What are oscilloscopes used for?

A device that can convert electrical power into mechanical power is of vital importance to the world of industry, including compressors, conveyors, motors, pumps, robots and more. A crucial yet invisible force is the voltage signals that are responsible for controlling these electro-mechanical devices, and the way in which that unseen can be seen and captured is with an oscilloscope.


Measuring voltage with an oscilloscope

Voltage signals are displayed by oscilloscopes in the form of waveforms, which are visual representations of the way in which voltages can vary over time. These signals are plotted on a graph and demonstrate the changes to the signals. The vertical Y access is a representation of the magnitude of the voltage, with the horizontal X axis representing time.

An oscilloscope graph can reveal a number of pieces of important information, including:

  • The amplitude modulation of a signal that is oscillating as well as any frequency variations
  • The shape of a current signal when making use of a current clamp that is suited for use with an oscilloscope
  • Signal anomalies
  • If there is a noise in the signal and if the noise changes
  • The shape of the voltage signal when working in the correct manner

The majority of oscilloscopes in use today are digital, which allows for more accurate and detailed measurements and for calculations to be done more quickly, as well as more automated analysis and greater storage capabilities.

Handheld digital oscilloscopes offer a number of distinct advantages over the bench-top models, being battery operated and making use of electrically isolated floating inputs and providing the benefit of embedded features that make it easier to use an oscilloscope as well as making them much more accessible to a wider array of workers.

Oscilloscopes are used in a wide variety of different industries including the sciences, engineering, telecommunications, medicine and the automotive industry.


Oscilloscopes: Basic functions


Sampling refers to the process in which a portion of an input signal is converted into a set of discrete electrical values to be stored, processed and displayed. The magnitude of every sampled point equals the input signal’s amplitude at the moment that the signal is sampled.

On the oscilloscope display the input waveform appears in the form of a number of dots. When the dots are spaced far apart and hard to interpret in the form of a waveform, it is possible to connect them via a process called interpolation, which connects dots with vectors, or lines.



Trigger controls enable a repetitive waveform to be stabilized and displayed. The most common triggering form of is edge triggering, which sees the basic trigger point definition being provided by the slope controls and trigger level. The slope controls is responsible for the trigger point being on either the signal’s falling or rising edge, and where the trigger point occurs on the edge is determined by the level control.

The oscilloscope is a very powerful tool that is of great use to those working in particular fields and jobs.

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