in a year - thank you 135111!

 

Now, for the million dollar question – did it fix the problem? A preliminary check consisted of me connecting a 25W 230V-rated “retro” filament light globe to the SMU’s outputs and running a very fine I-V curve over the range of 0-200V with 100001 steps, taking a few hours. This would be the closest load that would match the SMU’s 20V/200W output while also potentially provoking any issues within the 200V range.

I’m glad to report the modifications were successful and the unit is now capable of operating across the 200V range without the issues noted in the review. I also noted general improvements in the stability of readings from the SMU – where before I would see values jumping strangely as the unit changed ranges, this behaviour is completely absent after its return from repair and calibration. It seems the RMA process was worth the wait!

 

KickStart 2 Licensing & New Version

My original RoadTest involved the use of KickStart 2 in its 60-day trial mode, which had since expired. As a gesture of goodwill, Tektronix were willing (after we had sorted through the issues) to offer me a license for KickStart 2 so that I could re-run some tests and continue reviewing the unit after its return from RMA.

 

Interestingly, it seems that TekAMS has been completely revised since my review. Now, it looks much more in-line with Tektronix websites in terms of its visual style and it is a little easier to navigate. In all, I like the new look! In my case, I had the license populated into my License Inventory and I had to check it out with my Host ID.

Once the data is validated, you have a choice of license check-out length. I decided to set 12 months, but I think you can make it as long as 4-years. At the end of the period, you can check out a new license file, but I suspect it should help in case the license is bound to a machine that has a hardware failure – that way the license should “time out” and you can issue another.

 

Once that is complete, you can download the license file and install it into KickStart using the “key” icon in the upper right corner.

Oh … and it’s nice to see that they still see me as a friend after all the hassle I’ve given them – End User Name: Friend of Tek .

 

Since the original RoadTest review, there has been a new release of KickStart 2 as well which also teases the potential for time-limited licenses, along with a number of improvements. There are some outstanding issues noted in the release notes – one of which to do with the graph updating (needing to hit autoscale as points were not being plotted properly during subsequent runs) which I have run into, causing a minor inconvenience. But it’s good to see the software getting some active development.

Putting the SMU and KickStart 2 to the test, I set up a dual-direction sweep from -200 to +200V in 100001 steps, repeated four times at 10 PLC with auto-zero ON and the SMU having nothing connected to its inputs.

I noticed that initially, there is some rather quick changes in the current readings – perhaps to do with warming-up and/or dielectric charging of insulators, but as the test progresses, the slope reduces. But if we look at the current magnitude – the maximum reading is in the range of 170pA, with subsequent runs easily sticking within +/- 20pA. Given the datasheet specifications for the 10nA range claims an accuracy of 0.1%+50pA for rear Triax connections only, this result with the front panel connections selected, open to the environment and the potential for noise, seems to be excellent!

 

That being said, the new firmware that promises a fix for continuous measurement not being engaged when powering-up the output while in 4-wire sensing or in high-impedance output-off mode seems to be still in the making.

 

Conclusion

The Keithley 2450 SMU enjoyed a trip from Sydney to Singapore to Solon, OH, USA and back again, taking 58 days (which is perhaps understandable due to the nature of accounting for RoadTest units and COVID-19 related changes). In that time, it received modifications and recalibration that has fixed the major issue that plagued the original RoadTest. In its returned state, it is capable of operating on the 200V range across a range of operating points without triggering an overheat message and shutting down. While the return process did cost a bit for postage and import duties, it was well worth it as it had properly addressed the fault. In return for the inconvenience, I was also granted a license for KickStart 2, allowing me to continue using the software for further testing and an eventual updated review (as time permits). It is nice to see the TekAMS license manager get a facelift in the meantime and Kickstart 2 also receiving a version update.

 

After going through the whole process and mentioning it to rscasny, I was told that I shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the return costs as part of the RoadTest and element14 was going to find a way to reimburse these expenses. While I did have some e-mail contact with rscasny and danzima about how that might happen when it was returned, it seems that this line of enquiry has gone cold with no responses from them over the past two months despite sending follow-up e-mails. As I mentioned in the previous post, I don’t mind having to foot the bill as element14 have already upheld their end of the deal when the SMU arrived the first time and the review was delivered. It was my decision ultimately to return the unit, but either way, a response would have been nice.