Basics: Oscilloscope

Matthias Beetz, Baumüller Nürnberg GmbH

Read min.

How an oscilloscope works

An oscilloscope is an electronic measuring instrument for visualizing the change in voltage over time on a two-dimensional graph. The x-axis is the timeline, while the y-axis sets the voltage value in proportion. The oscilloscope therefore primarily monitors voltage values. Based on this, however, numerous other calculations can be carried out in practice. With appropriate software, the devices can be operated to measure, display and monitor, for example, frequencies, pulse widths, rise time or phase displacement.

The functional principle therefore has increased significance in electric motors. Standstill times can be reduced and processes tracked, monitored and optimized to monitor the functionality and to find faults early by checking defined parameters. At Baumüller, for example, the oscilloscope is used in our comprehensive Parameterization and diagnostic tool ProDrive.

The following glossary entry covers:

Definition and terms used

The oscilloscope is a voltage measuring device, which visualizes the change in voltage over time on a graph. Nowadays, digital displays are used. Because the graph used to be output on paper, for a long time the term oscillograph was commonly used.

Basic function and further analysis options

The scope of functions is now very large in some applications – not least because of the possibilities provided by digital progress. Yet the function of the oscilloscope continues to be only the change of voltage over time. Based on the voltage measurement and the time component, however, many other parameters can be monitored, provided other values such as the electrical resistance are known. In modern analysis tools, multiple factions therefore interact with the oscilloscope to calculate a large number of parameters in the system automatically and to output them to the user digitally and clearly and to make the results comparable, and to finally archive them.

One example is the combination with FFT analysis. The abbreviation stands for Fast Fourier Transformation. An FFT is an algorithm that can compute the frequency components at defined time intervals. In the monitoring of machines, it can be used to detect interference frequencies early. IT can also be used to determine within which speed ranges the interfering moments lie. This enables decidedly precise fault diagnosis and allows targeted action in good time in order to prevent damage and longer standstill periods.

Range of applications

Oscilloscopes are used in many electrical applications. These range from everyday applications through to medical engineering, robotics and much more. One of the most important areas of use, however, is their integration in diagnostic and monitoring tools in industrial machines. Smooth running of the drives is particularly important here, as standstill times would be associated with high costs in some cases. Depending on how critical the drive is for the overall industrial process, every second can count. Here an oscilloscope is generally not used alone. Its combination with other methods of measurement and the linking or even better, its integration in a comprehensive diagnostic system with digital software is necessary.

Use at Baumüller with ProDrive parameterization and diagnostic tool

For example, our ProDrive parameterization and diagnostic tool can be used with our DS2 series three-phase current synchronous motors and many other electric motors. The following are integrated:

  • oscilloscope with real time and circular buffer function
  • FFT (Fast Fourier Transformation) analysis
  • Encoder diagnostics
  • Order analysis
  • comparison of set and actual values
  • frequency analyses including data synchronization 

The results of the analyses can be represented clearly and structured in many ways within the software, depending on the requirements. Other analysis tools are superfluous. Our service therefore saves license costs and enables full compatibility.

Oscilloscope as part of ProDrive


The oscilloscope per se is a measuring instrument, which measures voltage changes over a period of time and makes these visible in a diagram. The application possibilities are exceedingly diverse. Where electric drives are used, for example, in industrial machines, the oscilloscope has particular significance. Nowadays, used in conjunction with other measurement techniques, continuous monitoring and control of the drive is possible. To this end, Baumüller’s ProDrive parameterization and diagnostics tool processes numerous analyses and outputs them to the user graphically and clearly. In this way, problems can be detected early, processes can be monitored and optimized with particular reliability and thus standstill times are reduced.

Do you have any questions?

Matthias Beetz
Training Engineer Academy I Baumüller Nürnberg GmbH

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