Vendors help customers meet modular-instrument challenges

Modular instruments in general and PXI implementations in particular present significant flexibility in configuring ATE systems. Our September print issue contains a Special Report on Modular Instruments that highlights new PXI products as well as the challenges that customers can face when working with the PXI architecture.

As noted in the special report, ZTEC Instruments president Christopher Ziomek said, “Instrument selection, integration, and automation can be a daunting effort.” Mike Dewey, senior product marketing manager at Marvin Test Solutions, noted that one vendor's hardware interface software may conflict with another's hardware interface layer, and standard catalog instruments might not meet a customer's requirements without modification.

Jean Manuel Dassonville, modular solutions outbound manager at Agilent Technologies, elaborated on the challenges customers face. “Interoperability between vendors is often a large concern,” he said, as is “supportability in a world-wide market.”

Customers also, Dassonville said, face challenges in compromising between measurement flexibility they know from bench-top instrumentation vs. the advantages of modular platforms. In addition, he noted that customers like to utilize and re-use scripts and software programs that they have used in the past without having to rewrite software or having to learn a new software programming tool.

And finally, he said, customers face challenges related to the ability to calibrate onsite vs. removing modules for calibration and having to return them to the factory.

Johannes van der Vegt, PXI sales engineer at Applicos, cited additional challenges. “We often get questions from customers that are interested in our instruments, but want to make sure that synchronization of multiple cards is possible,” he said. When multi-card synchronization has not been in the designer’s mind during development, it can be really challenging to synchronize the instruments down to the last clock cycle.”

He added, “Another challenge is software. As PXI is such a versatile platform, it is not doable to provide software for every type of measurement a customer could want to do. So often, customers would need to write their own application software. For customers coming from big-iron ATE equipment, this is not very new to them, but for customers coming from bench-instruments, it is something they need to keep in mind.”

Since our September print edition went to press, National Instruments has held its annual NIWeek event in Austin in August. See these news items related modular-instrumentation:



(Update September 6) In addition, Agilent has released more details on the M8192A synchronization module for the M8190A arbitrary waveform generator. See

See previous 2013 Web Exclusive posts:

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