AUSTIN, Texas National Instruments took the wraps off here at NIWeek of a two-year collaborative joint development with Tektronix of a 3-GHz digitizer in a PXI Express module.
The development effort, still in a prototype stage, is aimed at demanding high-speed applications such as those found in physics and experimental research, aerospace and defense, communications, semiconductor and consumer electronics industries.
The development is a new milestone for PXI modular instrumentation performance, with greater than 3 GHz bandwidth, sample rates beyond 10 GSamples/s, data throughput of more than 600 MBytes/s and multi-module synchronization capabilities.
While National Instruments and Tektronix have collaborated on various projects for more than 20 years, the digitizer represents "the first joint hardware development project between the two companies and takes advantage of the strengths of both companies to deliver advanced performance for demanding applications," said Carig Overhage, Tektronix vice president and chief technology officer.
Overhage at NIWeek said the collaboration was unique in that it's the first "co-innovation" between the two longtime partners: "The cooperation was enabled by having the two companies having the blessing and personal involvement at the execuitve, as well as, on the project level."
"We have worked for many years to deliver productivity improvements to engineers in automated test through LabVIEW and PXI, and this new module represents the highest performance acquisition capability that we've delivered in this platform to date," said James Truchard, president, CEO and cofounder of National Instruments.
Tektronix provided seven proprietary Tektronix ASICs that are part of IBM SiGe process line and its hardware design expertise to integrate the ASICs and high-speed signal acquisition circuit in the PXI module.
National Instruments provided its proprietary Synchronization and Memory Core (SMC) technology and expertise in PC-based instrumentation for building out the PXI module.
"The biggest challenge was to integrate the seven ASICs in the PXI form factor and still be within the 30 watts/slot limit set by the PXI spec," said Richard McDonell, NI senior group manager, Product Marketing, in charge of the project. "The large heat sinks are used to dissipate the heat as well as act as insulators between the three boards."
The new digitizer will integrate with other PXI instruments and NI Labview software for instrument control and automation.
"You could call it a classic case of two companies getting together to solve a problem, irrepective of the eventual product goal," said Eric Starkloff, NI vice president, Product Marketing. "Our high-end customers have been demanding high-bandwidth test solutions for a while," said Martyn Etherington, Tektronix vice president, Marketing. "It only made sense to work with our long-term partner to co-innovate the product."
The two companies even went thru deliberations on how to market the PXI module, to reflect their joint efforts. "We ended up with the strategy of selling the PXI module as part of National Instruments modules, our logo sharing a 'Tektronix Enabled Technology' tag on the module," said Starkloff.
"From our preliminary focus group discussions we found that we did not want to market a possible 'Tektronix Inside' label," said Tek's Overhage. "Engineers like to hear it straight from a brand they trust."
First shipments of the new digitizer will be available from National Instruments in 2010, with lead user engagements continuing through the end of 2009.