Customizing PXI test systems with FPGAs

-September 01, 2009


For the past decade, PXI-based systems have been successfully deployed for embedded signal-processing applications in data acquisition, industrial control, avionics, automated vision, medical instrumentation, and automated test. The high performance, modularity, and scalability of the PXI architecture have made it a compelling option for designers who require a rugged industrial form factor and real-time capabilities.

Today, designers and system engineers are increasingly deploying FPGA-based architectures to help deliver systems that are flexible and reconfigurable, support parallel processing, and offer a high data bandwidth. The integration of FPGAs into embedded signal-processing applications offers many benefits and advantages, but managing the diversity of I/O signals associated with FPGAs can make it difficult to interface devices to the external world.

Whether the I/O interfaces are digital, analog, single-ended, or differential, the preferred engineering solution is to allow designers to customize their FPGA-based hardware with the required I/O interfaces. Doing this while minimizing cost and customization is key.

Read more articles from our September 2009 PXI Test Report.

New-generation FPGA products offer “plug-in” I/O hardware modules that are flexible enough to offer a wide range of interchangeable I/O functionality. These modules can directly interface to an FPGA, or other device, with reconfigurable I/O capability. They are configurable using programmable logic. Using FPGA mezzanine I/O modules can simplify system design, engineering time, and integration effort. Additionally, these modules can streamline the maintenance of the end product and increase the reusability of the main embedded signal-processing hardware units.

By combining FPGA cards and FPGA mezzanine I/O modules, users can design and deploy custom instrumentation. And with multichannel ADCs/DACs, RF front-ends, LVDS, LVTTL, Gigabit Ethernet, and serial interfaces, it is possible for test engineers to architect application-specific high-speed digital oscilloscopes, analyzers, arbitrary waveform generators, RF instrumentation, and vision systems. The combination of PXI and FPGA technology offers test engineers new options for building a modular, scalable system that meets their specific test needs.

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