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The Swiss Army Knife of Test Equipment: Digital Multimeters

Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:31am
Lindsay Hock

One of the most commonly-used and versatile measurement devices available, the digital multimeter (DMM) combines several measurement functions—voltage, current, capacitance, resistance, etc.—in one unit.

Typically delivered as handheld, clamp, benchtop, free-standing, or computer-board multimeters, these instruments are primarily used to troubleshoot electrical problems. Smaller, more compact versions of DDMs—such as handheld and clamp devices—are useful for basic fault finding and field service work. Bench, free-standing, or computer-board models can measure to a higher degree of accuracy.

The market for digital multimeters is more fragmented than other test instruments and features more competition between more brands. Vendors say that due to the aggressive competition, devices now have more features and greater value. Vendors estimate that hand-held devices represent about three-quarters of the market, which is valued at about $500 million.

The addition of true RMS (root mean square) measurements, infrared temperature detection, data logging, and wireless communication has expanded DMM functionality. Other improvements include measurement resolution, connectivity, and measurement speed. Some DMMs incorporate dual displays, which allow the measurement of multiple parameters at the same time. Despite these advances, the need for increased connectivity and resolution show there is still room for improvement.

Contributing companies to the Digital Multimeter Specifications Guide

Click here to see the print version of the Digital Multimeter Specifications Guide

Published in R & D magazine: Vol. 53, No. 1, February, 2011.

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