National Instruments Unveils PCI 100 MS/s Mixed-Signal Instruments

2/27/2004 - Engineers and scientists can increase flexibility and system performance for rapid prototyping and test of mixed-signal devices using a desktop PC with the new PCI 100 MS/s modular instruments from National Instruments. These instruments extend the functionality of the recently released PXI mixed-signal suite for use with the millions of existing desktop PCs. Engineers characterizing prototypes or developing automated test systems can use the new 100 MS/s instruments to achieve unprecedented system flexibility, defining their own measurements with analysis routines in NI LabVIEW 7 Express graphical development software and the interactive NI Analog and Digital Waveform Editors.

The new PCI instruments are matched in frequency and capability, and include the following four instruments built on a common hardware architecture:

The capabilities of the new PCI instruments were first introduced with the PXI mixed-signal suite in Aug. 2003 and have been highly successful in applications from design to manufacturing test in consumer electronics, communications, semiconductors and scientific research. For example, Lexmark International used the PXI-6552 digital waveform generator/analyzer and the PXI-5122 digitizer to increase the sample rate and measurement accuracy of its high-volume inkjet cartridge testers and Telebyte saved more than $1 million in estimated design and ongoing support costs by using the PXI-5421 arbitrary waveform generator for xDSL modem verification.

The PCI instruments are built on the NI Synchronization and Memory Core (SMC), a common architecture for mixed-signal instrument modules. The SMC delivers a timing and synchronization engine, data transfer cores and deep, flexible memory up to 512 MB. NI first used the SMC architecture for its PXI-based modular instruments. Because the PCI and PXI versions of the mixed-signal suite are built on the common SMC architecture, engineers who start with the PCI instruments can migrate without changing their test code to the more flexible, rugged and expandable PXI platform as their channel count and synchronization needs evolve.

"In a matter of months, we leveraged the SMC architecture that we developed for the PXI instruments to quickly deliver this complete set of analog and digital instruments for PCI," said Tim Dehne, NI senior vice president of research and development. "Porting the PXI-based instrumentation suite to the PCI bus gives more engineers and scientists the opportunity to use world-class modular instruments in their applications, while providing a path to PXI when they need increased flexibility and scalability."

With flexible, software-based measurements, engineers adapt their systems to meet specialized and rapidly changing requirements. The instruments also integrate with third-party software simulation tools to reduce overall product development time. For example, the NI Digital Waveform Editor can import industry-standard VCD files from popular digital and FPGA simulation packages for test execution in LabVIEW, LabWindows/CVI or other development environments. Engineers can further increase system flexibility by using the new instruments with NI PCI-based multimeters, data acquisition boards, image acquisition boards and high-density SCXI switching.

The 100 MS/s mixed-signal test platform increases engineers’ measurement accuracy through high-performance analog, digital and timing capabilities. The 100 MS/s digitizer and arbitrary waveform generator feature low-distortion analog front ends with high dynamic range. High-resolution digitizers capture signals with increased fidelity -- 64 times the resolution of traditional 8-bit instrumentation -- and high-resolution arbitrary waveform generators provide precise standard and arbitrary waveforms needed to thoroughly characterize and test devices and systems. The digital waveform generator/analyzers provide programmable voltage levels from -2.0 to 5.5 V with the 10 mV resolution necessary for testing devices that use different levels or for characterizing how a given device performs under changing conditions. With the digital waveform generator/analyzers, engineers can shift their data relative to the onboard clock, which is critical to account for propagation delays and setup-and-hold times in the device under test.

About National Instruments
National Instruments ( is a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation -- a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists approach measurement and automation. Leveraging the PC and its related technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs through easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition, instrument control and machine vision. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,100 employees and direct operations in 40 countries. In 2003, the company sold products to more than 25,000 companies in more than 90 countries. For the past five years, FORTUNE magazine named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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