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Modular Instrument Family Boosts Test Speeds

Modular Instrument Family Boosts Test Speeds

Golden Mousetrap 2009 WinnerA new high-speed software-based instrumentation platform promises to boost test and measurement speed by a factor of at least five times over traditional instruments.

Developed by National Instruments (NI) and called the 6.6 GHz RF Modular Instruments family, the new product combines multicore computing with a high-speed computer bus to enable manufacturers to quickly test RF-based products ranging from cell phones to vehicle key fobs to garage door openers. The new family's exceptional speed could enable manufacturers of commodity products, such as cell phones, to dramatically boost production.

"In an automated test environment, one second can translate to thousands or even tens of thousands of units produced per day," says Richard McDonnell, automated test senior group manager for NI.

The new computer-based, software-defined instruments include the PXIe-5663 vector signal analyzer, PXIe-5673 vector signal generator and the PXIe-1075 18-slot high-bandwidth chassis.

NI engineers say the key reasons for the higher speeds are twofold: The new instruments run on a multicore-based graphical test platform called LabVIEW; and the instruments transfer data across the 1-GByte per second PXI Express bus.

The ability to run on multiple processor cores and send data across a high speed bus endows the new modular instrument family with speed far greater than that of its traditional competitiors, NI says. It can perform many individual WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) measurements more than 20 times faster than traditional instruments. Similarly, full WCDMA device characterizations are up to five times faster, NI says.

Because the modular instrument family is software defined, it can also be used to test virtually any device that's within its 6.6-GHz speed range. In contrast, traditional hardware-defined test systems are typically dedicated to specific devices or standards. NI engineers say that the 6.6 GHz RF Modular Instruments family is already being employed in testing of GPS-based products, wireless LANs (wireless local area networks), WiMax (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) products, and a multitude of other electronic standards and applications, including vehicle key fobs and garage door openers.

"If you want to test the GPS, wireless LAN and WiMax capability of a wireless phone, you only need this one product, and you can test all of them on the same piece of equipment," McDonnell says.

National Instruments

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