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What is PXI & What’s the Latest ATE Trend?

05.19.2022

PCI extension for instrumentation (PXI) technology provides an ideal platform to automate test and measurement equipment. Within one enclosure, PXI’s PC-based PCI bus technology with CompactPCI packaging provides power, cooling, and synchronization. Open-standard PXI has several features that make it the preferred choice for automated testing, including flexibility, low cost, and high performance.

PXI and PXIe: A Look Back

National Instruments (NI) developed PXI in the 1990s after the idea emerged during a brainstorming session. The challenge was how to transfer the benefits of PC data acquisition to the VXI platform often used in electronic tests. During the discussion, NI execs began to consider CompactPCI and the benefits of looking at the problem from a different perspective. Instead of converting PC data acquisition to VXI, it would be easier to take the openness of VXI and bring that to PC technology. PXI was born.

After that, the PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA) was established to manage this new open standard to ensure standards compliance and system interoperability.

When PCI Express was introduced in the 2000s, PXI technology responded with PXIe in 2005, taking advantage of PCIe’s advanced performance. PXIe replaced the shared bus topology of PCI by incorporating a PCIe bus with additional signals for timing and synchronization between cards where the controller processes information.

PXI: The Latest ATE Trend

There are two types of instrumentation today, standalone and modular architecture. Conventionally, standalone instrumentation (rack-and-stack “box” instrumentation) is the majority choice for automated test equipment (ATE). Standalone equipment provides an intuitive user experience, with panels for control and viewing. However, standalone equipment requires a high degree of human intervention during operation to meet different testing requirements. A modular test platform with a wide selection of modules allows optimal configuration of test solutions for optical component and network systems manufacturing.

The PXI platform has become the standard for modular equipment for ATE, with PXI modules, chassis, and controller providing interoperability. OEMs can typically use PXI modules off the shelf for nearly plug-and-play, custom testing capabilities.

Moreover, many organizations find modular ATE preferable since it enables engineers to use the same equipment for spectrum analysis, signal generation, RF attenuation, and electric metering (on a robotic arm or multi-axis positioning system for example), to repeat tests without intervention. The PXI platform has enabled a modular approach to ATE control and data acquisition. However, engineers face the challenge of translating PXI ATE to portable equipment for use outside the laboratory.

The Next Chapter of PXI History: Compact PXI Platform for Mobile Test and Measurement Applications

To address the issue of portability, ADLINK developed the PXES-2314T. This compact PXI platform eliminates the need for an expansion card, chassis module and cabling with dual Thunderbolt™ 3 (TB3) ports that interface with most laptops, notebook computers, and PCs.

This makes it possible to set up ATE more quickly and easily. It also enables testing on a manufacturing floor or in an office or commercial building as well as in a laboratory.

PXI Platform for Your Application

Regardless of the automated testing equipment design best suited to your application, ADLINK’s PXI portfolio includes the high-performance products you need.

ADLINK offers PXI/PXIe platforms that run on standard Windows OS and software, enable remote Ethernet/LAN control, and interface to GPIB, USB and Ethernet/LAN instruments. Features include:

  • Innovative cooling: Uniform airflow for each PXI slot maintains a steady temperature and minimizes noise.
  • Intelligent chassis management: Sensors in the backplane monitor voltage, fan speed, temperature, and programmable settings provide control.
  • High-performance backplane: High-speed PCI Express or PCI bus with advanced timing and triggering for demanding applications.

ADLINK PXI controllers run the PXI system.

  • Embedded controllers: Embedded controllers have integrated CPU, HDD, SSD and RAM, and interfaces including a Gigabit Ethernet port, USB ports for peripheral devices, USB instrumentation control, and a Micro-GPIB connector.
  • Remote controllers: PXI remote control kits control PXI systems directly from desktops or servers. They consist of PCI/PCI Express boards and a PXI/PXI Express module in slot 1 of the system.

In fast-paced industries, it’s essential to streamline testing processes, and it’s often most practical to take testing equipment where it’s needed rather than attempting to perform tests in a lab. The PXI standard enabled great strides in automated testing. Now, innovation is allowing portability. 

Contact W5 Engineering for more information about a partnership that will help you simplify ATE development to meet the needs of your testing and measurement applications.


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