Getting to know the standard.
The PXI is the whole package for automation and measurement. Combining high performance in a low-cost deployment platform, it has become one of the most common instrumentation tools on the market today. These systems are used for test in communications, manufacturing, and industrial monitoring in a variety of high-tech industries like consumer devices, automotive, life sciences and more. They are commonly found in either manufacturing or R&D and now is the right time to get to know the PXI a little better.
ABCs of the PXI
PXI stands for PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) eXtensions for Instrumentation. It is a PC-based, software-defined platform that provides power, cooling, and communication to support many modules in one enclosure. It is rugged and flexible and can be tailored to just about any automation or measurement application. The PXI is an open standard, which means any vendor can build a PXI. The platform is governed by the PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA) and they have defined the hardware, mechanical, electrical, and software specifications.
What Makes Up a PXI System?
A PXI system is made of three key components: a chassis, a controller, and peripheral modules.
To explain this deliciously:
- The PXI chassis is the container housing all the modules in built-in slots. The number of slots in each chassis vary, depending on the model. They are available with different options to accommodate different levels of complexity and provide the necessary power, communication and cooling for the demanding modules. This is the cake pan that will go in the oven with all the ingredients mixed in together.
- The PXI controller is not just a clever name. It is everything you need to run your system. It is a high-performance computer solution which includes an integrated CPU, a hard drive, RAM, an Ethernet connection, and more. Essentially, they are the flour, eggs and sugar to the test and measurement dessert. Controllers can either be embedded in the system or accessed remotely.
- Lastly, it’s the PXI modules that make the system unique. These provide the flexibility needed to adapt to the application at hand. They interface to bus standards, are responsible for data acquisition, trigger and synchronize different devices, create, and direct signals, and take measurements. These are the flavor component in the measurement and automation recipe. A potent extract, if you will.
PXI's use bus systems for the flexibility they offer regarding the ability to control the different instrumentation. This is carried along the PXI backplane, linking the PXI bus to each card and providing power to the entire system.
Timing is Everything
PXI systems are often the heart of dedicated off-the-shelf test equipment. Their architecture allows for the synchronization of measurements across many modules or many chassis with integrated timing and synchronization features. A typical model will have a dedicated 10 MHz system reference clock (which can be upgraded), a PXI trigger, a star trigger, and internal bus communication from slot-to-slot. These signals are dedicated for timing and do not affect the overall communication architecture.
The PXI package delivers accuracy while remaining scalable, flexible, and powerful. It is no surprise that they are the answer to test and measurement’s most complex challenges.
To learn more about automated test and measurement systems, please contact Averna.
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